Brad Harrington

Our "Educations" Reflect The Power Of Ideas

9 posts in this topic

Our "educational" system in Wyoming is a DISASTER, and here's why. Don't live in Wyoming? Change the name of the state to suit your locale. Same result! Published in the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle under the title of "Philosophical rot lies beneath public schools" on January 1st.

OUR "EDUCATIONS" REFLECT THE POWER OF IDEAS

By Bradley Harrington

“School is primarily a social institution…I believe, therefore, that the true center of correlation of the school subjects is not science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography, but the child’s own social activities.” - John Dewey, “My Pedagogic Creed,” 1897 -

I knew, last week, when I referred to the intellectual content of Wyoming’s tax-supported school system as “garbage,” that I would provoke reactions. But I was, I admit, unprepared for this particular reaction:

“I have been brewing over our problems in education for a number of years…After several years of thought it occurred to me that the problems we experience in our schools (and nation-wide) are, unfortunately, symptoms of a much bigger problem, and to deal with the problems in our schools is like the proverbial ‘giving crutches to cripples’ concept without determining the cause of the crippling problem to begin with.” (From a retired local teacher who doesn’t believe his name would be relevant.)

And just that fast, in one paragraph, my reader has placed his finger on the crux of the entire issue: yes, the “public” schools are a disaster, but how did they get that way? What is the driving force behind the educational establishment’s colossal failures?

The short answer is: philosophy. For a hint at the longer answer, re-read the quote at the top of this article - and realize that John Dewey, pragmatist and proponent of the “progressive” theory of education, is the intellectual father of our entire educational system as it exists today.

It was with thanks to Mr. Dewey that our schools began the shift away from “abstract” knowledge to teaching “relevant” knowledge instead - and it was Mr. Dewey, here in America, who first started preaching that the task of the schools was no longer merely to transmit information but to socially adjust students as well.

To “adjust” students to what? To their existence as part of a greater collective. And, by the middle part of the last century, Mr. Dewey’s ideas, then mainstream in their impact, began taking over the tax-supported schools from top to bottom.

And that impact, coupled with government funding of such schools, is what transformed them from institutes of learning into indoctrination camps shortly thereafter. For what government has ever had a use for free-thinking, independent, self-reliant citizens? Throughout the 1960s’ and 1970s’, the theories of Mr. Dewey gave the State a perfect veneer of justification for the collectivization of the entire educational establishment.

And, by the early 1980s’, even a federal commission was declaring what everybody else had come to realize years earlier: “Our nation is at risk. The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity.” (“A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform,” National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983.)

And what have we done about that problem since then? Here in Wyoming, or anywhere else in the country? You’d think such results would challenge the prevailing “progressive” ideas from which they were spawned - but you’d be wrong. It did no such thing. The Commission called for “higher achievement standards” and “more time devoted to learning basics” instead.

Which is all fine, but only in the context of first scrapping the underlying “progressive” approach lying at the root of the rot. Shy of that, we have simply “progressed” further down the road to intellectual destruction - until, today, the “rising tide” has evolved into a full-blown tsunami of anti-conceptual irrationality.

And we wonder why our kids drop out, suicide, or turn to dope, guns and herds of gangs? With what intellectual equipment, with what traits of individualistic character they’ve had drummed out of them, did we expect them to be able to resist? We’ve turned individual human beings into a collective beehive - and what we’ve gotten is drones.

Education - i.e., the process of learning how to think, to form concepts and to acquire knowledge - is, at root, individual in its nature, and only fit for individual minds to grasp. But observe that our herd mentality of instruction has been in place for so long that it now serves as a cause of the problem as well as an effect. A self-perpetuating cycle of catastrophe run amok.

It’s “progressive” educational ideas that destroyed out school system, and it is only with an eradication of those ideas that our educational renaissance can possibly begin. Philosophy, as the science of ideas, has the last word after all, as it always does. So much for the “pragmatic” theories of the “progressive” educrats.

And now? Things have “progressed” so far that the question bears asking: Do we still have any independent thinkers left? Any educational heroes who aren’t afraid to advocate real educational ideas? Who have the guts to resist the onslaught of the mob and to assert the supremacy of individual thought? Or have we bred such traits out of existence?

Of two things you can be sure: the need for such educators has never been greater - and the future of both Wyoming and the United States hangs in the balance.

--

Bradley Harrington is a former U.S. Marine and writer who lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming; he can be reached at timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Outstanding, Brad. You've thrown down the gauntlet yet again. I would expect you would hear much noise from the intellectual elite, the ignoramigentsia.

The reason you can even write this and expect it to be understood, though, is that there are those who've either bypassed the public school system, or survived it, supplementing it with independent study and being lucky enough to be exposed to one of a minority of excellent teachers who still try to teach in spite of the system in which they work. My brother is an elementary school teacher in the public school system in Santa Barbara and he's an outstanding teacher in general and he has made it a mission to catch the high achievers and challenge them. Most of the parents of his students enthusiastically support him, buying computers for his classroom, helping with projects, etc. Nowhere in the standard syllabus is that sort of intellectual intervention taught, but there are those that practice it, so that there will be a well-schooled minority to survive and prosper intellectually and materially.

