Crimes of the Educators

What I’m reading right now. It has been very interesting so far:

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Utopian dictators like Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Mao are criminals – genocidal psychopaths who have killed more human beings in the last hundred years than any other ideologues in history. They don’t limit their murder to individuals, but to entire nations.

In the United States another form of utopians, the “progressives,” have tried to destroy traditional America by strategically dumbing down her people. America’s future is being crippled on purpose in order to fundamentally transform the nation, its values, and its system of government. Laid out a century ago by progressive luminary John Dewey, the fruits of his schemes are plain to see today.

American author and veteran educator Samuel Blumenfeld and journalist Alex Newman have taken on the public education establishment as never before and exposed it for the de facto criminal enterprise it is.

Crimes of the Educators reveals how the architects of America’s public school disaster implemented a plan to socialize the United States by knowingly and willingly dumbing down the population, a mission closer to success than ever as the Obama administration works relentlessly to nationalize K-12 schooling with Common Core.

The whole-word method of teaching children to read – introduced by John Dewey and colleagues in the early twentieth century and which permeates Common Core – is a significant cause of dyslexia among students. Public education’s war against religion, the “great American math disaster,” promotion of death education, and the government’s plan to lower standards for all so “no one is left behind” is destroying the logic, reasoning, and overall educational prowess of America’s next generation.

Classical Education and Four-Year Cycles

I’m hoping this will start to disabuse people of the notion that classical education is all about 4 year development cycles. The classical tradition is about inquiry, ideas, and character rather than intellectual achievement.

My introduction to classical education came through twentieth-century authors. I was encouraged to read contemporary authors who based their ideas largely on Dorothy Sayers’ essay The Lost Tools of Learning, but she also was a twentieth-century thinker. I knew that if her ideas were right, I should be able to find the roots of them by reading the classical authors. I read Plato, Erasmus, Quintilian, and others, and when I found no correlation between their ideas and Dorothy Sayers’ about stages, I felt that “classical education” was an undefinable, nebulous idea that could not be understood.

Ironically (and yet, not ironically), it was another twentieth-century author who shed light on the classical tradition for me, and allowed those nebulous ideas to coalesce into a solid foundation upon which educational methods could be built. When I read Norms and Nobility, I was able to see that classical education was more than I had previously perceived.

Suddenly, Plato, Milton, Erasmus, Comenius, and Augustine spoke in unison—-not because they prescribed the exact same process or curriculum, but because they shared a common desire to educate men to be the very best that it was possible for them to be—-to make the best humans they could be. What ought men to do? What ought men to think? What is right for a man to know? What knowledge can man not do without? These kinds of questions should be asked again and again, in every generation, and the answer should be sought because it is both new and old—-old, because men have answered it before, and new because the answers act as a germinating seed in the heart of every thinker and learner who seeks them, producing new ideas and avenues to explore.

Karen Glass:

(Remember that these were written in response to specific other posts, and I’m not including those comments, so if my remarks seem a little disjointed, that’s why.)

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Envy and Egalitarianism: C.S. Lewis on Education

An excerpt from Louis Markos’ new handbook, C.S. Lewis: An Apologist for Education, published by Classical Academic Press. You can buy a copy of this book, or learn more about CAP’s Giants in the History of Education series, by clicking here. 

Two decades after publishing The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis published a standalone essay, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” in which the senior tempter Screwtape lectures his fellow devils at the Tempters’ Training College. In a preface he wrote to the essay, Lewis reveals that the true target of his satire was none other than the American public school system. As a result, the toast offers us one of Lewis’s most direct statements on the dangers latent in democratic concepts of education.

Lewis does not mince words in identifying the root of those dangers: envy. Although democracies are supposed to secure political equality, they tend, Lewis argues, to call for a tearing down of all forms of excellence. Rather than admit and accept that some students are naturally brighter than others, schools loosen their standards and create a lowest-common-denominator atmosphere fueled by a spirit that Lewis dubs “I’m as good as you.” Not satisfied with seeking equality before the law, democracies seek to effect an egalitarian vision of education in which no student is allowed to stick out or be left out.

