What Your Kids’ Teachers are Learning in Education Schools

Picking up my dolorous education reading cross from its long-occupied place on the floor (1), began again to read Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.(2) The Wikipedia entry   states:

Since the publication of the English edition in 1970, Pedagogy of the Oppressed has been widely adopted in America’s teacher-training programs. A 2003 study by David Steiner and Susan Rozen determined that Pedagogy of the Oppressed was frequently assigned at top education schools.

So, if your child is being educated by one of the graduates of a “top education school” or any of the myriad of education schools which ape the top education schools (hint: almost all of them), there’s a very good chance that the education of such a teacher included this piece of unabashed Marxist – I gave up potty talk for Lent.

Image result for freire
Freire did sport a righteous beard, I’ll give ‘im that. He must not have gotten the memo about smoking being a act of violence against the oppressed.

Imagine a young person, bright eyed, optimistic, and yet insecure, ignorant (which is how they justify going to college, right?)  and desperate to fit in and get good grades. When an education professor gets out the trowel and starts laying this stuff on, how likely is a student to protest? Argue back? Call out manifest errors? How likely are they to even see any problems? They have been trained for years to please, not to think. Thus, our K-12 schools are full of teachers who think feel this sort of nonsense is simple common wisdom. Our children marinate in those assumptions – for 12+ years.

Thinking I should do a detailed chapter by chapter review, pointing out what Freire means in practice. He alternates, roughly, between typical Hegelian gibberish and nice sounding passages about freedom and even love. One who is ignorant, gullible or both – as is nearly always the case with the products of our schools (hey, they’re kids – I was ignorant and gullible back then, too) –  might find his words sympathetic – Christian, even. Yet one must remember that examples from history – what actually happens, not the “concrete historical reality” of Marx and Hegel, which consists of cherry-picked items hammered beyond recognition into the mangled shapes of theoretically acceptable outcomes – tend strongly to contradict everything Hegel, Marx, and Freire say. Half-truths are the coin of this realm. They ape truth enough to fool the inattentive, which is always how the better class of liars work.

Here are some samples from early in the book (I’m into the second chapter so far; don’t know how much of this I can stomach):

Opening paragraph:

While the problem of humanization has always, from an axiological point of view, been humankind’s central problem, it now takes on the character of an inescapable concern. (1) Concern for humanization leads at once to the recognition of dehumanization, not only as an ontological possibility but as an historical reality. And as an individual perceives the extent of dehumanization, he or she may ask if humanization is a viable possibility. Within history, in concrete, objective contexts, both humanization and dehumanization are possibilities for a person as an uncompleted being conscious of their incompletion.

Clear? If so, let me muck it up for you. Imagine you’re a conventionally-educated young person, with a fresh diploma from any of the thousands of institutions governed by the sort of people who inflict the above on more or less innocent young people: have you ever been required to parse out anything this obtuse? Do the terms  – humanization, axiological, ontological, historical reality, concrete, objective,  context, uncompleted, conscious  (Hegelian, Marxist, even a bit of Freud eventually) – mean anything to you? Would you even suspect that they don’t mean what common English might lead you to think they mean?

Of course, these are all rhetorical questions. There is approximately zero chance any 20-something in America who attends an education school has any substantial understanding of any of these things. In fact, K-12 training (it will hardly do to call it education) conditions children to regurgitate what the teacher or test expect.

If they did, they might know, for example (3):

“Humanization” – this term has a history. Hegel views the world as always Becoming, never Being – being is dead, only becoming is real. Therefore, we cannot talk about a duty to recognize the humanity in another person – that would be to talk about Being: being human. If we go down that road, we might expect to be called to treat all people as human beings (not human becomings!)  and imagine that justice would require all of us to have, for example, unaliable rights and duties to each other.

No,  much better from Freire’s and Marx’s perspective if we think of human beings as incomplete, in their rights, freedoms, and duties. Then, we can talk about how to violate some people’s rights in order to get other people their rights without ever using those terms – which might, just barely, cause a twitch of conscience.

“Historical reality” – much beloved concept by Hegelians and Marxists. One might imagine it means “what is evident looking at history”. What it really means is “how history looks once it has been tortured into a shape determined by Hegelian or Marxist theories.” Those theories, in turn, do not base their truth claims on anything observable in history, but rather on special insights gained by getting sprinkled with the right magic fairy dust – something like that. Just know that Hegelians and Marxists reject out of hand that one should be able to arrive at their conclusions by rigorous and logical examination of the facts on the ground – nope, as in all religions, they claim “I believe, so that I might understand”.

“Conscious” – this is a measure of how much you agree with Freire, Marx or Hegel. If you totally disagree, you consciousness is ‘false’; if you totally agree, your consciousness if high or complete. If you are (mercifully) unaware of the discussion, you are unconscious. Thus, whenever these folks speak of raising consciousness, they mean getting people to agree with them, generally the unconscious. It seems the kids these days use the term ‘woke’ in the same manner. In such a world, anyone who claims to thoroughly understand Marxist premises and nonetheless completely dismisses them – me, for example – becomes irredeemably evil – I don’t even *want* to have my consciousness raised! (My consciousness is already raised way higher than theirs, as I explain here.) 

More important even than never having heard these Marxist notions explicitly laid out, our education victims have never heard them vigorously attacked. They assume such notions represent the universal educated view – and their teachers will never do anything to disabuse them.

With the establishment of a relationship of oppression, violence has already begun. Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed. How could they be the initiators, if they themselves are the product of violence? How could they be the sponsors of something whose objective inauguration called forth their existence as oppressed? There would be no oppressed had there been no prior situation of violence to establish their subjugation.

Here we pull a neat trick, one very popular in modern Marxist thinking: Everything you, the designated oppressor does, is an act of violence; nothing I, the designated oppressed or victim, do can be violence by definition. Thus, a white person doing *anything* other than complete self-immolation on the altar of institutional racism is committing an act of violent oppression. Thus, personally being kind and accepting with no regard for a person’s race is – ready? – violent racist oppression. And inciting people to shoot and murder white policemen with no regard for the policemen’s personal behavior, or committing the actual murders themselves are – not violence, and cannot be. By definition.

Under Marxist and, indeed, Hegelian analysis, the Law of Noncontradiction (4)  does not apply: something *can* both be and not be at the same time in the same way. The obvious violence involved in murder is not violence – because we say so. Oh, sure, in some *technical* petty way, blowing somebody’s brains out (or starving 20 million Ukrainian peasants, or taking a power drill to the heads of Cambodian children, or forcing Venezuelans to eat their pets, or refusing asylum to Cuban refugees) might be called violence by the small minded and those not yet woke, or otherwise laboring under false consciousness, but in the big picture, any means to achieving the glorious end is licit and commendable – and, per Freire, not violence.(5)

Thus, when thugs – excuse me, fully conscious individuals acting out of true fraternal love – threaten and beat people, burn cars, and destroy shops in order to prevent other people, people clearly laboring under false consciousness, from hearing wrong thoughts – well, only oppressors would call that the violent suppression of free speech! Orwell rolls his eyes.

In the same way, obvious kindness involved in acts of true generosity are not only not kindness, but are acts of violence and oppression UNLESS they further the cause of the revolution:

True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the ‘rejects of life’, to extend their trembling hands. Real generosity lies in striving so that those hands – whether of individuals or entire peoples – need be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they become human -hands which work and, by working, transform the world.

I believe Freire here means to evoke the image of, say, English landholder in Ireland who, by law, had to feed their starving Irish serfs – or, if it turned out to be cheaper, pay their passage to Canada or the US. There is no charity in such an arrangement, just business. And the goal clearly was to do whatever was cheapest to maintain the English as lords and owners, and the Irish as powerless serfs. History (again, what actually happens, not Marxist hamburger) does indeed present us with a nearly limitless supply of such cases. Brazil, where Freire spent years of his life, would not lack for examples.

We are intended to see cases of true oppression by means of violence and the threat of violence at the hands of invading conquerors as the type of false charity. But: if you were to ask Freire (or any Marxist): what about the charity of, say, nuns starting a school in the wild, feeding and clothing the children of the poor as well as teaching them? That happens a lot, too. He’d say, on principle, that those nuns are acting violently to perpetuate the oppressor’s dominance UNLESS they are PRIMARILY concerned with raising the consciousness of those children, to make them into Marxist revolutionaries. So, feed them, cloth them, teach them to read if you must, so long as those are steps on the way to making them little Comrades who are willing to commit any act of violence-that-is-not-violence to free the oppressed.

But, boy, it sounds so cool with no context, striving so that hands need less and less to be extended in supplication. Sounds like a free market guy, even. But helping people help themselves is not exactly what he means.

A full review would be another book. Sigh. We’ll see what we can do, if the interest is there.

  1. Not looking for pity, here – just read Mike Flynn’s excellent Captive Dream and his latest in Analog, so I’ve gotten a good solid fun read fix. I’ve willingly accepted the grim responsibility that motivates reading this other stuff. As those addicted to outrage evince, getting worked up does have its meager, transient and probably not good for you rewards.
  2. An amusing tidbit: in the translation I’ve downloaded onto my Kindle, the translator uses traditional Marxist jargon – man, New Man, mankind – and, when referring to ‘the worker’ or the ‘new man,’ uses the generic pronouns he, him, his. The translation linked above is more recent, and so refers to New Person, humankind, and uses ‘he or she’ etc. Seems that even Freire himself, or at least his translator, was trapped within an oppressor construct, and his apparent good-will and generosity were self-serving delusions, merely tools of oppression designed to maintain the oppressor/oppressed dynamic. In other words, he ain’t woke. But: a still more recent translation, if such exists, would of course use ‘zur’ or whatever the heck made up pronouns the kids these days are using, revealing even the newer (2000) translation as socially constructed to maintain the current oppressor paradigm. I’m sure even now in a classroom somewhere, Freire is being held up as an oppressor in sheep’s clothing for the delectation of wide-eyed 19 year olds. And then the next translation…
  3. Please note that this is a way high-level analysis. I know it’s not complete. What I’m trying to do is give a flavor of the sort of thing that will likely never get discussed, because neither the student or the teacher have much of an idea of what’s going on in the text.
  4. The contradiction is suspended in the dialectical synthesis (murder of oppressors isn’t violence) of thesis (murder is violence) and antithesis (but I really want to!)  – suspended, but not contradicted or resolved in any way accessible to a rational person using logic as understood by anybody who is not a Hegelian. Because Marx says so.
  5. Dewey, an earlier education theory god, from his perch high in the education pantheon, likewise excused Soviet atrocities as simply necessary pragmatic steps – the only meaningful way one could say murder, even murders rising to the level of statistics, was ‘wrong’ is if it failed to achieve its end. (Note to the note: yes, I am aware of the dispute around whether Stalin actually said that line, but given his actions, misattributing it to him seems a fairly tame error.)

Quick Reading Update

A. Just got back from a industry conference and a pilgrimage – more on that later – which provided a bit of sitting-on-a-plane and stuck-in-a-hotel-room reading time. When reading Brian Niemeier’s books – Nethereal and Souldancer – it is *essential* that one be wide awake and paying attention. Reading either in bed as sleep stalks and takes you – not going to work. Far too much going on. BUT: reading them on the plane home, after getting 9 hours of sleep (unheard of for me) and a brief nap on the plane – well, MUCH better, much more engaging and followable. In a way, this is unfortunate, since I tend to use my small, uncertain and therefore valuable wide-awake reading time for stuff like Fichte and Hegel and education history, while fiction, mythology and short stuff like Chesterton essays get the 30-60 minutes it typically takes me to fall asleep.

B. I’ve mentioned Louis Menand’s Metaphysical Club a few times on this blog, generally very favorably.He writes elegant and pithy prose that is a joy to read. His knack for telling details and ability to draw fascinating connections that others might miss are wonderful, and led me to rethink some stuff with which I was already familiar and explore other issues of which I was not yet aware: for example, the role of Puritan Calvinists in the founding of Harvard and thereby in the fabric of American higher education; the (mis)use of statistics at the very foundations of American science; the ubiquity of Pragmatism in American thinking; and, less felicitous and perhaps not entirely intended by Menand, the prevalence and ultimate dogmatic orthodoxy of bone-headed irrationality masquerading as intellectual enlightenment. Examples of this abound. Most strikingly, those following Charles Sanders Pierce, as Menand’s examples amply illustrate, took his Pragmatic Maxims as meaning ‘the ends justify the means’ pure and simple, despite their protestations otherwise. Dewey’s defence of Trotsky (not discussed in the book, although Dewey himself gets plenty of ink) states emphatically that any appeal to conscience or ideals in determining what is ethical is delusional, that all that matters is the outcome of the actions – bring the Worker’s Paradise closer, and your actions are ethical in any meaningful sense.  Continue reading “Quick Reading Update”

When Philosophy Makes a Difference (hint: Always)

Following links around (the ‘who is this who pointed somebody to my blog?’ links), I came across this:

Because of his great reverence for books and intellectuals, Hitler amassed a large personal library during the 1920s. Especially once royalties began to arrive from sales of his 1925 Mein Kampf, he was able to indulge in serious collecting. When he came to political power in the 1930s, visiting foreign dignitaries knew of his passion and presented him with gifts of books, including a set of volumes on Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

And Hitler read them — the Fichte volumes contain “a veritable blizzard of underlines, question marks, exclamation points, and marginal strikes that sweeps across a hundred printed pages of dense theological prose,” according to historian Timothy W. Ryback, author of Hitler’s Private Library, writing in The Atlantic.

(Read more: http://www.everyjoe.com/2015/07/29/politics/how-smart-well-read-was-adolf-hitler/#ixzz4IjoO3TLM)

Ah, Fichte! Ever since I first read him, I’ve pointed out that he was a proto-Nazi, that his ideas carried through logically would call for the establishment of Germany as the ruler of the world. Via von Humboldt’s patronage and role in reshaping the German schools, Fichte’s ideas had become part of the intellectual background of Prussians and all Germans. But here, we find the direct link: Hitler himself was a fanboy!

Who would have thunk it?

I also like the reference to ‘theological prose’ – the Fichte I’ve read seriously is his Addresses to the German People, which is a collection of popular lectures (I have yet to gird up my intellectual loins for the journey through his more scholarly stuff – may I live that long! (I’d be really old…)). In them, God is treated as more an historical force manifesting itself through the self-realization and evolution of the (German, natch) people, rather than as the personal God of Jews and Christians. Fichte was dogged by accusations of atheism during his career, which he denied and which were hard to pin on him, given the ability of a creative mind to frame almost any sufficiently vague concept of God as acceptable within a Lutheran/Protestant framework. (1)

The formula of a divinely blessed supreme state as the means to crush evil and establish Heaven on earth is shared, under a variety of guises, by just about all of our post-post-modern revolutionaries. That capital ‘H’ history as described by Hegel is that History on the wrong side of which no right-thinking person will willingly be found.  Therefore, being told that one is on the wrong side of History is an unintentional honor and might well be worn as a badge of sanity.

Too bad saying someone is like Hitler has become nothing more than a meaningless ritualized insult. Because a lot of people now days are, in their hearts and thoughts, a lot like Hitler.

  1. Hegel himself was known to be a conventually devout practicing Lutheran, which seemed to spare him from the charge of Atheism leveled at both Kant and especially Fichte, even though the God of Hegel’s works is nothing like the personal, almighty Father of Scripture and tradition. The idea of a Spirit that comes to know itself over time and through History (always a capital ‘H’ with Hegel…)  cannot, logically speaking, refer to the Supreme Being. Hegel might call it the Supreme Becoming.


Reason #2,836 That I Should Never Look at Facebook

It’s not just the near impossibility of civil discourse. Here’s the ‘thought’ the Brahmins of Facebook suggest sharing today:

E. C. Stanton

OK, before we get to the meat of this, how does the phrase “the history of the past” get let loose onto a page? What other kind of history are we meant to distinguish the history of the past from? So, can we start by observing that we have reason to be concerned about the coherence of the thinker?

Next, “is but one long struggle upwards to equality” could only be believed by a lite Hegelian, after the usage established with ‘lite beer’. Looking at actual history, you know, the accounts of what has happened in the world, one does not come away  with the impression that struggles for equality make up the general thrust of events. The Mongol hordes were not seeking equality when they enslaved thousands of Slavs and sold them to the Egyptians; the various Chinese dynasties were not concerned with making rice farmers their equals; the Aztecs were only rarely equal-opportunity human sacrificers. There’s no indication that the slaves revolting under Spartacus objected to slavery per se – they just didn’t themselves want to be slaves. Islam, in its 1400 years of conquest, has not improved the lot of the less equal in the places they overran.

And so on. No, one must, in the Hegelian fashion, start with one’s conclusion and retrofit like hell to get any sort of general thrust toward equality to appear in the ‘history of the past’. (1)  More fundamentally, in what sense does Stanton mean ‘equality’? We in America used to think that meant ‘before the law’, allowing that there wasn’t any sort of equality evident anywhere else. We’re a stubbornly and often spectacularly unequal lot, we humans. Mostly, we seem to like it that way: Hooray for Thai food, power forwards and jockeys, men and women… These differences were considered – are still so considered by many of us – to be what made life interesting and fun. We wanted them ignored only if and when we get dragged before the Law. Otherwise, viva la difference!

But then, we lost our minds. Ms Stanton is right there in the thick of it. The weird blend of Calvinism, Enlightenment philosophy, hard-headed practicality and evangelical zeal that characterized our Founding Fathers and the American population at large resulted in this new thing under the sun: an actual government built on the idea that Law provides the fundamental framework within which individual rights can be exercised – in fact, government exists in its essence for this purpose.

This should sound familiar, right? Isn’t this what we all believe? What’s missing is a society, a culture: no man exercises rights in a vacuum, nor does any government spring Athena-like fully formed from the mind of Zeus. We inherited traditions – and laws – that recognized and protected families and culture, and built our ideas of individual rights on top of them. Then, along comes Stanton and her besties, and they read the Declaration of Independence, and use it to attack those familial and cultural foundations upon which the very concept of individual rights are built. Ouroboros. (2)

And it all sounds so good! Just like the idea that drunkenness is not a problem best addressed by family and culture but one that should be OUTLAWED by CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT! Yea, that ought to work. Thus, the intellectual and often physical descendants of the Calvinists who fled England to escape religious liberty and set up their own theocracy exercise their righteous zeal to fix the rest of us.

Stanton was a great feminist leader, and seemed at least suspicious of any differences. She is another ideological offspring of the Calvinists (she was raised a Calvinist Presbyterian) she seemed to believe she could fix the world if only she had enough power. Thus, she became an Abolitionist and Temperance leader and, ultimately, a Fabian Socialist. The common thread: the Law and the Government exists to fix EVERYTHING! Slavery, drunkenness and all economic inequality must be solved through law. The power of the Law – ultimately, the power of those who wield the Law – is infinite (3). Divine, even.

So, no, Facebook, I will not be sharing the fine thoughts of Elizabeth Cady Stanton this day. In fact, you’ve given me yet another reason to never open your app again.

  1. Surfing Wikipedia, came across this gem in reference to Stanton’s  The Woman’s Bible: “Lucy Stone determined for herself that the male-dominant interpretations of the Bible must be faulty—she worked to learn Greek and Hebrew and thereby gain insight into the earlier Bible translations which she believed would contain wording more favorable to women’s equality.” So, if the Bible doesn’t say what you want it to, it’s only a matter of getting down to the root to find that, no, it *does* say what you want it to! Start with the conclusion you want, and retrofit. Hegel and Marx would be so proud.
  2. The idea that voting for external political ends isn’t the most important thing in life is totally lost these days. Depriving someone of a family or destroying their culture in a thousand little ways: perfectly OK and enshrined in the law (divorce, farcical government interests trumping free association); Denying anyone the vote: horror of horrors greater than which little can be conceived!
  3. Stanton’s dad was a famous lawyer, judge and politician. As Oliver W. Holmes, Jr., an atheist who never married and another scion of those Puritan Calvinists, said in so many words: the law is whatever the judges say it is.

Immediate Book Meme from Darwin Catholic

Over at Darwin Catholic, Mrs. Darwin posts:

There are plenty of memes that want to know all about your book history and your all-time greats and your grand ambitions, but let’s focus on something more revealing: the books you’re actually reading now, or just read, or are about to read. Let’s call it The Immediate Book Meme.

Sounds like fun. Here’s my answers to the stated questions:

1. What book are you reading now?

Somewither, by John C. Wright. Read this over a period of a couple months, rereading it now as I feel haven’t really given it its due. It’s a weird combination of goofy and profound, high-brow slapstick and baroque language and imagery. But that, or most of that, can be said of most of his works.

Still rereading A History of Education in Antiquity. It’s fun. Unlike reading about American and specifically American Catholic education history, it doesn’t make my blood boil or head spin. It’s also just great to see how different people view education, their goals and methods. Reinforces how ahistorical and bizarre current methods are – assuming education in any coherent sense is what you’re trying to do.

2. What book did you just finish?

Mission: Tomorrow, a compilation by a pantheon of modern SciFi writers on the theme: now that NASA is all but dead and private interests are getting into space, what now? Mike Flynn, who contributed a good story to this collection, actually has a series of novels beginning with Firestar that expand on this very theme. In both the novels and the short story, he makes use of the social arrangements and sensibilities of the Age of Sail, cowboys, frontiersmen, as well as geeks and business people and more traditional space jockeys, in giving verisimilitude to his cast of characters. It’s both amusing and convincing. Why wouldn’t the barkeep be like a saloon keeper in an old Western, or the investigator like Phillip Marlowe?

Anyway, I’ll do a detailed review in next few days. It’s a good collection, well worth the read.

The Iron Chamber of Memory, John C. Wright. Man, I still have a foot or more of shelf space tied up by Mike Flynn and John C. Wright novels I have yet to read. But at least I got to this one! A very odd story that, at first, frankly, left me feeling like I was just being jerked around by all the unrequited love and confusion despite all the clues that All Is Not As It Seems. In the last half, though, we start peeling through the onion only to find it’s not an onion at all its – nope, not that either, until we come to discover… Well, better stop there. The ending is oddly tear-jerking, even though it satisfies everything that was set up – except that the world is now so different, it seems like tragic loss, which it is….

Very well and beautifully written. I’ll give it a full review – you know the drill.

God, Robot, another compilation, on the idea of Theological Robots – what happens if the Three Laws are replaced by, instead, the Two Great Commandments? What, indeed. Well, a bunch of good to great writer, the latter set including John C. Wright (natch), L. Jagi Lamplighter (John’s wife) and the much maligned Vox Day, took it on. I don’t think I’d read any of Lamplighter’s or Day’s fiction before – both are very talented writers. Lamplighter, who got the closing story (I don’t know how the editor, Anthony Marchetta, arranged this – did he assign parts?) was remarkable, taking a weirdly grim premise and making something weirdly luminous out of it.

Anyway, yada yada.

3. What do you plan to read next?

Souldancer, by Brian Niemeier. More SciFi. This is the sequel to Nethereal, a bizarre and mind-bending space opera about pirates and Hell. Dante meets a more troubled and moral Jack Sparrow. Something like that. This book promises to expand on What the Hell Was That All About? Introduced in the first book. Ya know?

If I’ve not sated my thirst to get away from education and Hegel reading after Souldancer, I’ll read some more Flynn, Wright or Gene Wolfe – or hit some more classic SciFi. Then back to the salt mines (typo-ed ‘salt minds’ – Freud might be beaming from wherever in Hell I imagine he’s roasting in my less charitable moments) of education History and Phenomenology of Spirit.

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

Phenomenology of Spirit. Grim duty time. Although sometimes Hegel is almost a guilty pleasure, with the right attitude. Almost. I’m weird.

War and Peace – got about 500 pages into it about 30 years ago, and – I’m a fraud! I admit it! How can anybody NOT have read W&P? Exposed, I am! Does having read a bunch of Hegel, Kant and Fichte, not to mention Cervantes and Dante, get me any slack? I imagine not. And my knowledge of Shakespeare is woefully inadequate… There are too few hours in the day…

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

There’s this pile, see…. About 2’ of shelf space is tied up with education history, studies and biographies, not to mention stuff on my Kindle. So there’s that.

6. What is your current reading trend?

Right now, I’m taking a break from Hegel and Education to read some SciFi. That should tie me up through the end of the year, at least.

Then, the plan over the next couple years is to reread a bunch of Aristotle, Plato and Thomas, a bunch of mythology (that’s another growing pile) and more general history – I particularly want to know more about Al Smith’s campaign, and the anti-Catholic backlash his crushing defeat had in the Democratic Party – FDR had NO high-profile Catholics in his administration, which was probably the price of getting elected, which he gladly paid, by all accounts.

But I need to investigate.

Not in Kansas Anymore

Literally. Just back from Atchison, where the clan attended the graduation from Benedictine of our lovely, talented and good #1 daughter, magna cum laude with a double major in music and theater. OK, I’m bragging. But c’mon!

(Imagine how well she would have done if only we had made her go to a regular school, take classes and tests, and do homework, instead of letting her go to a school with no classes, tests or homework and do whatever she wanted to do for the entirety of her k-12 experience. But I digress…)

Couple things:

Between long airplane rides and sitting around waiting for stuff to happen, got a lot of reading in! Yea, me. Finished off Mission: Tomorrow, The Iron Chamber of Memory, God, Robot, other stuff I’m forgetting at the moment, and restarted Somewhither, which I read in such a disjointed manner that I decided I needed to read it again.

In brief:

Mission: Tomorrow is well worth the read. Lots of good-to-great stories by top authors. Mike Flynn’s “In Panic Town, on the Backward Moon” should fulfill your space Western gumshoe murder mystery requirements, which you have, even if you didn’t know it until now.

The Iron Chamber of Memory is about 4 novels in one, and not in a bad way. Plot twists? Oh, yeah. Well worth the read. John C Wright’s flare for detail and research are used to good effect.

God, Robot is a lot of fun, if a bit uneven in places. A good, fun read. The three stories that stood out to me both in theme and execution were by Vox Day, John C Wright and L. Jagi Lamplighter. The first two, especially the one by Wright, are easily the darkest pieces in the collection; Lamplighter’s is easily the brightest, even though it starts plenty dark enough. I think this may be the first story of hers I’ve ever read, and I was impressed – there’s a luminous quality to it that’s impossible to put my finger on.

Now that I’m back, and caught up (more or less) on sleep, I’ll try to do full reviews in the next few days.

One last thing: this happens all the time, but I was struck by it this occasion for some reason. I made the mistake of reading Facebook (yea, I know. Stooopid.) wherein some poor soul entered a comment challenging the factual basis of some other guy’s objections to global warming hysteria.

It was practically a case study: None of the specific claims of the poster were rebutted head on, but, instead, a whole list of “facts” were presented that 1) were not facts in any objective, scientific sense, and 2) often had nothing to do with climate.

So, for example, issues of simple fact – the extent of the polar ice sheets or measured temperatures, for example – are rebutted with the claim that we were destroying the planet with DDT, and do Bad Things to the planet all the time, therefore the fear-mongering dooms of global warming alarmists must be true.

What was striking was how transparent the filtering mechanism was: clearly, this individual was not interested in the claims themselves, but rather was describing the criteria under which outside input is allowed into his mind. He has become convinced that We Are Destroying the Planet, and therefore great weight is given to any claim that supports that article of faith, and contradictory claims are rejected out of hand.

Thus Marx – and Hegel, and Luther and Calvin – continue to live on, unseen, in the properly formed modern mind. It really does trace back to the Great Reformers. Luther and Calvin made preposterous, easily refuted historical claims – the Great Apostasy, the origin of the canonical Scriptures, the state of then-current biblical scholarship, for example – as well as irrational innovations – the solas, the bondage of the will, the claim that Scripture is perspicacious – yet they, and their followers, far from being interested in whether these claims had any merit, knew in their hearts that the Church was Evil, and therefore any attack on it, no matter how absurd and unsupported, was to be cherished, while anything that supported its position was, by that fact alone, tainted and wrong. When confronted with contradictory evidence or reasons, they learned to double down.

Our evangelical brethren, who still take this stuff seriously, sometimes convert to Catholicism once their love of the truth (and the Truth) bring this weird state of affairs into focus. But the more mainline Protestants and their secular descendants, the Progressives, having rejected any literal understanding of Scripture and dogmas of any kind (insofar as those dogmas might entail doing anything we might not want to do) hang on. Hegel’s great role in the history of ideas is to give cover to the rather intellectually brutish approach of Calvin and Luther. He redefines speculative reason to mean that which is over and above logic in the classical sense, and that which gives us access to and knowledge of the activities of the Spirit. This knowledge consists fundamentally in the idea that the Spirit unfolds over time, and that past ages could not know what the enlightened modern knows, because it had not been revealed yet. This rule applies to history as well – we only understand history to the extent that the Spirit, as unfolded at this point in time, gives us the context in which to understand it.

Thus, Protestantism does not rely on logic or history for its foundation, and neither logic nor history can be used to refute it, insofar as it represents a further unfolding of the Spirit.

Handy, that.

All that’s left is for Marx to come along and get rid of the Spirit, and replace it with a strangely volitional History full of strangely willful forces, and to strip Hegel of his one bit of humility – the idea that we can only see as far as the Spirit has unfolded itself to be seen. Nope, Marx can see all the way to Christmas – the Worker’s Paradise. That the state, and capital, and the bourgeoisie  and human nature show, then and today, no indication that they are going away doesn’t mean Marx can’t know – KNOW, I tell you! – that pass away they must.

So a loaded gun, an A-bomb, a fatal virus is handed to people with even more modest intellectual chops than Marx. They KNOW what the future is going to look like! Any evidence that maybe its not going to look like that is conclusive proof that the presenter of such evidence is a man of bad faith, a tool of oppression, and the enemy of all that is good!

Shields are up. Filters engaged. It will take a miracle for anything to get through.

Fortunately, life is full of miracles.


Book Review, pt 1: Parish School

Reading Dr. Timothy Walch’s Parish SchoolI’m taking this in several sections just so 1) I can give some of the critical ideas their due (there are many) and  2) I’m not writing a 20,000 word blog post.

Nutshell: This book is a gold mine. It compensates for it short length (<300 pages) with copious notes and references. I’ve already ordered a couple books from Amazon based on particularly crucial or interesting references, and have a half-dozen more in my shopping cart (I’m going to see if the local library can get them, as we’re starting to look at some real money buying them all.) He names names and points to critical movements and organizations. In other words, Walch has put together an excellent starting point for my needs, as well as a wonderful overview for anyone interested in the subject.

The first half of the book concerns itself with the early days of Catholic education in America up until the 1920’s, even taking time to discuss the Church’s activities in the various Spanish, French and English colonies. It hits its stride discussing the American and American Catholic responses to the vast waves of immigrants and ends with the early efforts of Catholic Liberal (his term) educators striving to implement ‘Efficient’ ‘Scientific’ education into the Catholic schools. I’ll take up the second half of the book in a couple days.

Key points:

  • The established Protestant majority despised and feared Catholic immigrants. Preachers railed against the ignorant, superstitious Papists, and asserted that they could never be good Americans unless they could be made into good Protestants.
  • The rougher elements in their flocks responded with violence on several occasions, and with contempt and  political machinations to thwart Catholic attempts to make America home.
  • One key step by the Protestant establishment was the imposition of compulsory schooling, the curriculum of which was designed, not to teach anything so mundane as the 3 R’s, but rather to inculcate solid Protestant values and a corresponding contempt for the Church and the parents, families and cultures that supported it.
  • The response of the American Catholic Hierarchy to this bigotry and the political machinations it spawned was to undertake the building of the Catholic parochial school system.
  • The bishops in charge of this project varied widely in their commitment. In New York, building parish schools was seen as almost a life-or-death project; in Boston, it was almost an afterthought. Other bishops fell somewhere in between.
  • While a huge success on some levels, at its peak only about 50% of Catholic school-age kids ever attended Catholic schools; at most times the percentage was much lower.
  • By the turn of the 20th century, once the project was well under way and had met with much success, the issue became exactly how much like the public schools the parochial schools should strive to be. ‘Conservatives’ (Walch’s term, again) were not interested in conforming to Protestant ideas of education; Liberals wanted Catholic schools to be ‘up to date’ and reflect the best current ‘scientific’ education practices as promoted by the likes of John Dewey. (1)
  • The Catholic Education Association (CEA) was founded at this time, as the Catholic equivalent of the NEA. This move was part of a more general effort to centrally manage and homogenize Catholic schooling.

And that’s where we get to at the end of the first half of the book.

Much of the above I was familiar with from previous reading. One thing new to me was how the role played in the growth of parish schools varied by the ethnic origin of the parish itself: (I extrapolate a bit here in regards to how the immigrants’ experience of government in their native lands influenced their enthusiasm for school-building.)

When the German immigrants starting pouring into the Midwest in the middle of the 19th century, they, like many American immigrants, formed tight-knit communities based on their ethnic origins. The Catholic Germans needed little encouragement to throw themselves into the project of building churches for German-speaking parishes. All across America, wherever German Catholics settled, one finds beautiful churches. The sacrifices the largely impoverished immigrants made to build these glorious buildings is breathtaking.

Along with beautiful churches, German – and Polish, Czech, and Slovak – immigrants also built Catholic schools in response to the encouragement of their bishops. They instantly grasped that if they were to keep their Catholicism alive in the patently anti-Catholic America they found themselves in, they would need to make sure their children learned the faith and were insulated at least to some extent from the efforts of the established Protestant majority to drive a wedge between the parents and their children. (2) It was obvious to them, based on their experiences of the activities of the governments of their native countries, that such division was in fact the major goal of the public school. If they had any doubts, they needed only to look at the constant stream of anti-Catholic invective coming from staunch Protestant preachers, and, more important, school related legislation and regulations intended to use the public schools to suppress and supplant Catholicism. (3)

Again, the Germans, Poles, Czechs and Slovaks made huge sacrifices to build and run parish schools, second only to their efforts to build the churches themselves. A significant majority of their kids attended these schools, which largely retained their ethnic character until WWII.

Yet at no time did more than 50% of Catholic kids attend Catholic school. Often, the attendance rate was much lower. Support for parish schools varied widely depending on ethnic group. Italians almost never could be moved to build parish schools. The Irish rarely built schools outside of the New York City archdiocese. (4)

Italians, who had largely not been schooled by the state back in the old country and who generally seemed to believe any schooling past 6th grade was excessive, (5) seemed to be unimpressed by the idea of schooling in general. Besides, the state offered it for free. Paying for schooling to make sure their kids would stay Catholic was probably simply incomprehensible to someone from Italy. German Catholics had lived for several centuries in a country where it took active effort to remain Catholic; Italians, not so much.

But the real story here is the Irish. Their sons, not the Germans, dominated the American Catholic hierarchy for a century or more. These archbishops, bishops, and priests were the architects and front lines in the parish school movement.

Unlike any other ethnic group (with the possible exception of the Jews), the Irish had endured centuries of mistreatment at the hands of their government. Their British overlords generally treated them worse than animals when they weren’t actively trying to exterminate them. When Irish peasants got to America, they met with what must have seemed depressingly familiar attitudes from the established Protestant majority – hatred and contempt. (6)

The Protestant leadership constantly flung the accusation at the Irish that they were not and could not be good Americans, as they were ignorant, superstitious Papists. Some bishops and other Irish leaders felt the need to prove them wrong. I strongly suspect that, as far as schooling goes, the psychological need to out-American the Americans meant to many leaders trying to adopt as much as possible the public school model. It was assumed without comment by the Liberals that the ‘efficient’ ‘scientific’ public schools were better than Catholic schools at educating kids for their place in the modern world.

