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.)

How to Fix Education: Step One

There are 3 basic things wrong with modern k-12 education:

  1. Age-graded classrooms
  2. Age-graded classrooms
  3. Age-graded classrooms

Taking 5 and 6 year-old children, each of whom is a distinct individual, member of a particular family and community, and a child of God, and grouping them by age with no regard for those differences, tells that child in a way more direct and powerful than any mere words, exactly how important his own life, family and community is, and how he is to view his God.

In all approaches to education(1) up until the invention of the graded classroom model, who the child was and what he already knew and what he needed and wanted to learn were the basis of all teaching – and schools were structured accordingly. The model least unfamiliar to Americans is probably the one-room school. In its heyday, the typical one room school, built and run by the local families, employed a young unmarried woman to teach all the children up until the age of about 14. She would assess what each child knew and didn’t know, and pair up the kids so that a particular child might be learning to read from a child younger than himself while teaching math to a kid older than himself.  Each day, each child would be called up to ‘recite’ to the teacher, so that she knew how it was going. Such education, which by all objective measures produced better educated students than the current model in a fraction of the time (2), was held around the work the kids needed to do on the farm.

One room schools reinforced the relationships that brought those kids together in the first place: family, work, neighbor, community. The teacher managed a process by which all students learned how to learn and how to teach – by doing it.

The graded classroom model was designed specifically to destroy those relationships, and replace them with obedience, conformity, and ignorance. The graded classroom places children into arbitrary groups run by someone hired by bureaucrats and protected by a union, who follows lesson plans concocted by utterly inaccessible ‘educators’ and whose major task each day is to put a stop to natural social interactions (“Stop talking! Pay attention!”). Instead of building upon the natural relationships of siblings, families, neighbors and coreligionists,  modern school seeks to destroy those relationships and replace them with loyalty to the state (3).

As John Taylor Gatto points out, the greatest triumph of modern schooling is that few people can even imagine doing it any other way. Thus, even most home schoolers, who have taken heroic steps to separate themselves and their kids from public model schools, are just looking for a better graded classroom – we know this, because they still (mostly) concern themselves with year-by-year curricula and worry if their kid is ‘performing to grade level’. It doesn’t occur to them, at least not to the depth required to do something about it, that ‘grade-level’ is no more real than the tooth fairy, no more based on science than phrenology, and is in fact nothing more than the instrument by which they are controlled. It is how teacher in the schools are controlled as well – no matter how well-meaning, teachers keep their jobs by focusing on getting their kids to test at or above grade-level. There is no more perfect control than that which issues arbitrary and objectively meaningless orders – and gets them obeyed anyway.

All arguments for graded classrooms are lies. They are not more efficient for any value of ‘education’ that is not an Orwellian euphemism. We do not need them. We do not need to put our children under the care of professional educators. We are not incompetent. There is no evidence the graded classroom model ‘works’ better than anything else, and lots that it is an abject, appalling failure (4). Lies, lies and more lies.

Once we get rid of the graded classroom, we can begin to have a rational discussion about how we should educate our children.

  1. Education differs from training in this respect: education is for the sake of the person being educated, and only indirectly for the benefit of society; training is what you do to soldiers and horses, to serve their master’s goals. Someone may want to be a soldier or a tailor or a bricklayer and seek the training of his own free will – but the purpose of such training is primarily to enable him to do what others want him to do. All education is in this sense ‘liberal education’ – anything less is mere training, which tends toward the enslavement of those not otherwise liberally educated.
  2. Not surprising, since ‘education’ is not the goal of modern schools, and never was.
  3. As discussed at great length on this blog under Schooling 
  4. e.g., “If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.”

    Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983, via Chaos Manor

Guacamole Problems & Pool

On the lighter side – reminiscing –

Coining a phrase here: Guacamole Problem. A guacamole problem is where you think you’re up against a serious or challenging obstacle, but it turns out not to be much of a challenge and you end up feeling foolish for having taken it so seriously. A Guacamole Problem is not worth winning, or at least not worth investing any worry in.