How many more would achieve to their potential if there were no DOE, public schools, tenured mediocrities? +

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Outstanding, Brad. You've thrown down the gauntlet yet again. I would expect you would hear much noise from the intellectual elite, the ignoramigentsia.

The reason you can even write this and expect it to be understood, though, is that there are those who've either bypassed the public school system, or survived it, supplementing it with independent study and being lucky enough to be exposed to one of a minority of excellent teachers who still try to teach in spite of the system in which they work. My brother is an elementary school teacher in the public school system in Santa Barbara and he's an outstanding teacher in general and he has made it a mission to catch the high achievers and challenge them. Most of the parents of his students enthusiastically support him, buying computers for his classroom, helping with projects, etc. Nowhere in the standard syllabus is that sort of intellectual intervention taught, but there are those that practice it, so that there will be a well-schooled minority to survive and prosper intellectually and materially.

How many more would achieve to their potential if there were no DOE, public schools, tenured mediocrities? +

Thanks, Alann.

There's no doubt that teachers such as your brother are the glue that still holds the whole rotted framework together. I even had one or two such teachers in my time. They are outstanding proponents of true education that the system sets out to destroy and that the system has no right to expect.

It is such teachers that will serve as the core of our educational renaissance, should we ever experience one. I certanly hope so, for the future of the United States depends upon it.

With Regards,

Brad

timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's true, Brad and Alan.

It takes just one person to light the fire, and it is impossible to extinguish thereafter. Every Hugh Akston will create many, many producers and change the life of hundreds. That is the beauty of education - once the passion for learning is lit and the concept of seeking knowledge rather than being fed it is discovered, the individual can and will progress, even despite being surrounded by mediocre teachers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It takes just one person to light the fire, and it is impossible to extinguish thereafter. Every Hugh Akston will create many, many producers and change the life of hundreds. That is the beauty of education - once the passion for learning is lit and the concept of seeking knowledge rather than being fed it is discovered, the individual can and will progress, even despite being surrounded by mediocre teachers.

Not only that, but just one Ayn Rand can create many, many producers and change the life of hundreds of thousands.

Schooling isn't the only way to get an education.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That's true, Brad and Alan.

It takes just one person to light the fire, and it is impossible to extinguish thereafter. Every Hugh Akston will create many, many producers and change the life of hundreds. That is the beauty of education - once the passion for learning is lit and the concept of seeking knowledge rather than being fed it is discovered, the individual can and will progress, even despite being surrounded by mediocre teachers.

I had a teacher of that type in the 10th grade, the year before I finally quit high school for good. As I look back on my life as a young boy and a teenager, I realize now that there's just no way anyone could have extinguished me short of killing me - but, still, I had so many false precepts and unchallenged junk floating around in my mind that they could have come close if they could have figured out a way to "reason" me into it.

Mrs. Mauer and I would hang out at school after classes and talk for hours. Like my Dear Ole Dad, she pushed me into thinking about things from a different perspective. I've wondered in the many years since whatever happened to her.

One thing's for sure, and you are right on about it: once the spark is set, it doesn't matter at that point who you surround a thinker with; they will dig up the place looking for the answers, as did I. No matter what drug-induced silliness I put myself through in the earlier parts of my life, I can honestly say, today, that I made it through with an unscathed consciousness. In the sense that I've never looked to others for my motive power. I STILL think for myself, I always have even when those thoughts were wrong, and I've never been afraid to step up to the plate and assume that responsibility. That is what a thinking mind does for fun, and a blast it has been. Never a dull moment at my place.

With Regards,

Brad

timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It takes just one person to light the fire, and it is impossible to extinguish thereafter. Every Hugh Akston will create many, many producers and change the life of hundreds. That is the beauty of education - once the passion for learning is lit and the concept of seeking knowledge rather than being fed it is discovered, the individual can and will progress, even despite being surrounded by mediocre teachers.

Not only that, but just one Ayn Rand can create many, many producers and change the life of hundreds of thousands.

Schooling isn't the only way to get an education.

Yep. And, like Mark Twain, I never confuse my schooling with my education. <huge grin>

With Regards,

Brad

timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My best education was definitely not in school. I find that when someone tries to refute some point or argument I'm making by insisting he studied the topic formally, that's usually an indication to me that person knows very little. I intend to write a blog post on it, in fact.

Once again, great piece, Brad!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Not only that, but just one Ayn Rand can create many, many producers and change the life of hundreds of thousands.

Schooling isn't the only way to get an education.

This is very true. Reading Rand's nonfiction works, in addition to exposing me to unusual ideas, showed me just how much I *didn't* know about the world. The hardest piece of a puzzle to see is the piece that's missing. Rand's works were the first hint to me that I was missing a pretty important puzzle piece, and realizing my ignorance kind of lit a fire under me. Y'know how in the Fountainhead, Gail Wynand just stole a bunch of books from the library and started reading them? I immediately embarked on a similar strategy, except I paid for the books and I didn't have to work as hard as Wynand, because I had a larger knowledge base to draw on in order to understand what I was reading. Probably got a better education that way then if I'd taken a bunch of college classes, anyway :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites