De la Salle & Normal Schools

Am plowing through biographies and writings of the major players in Catholic schooling. Unfortunately, so far, have found nothing on Mother Seton’s teaching methods, which, given the timeframe of the early 19th century, would be interesting. Now looking over Jean Baptiste de la Salle, and creating a series of spreadsheets with timelines on them – since none of the stuff I’ve read so far correlates event s and lives in any sort of systematic fashion, guess I’ve got to do it.

De la Salle is credited with inventing the ‘Normal School’, viewed as the forerunner of all modern teachers colleges. The name comes from de la Salle’s observation that the impoverished boys he was trying to educate lacked even rudimentary social skills, and, further, so did the sort of men who would volunteer to teach them.

His first stab at addressing the issue was to simply invite the teachers over for dinner. In 1680, this caused great scandal among his relatives, since de la Salle was a nobleman with a mansion, and the teachers were all commoners. He found dinner wasn’t enough immersion in cultured life, so he had the commoner-teachers move in. His relatives managed, through legal wrangling, to get his house away from him, putting the kibosh on his uncouth fraternizing.

So he founded normal school, to instill in would-be teachers the norms of civilized life. The SJW have gotten to the Wikipedia page, and so we read:

In 1685, St. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, founded what is generally considered the first normal school, the École Normale, in ReimsChampagneFrance. The term “normal” herein refers to the goal of these institutions to instill and reinforce particular norms within students. “Norms” included historical behavioral norms of the time, as well as norms that reinforced targeted societal values, ideologies and dominant narratives in the form of curriculum.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal_school

Of course, there’s an implied judgement in there. It seems the writer doesn’t approve of the ‘ideologies and dominant narratives’ the likes of de la Salle would ‘instill.’ De la Salle made a timeless observation: You’ll get farther if you know how to act like a gentleman than if you always act like a thug. It’s along the lines of catching flies with sugar rather than vinegar.

I note here a reality: schools are an artifact and a conduit of culture. Either your schools teach and reinforce the culture, or they replace it. In de la Salle’s case, he wanted what he saw as a better culture taught to his charges, both students and teachers. In a sense, he was attempting to replace the culture, such as it was, of the impoverished boys and teachers in his charge; looked at another way, he was trying to take the best from the culture he shared with the poor, and make it more available to them. He certainly thought knowing how to act like a gentleman would improve the economic and social prospects of his students and teachers.

Our school cannot but serve the same purpose. They are not about the 3 Rs, and never were. The 3 Rs are just part of the culture the schools traditionally tried to pass on. All the great teachers of history knew they weren’t getting anywhere with students who did not know, for example, how to act toward a teacher. The great schools in Athens would not admit you unless you knew Euclid and Homer, as in: could do all of Euclid’s proofs, and recite the Iliad and the Odyssey. It was not so much that this proved you were a true Greek – although it did do that – as show that you knew how to study and learn. How to behave in school.

Fichte is therefore not breaking new ground in trying to use schools to impart a culture. His innovation is to teach that compulsory state-run Rousseauian/Pestalozzian schools could create a new and Utopian society in a generation or so – if only the influence of parents, family, religion, and village could be eliminated. This remains a (usually) tacit assumption of schools ever since.

Wikipedia continues:

The first public normal school in the United States was founded in Concord, Vermont, by Samuel Read Hall in 1823 to train teachers. In 1839, the first state-supported normal school was established by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on the northeast corner of the historic Lexington Battle Green; it evolved into Framingham State University. The first modern teacher training school in China was established by educator Sheng Xuanhuai in 1895 as the normal school of the Nanyang Public School (now Shanghai Jiao Tong University) in Shanghai during the Qing dynasty.[2]

Massachusetts – it’s the Balkans of education: producing more history than it can consume locally. My curiosity was piqued by Samuel Read Hall – don’t remember him. A contemporary of Mann, but beat him to the punch in founding a Normal School. So, I clicked the link:

Hall was a preacher, or at least, a trained minister. At a young age – mid 20s – he was already running and founding schools. Wonder if he’s yet another childless man pontificating on children? The Oracle does not say.

In 1829, he helped found an educational society,  American Institute of Instruction , whose purpose was – to get Massachusetts to create the office od superintendent of schools. The succeeded. Horace Mann got the gig…

It is shocking/not shocking how often education reform seeks not so much improved education as the establishment of offices with the power, it is more or less sincerely hoped, to improve education.

Here’s Hall’s major beefs:

In his Lectures on School Keeping, he points out significant obstacles to the instruction of children in the American schools of 1829:

Lack of simple display media such as a globe of the world. (He is credited with inventing the blackboard, and the blackboard eraser)

Political factions within the school district, at war with each other at the expense of educational progress.

Wealthy citizens sending their children to private schools.

Schools exact no moral influence, in turn becoming a school for bad behavior.

Poorly qualified teachers.

Poor remuneration of qualified teachers.

Poor quality of textbooks, or lack of fitness for learning capacity of student.

It’s tempting to pick this apart. In 1829, America was less than 50 years removed from the Federalist Papers – published in the popular press, which would suggest that, in general, the newspaper-buying public could read at a very high level. And there were a lot of newspapers back then, publishing a lot of editions, so that public must have been large. Again, reading can only be an important part of schooling if the culture the school is passing along thinks it’s important. At any rate, it doesn’t look like reading was considered a problem by Hall.

“Political factions” – he doesn’t mean “people who disagree with me,” does he? Then again: rich people sending their kids to private schools as a problem suggests he does. Don’t want to read too much into this, but it is interesting that he doesn’t seem to want to reform those private schools, but rather, wants rich people’s kids in public schools like his. Again, one wonders: is ‘wealthy’ defined here as ‘willing to spend money to keep them out of my schools’?

Rabbit hole. Important note: once one recognizes schools as tools to impart culture, it becomes very, very important to consider who is in charge, what culture is being imparted. The news suggests: not the one any sane people would want imparted.

Monday Mish-Mash

A. This scrap of flash fiction seems somehow relevant.

Minchinhampton Common: where the cow is king but only just ...

B. At first glance, I thought Amazon was trying to sell me bulk shotgun shells:

“Your go-to Solution” seemed a little dark for corporate America.

C. Is that, is that – Caleb Jones?

D. On a less light note: the recent Supreme Court ruling giving those confused about their sex cover as a protected class is, ultimately, the final puzzle piece in the 200+ year effort to bring all schools completely under the control of the state. As usual, the stated goals are a smokescreen: the champions of this ruling were talking fairness, discrimination, and mean old bigots, not ‘we can now sue private schools out of existence and lock up homeschoolers and take away their kids.’ But that is what this is about.

More detailed post when I can stomach it.