Origin: once in my callow youth, there was a girl. Keeping this sub-novel length, she liked me, I sort of liked her – and this other guy, a nice guy, really liked her. I was (and, to a lesser extent, still am) socially pretty clueless, so I was picking up on none of this.

Well, we were part of a chambers singer group, so what with rehearsals and travel and such, hung out together a lot. Dude B was trying to get attention from the girl, who paid attention to me – that I hardly noticed. The subject of guacamole comes up, and he says: I make great guacamole. I say: so do I! So we agree to each make guacamole and bring it to the next get together.

Well, as a Southern Californian and amatuer cook, I take my guacamole seriously: fresh minced garlic, fresh squeezed limes, finely chopped red onions, Mexican (has to be mexican!) oregano, New Mexican ground red Hatch chile powder – you get the drift. I make damn fine guacamole.

So I make a nice big bowl, eager to see what Dude B has to bring. But I had no dog in the fight – I was not desperate for the girl’s attention (I sort of had it anyway more or less by accident), nor did I need validation that my guac rocked. Dude B, on the other hand, really wanted the girl’s attention, really needed validation – and, sadly, made totally pedestrian guacamole.

So, I “won”, without really knowing what I’d won. Dude B was crushed – he was taking this all very seriously, but he felt compelled – he really was a nice guy – to tell me how very much better my guacamole was. As the reality of the situation slowly entered my dull and dense mind, I just felt bad for him. He hadn’t lost a dumb food contest – in his mind, he’d gone a long way toward losing the girl I didn’t really even want! (On a side note, I gotta admit that most any girl worth having would have to prefer the guy who makes the better guacamole, other things being close to equal. There is that.)

Image result for shooting poolSecond, we are going out in a moment on a company team building exercise. It will involve opportunities to bowl and shoot pool, among other teamy things. My knees are not up to much bowling, although I do enjoy it. BUT: back in the day – WAY back in the day, I was pretty good at pool.

At St. John’s, as a freshman I got a dorm room that shared a wall with the Upper Common Room (meaning: not much sleep if there were a party) and upstairs from a pool table. Did I mention I’m a terrible student? One of the ways that manifested was that I spent a lot more time shooting pool than, say, studying Greek. (I was 18 and possibly stupider than most – it got a little better over time.)

So, I started gettin good. In the second semester, somebody put together an 8-ball tournament, singles and doubles. Well, Wes, a sophomore, was the only guy in the school I couldn’t regularly beat, couple other guys were about my level, and everybody else had to get lucky to beat me. So, I lose the singles to Wes – but he got cocky, and got his girlfriend to be his doubles partner.

I recruited a dude for my partner who was a fidgety mess – unless he was stoned. Stoned, he shot pretty good pool.

Well, he showed up for the finals stoned. Wes played brilliantly, and, had he picked a decent partner, would have most likely beat us. But his partner – a lovely young woman, and, you know, OK at pool, wasn’t good enough. It was a pure defensive battle – no leaves. But the girl wasn’t good enough to not leave me and my partner some shots – and, every time she did, we’d just kill ’em.

It was close. Wes was really good, and my partner was really stoned – but we won! The prize was dinner at a local restaurant.

Due to transportation issues, the winners decided to go together. So, Wes, a sophomore, of course takes his girlfriend with his singles champion prize. I end up with a date with a stoner sophomore dude – who had money, back then, to do a dinner date? Not me or him.

It was weird. Food was good, though.

Anyway, I have to go easy on the bowling for my knees’ sake, and I have to go easy on the pool for my ego’s sake, since I’ve hardly shot since – had to go cold turkey or they’d have thrown me out of school eventually. I get rusty fast if I’m not shooting all the time.

Hope your day is going well!

 

End of Advent Updates

1. Added to the growing pile of drafts – as always, the post I haven’t written is the best post I ever wrote – but, alas, caught my first full-on cold in years. Why is it when your nose gets stuffed up, so does your brain? Would like to finish a draft or two, but can’t because my thoughts are clouded and confused. More than usual, I mean.