 In words that could have been written today, Lewis has Screwtape draw out for his audience the implications of an envy-driven educational system: “The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. . . . Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not.” Though he devoted his life to providing students with a classical, liberal arts education, Lewis did not believe that college was for everyone or that it should be considered a political or God-given right. The attempt to provide all young people with a college education would not result in a nation of philosophers, he thought, but in a state of universal mediocrity.
Although Lewis “supported equality in the treatment of people,” argues Joel Heck, he

“. . . Was concerned about the negative effects of the self-esteem movement, the dumbing down of the curriculum (for the sake of not harming the self-esteem of those not gifted), the inappropriate rewarding of the lazy, and the holding back of the gifted (the negative side of egalitarianism) at the elementary school levels, as well as in higher education.”

Politically speaking, Lewis was by no means an elitist or aristocrat; however, when it came to the arts and education, he favored a system that encouraged and rewarded excellence.

This insight was not one that came to Lewis at the end of his life. During World War II, he published an essay titled “Democratic Education” (1944) in which he prophesied what would happen to a democracy that eliminated academic standards in order to foster egalitarianism and guard self-esteem. In its quest to protect schoolchildren (and their parents) from feelings of inferiority, such a society would end up breeding in them laziness and a false sense of their own strengths and limitations. By so doing, it would corrupt and weaken the will, drive, and creativity of the entire state. No, Lewis makes clear, a “truly democratic education—one which will preserve democracy—must be, in its own field, ruthlessly aristocratic, shamelessly ‘high brow.’ ”

In formulating his theories of democratic education, Lewis was always guided by Aristotle’s reminder that the kind of behavior that a democracy breeds is often sharply at odds with the kind of behavior that allows it to flourish. Indeed, as Plato shows in his Republic, democracy tends to produce the very lack of temperance and respect for authority that ends up destroying it. For Lewis, proper education was not just a matter for abstract theorizing; it was a matter of survival! Just as an education that relativizes our stock responses toward treachery, ugliness, and debauchery will, in the end, deaden the souls of our youth, so an education that abandons standards and discipline will rob society of the creative and industrious minds it needs to thrive and grow.

And besides, Lewis reminds his readers, the weaker students themselves rarely want to be like the “brainy” ones. They are happy to play their games and ignore the more studious among their peers. Lewis wisely advises that rather than trying to turn all students into Latin scholars, society should steer the weaker students toward professions that will better suit their skills, make them happier, and likely gain them a larger paycheck than the academic-minded students.

Convention Season is Fast Approaching

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So it seems I will be attending the Great Homeschool Convention in Greenville this year! I am looking forward to talks by Andrew Kern, Martin Cothran, Dr. Christopher Perrin, and Laurie Detweiler among others. Going and listening to these talks helped get me pumped up to finish the year strong last year. I hope it does the same this year. I think it will. Actually, I am expecting the year to be even better. Last year was my first time going to a convention so the experience was more exploratory, just trying to figure it all out. This year I have more of a focus. I know much more what I am looking for in the talks and am targeting specific speakers and topics.

Last year I did not find the deals in the exhibitor hall to be that exciting, but I did find that it was very useful to be able to get my hands on materials I was interested in. It is much easier to evaluate things when you can hold them in your hands than trying to look at a few sample pages on the internet. Unfortunately, last year was overwhelming and seeing all of the amazing products out there made me question some of what I was doing. This year I have a plan. I have a list of things I am considering using in the future and will seek those out specifically. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the variety I want to spend real time delving into the few things I am interested in to really get a sense of what they are about and whether they will work for us. So, while last year was exciting and rekindled my passion for homeschooling when I was dragging myself down the homestretch of the year, I am fully expecting this year to be more fruitful.

Do you guys attend conventions? Which ones and what do you get out of it?

What is Education?

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I read an enlightening article from Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg, writing at the Imaginative Conservative, entitled Are You a Bad Teacher?; which is itself a response to an article from Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post, Are You a Truly Bad Teacher? Here’s How to Tell. Rummelsburg says that asking if someone is a bad teacher is the incorrect question. A better question would be, “What is a good teacher?”, and to answer that we have to establish what constitutes an education. Rummelsburg draws a sharp contrast between two competing ideas of education: Christian Classical and Modern education, Modern Public education specifically. He uses the questions proposed by Ms. Strauss to show the difference between the value systems of each education ideal. It is very instructive to see the two compared this way.

Christian Classical starts with the acknowledgment of a student for what they are, imago Dei, an image of God. So, what does it mean to be created in God’s image? The Hebrew root of the Latin phrase for “image of God” means image, shadow or likeness of God. We are a snapshot or facsimile of God. At the very least this means humans occupy a higher place in the created order because we alone are imprinted with godlike characteristics. Our godlikeness is the path to our greatest fulfillment. We will feel the greatest pleasure and wholeness when who God made us to be is fully developed and expressed. There can be no true education without acknowledging this.

In light of this knowledge, a Christian Classical education seeks to nourish the soul on the good, the true, and the beautiful, and rightly so. It seeks to teach the soul to love what is worthy of being loved. The goal is to inculcate virtue and set the student on a path of harmony with his Creator. Once the student knows what is worthy of being loved, and loves it himself, he will seek it out for the rest of his days. We will have started him on a journey of learning, given him a love of learning for the way it brings him closer to God. He will do it joyfully for the rest of his life. If we start with feeding the soul the best food, then everything else will follow naturally.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matt 6:33

Modern Education doesn’t acknowledge the soul. Modern man, for the most part, has done his best to divorce himself from the reality of the soul. It is impossible that this attitude could not affect how he educates. Modern education is no longer about teaching virtue. It no longer concerns itself with the good, the true, and the beautiful. Modern education has been reduced to a system of testing how well students retain the information they are presented. The fact that they are never asked to do anything with the information, that they are not taught a system of truth to evaluate it by (Modern man believes truth is relative so how could it be a proper standard?), means the new way is more indoctrination than education.

Once a student is instructed in the true, the good, and the beautiful, once the truth of God has been placed before them and they have taken it in, they have a proper framework for everything else in life. They know their place in the world, they know how they are to interact with their fellow man, and they have an unerring standard of value to compare everything else they ever encounter by. Only through this filter can a true education occur. Students must be presented with facts and then be allowed to wrestle with them. They must take them and judge them by God’s truth, and then they must place them together into an ever expanding tapestry of understanding. Short of this a student simply has a collection of disparate thoughts swimming around in his head, seemingly without any connection to one another, if he retains them at all.

When we fully grasp what it means to bear God’s image, we are at once struck with the grandeur of our possibilities and the tragedy of our unrealized potential. To be fully human is to fully reflect God’s creative, spiritual, intelligent, communicative, relational, moral and purposeful capacities, and to do so holistically and synergistically. As A. N. Whitehead said, “Moral education is impossible apart from the vision of greatness. If we are not great it does not matter what we do.”

The greatness the Classical Christian seeks is the true greatness of wisdom and virtue. This vision of greatness guides the Classical Christian in the way he educates. Students instructed in the modern way are denied that. They are not taught their place in the world. They are not taught why the world is the way it is or the proper way to view themselves. They are not taught how to relate to God. And they are much the poorer for it. What good is it to “teach” the way we do today? Facts and skills are not the aim of a true education. If we are not leading our students into a right standing with God, what is the point?

“For to me, to live is Christ….”

Liberal Education Liberates

Richard M. Weaver (1910–1963) was one of the leading thinkers of the post–World War II conservative intellectual movement. Best known for his landmark book Ideas Have Consequences, Weaver was a scholar and rhetorician who taught English at the University of Chicago for almost thirty years. Here he offers insights on the meaning and purpose of liberal education—insights even more relevant today than when Weaver first offered them.

The greatest school that ever existed, it has been said, consisted of Socrates standing on a street corner with one or two interlocutors. If this remark strikes the aver­age American as merely a bit of fancy, that is because education here today suffers from an unprecedented amount of aimlessness and confusion. This is not to suggest that edu­cation in the United States, as compared with other countries, fails to command attention and support. In our laws we have endorsed it without qualification, and our provision for it, despite some claims to the contrary, has been on a lavish scale. But we behold a situation in which, as the educational plants become larger and more finely appointed, what goes on in them becomes more diluted, less serious, less effective in training mind and character; and correspondingly what comes out of them becomes less equipped for the rigorous tasks of carrying forward an advanced civilization.

Recently I attended a conference addressed by a retired general who had some knowledge of this country’s ballistics program. He pointed out that of the twenty-five top men concerned with our progress in this now vital branch of science, not more than two or three were Americans. The others were Europeans, who had received in their Euro­pean educations the kind of theoretical dis­cipline essential to the work of getting the great missiles aloft. It was a sad commentary on a nation which has prided itself on giv­ing its best to the schools.

It is an educational breakdown which has occurred. Our failure in these matters traces back to a failure to think hard about the real province of education. Most Americans take a certain satisfaction in regarding them­selves as tough-minded when it comes to successful ways of doing things and positive achievements. But in deciding what is and is not pertinent to educating the individual, far too many of them have been softheads.

An alarming percentage of our citizens, it is to be feared, stop with the word “educa­tion” itself. It is for them a kind of con­juror’s word, which is expected to work miracles by the very utterance. If politics become selfish and shortsighted, the cure that comes to mind is “education.” If ju­venile delinquency is rampant, “education” is expected to provide the remedy. If the cultural level of popular entertainment de­clines, “education” is thought of hopefully as the means of arresting the downward trend. People expect to be saved by a word when they cannot even give content to the word.

The liberally educated individual is the man who is at home in the world of ideas. And because he has achieved a true selfhood by realizing that he is a creature of free choice, he can select among ideas in the light of the relations he has found to obtain among them. Just as he is not the slave of another man, with his freedom of choice of work taken from him, so he is not the slave of .a political state, shielded by his “superiors” from contact with error and evil. The idea of virtue is assimilated and grows into char­acter through exercise, which means freedom of action in a world in which not all things are good. This truth has never been put more eloquently than by the poet Milton.

I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the rare, where that im­mortal garland is to be run for, not with­out dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world; we bring im­purity much rather; that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary.

Freedom and goodness finally merge in this conception; the unfreeman cannot be good because virtue is a state of character concerned with choice, and if this latter is taken away, there is simply no way for good­ness to assert itself. The moment we judge the smallest action in terms ofright and wrong, we are stepping up to a plane where the good is felt as an imperative, even though it can be disobeyed. When education is seen as culminating in this, we can cease troubling about its failure to accomplish this or that incidental objective. An aware­ness of the order of the goods will take careof many things which are now felt as unresolvable difficulties, and wewill have ad­vanced once more as far as Socrates when he made the young Athenians aware that the unexamined life is not worth living.

Read the rest over at The Imaginative Conservative.

Get Ready For a “Quantitative Approach” to Reading

From an article by Josh Mayo over at First Things:

At Stanford, literary scholar and marxist critic Franco Moretti proposes a radical plan for English departments: less reading, more computing. With an ocean of texts yet to be studied, literary-historians must, Moretti argues, adopt the methods of quantitative history, geography, and evolutionary theory. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History (2005) frames the problem in layman’s terms: The whole canon of the nineteenth century British novel—about two hundred titles, Moretti estimates—

“is still less than one per cent of the novels that were actually published: twenty thousand, thirty, more, no one really knows—and close reading won’t help here, a novel a day every day of the year would take a century or so. . . . And it’s not even a matter of time, but of method: a field this large cannot be understood by stitching together separate bits of knowledge about individual cases, because it isn’t a sum of individual cases: it’s a collective system, that should be grasped as such, as a whole.”

To grasp this collective system, Moretti calls for a “quantitative approach to literature”—hence the graphs, maps, and trees—which will “widen the domain of the literary historian” and deal in data “ideally independent of interpretations.” Moretti calls this approach “distant reading,” a method of “deliberate reduction and abstraction” which yields historical patterns through artificial constructs. Moretti hopes emerging literary labs can collect and share data and create a new quarry for the digital humanities, a future heretofore unimagined in literary scholarship: namely, research without close-reading.

A further eroding of education as the means of transmitting virtue and instead transforming it into a simple acquisition of skills, much to our detriment. As Mayo puts it:

Here is a rather unfashionable thought: Perhaps analysis is not the summum bonum of reading. Perhaps the remedy isn’t more critical thinking. While analysis aids us in breaking down a text into its mechanical, interlocking parts, analysis alone cannot relate literary experience to life. That good comes a different way, through a moral (or dare we say, religious) mode of thought. As David Hicks has observed, it is “normative inquiry, not analysis,” which “renders experience valuable to mankind. . . . In the study of arts and letters, normative inquiry must precede and sustain analysis.”

Still, in our age of postliteracy and transliteracy, educators remain consumed with the analytical, descriptive questions of what is or seems and forget prescriptive inquiry into what ought to be, the questions that calibrate the heart’s moral compass and provide a way of integrating wisdom with experience. Ironically, while the former may enable us to float in the digital deluge, only the latter apprehends a world beyond the storm, an olive branch sent from somewhere better we may yet arrive.

It is definitely worth reading the entire article.