Word Salad – a Systemic Problem

‘Systemic’ is a nice word, like ‘problematic’. I get a visceral negative reaction when I hear either of them, however. Too bad, at least for systemic – unlike problematic, which is always used where ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ or ‘stupid’ is intended but not impressive-sounding enough, systemic does have a good fine meaning. So, here’s a small attempt to salvage it.

First, I’d suggest that systemic be used only in regards to clear, preferably consciously designed, systems. Hidden, unexpressed rules absorbed unaware are better called ‘prejudices’. And, indeed, for years they were – in my youth, the world as reported was all about fighting prejudice.

Second, it matters if one acknowledges the existence of human nature. If people are people like any other creature from ants to angels, there are going to be more or less sympathetic and understandable behavioral quirks that just come with the territory. The prime example in today’s unpleasantness: as tribal/pack creatures, we naturally (human nature) are suspicious of outsiders, non-tribal members. This suspicion is overcome when the tribe is receptive and the outsider – identified as such by his clothing, behavior, speach, mannerisms, etc. – performs ritual actions designed to put the new tribe at ease. Dogs wag their tails; we smile and show our empty palms. And so on.

Interactions with strangers make up a huge part of literature and history. First contact stories are a subspecies. All such stories explore and play off of the possibility of misunderstanding. There can be happy endings or disasters or anything in between.

One party here is trying harder than the other to show they mean no harm; the heavy military back-up is merely prudent…

All such stories would make no sense if human nature didn’t exist. If every encounter was merely blank slate to blank slate, there could be no expectations, nothing to be surprised or horrified or amused by. The attempt to replace human prejudice with some sort of system problem just kicks the can down the road a bit: from what did this supposed system arise? Who built it? If no one, how is that different from the concept of human nature? (Calling it a social construct is just trying to kick the same can a little further.)

Tribal prejudices are not systemic in any useful sense of that term. But if one refuses to recognize human nature, what else could they be? Refusal to recognize human nature is the end, not the beginning, of any discussion of human behaviour.

Here’s a (predictable) example of real systemic problems: schools. A system was consciously put in place to achieve certain goals. Over the years, that system has become integrated to the point where it is largely invisible to most of the people charged with it execution – teachers and parents. The resulting behaviors cannot be addressed by simple appeals to personal effort, because by design these behaviors are habitual and therefore nearly ineradicable, and are reinforced at every turn in a society in which nearly everyone has been subjected to that system.

The system looks like this:

  • Divide kids into arbitrary groups by age. Kids are to see their tribal membership as something decided by others, by people in authority.
  • Divide their school time into arbitrary segments. Kids are judged by how well they comply with arbitrary bells and instructions
  • Divide learning into subjects, and reward staying on task regardless of the skill or interest of the child, enforcing the idea that their interests are secondary to the school’s interests.
  • Ignore or denigrate the child’s skills or interests that are not in lockstep with school programs. Only following directions and regurgitating on command are rewarded.
  • Enforce these divisions spatially and socially. Each grade has its specified classroom, recess time, lunch area, etc. School has the unquestioned authority to control your social interactions.
  • Exclude the outside world as much as possible. Unapproved adults – parents, say – are forbidden from the classroom except under highly controlled conditions.
  • Extend the school control outside of traditional school hours by homework, sports, extracurricular activities, pre- and after-school programs. School is more important and has more authority than family.
  • Put parents in the role of school enforcer by making the completion of homework their responsibility. School has authority in the outside world.
  • Measure success and personal worth solely by school approval. Smart people sit in the front row, pay attention and get good grades; dumb people focus on what interests them regardless of what the school wants.

And so on.

Schooling really is a systemic problem. The solution really is to defund the schools K-grad school. Unfortunately, this rhetoric has already been drafted for much less defensible goals.

The Attack on Books

A large part of Marx’s appeal to the modern well-schooled student lies in Marx being the first and only example of thought they’ve been exposed to. All the authority figures they ever have in school accept the basic premises with greater or lesser degrees of awareness – because that is what they, themselves, were taught. (1) The student, again with varying degrees of awareness, accepts uncritically that everything is the result of the strangely willful movements of vast impersonal forces. Since every child has experienced deep feelings of helplessness, and, with the help of the schools, few have any sense of independent personal accomplishment (2), they can easily become convinced the individual is nothing but a twig afloat the river of events, where nothing he can do changes anything. History is presented as the story of oppression, without heroes, without valor, without any moments where an individual can shine or fail. (This, BTW, is why Star Wars ultimately HAD to be destroyed.) At the same time, witnessing to the Progress of History becomes the hallmark of virtue, even if you do it from the comfort of your living room couch.

Trouble in (the Worker’s) Paradise can be caused by other books. Marxists are pulled by the gravity of their faith into becoming, effectively, book burners. In the usual Orwellian fashion, the fury to get rid of competing books is framed as ‘being more inclusive’. We are to feel bad that few people of color, feminists and alphabet soup sexual deviants are included in the Western Canon, and only incidentally notice how these mediocrities squeese out real masterpieces of thought. Marx is a jealous, and, more important here, a tenuous, naked god.

A 3-‘n’ Western Cannon. Which is totally different. Or not….

Traditional Liberal Arts colleges have been relentlessly attacked by enlightened, progressive leaders since the middle of the 19th century, precisely because that is where most students first encounter the vast array of thought that precedes Marx, Fichte, Hegel and all the ‘Enlightenment’ thinkers back to Descartes (and, maybe, William of Ockham). Fichte (you knew we’d get there) saw reading as nothing but trouble, something to be taught, if at all, at the very end of a student’s education, after he’d been properly conditioned to do only what the state-approved authority figures told him to do.

In context – the context of 3,000 years of human thought – Marx is a patent dissembling minor leaguer. Aristotle and Thomas, the Book of Job, Sophocles, Thucydides, Machiavelli, Tacitus; Shakespeare, Dante, and Milton, and a dozen others (throw Gilgamesh and Beowulf in there, if you wish. I’ll add Sun Tsu), not to mention classical art, architecture and music, used to give at least some students a hint at what human genius looks like. These liberal artists in the classic sense were a bastion against the ambitious mediocrities that thrive, today, in our credential- and certification- addled world. Our Credentialarchy? Credentialocrity? I’m open to suggestions, here.

Since the great thinkers hardly ever agree in any detail, and more often vehemently disagree, one’s thinking gets honed trying to understand them: one gets used to the idea that really smart people can really, truly, disagree. Also – this is especially true of Aristotle and Thomas – one can see that opposing ideas are often each very appealing in themselves. One gets used to the idea that someone might have a very good point, and still be wrong, and that even brilliant people make stupid mistakes and harbor appalling bigotry, yet can still be right about other things.

It’s complicated out there. This appreciation of complexity and existence of multiple worthy viewpoints can somewhat immunize one against simple-minded theories that explain everything in one broad sweep – can raise one’s resistence to Marx, for example.