2. Because of this cold, which settled in Saturday, I’ve only caught 2 Simbang Gabi 5:30 a.m. masses. Tomorrow and Saturday are the last 2 – let’s see if I can man up, and share good cheer and cold viruses with my fellow Christians. Or not…

3. Another Orwellian euphemism in the service of modern education is ‘exposure’. The assumption is that if you don’t hand over your kids to the schools, they will somehow fail to be exposed to all the right stuff, and grow up with a narrow view of reality and thus be unable to realize their full potential. That if you let your young children pursue whatever interests them instead of micromanaging their every minute, they will grow up stunted. That if you don’t send them to school and act in loco schoolmasters and enforce all homework without question, you are a Bad Parent who has Ruined their own child.

But War is Peace. The actually effect of all the ‘exposure’ is that our kids are unlikely to ever hear a clear explication and vigorous defense of any position not held by their school masters. They are then trained to reject any other opinions out of hand – this is called ‘critical thinking’. The stunning willingness of people to embrace the most outrageous caricatures of those we disagree with increases with the level of education, so that a PhD pretty much immunizes the victim against ever entertaining an idea that they have not already accepted.

This is the world in which business people, some of whom certainly do buy political influence in order to get richer, are a greater evil than communist dictators, who without exception abuse, rob and eventually murder their own subjects. The rich man’s greed may motivate him to steal, and may even motivate him to murder in order to steal; the communist dictator’s lust for power disguised as efforts to bring History to its inevitable conclusion, motivates him to murder anyone in his (History’s) way; murder in the 10s of millions in the cases of Mao and Stalin. The billions a very rich man(1) controls make him an irredeemable villain; the nation-state level wealth controlled by a communist dictator, on the other hand, has no effect on his actions whatsoever, which are conclusively presumed  to be sweetness and life itself, no matter how many are enslaved, impoverished or killed by them.

Such discussions are evidently unknown among the enlightened. Few well educated people have been exposed to them, and certainly not in the schools. At best, the well-educated are familiar with the accepted caricature, which exists only to aid summary dismissal of the ideas being caricatured.

4. Trying to work on world/tech/family background for the Novel Which Shall Not Be Named, but it’s hard when moments of clarity (such as they are) are like island in a cold-induced fog. Insofar as I can do it, it’s fun – knowing who these folks are, what they want, why they’re on the generational longship in the first place. So far, my muse, if I have one, has been quiet but not discouraging: the stuff I’m outlining fails to trigger the ‘lame’ response.

I’m counting that as a positive. That may be the virus talkin’.

I’m such a newbie. Spent some time worrying how I’d come up with all these complicated relationships in such a way as to make them work with the story arc, when I remembered: I know a boatload of family stories, both from history, literature and real life. Just use them! What a novel idea! (nyuk) Being careful, of course, with the real life stuff, which is far less realistic than fiction is allowed to be.

5. Got about a dozen books to review here and at Amazon. Got 11 days off coming up, with only maybe 60% of the time already spoken for. So – maybe! In short: L. Jagi Lamptighter’s In the Lamplight and Rachel Griffin stuff, John C. Wright’s Swan Knight’s Son series and Brian Niemeier’s Soul Dancer are all highly recommended. When Prophecy Fails – not so much. Interesting ideas poorly supported. And I need to be seated at a table, pencil in hand, head clear, to finish Uncertainty: the Soul of Modeling, Probability & Statistics. It’s very good so far. Vindication of Man and Secret Kings are next on the pile.

  1. Well, billions make *their* rich guys into evil incarnate, while *our* billionaires act solely out of pure civic altruism.

Thinking as a Full-Contact Sport

Used to think the greatest value of a St. John’s Great Books education lay in reading all those old guys and thus being saved from chronological snobbery. Now, however, it’s clear that the greatest value is having the experience of carrying on serious, sometimes heated but almost always civil conversations with people who vehemently disagree with you. This seems to be a lost art. At St. John’s, one would daily exchange criticisms and witticisms with people who truly loved Plato and Aristotle, the Bible and Euclid – and people who hated those same things. There were real, live Marxists and Freudians – and people who despised everything Marx and Freud stood for. And so on, down the reading list. And day after day, for four years, those were the people you were in class with, eating lunch with, dancing with – and trying to figure out grown-up books with (often – hey, we read Marx)  grown-up ideas in them.

