November 2021: What Should Education Be?

What should education be? How should schools operate? What can you do to improve education?

The progressive takeover of education in the United States began well over a  century ago.

The first target was higher education, transforming classical and liberal arts colleges into progressive research universities that revolve around the Ph.D. The second target was K-12 education, which became easier as growing numbers of teachers attended progressive universities for their own education.

As patriotic Americans, today, are learning what has been happening within the world of education, including within their own neighborhood schools, growing numbers are looking to get involved and try to stop at least some schools from becoming nothing but institutions of postmodern, post-truth, progressive indoctrination.

This wave of activism includes many who are willing to get more involved in the schools their children attend, even showing up at school board meetings or actually running in school board elections.

Fueled by mounting frustration over mask mandates and virtual classrooms as well as deeply problematic additions to curricula, some school board meetings have become heated scenes contentious disputes. Parents are saying “no more” to school administrators. Those administrators, in turn, have asked the federal government to investigate the parents, as if they are potential terrorists.

The problem of education in America is not going away anytime soon. This is an opportunity for thoughtful Americans to discuss and clarify what education is, or what it should be. There can be no serious discussion or debate about what Critical Race Theory is, for example, and whether it belongs in a school curriculum without some common agreement regarding the meaning and purpose of education.

MORE THAN BOOKS & DEGREES

Question: In what nation did one find great numbers of university-educated physicians, nurses, research scientists, professors, lawyers, engineers, and accountants in the 1930s? Where was the highest concentration, per capita, of the most schooled people anywhere?

Answer: Germany.

Germany had the most developed elementary school system in the world, the highest literacy rate in the world, and the best universities in the world. Many American progressive academics went to Germany to get their PhDs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Few Germans went to America for a PhD, or any other degree.

As early as the 1910s and 1920s, more books were being published annually in Germany than in any country in the world.

And what did learned Germans do with all their schooling and education? They persuaded themselves that their own learning authorized them to plan and control the lives of others. Highly educated Germans launched one of the most terrible and terrifying experiments in progressive central planning in all of history, the human damage of which was cut short only by the armies of foreign allied nations, including the United States.

The example of Nazi Germany raises fundamental human questions: What does it mean to be educated? What is education? Or, what should education be?

There are important differences between going to school and being wise, between earning a degree and being good, between knowing how to make or repair or do something and having rightful authority to control other people and their property.

Our progressive fellow citizens don’t seem to know these differences. They tend to conflate these things. They tend to assume degrees and bureaucratic job titles qualify some to be philosopher-kings — or scientist-kings — who should rule others. Just look at how millions of progressive Americans fawn over Anthony Fauci.

There is an older understanding of education, with roots stretching back to the ancient world, of which many Americans know nothing, yet which offer many solutions for the education problems around us today.

A MODEL OF EDUCATION

The purpose of education is the development of moral and intellectual virtue (which is merely an old word for “excellence”).

Education should begin with the basic tools of thinking and speaking, such as grammar, logic, and what used to be called “rhetoric.”

More abstract thinking, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, should follow, as well as the art that most beautifully connects the realm of numbers with the motions of the soul: music.

These forms of education should be framed by stories that encourage young minds to love what is good and noble and to be repulsed by that which is morally repulsive, stories that spark the moral imagination.

Students should see what courage, justice, moderation, and wisdom look like, and require. As Aristotle pointed out long ago, a man frozen with fear can neither think nor act well.

Education should prepare an individual human being to think through the highest human questions: What kind of person should I be? What kind of life should I live? What is the true, the good, and the beautiful? Is there any purpose to being, and if so, what is it?

Our English word—education—comes from the Latin root ēdūcere, which means to lead or take out. The roots of education, in other words, are connected to Plato’s famous allegory in which the philosopher leaves the cave, attracted to the allure of the sun and the prospect of seeing things for what they truly are.

Education, in other words, in the most serious meaning of the word, in the classical and highest meaning, is about turning toward the light and discovering truth. It has nothing to do with sneaking in Marxist politics disguised as diversity, equity, or inclusion, nor does it require using current students as guinea pigs for experiments in attempts to address wrongs from the historical past.

Help students become intellectually self-sufficient, good, and wise, and then they will be prepared to decide on their own how and whether to address past (and present) wrongs.

There is a message to communicate to those who now dominate American institutions of education from grade to graduate schools:

“Progressives, stop using students! Stop crippling and coddling them by telling them repeatedly that the most important thing about them is that they are victims. Stop using schools at all levels for your own political activism. Stop the Marxism. Stop the identity politics and tribalism. Stop the Critical Race Theory. Stop insisting those who are not shareholders are nonetheless stakeholders who should control what others do with their own property. Stop the indoctrination. Stop the advocacy. Stop being the cave. Be the light. Be the sun.”

PRUDENCE

Do you agree with that message? How can you communicate it most effectively and to what audience can you communicate it?

For many decades, conservatives have been quite vocal about what they oppose, or what they are against, while they have often failed to offer a clear and compelling account of what they are for.

Will they do the same with education? Will they merely complain that they don’t like CRT, Marxism, and mandated masks in school? Or will they provide a model of what they consider to be education at its best?

What say you? What do you think education should be? What is the goal of education reform, and what strategic steps are most likely to achieve that goal?

Responses