Chesterton mentions somewhere that a hersey most often takes something true, but takes it way too far. Individual experiences and the biases acquired therefrom do color every person’s take on the world – this much is indisputably true. Take this simple and universally recognized truth far too far, and each person is an island unto himself, constitutionally incapable of understanding anyone else. Efforts to limit the fracturing and fragmentation so that some collectives – race, sex, class, etc. – can be used to destroy others – nation, village, parish, and family – are doomed by the gravity of the implicit logic. There’s no stopping at any group with more than one member, since each member is unique. Heck, we even sometimes read how the human body is a collective of sorts. I wonder if my – oops, sorry for the possessive there – mitochondria should have the franchise? They’d probably vote to put me on a diet.
But we are not this hopeless. We know that communication is possible, and takes place all the time. Now, for instance. This fact of constant mundane communication contradicts the atomizing assumptions which before our eyes drive their victims through identity politics before reaching the inevitable end, with wimpers, bangs, howls, and tears, in solipsistic narcissism. Rather than finding true humility in seeing our tiny place in a great and beautiful creation, we can keep looking inward until we are all we see. Lacking any context, we hear that subtle internal whisper that we are not all that, are not in ourselves enough. That we’re just not all that interesting.
Wow, that got a little out of hand. That little patch of prose was intended as a much briefer introduction to an attempt to list my own biases and methods. As I begin to resubmerge myself into the education history readings, I’m trying to be honest about how I lean. This has been occasioned by contact with real, certified education historians. I criticise these folks for holding positions or basing arguments in my opinion not supported by anything real besides what they want to believe. I, of course, believe I’ve come to the positions I hold by sheer exercise of pure intellection applied to cold, hard facts.
I crack me up.
So, I hope this exercise will help me clarify where I’m coming from, and make headway, however slight, toward a more objective view of the materials and the real world.
A. Current K-12 education is worthless, at best. I reach this conclusion based on my own experience as well as what the founding thinkers said about the goals of primary education. For example:
- By 5th grade, I personally did as little schoolwork as possible, and continued that practice through my first 2 1/2 years of college. While I regret not taking full advantage of college, I don’t think I missed anything of value K-12. Far, far better for me would have been the friendship of truly educated people plus free time. Totally lacking the first and having school cut into the second, things for me personally could have been much better. But school was not going to make it so.
- With this in mind, we investigated alternatives for our own 5 kids. None of them ever attended a K-12 graded classroom school. None of them ever took a class they didn’t want to take until college. They didn’t do tests or homework unless they wanted to, such as for a class they signed up for at the local community college. We also surrounded them with books and intelligent conversation, and emphasized that they were responsible for their lives from a very early age. So far, one summa cum laude college grad in a double major, 2 more to graduate from Great Books schools this spring. So no K-12 didn’t hurt them, either.
- The advocates for state-run compulsory schooling, from at least Luther, through Fichte and Mann, not to mention influential communists like Dewey and Freire, show in their own writings little if any interest in teaching kids much of anything any responsible parent would want taught to them. The first group wanted to produce good, obedient Protestants who would do as they were told – it’s really that baldly obvious from their own words – while the Communists want to produce revolutionaries, to hell with academics (Dewey dissembles; Freire, required reading in all our best ed schools, is perfectly clear on this point).
- Finally, people have found any number of approaches to educating their kids, from tutors and apprenticeships and one-room schools, to a dozen others. To assert that darkness and chaos will descend upon the land if we were to end all compulsory education is fear mongering, all the more powerful as the products of graded schools accept a self-image as defined by their relationship to school: rebel, “good student,” “bad student,”.drop out, success, failure. It would be psychically painful to recognize that all such classifications are bogus. You are not defined by how you were viewed in a graded classroom.
B. All claims that the graded classroom model is ‘scientific’ or in any way has been shown to be superior to any other way are bald-faced lies unsupported by any science remotely worthy of the name.
If you think not, I’d be happy to review any scientific evidence to the contrary. Shouldn’t take long, since there is none. You think the likes of Mann did studies, comparing different ways of educating kids, and settled on the compulsory age-graded classroom model because it produced the best results?
He did not, neither did anyone else. (Hint: who would pay for such studies? Who would be the peers that reviewed it?)
C. When it comes to compulsory state education, it is always assumed to be the cause of any good that follows. In almost every case I can think of, schooling as an effect is at least as likely as schooling as a cause. For example, general prosperity in America increased after compulsory schooling was established. Well? We are to assume schooling *caused* prosperity. But it’s at least as likely prosperity, which frees up children from having to work long hours to support the family, resulted in more schooling being a real possibility.
The most inane and frankly idiotic idea along these lines is that education creates jobs, you know, such that getting a college education somehow creates the job that all but guarantees a good economic life, while dropping out of high school all but condemns one to poverty. How about a booming economy, which by the way boomed pretty darn well under Truman when he and all those workers getting jobs and raises had at most a highschool education, causing the affluence needed to send ridiculous numbers of kids to college? Where they not only don’t improve their economic chances (except with degrees in a few technical/professional fields) but acquire debt and, with a growing number of degrees, render themselves unemployable anywhere outside of academia?
D. I’m biased toward source materials. I’m not all that interested in reading what modern products of modern schooling have to say about modern schooling. That’s like asking the Chevy dealer about what’s good about Chevys and bad about Fords. Instead, I like old stuff, if for no other reasons that the authors are closer to the events and are less likely to share modern prejudices. Looked at another way: I hate chronological snobbery, the assumption at the core of Progressivism that people today are 200 years smarter than people 200 years ago, such that modern opinions are to be accepted simply on the basis they are modern. Reading the Great Books and observing my contemporaries has violently disabused me of this mistake.
E. I’m Catholic, and not just in the cultural sense. I like going to Mass and embrace with near-desperation the Magisterium (you get a load of what those folks who appoint themselves a Magisterium of one claim to believe? Or those who grant it to some Jesuit who won’t threaten their lifestyle? A bad pope is much to be preferred over no pope at all). I’m painfully aware of the Church’s shortcomings, but the Church’s Magisterial support doesn’t count as a disqualifying mark. Neither do I see the need to pretend, as is all the rage in certain circles, that the Church has not been hated in America from Day 1, and that outside the followers of Fr. Turtleneck, we are still hated to this day.
Enough for now.