The students, even back in 1976 when I started, were almost entirely of the unconscious herd. Few had any idea what we were assuming about the world, and so many political and cultural issues were just so *obvious* to us that challenges were more baffling than threatening. Except that I had been raised Catholic, and thus was familiar with the idea that decent people could be completely wrong, I was no different.

Students then and now, and probably always, are to a large extent sheep. Me included. There were also, however, professors, called tutors. Their job description is to be the best student in the class. That meant they didn’t get to lecture, taught by example how to carry on a respectful argument, and, very occasionally, jumped in when things were getting out of hand. Many – most, even – truly seemed to believe that a right conclusion reached through poor thinking was not an entirely good thing, and that a wrong conclusion reached with honesty and vigor was to be respected, and the holder of such a well thought out yet wrong opinion held in esteem, even.

By senior year, almost all of the students completely got the whole art of serious discussion of serious ideas, and could act as tutors in the St. John’s sense. That was the almost the whole point of the education, it now seems to me.

Now, at St. John’s, respect and esteem were expressed most perfectly in going after the holder of well-thought-out-yet-wrong ideas hammer and tong. Have at it! That was the whole point! One or both of you might change your minds, and, at the very least, gain some clarity – a very good thing.

Thus, two of the tutors I loved and respected the most were holders of some terrible ideas, a state more evident now to my currently aged mind than I was aware of at the time. But they were good guys, willing to go at it, and treated us 18 year old air-headed naifs as if our ideas were worth listening to- a thing not at all easy .

Don’t know if this state of respectful intellectual warfare was ever the norm in academia here in America, but it seems one must attend one of a few tiny, fringe schools to get it today. This is a major tragedy, with major repercussions. The infantile assumption, almost universally made, is that one’s political opponents are gullible rubes if not out-and-out evil, and that their failure to see things my way, even after I explain it to them, is incomprehensible without the assumption that they are either hopelessly stupid and evil.

If unchecked, these attitudes lead with the inexorable force of gravity to gulags and death camps. St. Louis’s perhaps apocryphal rule for dealing with barbarians – you either reason with them, or run them through with the sword – should, properly understood, strongly incline us to reason with them, if for no other reason than that they are unlikely for long to let us run them through with the sword without spirited resistance. We must learn to argue with anyone who is willing to argue, which is, sadly, a small and dwindling crowd.

We wrap this up with a couple quotations:

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

– Aristotle

And one of my favorite John Taylor Gatto quotations, wherein he recounts his experience having a Jesuit (back in the 1930s, when most Jesuits were still giants)  teach his third-grade class about manipulation:

At the age of eight, while public school children were reading stories about talking animals, we had been escorted to the eggshell-thin foundation upon which authoritarian vanity rests and asked to inspect it.There are many reasons to lie to children, the Jesuit said, and these seem to be good reasons to older men. Some truth you will know by divine intuition, he told us, but for the rest you must learn what tests to apply. Even then be cautious. It is not hard to fool human intelligence.

Post Election Schooling Rant

Winston S. Churchill(Should I wait a full week? Nah.)

“My education was interrupted only by my schooling.” – Churchill

It doesn’t have to be this way. Plato and Aristotle didn’t go to graded classroom schools for 16 years; Hypatia and Hildegard of Bingen didn’t sit in desks with 50 kids the same age getting lectured. Even today, on the off chance you find truly educated adults, there’s no chance they got that way via a standard k-12 education. Like Churchill above, at best, they got that way despite it.

Based on the available evidence, the typical department head at our major universities isn’t nearly as well educated as, say, David Farragut or Abigail Adams, a couple of American heroes who, as we might put it today, were educated via some combination of homeschooling, independent study and tutoring. Back then, pretty much everybody who was educated was educated in such a manner. Based, again, on the available evidence, there was a far larger percentage of truly well-educated people back then than there is today.(1)  This predates the insane herd-everybody-together-by-age model imposed on us by our self-appointed betters over the last 150 years.