Of course, changing schools that were created in opposition to the public schools to be more like the public schools was a controversial idea. The two chief concerns: how much of the public school model embodies what it is that the Catholic schools were built to oppose? And, how compelling is the case for spending money on a Catholic education for your kid if what he’s going to get is a public school education with the Baltimore Catechism tacked on? We’ve reached the middle of the book.

Observations: Walch points out that, early in the game – mid 19th century – that the bishops opposed not just the rampant Protestantism of the public schools, but the very concept that the state, rather than the family and the Church, had the primary role in the education of the young. The Hegelian (and Fichtian, and, frankly, Platonic) idea that the value of the individual is a function of their role in, and usefulness to, the state would have been anathema even apart from its manifestation in the public schools. Somewhere along the line, that battle appears to have been lost or at least obscured.

I put ‘efficient’ and ‘scientific’ as applied to schooling in scare quotes since, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya, these words they keep using – I don’t think they mean what we think they mean. As mentioned here, William Torey Harris, the fourth United States Commissioner of Education from 1889 – 1906 and a prolific leading voice in school reform, tried during his life to make Hegelianism the official philosophy of the US education. While he failed to get Hegel officially accepted, the Hegelian gate-keepers at all the major education schools made sure it became the de facto standard.

The term ‘scientific’ as applied to education at the turn of the last century must be taken in the Hegelian sense, not in what might be called the Feynmanian sense. ‘Scientific’ here does not mean ‘demonstrated via rigorous application of the scientific method as practiced by, for example, physicists and chemists’; nor does it mean ‘results come from a systematic organized body of knowledge’. Nope – Hegel uses the term most tellingly in his Science of Logic, which science, as Hegel would have it, eliminates what any sane person would call ‘logic’ and replaces it with ‘speculative reason’, which by definition is beyond the reach of the Aristotelian logic that lies at the core of Science as understood in the prior definitions. Specifically, the Law of Non-contradiction is rejected – you know, the very law that allows anyone to make any sense of anything and communicate anything at all – that law.

No, ‘scientific’ as used by education theorist from the late 19th century on means ‘we are more enlightened that you are’. It certainly does NOT mean ‘supported by rigorous research using the scientific method’ since no such research was ever conducted.(7)

Similarly, for an Hegelian, all the world is the Spirit unfolding itself through History. ‘Progress’ is toward wherever the Spirit is going. But we can’t see where the Spirit is going until it has sufficiently unfolded itself – that’s why we can’t tell you where we’re going until after we get there. ‘Efficient’ means whatever gets us to where we can’t say we’re going – got it?  And if this makes no sense to you, that’s proof you’re a benighted fool – all the cool kids get it. The Emperor’s robes are truly dazzling!

The only thing more striking than the willingness of Hegelians to accept this patent, irrational nonsense is their certainty that they’re right.

A Thomas Edward Shields – I’m trying to lay my hands on some of his essays and books – was the major Progressive voice in American Catholic education in the early 20th century. He was a champion for incorporating modern ‘scientific’ ‘efficient’ methods into Catholic schooling. Most tellingly, when he was rebuffed in these attempts by the Catholic Education Association in 1908, his next step was to just start publishing textbooks for Catholic schools that incorporated these ideas. He was the owner, editor and chief writer for his own publishing company. Thus, we see demonstrated another aspect of Church ‘reform’ – if the proper authorities don’t like it, just get sneaky to get it done anyway.

  1. When he wasn’t acting as an apologist for Russian Communist atrocities according to dictates of Progressive Pragmatism (can’t make an omelet, and all that), Dewey promoted kinder, gentler ways of turning kids into obedient dunderheads. Not that I have an opinion on this, or anything. I will be reading more Dewey as part of this project – maybe I’ll change my mind…
  2. Perhaps some of those Germans had read Fichte, and knew what the game was really about?
  3. In case you doubt  this, turns out there is copious documentation that this is exactly what was going on. That I’ll save for the book – this is just a preliminary essay.
  4. The early archbishops of New York were among the greatest and most vociferous supporters of parish schools, and expended far more energy on the project than the typical bishop of the time. Outside New York City, Irish Catholic parishes with schools were the exception rather than the rule.
  5. In 19th century Italy, as in almost all places through almost all of history, a 12 year old was expected to contribute to the sustenance of the family.
  6. It should not be surprising that when the Irish have gained dominant political power in America, what seems to follows is an utterly corrupt political machine. The give-and-take that characterizes (or, at least, used to characterize) American politics is noticeably absent in Boston and Chicago, where a single party dominates by whatever means are necessary. To the Irish, reacting to centuries during which (British) government was, in effect, the mere exercise of raw power, small-R republican ideas of a government guarding a common patrimony for the good of all were probably merely incomprehensible. Political power is, as Callicles said 2500 years ago, the ability to reward one’s friends, punish one’s enemies, and indulge your every whim – as Billy and Whitey Bulger, or Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna and “Bathouse” John Coughlin would understand. Every group has its bad apples, but these characters attained Robin Hood status among the Boston Southies and Chicago Irish, respectively.
  7. While my efforts are hardly exhaustive, I’ve made a hobby of looking for scientific support for the claims of educators – that’s primarily how I got involved in all this in the first place – and, so far, I’ve seen exactly one education-related study that had anything important to say that stood up to 15 seconds of examination. It takes that long or less to identify where the study fails from a scientific view.