And so, as Woodrow Wilson, former president of Princeton and a Progressive icon, put it: the vast bulk of the people are to be denied the privilege of a liberal education and rather be fitted by public education for particular manual work. We are not to trouble our little heads with big ideas that might make life difficult for the likes of the extraordinarily well-credentialed Wilson.

This whole anti-intellectualism of the Marxists (against which label they will squeal like stuck more equal pigs, and make me laugh) is, in another example of Orwellian thinking, hiding behind their one fundamental belief: that they are smarter, more intellectual, than everybody else. Aristotle points out that a cultivated mind can consider an idea without accepting it; therefore, an uncultivated mind can (at best!) only consider ideas it has already accepted. This is what we are seeing when a Freudian analyzes the sexual hangups of his critics; when Hegel (and a host of others) classifies all who agree with him as the enlightened people, more or less tacitly dismissing all criticism as mere lack of enlightenment. And, preeminently today, when people are either woke or not, without any space in such a mental universe for one’s opponents to have a valid point, or even for them to be anything other than morally evil.

Books as a defense of civilized life are, as the saying goes, ‘downstream’ from family. The major attack, the prime position to be destroyed, remains the triumvirate of family, village and church. Right now, those with no or damaged families, who in any event reject family as foundational to culture, are burning neighborhoods and destroying the local businesses (and churches!) that make those neighborhoods at least potentially civilized. But this endless attack on the good, the true, and the beautiful, that has given us a crucifix in a bottle of urine and brutalist architecture, is hardly going to spare beautiful literature.

  1. Chesterton said students will readily ignore and forget what their teachers tell them, but will inerringly absorb what their teachers assume.
  2. What SAT was an acronym for changed from the ‘Student Aptitude Test’ – simply attempting to evaluate an unearned, morally neutral aptitude for academics – to the ‘Student Achievement Test’ – as if a high score was the Medal of Honor for kids. Those ‘front row kids’ now could study for the SAT -and, boy, do they ever! – instead of passively submitting to it as a diagnostic. It is the paradigm for everything considered an achievemnet in the front row kids’ lives: the approval of an outside authority that you’re worth-while.

Schooling as State Control: Some More Fichte

As mentioned earlier, I’ve been rereading Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation, since I now have a lot more historical and philosophical context than I had when I first read them several years ago. What follows are a few quotations that, this time, grabbed my attention, and a little light discussion.

For anyone new here: Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814) was the founder of modern compulsory state schooling – schooling of, by, and for the state. He inspired von Humboldt, who embraced his goals and implemented his program in Prussia starting in 1810. Horace Mann and the other founders of American state schooling traveled to Prussia in the first half of the 19th century to admire and learn from the Prussian Model of state-controlled schooling. Many got PhDs from Prussian universities – the PhD was invented at the University of Berlin, founded by von Humboldt, where Fichte was chair of philosophy and Rector. The U of Berlin was the first modern research university, intended to train the elites who would become the implementers of Prussian Schooling and to further train the products of such schooling, for the good of the state.

Harvard, always the leading University in America, became a research university over the last few decades of the 19th century under its president Charles Eliot. As Wikipedia puts it:

But Eliot’s goal went well beyond Emersonian self-actualization for its own sake. Framed by the higher purposes of a research university in the service of the nation, specialized expertise could be harnessed to public purposes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_William_Eliot#Harvard_presidency

Eliot had spent 2 years in Europe studying schooling. The threads leading from Fichte to all modern state-controlled schooling are solid. We are to this day attempting to implement his program.

It’s key to understand Fichte to understand how we’ve gotten to where we are today: school versus parents for the souls of the children.

In his 9th Address, Fichte expands on the requirement that children be removed for all parental control and influence for the duration of their education, which will be supplied by state-certified Masters:

To put it more briefly. According to our supposition, those who need protection are deprived of the guardianship of their parents and relatives, whose place has been taken by masters. If they are not to become absolute slaves, they must be released from guardianship, and the first step in this direction is to educate them to manhood. German love of fatherland has lost its place; it shall get another, a wider and deeper one; there in peace and obscurity it shall establish itself and harden itself like steel, and at the right moment break forth in youthful strength and restore to the State its lost independence. Now, in regard to this restoration foreigners, and also those among us who have petty and narrow minds and despairing hearts, need not be alarmed; one can console them with the assurance that not one of them will live to see it, and that the age which will live to see it will think otherwise than they.

9th Address, pp 127.

See how that works? Petty, narrow-minded people with despairing hearts will be alarmed at having the state seize and physically remove their children from them for duration of their education, for the purpose of training them to restore the state to its proper independence. Such people – us! – are to be consoled with the assurance that none of us will live to see the state restored to its glory. We may miss our children, but we won’t have to endure the glorious future.

A little later, Fichte endorses the methods of his older contemporary Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi as key to his new national education. Problem is, Pestalozzi endorsed mothers as the key to education, assuming much valuable learning would be done in the home under their care. He even wrote the Mother’s Book, because, of course, mothers needed to be told how to do it right.

Fichte will have none of it:

His book for mothers contains the foundation of his development of all knowledge; for, among other things, he relies very much on home education. First of all, so far as this home education itself is concerned, we have certainly no desire to quarrel with him over the hopes that he forms of mothers. But, so far as our higher conception of a national education is concerned, we are firmly convinced that, especially among the working classes, it cannot be either begun, continued, or ended in the parents’ house, nor, indeed, without the complete separation of the children from them…. Not until a generation has passed through the new education can the question be considered, as to what part of the national education shall be entrusted to the home.

ibid, pp 138

A key part of Fichte’s love for Pestalozzi resides in the later’s emphasis on the child’s need for constant supervision and management, that education must be under the control of masters or terrible things will happen. Fichte wants to make sure the state is the one training and paying the right kind of masters.

Napoleon at Jena. The bad guys in Fichte’s world.

Fichte tosses out the family from any roll in educating their own children. What about that other great educational force, the church? In America, prior to Mann & Co., Americans believed that the education of children belong solely in the hands of families and their churches. By the end of the 18th century, the population in America was near 100% literate, as home, churches, and private schools educated almost everyone, apart from slaves who were purposely kept uneducated. As Orestes Brownson commented, in America, having the state educate our kids is making our servant into our master. It was a century-long battle to get Americans to accept the goodness and necessity of state-controlled schools.

The Prussian army. Also, after a fashion, the bad guys, as they lost to the French!

In Address 11: On whom will the Carrying-out of this Scheme of Education devolve? (answer: the State), Fichte recaps history, where, according to him, the state stayed out of education for pathetic reasons.

In modern Europe education actually originated, not with the State, but with that power from which States, too, for the most part obtained their power—from the heavenly spiritual kingdom of the Church. The Church considered itself not so much a part of the earthly community as a colony from heaven quite foreign to the earthly community and sent out to enrol citizens for that foreign State, wherever it could take root. [note: ‘foreign’ is about as strong a put-down as Fichte uses, the opposite of German, his highest praise.] Its education aimed at nothing else but that men should not be damned in the other world but saved. The Reformation merely united this ecclesiastical power, which otherwise continued to regard itself as before, to the temporal power, with which formerly it had very often been actually in conflict. [note: Luther sought to have the state seize monasteries and turn them into state schools; much of his correspondence was with secular leaders urging them to pursue various programs. Eventually, we reached the point today where German churches are state-supported institutions.] In that connection, this was the only difference that resulted from that event; there also remained, therefore, the old view of educational matters. … The sole public education, that of the people, however, was simply education for salvation in heaven; the essential feature was a little Christianity and reading, with writing if it could be managed—all for the sake of Christianity. All other development of man was left to the blind and casual influence of the society in which they grew up, and to actual life. Even the institutions for scholarly education were intended mainly for the training of ecclesiastics. Theology was the important faculty; the others were merely supplementary to it, and usually received only its leavings.

Address 11, pp 164

Finally, is there any role for the Church? (He’s talking Lutheran, or at least. Protestant, churches here. That the Catholic Church might have a role was of course beyond consideration.) Not really:

Now, if for the future, and from this very hour, we are to be able to hope better things in this matter from the State, it will have to exchange what seems to have been up to the present its fundamental conception of the aim of education for an entirely different one. It must see that it was quite right before to refuse to be anxious about the eternal salvation of its citizens, because no special training is required for such salvation, and that a nursery for heaven, like the Church, whose power has at last been handed over to the State, should not be permitted, for it only obstructs all good education, and must be dispensed with. On the other hand, the State must see that education for life on earth is very greatly needed; from such a thorough education, training for heaven follows as an easy supplement. The more enlightened the State thought it was before, the more firmly it seems to have believed that it could attain its true aim merely by means of coercive institutions, and without any religion and morality in its citizens, who might do as they liked in regard to such matters. May it have learnt this at least from recent experiences—that it cannot do so, and that it has got into its present condition just because of the want of religion and morality!

ibid, pp 166

There’s a lot going on in this paragraph:

  • Fichte asserts that the Church has at last surrendered its power to the State, and that this is a good thing;
  • The state has an entirely different aim for education than the Church
  • The state should not ‘permit’ the Church, which should be ‘dispensed with’
  • The state is concerned with education for life on earth. Earlier, Fichte described how this whole afterlife business interferes with men doing what men – German men, of course – need to do to bring about heaven on earth, that we obtain immortality through making the nation stronger and better, and need to embrace the goals of the nation (German, of course) and focus on that
  • The state has previously ignored religion and morality in education, but now must take it up. Earlier, he argues that state education IS simply education in religion and morality, that reading and academics can and should be delayed until the end of the educational period, if indulged in at all. The important thing is to teach children to love the fatherland and do what they are told by their masters.
  • “Recent experiences” include having their armies crushed and lands overrun by the loathsome French, who, even as Fichte was delivering these talks, were sitting in the seats of power just blocks away.

Upon a second reading, there is a ton more to Fichte than I initially picked up. He is the prophet for the Messianic State, a true believer in the German people’s natural superiority and leadership, and sees the Spirit unfolding in history as being the ultimate reality. He solves the noumena/phenomena issues by simply declaring our subjective experience of the world IS the world. Thus, he wants education to focus on developing in children the ability to construct in their minds conceptions independent of any reference to the outside world. These images would include first an idealized Fatherland, to which all love ad devotion would be directed.

Fichte was that kind of personality who is either your staunchest friend or worst enemy, a sort of super-high functioning Borderline Personality case. He was certainly heroic in certain respects, such as nursing his wife back to health, despite the risk he would catch her disease (he did – it killed him), and on the other hand get himself fired for being a self-righteous jerk.

More as time allows.

The Right Experts

This post is partly in response to a post by Malcolm the Cynic.

Don’t be cowed by experts. Rather, judge them on results. My auto mechanics are judged by their demonstrated ability to keep my cars running. They are experts. Somebody with a degree in something, but without the track record to back it up, is not meaningfully more an expert than you are.

Of course, we should be humble. We should make few claims; any claims we make should be as simple and transparent as possible, based on our own appreciation of our human limitations and fallibility. Humility does not, however, require us to swallow humbug. It is not at all inconsistent to acknowledge we don’t know something at the same time we’re pointing out we have no reason to believe some ‘expert’ knows anything, either.

We have been trained by 12, 16, or more years of schooling, to defer to ‘experts.’ A teacher, generally a state-certified ‘expert,’ gives us ‘information.’ We succeed – the ONLY way we succeed – is by accurately regurgitating what we are told. If you do so, you are patted on the head, recognized as a ‘smart’ kid, and given good grades.

The goal of the entire exercise of schooling is creating exactly this dynamic: an expert will tell you something; you are smart and, indeed, morally good, if you promptly and accurately regurgitate what you are told. It cannot be emphasized enough that real learning – the 3 R’s, for example – is completely superfluous, indeed, dangerous from the perspective of the schools. If you learned any math, for example, apart from rote application of formulas, you might become equipped to challenge some of the things being fed you. You might develop a standard of truth other than ‘whatever the authority figure is telling us today.’ Having an independent standard of truth and judgement will tend to make you unmanageable – and management is the goal, after all.

You know you can just buy one
of these at Amazon, right?

Thus, we see the spectacle of people unable to remember what the story was regarding COVID 19 last month, last week, or even 10 minutes ago, yet convinced anyone who doesn’t accept the current story is an idiot and eeevil. We have trained to only consider what the ‘experts’ are telling us NOW. What they told us yesterday is irrelevant, and one is a morally bad person – and stupid! – to bring it up. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Used by the well-educated, phrases like ‘data-driven’ or ‘the science’ are merely Orwellian euphemisms, meaning the opposite of what the words say. These and similar phrases are used exclusively by people who are scientifically illiterate and functionally innumerate. They could not give you the least explanation of the data or the science, but instead, in accordance with their training, will get angry and think you stupid and morally evil for even bringing it up.

What is an intelligent layman to do? First off, as Chesterton pointed out,

Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.

The sign that you have been truly educated: you don’t take educated people too seriously. The more importance people attach to their degrees and certifications, the less attention we should pay to what they say. A true authority, such as Richard Feynman, does not say: believe me because I’m a certified expert. Instead, they explain what it is they are claiming, and, where it requires special knowledge to appreciate, they point to the special knowledge and then switch to how we can know it’s true without the special knowledge. The A-bomb blew up, whether or not we understand the physics behind why it blew up.

Point 1: the right experts are often not who you might think they are. They might even be you.

Pertinent example: doctors making claims based on statistical analysis and models. The required expertise is not medical – it is expertise in numbers, data analysis, logic, and models. In some sense, doctors are the *last* people whose expertise should count for anything in this situation.

Suppose an astrologer had produced a statistical model that validated astrology, or, more likely, simply assumes astrology to be true. Well? Is the best judge of this model other astrologers? Or, perhaps, would it be people who understand how models are built and what they can and can’t tell you?

More generally, bring what YOU know about to the analysis. Example: someone who works with medical data should know it is really messy: lots of judgement calls, lots of errors, lots of reporting quirks. Therefore, even if you knew nothing else, you know that claims based on medical data need to be highly caveated.

Or suppose you are aware of Neil Ferguson’s extensive track record of making doomsday predictions that have failed to materialize – that would be pertinent to the analysis. Or that some hospitals regularly experience shortages and crunches. Or just that claims made in the name of medical science get changed like a pair of socks. Is fat bad for you, or good for you? Which kinds? At what levels? Is eating eggs bad for your cholesterol? Is restricting salt intake good for reducing blood pressure? And on and on – what medical science is certain of today can and does routinely change tomorrow.

Don’t just bow to claims of authority. You probably know or can easily find out information that allows you to judge on your own.

Point 2: an expert who makes a claim based on his authority, and does not immediately point to 1) what specialized knowledge and methods he used; and 2) how you can see it is true by events in the real world, is a fraud.

Neil Ferguson made claims based on a model his team built. He did not release the model itself, and last I checked, still had not. There is, evidently, a team at Microsoft refactoring the code; their work is all that is available. He very pointedly DID NOT PROVIDE the information – the specialized knowledge – required to understand his claims. Further, he offered no other way for anyone to judge the validity of his claims: he did not, for he could not, point to some real-world events that demonstrated the usefulness of his approach. It was 100% an appeal to authority.

A layman could not, therefore, properly judge his claims. Ferguson had failed to provide any explanation beyond ‘my friends and I are experts’ – experts who violated the foundational practices of science by not providing ALL the data and methods they used to reach their conclusions AT THE SAME TIME they made their claims.

Claims made in the name of Science which are not accompanied by a complete, concurrent release of the data and methods used to reach those claims ARE FRAUD. One does not need to be an expert to see this.

3. Do a little research. The web is a wonderful thing in this regard, at least, it is until Google, etc., perfect their management of wrongthink.

Pertinent example: I knew about the basic Darwinian principle of coevolution: that living things do not evolve in some vacuum, but rather evolve within one or more arms races, symbiotic relationships, and environments. Further, every adaptation by any part of the environment changes the environment, thereby exerting new or different selection pressures. The slightly more subtle point: everything alive today is the result of a billion years or more of changing selection pressures, and its (our) ancestors had to – absolutely had to! – be able to survive such changes. That they and we are here today is proof.

So: I knew that viruses and people had coevolved. People had evolved to survive in an environment chock full of viruses – chock full of constantly mutating viruses! Novel viruses, even! Viruses likewise have evolved for the last few million years in an environment featuring humans of one sort or another, and for many millions of years among our more distant ancestors.

Humans and viruses are very much adapted to life with each other.

What this means: viruses don’t generally kill us, or even make us very sick; our immune systems don’t kill off all viruses, but work quickly to crush any they find. Put together, we have the common observation that the most successful viruses that infect humans are necessarily very mild. Flus and colds, in other words. Any virus that did in fact promptly kill its hosts would face enormous selection pressure and be at an enormous evolutionary disadvantage to those viruses which make us very little sick – or not sick at all. Better lots of largely healthy hosts mingling with potential hosts than a few dead hosts whose corpses everyone flees or burns.

Once in a while, a virus more harmful that most comes along: the Spanish and Asian flus, SARS, AIDS. These viruses tend to either die out promptly (a year or two) or are ridiculously hard to transmit (think what one has to do to catch AIDS). While it certainly could happen that a really nasty bug appears that is highly fatal and easy to transmit, it’s not likely. Note how super-fatal bugs – Ebola, anthrax – are also very rare.

So, with nothing else to go on, I wanted to know: what’s so different about this particular virus? So I googled around. Answer: nothing much. Another typical mutation that overdid the usual respiratory viral feature of irritating lungs to make people cough in order to propagate itself. It mutated to a form that sometimes, for people already weakened, caused not just simple coughing, but real respiratory problems that could lead to pneumonia and death.

I looked to see if COVID 19 was somehow the exception – nope, no evidence. With very few exceptions, it kills, insofar as it can be said to kill, only very sick people. Those exceptions don’t seem to include very many, if any, people who caught the virus just hanging around in public. Rather, in general, those tragic cases seem to be healthcare workers or family members who got a super-heavy dose of the infection. Are there any exceptional exceptions? Healthy people who happened to pick up the virus through some casual contact, yet died? Probably. But we’re into hit by a falling tree limb levels of bad luck and rarity at this point.

Coronaviruses are as common as dirt, and, in general, just about as dangerous – provided one is not already sick.

Fichte and Messianic Schooling

Got another ‘final’ COVID 19 post all cued up, but let’s talk Education History!

Fichte

Decided to reread Fichte’s foundational Addresses to the German Nation which you can find discussed at some length here on this blog. After having finished rereading Parish Schools and more Pestalozzi, it seemed necessary to reread with, one hopes, a deeper understanding, the work that underlies the schooling that we are enduring today.

The general rule – don’t read about somebody until you read what they have to say for themselves – having been observed here, I also started DuckDuckGoing (totally a verb) around to find further information on particular points in Fichte’s philosophy.

Aside: Severian turned me on to David Stove, the late sort of Neo Positivist Australian philosopher, who, while fundamentally as crazy as the next anti-metaphysician (also totally a word), spent his career providing the desperately necessary mockery of the pure nonsense spouted by Hegel, Kant and the whole clown car of modern philosophers. He tends to simply quote them, and holds up their own words for well-deserved ridicule. I haven’t read anything of his where he goes after Fichte, but that would be a fun ride. Ultimately, what all these lunatics and posers need to be deprived of is people taking them seriously. The only response to such nonsense is to ignore or mock them. They never should have been able to raise their heads in a legitimate university spouting such idiocy. But I digress…

One chapter in my much to be yearned for (by me, at least) education history book will be titled “Messianic Schooling,” containing an account of history of the belief that the world can only be saved by schooling, that there is one right way to educate, and, once everybody is educated that way, heaven on earth will be achieved. Fichte will get a starring role; poor Pestalozzi, who never could see, or at least, never could articulate, the political ramifications of his ‘discovery’ of the one, perfect way to educate children, is mere putty in the hands of Fichte. Pestalozzi sees the (properly instructed, using his textbooks) mother as the ideal educator. Fichte loves Pestalozzi’s idea of having every student’s every school minute managed by a (state trained and certified) teacher as a reason to simply discard the family. Family is a bad influence on children; the state will of course do a much better job once mom and dad are out of the way.

I’m about 40% of the way through my rereading of the Adresses, and, yep, it’s a lot clearer this time around. This time, his fanatical confidence in human perfectibility shines through, as does how he bases all this on poetical and mystical ‘insights’, not on anything as mundane as a sensible argument. He sees 5 stages of human development, identifies Germany and the world at large as stuck in Stage 3, and a moral imperative to all right thinking German men* to do what it takes to get us to the next level.

Sort of like a video game.

Thus have we endeavoured to pre-figure the whole Earthly Life of Man by a comprehension of its purpose;—to perceive why our Race had to begin its Existence here, and by this means to describe the whole present Life of humankind: …There are, according to this view, Five Principal Epochs of Earthly Life, each of which, although taking its rise in the life of the individual, must yet, in order to become an Epoch in the Life of the Race, gradually lay hold of and interpenetrate all Men; and to that end must endure throughout long periods of time, so that the great Whole of Life is spread out into Ages, which sometimes seem to cross, sometimes to run parallel with each other:—1st, The Epoch of the unlimited dominion of Reason as Instinct:—the State of Innocence of the Human Race. 2nd, The Epoch in which Reason as Instinct is changed into an external ruling Authority;—the Age of positive Systems of life and doctrine, which never go back to their ultimate foundations, and hence have no power to convince but on the contrary merely desire to compel, and which demand blind faith and unconditional obedience:—the State of progressive Sin. 3rd, The Epoch of Liberation,—directly from the external ruling Authority—indirectly from the power of Reason as Instinct, and generally from Reason in any form;—the Age of absolute indifference towards all truth, and of entire and unrestrained licentiousness:—the State of completed Sinfulness. 4th, The Epoch of Reason as Knowledge;—the Age in which Truth is looked upon as the highest, and loved before all other things:—the State of progressive Justification. 5th, The Epoch of Reason as Art;—the Age in which Humanity with more sure and unerring hand builds itself up into a fitting image and representative of Reason:—the State of completed Justification and Sanctification. Thus, the whole progress which, upon this view, Humanity makes here below, is only a retrogression to the point on which it stood at first, and has nothing in view save that return to its original condition. But Humanity must make this journey on its own feet; by its own strength it must bring itself back to that state in which it was once before without its own coöperation, and which, for that very purpose, it must first of all leave. If Humanity could not of itself re-create its own true being, then would it possess no real Life; and then were there indeed no real Life at all, but all things would remain dead, rigid, immoveable. In Paradise,—to use a well-known picture,—in the Paradise of innocence and well-being, without knowledge, without labour, without art, Humanity awakes to life. Scarcely has it gathered courage to venture upon independent existence when the Angel comes with the fiery sword of compulsion to good and drives it forth from the seat of its innocence and its peace. Fugitive and irresolute it wanders through the empty waste, scarcely daring to plant its foot firmly anywhere lest the ground should sink beneath it. Grown bolder by necessity, it settles in some poor corner, and in the sweat of its brow roots out the thorns and thistles of barbarism from the soil on which it would rear the beloved fruit of knowledge. Enjoyment opens its eyes and strengthens its hands, and it builds a Paradise for itself after the image of that which it has lost;—the tree of Life arises; it stretches forth its hand to the fruit, and eats, and lives in Immortality.

“Ponderous Teutonic prose” indeed. Fichte was dogged by accusations of atheism. You may notice the lack of that God person in the above, and the Pelagianism of his take on Man’s role in his own redemption. This could hardly be any more contrary to Luther, and, indeed, in the Addresses he does get around to damning the great reformer with faint praise. The progression is perhaps familiar: just as in America at almost the exact same time, the great Calvinist Puritan tradition of the absolute depravity of man became, almost suddenly, the Unitarian Universalist position of salvation for all, Fichte was preaching to the Germans that they must move from the depraved Third Age – “The Epoch of Liberation … the Age of absolute indifference towards all truth, and of entire and unrestrained licentiousness:—the State of completed Sinfulness,” to the 4th, “The Epoch of Reason as Knowledge;—the Age in which Truth is looked upon as the highest, and loved before all other things:—the State of progressive Justification.”

Notice, also, the lack of any family references. We move, in Fichte’s philosophy, almost directly from the individual to Mankind as a whole, with only a brief stop with our neighbors to pick up consciousness, self-consciousness, and morality. Fichte’s whole philosophy is built upon the self-positing ‘I’ which finds self-conscious in the recognition of the ‘Not-I’. We’re on the threshold of stage 4, where peace, love, and understand will bloom everywhere, once the state supplants the family and beats a little of Fichte’s pure love of Truth into our children. Until then, we’re screwed:

I, for my part, hold that the Present Age stands precisely in the middle of Earthly Time; … In other words, the Present Age, according to my view of it, stands in that Epoch which in my former lecture I named the third, and which I characterized as the Epoch of Liberationthe State of completed Sinfulness

Fichte, Characteristics of the Present Age/Lecture 2

Surfing around for some back-up materials, found this which ties together Fichte’s 5 Ages with his plan for national education (although the author, it seems, is simply wrong about where Fichte believe Mankind stands – not in the 4th on the threshold of the 5th age, but in the 3rd on the threshold of the 4th, as stated above):

In 1804-1805, Fichte delivered a series of lectures entitled Characteristics of the Present Age (Grundzüge des Gegenwärtigen Zeitalters), in which he outlined five stages of human development. Having travelled from the primal state of noble savages in ‘the Age of Innocence’, through dark ages, absolutism, and the ‘State of Progressive Justification’, mankind was now on the threshold of ‘the state of completed justification and sanctification’. Indeed, the ideals of the French Revolution had been characteristic of the State of Progressive Justification, but to reach political nirvana it was not enough to rely on the ideals of the French, which in any case had been undermined by the conquering forces of Napoleon. So in 1807 – the year after Hegel had described seeing ‘the world spirit on horseback’ in the guise of the French emperor, and at a time when the Germans were at a historical nadir and the once all-powerful Prussia was a shadow of its former military self – Fichte proposed that the Germans had to seize the day. In fourteen addresses, delivered as entertainment for bourgeois Berliners on Sunday afternoons in the winter of 1807, Fichte asserted that the Germans had a historical role: namely that of shepherding humanity into the bliss of a cosmopolitan utopia.

from Philosophy Now magazing, Matt Qvortrup’s Brief Life of Fichte

Love ‘delivered as entertainment for bourgeois Berliners on Sunday afternoons in the winter of 1807’ – man’s gotta pay the bills. Further:

Kant had argued that trade liberalisation – what he called ‘the spirit of commerce’ (der Handelsgeist) – would slowly but surely lead to a kind of brotherhood of man. Fichte agreed with Kant that the “whole race that inhabits our globe will… become assimilated into a single republic including all peoples” but he did not see free trade, let alone economic liberalism, as the path to perpetual peace. Rather, he feared that the economic competition between states would generate new enmities that would lead to war. Moreover, unlike his former mentor’s espousal of classic economic liberalism, Fichte made a case for economic protectionism and a planned economy in Der geschlossene Handelsstaat (The Closed Commercial State, 1800). This book’s defence of social justice facilitated by government intervention is but one of the reasons it has been labelled the first systematic case for the welfare state.

The Closed Commercial State was a philosophical Rubicon for Fichte. He maintained that all people eventually would be united into a single “peoples’ republic of culture,” and here he began to consider how this would be achieved, gradually coming to the conclusion that the German people could play a pivotal role in the process of creating a cosmopolitan utopia.

ibid

Marx, anyone? Since God, to Fichte, is something like the drive toward morality as expressed in Human history, Marx is pretty much all there even before Hegel picked up the baton and wrapped it in even more dense and ponderous Teutonic prose.

And:

The Germans themselves were not yet ready to take on the burden of educating humanity. True, their language enabled them to utter deep thoughts, and so potentially to spread reason to the rest of mankind. But in order to fulfil their mission, the Germans themselves needed educating. Thus educational reform, not military strength, was Fichte’s key policy proposal. And in his Second Address he went to great lengths to explain how the aim of education was to make active and creative individuals who would “learn with enjoyment and love, purely for the sake of learning itself.” The aim was to facilitate “the capacity to spontaneously construct images that are not at all replicas of reality, but are capable of becoming models for reality.”

ibid

You may also see Pestalozzi peaking through here. “The capacity to spontaneously construct images” could have come straight from any of his works. The important part for Fichte is having children spontaneously imagine and be moved to action by perfect images of their own creation – in accordance with Reason, ‘natch. He’s after, almost exactly, what John Lennon described in his execrable song: bringing into being a purely imaginary reality in accordance with Reason.

It’s easy if you try.

The point here, of course, is that this is the philosophical underpinnings of modern state schooling: schooling is the means to messianic salvation. This – the promise of an Utopia to be achieved via the state’s training of children – is what Mann and Torey Harris and the NEA at its founding were attracted to and embraced. There is no discussion of ‘the basics’ – reading, writing, and ciphering don’t and never did figure into it. It’s simply not what these folks are interested in. The plan is and has always been: get kids away from their families to form them into the new citizens of the coming paradise on earth.

Therefore, homeschoolers and other dissidents cannot be ignored or tolerated. We are heretics, keeping the enlightened from achieving Paradise! Wrong has no rights, here. Burning at the stake is too good for us. The goal, except peripherally, is not staffing factories and armies. That might be OK, as an interim step, during the period where the Vanguard must rule absolutely to usher us sheep toward the eventual Worker’s Paradise (thanks, Lenin, for clearing that up for us) – but that’s not what, in the vision of its founding light, modern compulsory state schooling is for.

* Literally, men of the male persuasion: Fichte argued that “active citizenship, civic freedom and even property rights should be withheld from women, whose calling was to subject themselves utterly to the authority of their fathers and husbands.” – Wikipedia

Education History (and, yea, the d*mn virus)

Starting in the mid 19th century here in America, the consolidated schools movement began pushing for ‘scientific’ schooling, way better than the messy, locally controlled schooling everybody had been doing for a couple centuries. Their poster children for the failure of the all those church and home and one-room schools were at first the Irish immigrants – dirty, ignorant, superstitious, papist tribalists! – and then, after the Civil War, the newly-freed slaves. We *needed* to impose a uniform standard of schooling, with state-certified teachers and curricula and methods, in order to Save The Children from eternal ignorance (and Catholicism)! Besides, our curricula and methods are all scientifilicious and everything, and those other methods aren’t. Are you a science denier?

Inconveniently for the bandwagon, when the standardized tests were applied to students in rural one room schools, those kids generally did better on them than the kids from the spanking-new consolidated schools with their modern methods and certified teachers (and many more classroom hours). And America had this tradition, with Franklin, Jefferson, and Lincoln as outstanding examples among many, many others, of highly educated men (and women, too!) who got that way without spending much time in anything resembling a classroom. So we knew it could be done.

Nonetheless, over the course of about 60 years ending in the 1930s, most of those other forms of schooling were crushed out or made to conform. Today, few people can even imagine education can be done any other way than it is done now.

So, people who knew better were cowed into obedience and made to look away from what their own lying eyes told them, in order to conform to the relentless pressure of government ‘do-gooders’. The schools then proceeded as designed, and produced more conformist sheep. To this day.

After 9/11, something needed to be done. The TSA was something; therefore, it needed to be done! Never mind if what the TSA does contributes nothing to our safety. If you oppose it, you are helping the terrorists! Thus, we take off our shoes and empty our pockets and bring only tiny amounts of shampoo, and allow ourselves to be patted down, and in general add a level of humiliation and wasted time to our trips, because – ? This helps? We’re safer?

So, today, when faced with an almost unmeasurably small increase risk of death or serious illness from a disease whose distinguishing characteristic from all other diseases is its massive PR machine working round the clock drumming up panic, we get in line. We adopt the party line in a way that would make our teachers proud. We ignore numbers, which have been carefully trained not to understand. We don’t ask questions, or at least don’t ask the right questions, because they aren’t in the book at the end of the chapters.

This is a battle in a war we lost a century ago. A docile, obedient population is and always has been a chief goal of state schooling. This is just another test, and like all tests coming out of our schooling system, all it is testing for is: will you do what the teacher tells you to do?

And, evidently, we will. We will not only do ridiculous, humiliating things if we’re told to, we will ignore any evidence that contradicts the official story, and indeed, act as apologists for the blatant inconsistencies.

Millions of Americans are not going to die of the Kung Flu – they never were. We were told we needed to abandon basic freedoms and suffer a destroyed economy to save millions who were never at risk in the first place. When the official total number of deaths is released, it will be substantially inflated, and will still fall far short of the 100-240K numbers being tossed around as a *minimum* even if we took actions far quicker and more severe than the actions actually taken. In short, the whole flu panic will be revealed as a complete fraud – and most people will still defend it. You want to pass the class, or don’t you?

There are a number of steps that would need to be taken in a sane world to put a stop to this: having the spine to line up traitors against the wall at dawn and putting panic mongers in jail and taking away their soapboxes would be a good start. But, in the end, we have to burn our current school system to the ground and start over. Preschool through grad school must go. The only science involved in the way we do school now is the science of propaganda. It must end.

Cody, Osborn principals to be honored
“The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places…. It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to withdraw from the external world. ” – William Torrey Harris, US Commissioner of Education, 1890 – 1906
Osborn High School in Detroit, MI

Education Reading Roundup, etc.

Old guy advise to whippersnappers who may one day want to do something scholarly: when you get the chance to learn German, French, Latin, and Greek – DO IT!

Image result for old man grumpy

I’m you’re Cautionary Tale right here: turns out that there’s tons of critiques and descriptions of Pestalozzi – in German. Hecker loomed large in France. Latin and Greek are kind of essential, too.

I used to be able to read a little French, but that atrophied away decades ago; German I took when I was 15, didn’t take at all; Greek I took for a couple years, but guess what? One must work at Greek like training to be a marathon runner – can’t let very many days go by without putting in some serious time and effort. And Latin I know only through singing a ton of church Latin – the Nicene Creed contains about 90% of any Latin vocabulary I might pretend to know.

Being at the mercy of translators isn’t so bad, usually, but here I worry a little. Example: I’m reading The Educational Ideas of Pestalozzi by a J. A. Green, B.A., Professor of Education at the University College of North Wales. Green’s preface begins:

In this attempt to expound the fundamental doctrines of Pestalozzi, I have been chiefly indebted to two admirable articles by Wegel in the XXIII and XXIV Jahrbücher dee Vereins filr wissenschaftliche Padagogik,
entitled “Pestalozzi und Herbart.” In the vast extent of German Pestalozzian literature, these articles are generally acknowledged to be the most satisfactory critical account of Pestalozzi’s doctrines.

“In the vast extent of German Pestalozzian literature” I’m thinking there are going to be a wide variety of takes on what Pestalozzi was up to, and that, given the Sahara-like dryness of the topic, few have been clawed into a civilized tongue translated into English. When I reviewed How Gertrude Teaches Her Children, which seems to be considered his clearest declaration of his philosophy and methods, I noted how Pestalozzi’s writings seem little more than a Rorschach test wherein anyone, from Einstein’s kindly teachers to Fichte in his proto-Nazi ravings, could see what they needed for their purposes. Indeed, the translators of that volume mention Pestalozzi’s peculiar use of words:

These terms are difficult, for apparently we do not grasp Pestalozzi’s thought. We neither read nor follow him. If we walk in his ways, we may see what he saw; if we repeat his experiments, we may in some measure share his thought. Doing leads to knowing. He has been blamed for not defining his terms. He gives instead the history of this conception, the circumstances which led to it, its development, and his schemes founded on it. ” There are two ways of instructing,” he said ; ” either we go from words to things, or from things to words. Mine is the second method.”

Why does it need to be either/or? Perhaps there is a third way, one that uses things-to-words and words-to-things as appropriate? Does not any child old enough for formal education already possess enough awareness of the world gained through ‘sense impressions’ to skip the picture-book phase? The key recurring element of the Pestalozzian approach, the one that all his followers, in their disparate routes, from Einstein’s teachers cutting him some slack to Fichte’s legions of state-certified teachers micromanaging every spoon-fed moment, is the primacy of the *teacher*. It is How Gertrude Teaches, not How Gertrude’s Children Learn, after all.

Even more basic, Pestalozzi does not inspire confidence in his ability to move from things to words when he, himself, cannot seem to put into words the methods he employed for many decades. Seeing is believing, I suppose, but then everything, especially becoming a teacher after the manner of Pestalozzi, can only be learned as a sort of apprenticeship. Apprenticeship is not the kind of schooling the state has settled upon.

Keep uncovering more books that I have to read, or at least think I do. I knew this was a vast field; I did not think so much of it would be relevant to my purposes. Generally, I plan to eschew sources more recent than the 1950s at the very latest; my quarry is the story of the complete surrender of the Catholic schools to the state’s idea of education, after almost a century of fighting hard against it. Looks like the end came with more of a whimper than a bang, and was completely over by the 1930s. What strikes me now, and struck Archbishops Ireland’s and Gibbon’s opponents at the time, was the relatively swift and total shift from an adversarial relationship with the state schools to a slavish imitation of them. Bishops like Hughes in NY had waged war to keep as many kids as possible out of state schools; Ireland thought Catholic schools were a stopgap, and wanted to hand education over to the state, or at least to its surrogates and mirror images in the form of diocesan school school superintendents and certified teachers under the supervision of the state. These new ‘professional’ ‘educators’ would ensure that Catholic education conformed to the state’s wishes, that classes were taught in a state approved manner from state approved curricula. The Supreme Court ruling in Pierce v. Society of Sisters codified what Ireland had proposed: that the state has a coequal and independent interest in the education of children, and can rightly oversee and, where it deems necessary, overrule the educational decisions of parents. As Legaldictionary.net puts it in their summary of the ruling:

Nothing stops the State of Oregon, or any state, from regulating private schools to ensure quality.  However, a state government cannot use its power to arbitrarily and unreasonably destroy the existence of private schools.

And who gets to regulate private schools to ensure quality, I wonder? Chief Justice Hugo Black, a former KKK member and bitter anti-Catholic, maybe? Who in 1947 started the tradition of applying the anti-establishment* clause of the 1st Amendment to any state *tolerance* of Catholic expression in public?

Pierce v. Society of Sisters was proclaimed a victory for the Catholic schools, because the court did in fact strike down an Oregon law banning them. Lost in the celebration was enshrining into law the state’s right to oversee *all* education. The old idea, championed by the Church and, indeed, virtually all American Protestants up until the end of the 19th century, was that parents and their churches had the primary rights and duties towards education of the young, and that the state had only subordinate and derivative rights, if, indeed, any. Nope, here is enshrined in law the idea Ireland promoted, that the state’s has rights to meddle in, and, indeed, manage, the education of your kids, and that these rights are neither derived from nor subordinate to parental and religious rights.

We are to simply trust that the Hugo Blacks of the world won’t overdo it, that the overwhelming force wielded by those at the reins of the state are not going to be brought to bear on a few uppity citizens here and there. They wouldn’t dream, for example, of mandating sex ed completely at odds with Catholic religious beliefs. As Woody Allen put it: the lion may lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.

All this has lead me to the frankly wild Americanism of American Catholics, complete validation of the accusation that they (we!) are Americans first, and Catholics second. This ceases to be a mere truism once its clear that it is the decision-making paradigm: “American” is the solid thing; Catholic must be flexible and conform.

*It’s like people have no idea ideas have any context, as if we must struggle to understand what establishment of a religion means, instead of looking at the English history in which that term arose, or in the colonies where it where it was implemented here, or in the way it was (not) applied to all the Bible reading and religious education that was considered essential to public education well into the 1930s. Nope, it means something else entirely, new and mysterious.