Throughout all of history down to this day, no well-educated people got that way by sitting in a desk and learning to regurgitate answers from a textbook. The very idea is only 200 years old; it wasn’t tried in America until well into the 19th century, and didn’t come to completely dominate education here until about 75 years ago. Up until maybe 40 years ago, one could even come across teachers who, whatever the designs of the system, were intent on educating their charges, and sometimes even succeeded. Now? Such an one will have the entire weight of established practice brought to bear on him, to bring him in line.

Image result for school of athens
Plato and Aristotle walk and talk as friends. Not a desk in sight.

So, what is it that we are supposed to learn, that we had to throw out thousands of years of educational experience and success and replace it with a rigid, insulting and compulsory model?

The questions are at the end of the chapter. The answers are in the teacher’s book. 

In a way, that’s it. That’s all there is to it. Materials are presented; the allowed or insisted upon questions are asked; the correct answers are given. Rinse. Repeat.

For 12 to 16 years.

You think it’s about reading? If it were, the first day of school children would be asked to show how well or not they can read, and then those that could already read would be excused while those who needed (and wanted?) some help would get it. Is that what happens? Why not?  Math? People who want their kids to learn math send them to the Russian School of Mathematics or Khan academy or use some other non-school approach. If your goal was to make kids loath math, on the other hand, you could hardly do better than the current practices found in our schools.

And so on. A successful school kid’s ignorance of reading and math, not to mention science, history, literature, ‘civics’ and so on is profound, such that around half of the super-elite students who attend the University of California – the kids with 4.0+ GPAs, numerous Advanced Placement classes, and high SAT scores – have to take remedial classes in math and writing in order to succeed in college-level classes. This, by the way, after decades during which college has been dumbed down.

So, what exactly did they *do* K-12? Less time and effort devoted to ‘education’ in the past resulted in a good number of multi-lingual (Greek and Latin) kids who could do calculus, play musical instruments, draw convincingly, knew their history, geography, how our government was supposed to work, and so on. Now? What is the time spent doing?

Have you witnessed, inside school or out, the ritual whereby the authority figure asks some version of “Who can tell me X?” with the expectation that kids (of all ages) will raise their hands and shout out answers? The telling part is that no matter how much the question is couched in ‘there is no wrong answer’ or ‘there is more than one right answer’ or ‘I want to know your opinion’ language, the authority figure is just asking in order to receive *one* answer – his answer.

We know he has received his right answer when he moves on to his next point. (2)  He asks the question not out of interest in hearing what the people think, but rather to test how well they can regurgitate what it is they have been told or how quickly they can get in line with the group behind the right answer. (3) He may think he’s asking in order to get their attention – that’s the usual thought, mixing it up a bit so that it’s not just the speaker droning on and on – but he could get it by asking a legitimate question where he does not know the answer. That virtually never happens.

This lie – it is a lie to claim to be asking for opinions or views when in fact you are hunting for one ‘correct’ answer(4) – has been practiced on us so often and from such a young age that we’ve incorporated it into our intellectual and social background. This is a fancy way of saying we’ve been inured to how outrageous, petty and manipulative it is.

I mention this as a relatively trivial example of what we’ve become as a nation. We are a nation of parrots, of perpetual children.

Of slaves.

Elections have become a giant game of ‘who can tell me the answer I want to hear?’.  Over that decade and a half of intense (and getting more intense) training, we are made to identify with what the schools tell us we are. We are the smart kids, we got the grades – that’s who we are! We name the resulting group-think ‘critical thinking’ – an Orwellian phrase for an activity that involves neither criticism nor thought.

Weepy hysteria results when other people refuse to give the right answer, the answer all right-thinking people insist on – because the wrong answer flies in the face of all that training, all those gold stars and pats on the head and acceptance letters to colleges and good grades and degrees, all the material and especially psychological goodies one gets for telling the teacher the answers the teacher wants to hear, class after class, day after day, year after year, for a decade and a half.  This is not about losing an election – it is about having a world view crushed. We got a buffoon instead of a felonious traitor. This result requires burning the cars of strangers?

This observation is not, at its roots, partisan, although in the just passed elections it played out that way, more or less. Both parties support the schools, arguing, rather, just over how many and in what pattern the deck chairs should be rearranged. No iceberg is ever sighted. The problem for me, even as I take some comfort in watching so many of the correct heads explode, is that the enemy is playing the long game, and has been for a century or more. We can already see how many young people, deluded into thinking they are the brightest, best educated and most moral people the world has ever known (thus being immunized against self-reflection and ever learning anything) are convinced that this election was a DISASTER! And it was, for the regurgitate on demand world of schooling. But unless these kids can break this illusion, realize that they are just as ignorant, stupid and prone to immoral acts as anyone else now or ever, they will, with righteous zeal, be right back at it like the perfect little clone army they have trained to be.

  1. Chesterton, on the advantages of being educated as the Puritans were educated versus modern education: “Nobody could read the Bible without gaining a glorious mass of information about fighting, about faith, about religions true and false, about mystical or magical or mysterious beings such as hover round man in all the legends and literature of the world. The little boys who grew up in the dark Calvinistic houses of our great-grandfathers did, in actual fact, grow up with their heads full of a noble noise of conflict and crisis; valiant and vigorous action described in the grandest English that our national history has known; the noise of the captains and the shouting; the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof; and he that drew a bow at a venture and smote the king between the joints of the harness; and he whose driving was known from afar off, for he drove furiously. That, under all its other disadvantages, is what I call being educated; certainly it is being much better educated than a miserable little prig who must not be told that Joan of Arc carried a battle-banner, but must be assured that she only carried an umbrella.” On the New Prudery, 1935
  2. Who has not experienced the hilarity of watching some teacher or speaker play this game, yet having the audience not promptly supply the right answer? How they will sputter and plead and shame. This is the sign of an amatuer. Pros recognize that this game is a variation on the rule of Sun Tzu (or maybe it’s Machiavelli? Both?): never give an order you are not sure will be obeyed.
  3. A side benefit: courtiers and sycophants sometimes find themselves in situations where they have not been given specific instructions on what responses and behaviors their lords and masters expect. Here we practice the only logical process required of such followers: inferring from what is known to what must be – in their god’s head. That this also provides an opportunity for delightful torture of said courtiers and sycophants is a bonus – for the lords and masters. Handy for picking out who’s not fully with the program and making examples of people. It’s a superset including the “Don’t be the first one to stop clapping” thing. (pp 69-70) 
  4. Even when it’s clear that the speaker is asking for the one correct answer, the public nature of the interaction – someone will be praised, others risk being shamed – makes this a dubious practice at best. It is using group pressure to make people get in line with whatever the group seems to think.

 

What Creeping Totalitarianism Looks Like in Practice

This has happened before and will happen increasingly in the future: parents, acting in their role as the people primarily responsible for the education of their children, take them out of the state schools and put them in schools of their own choosing. Nobody is making them do this – these parents want something different for their kids, and so exercise their God-given right (1) to do what they deem best for their own kids.

The state finds this simply intolerable. In this case, the state is Bavaria. In the recent past, it’s been Australia. In America, at least one school had to form its own religion in order to get a religious school exemption – in other words, the state recognized no right of parents to educate their own children as they see fit, but, for the time being, didn’t think it could get away with infringing freedom of religion (2).

Note that there is, objectively, no such thing as ‘grade level’. The idea that all, say, 8 year olds should ‘perform to grade level’ is an act of violence inflicted upon children to enforce a level of uniformity on them that is not there by nature – kids, like everybody else, learn different things at different times, soar in some things and crawl in others and never learn others at all.(3)  This used to be called ‘being human’. The idea of grade level is meant to crush kids, at best, into a uniform mediocrity: There is little reward in excelling at those few arbitrary things performing at grade level requires, no reward (and no free time allowed) to excel at the millions of worthy things not included regardless of the personal interest and talents of the child, and grim is the fate of those who fail, a group whose members serve their purpose within the system by providing` the poster children for why yet more school, more funding, more teachers, more hours, is needed.

Anyway, it seems that some parents in Bavaria are guilty of trying to educate their children outside the fences set up by the Bavarian government (4). Below is the English version of a note that went out:

Call for a show of solidarity

The Sudbury School Ammersee, EUDEC (European Democratic Education Community), and the ‘Netzwerk für selbstbestimmte Bildung’ are joining forces for

a day of international solidarity with the Sudbury School Ammersee
on 
10 November!

After two years of successful work, the Sudbury School Ammersee has been summarily closed by the ‘responsible‘ authority, the regional government of Upper Bavaria, allegedly because ‘not enough was being learned there’. Renowned social scientists, experts, large numbers of visitors and the entire school community declare: This is a drastically wrong decision at the expense of the children and many other people involved. All these people from very different walks of life have been able to witness, directly, how pupils of the school have flourished and, each in their own individual way, learned huge amounts.

Therefore we see no reasonable alternative and demand:

That the Sudbury School Ammersee immediately be given approval
to continue operations, that democratic values and justice be upheld!

To this end, we want to make a clear statement with a

global action on 10 November, 3 pm (15:00h CET).

We would like to ask all of you – schools, associations, private persons, friends and supporters in Germany and all over the world – please make your solidarity with the Sudbury School Ammersee visible in some way.

Think up small or big actions calling for the reopening of the school. Light a candle, organize a party or a firework display or a demonstration, send a selfie, roll out the banners, meditate, take photographs, shoot videos, call the newsroom, call the President ☺, …
And pass on this call to action to others, mobilize your networks: the more people who participate, the clearer the message:

CHILDRENS’ RIGHTS MATTER!

If you would like to take part, please:
Let us know beforehand what you plan to do so we can tell our local media what to expect – all the things that are going to happen right across the globe! Every action helps, never mind how small!

And afterwards, please send us short texts, photos or clips of the actions themselves: together@sudbury-schule-ammersee.de
To all supporters in the Munich region:
On the action day, 10 November, the Sudbury School Ammersee community will gather in front of the Ministry of Education building, Salvatorplatz, Munich, at 3 pm / 15:00h CET to demonstrate and show on an open stage how colourful and multi-faceted learning can be. You’re warmly welcome: come and support us, come and join us with your talents on the stage, but mainly, please come!

Demonstration

  1. Catholic tradition notes that rights are the mirror images of duties: if you have a duty to see to the education of your children (and parents do), then you have to have a right to educate them.
  2. This making up a religion to get around the law reminds me of the concept of a’scofflaw’ that arose during Prohibition: while it is understandable that citizens would scoff at a law as stupid and unjust as Prohibition, the concept of law in general suffers from such scoffing. Religion is cheapened when it becomes nothing more than a work-around for other stupid and unjust laws.
  3. I, for example, am completely ignorant of Sanskrit, even though I hear it’s a wonderful language well worth learning. I can do Euclid inside and out. Well? Is Euclid worthy and Sanskrit unworthy? What horrible chaos would result if we just people figure that out on their own? If all you want are “the basics” then you’d start around age 12, more or less, do a couple hours of school per week for a year, maybe, and be done with it. That’s all it takes. And let kids test out.
  4. German compulsory education laws prohibit homeschooling and any private schools that do not conform to the state model. This is usually defended by saying that the state has a legitimate interest in preventing the rise of fascism, and so must make sure kids don’t get educated by the fascists hiding under every bed pining for the good old days. Two problems with this: ironically, German compulsory  school laws in their current form date from the 1930s – enacted under Hitler; and these laws are used largely against Christians who want to educate their kids outside the iron secularism that has gripped all of Europe, and schools like the Sudbury school above, which is about as far from fascist as can be imagined. Wonder how these laws are being applied to Muslim immigrants?