The Great Connections Seminar

The Great Connections Seminar
Discussing ethics

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ignorant and Free

In the process of researching this quote:

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." by Thomas Jefferson, I came across this entry about the abyssmal ignorance of Oklahoma high school students on the "Leftagenda" blog:

The author criticizes "No Child Left Behind," which is a failed, statist, top-down program for raising school standards implemented by the Bush presidency. In addition to Medicare Part D, I think it is one of the worst programs implemented by the Republicans - with good intentions. My teacher friends call it "No Child Left Standing."

However, what struck me was Leftagenda's apparent failure to undertstand that the causes of our students' abyssmal ignorance reach much farther back than the Bush administration - back to the leftist university-implemented teaching programs which emphasize "social justice" over reasoning and knowledge, and egalitarian ideas of "self-esteem" over achievement.

Too bad Leftagenda is ignorant about that.


carterson2 said...


Marsha Familaro Enright said...

Thank you!

Inspector Clouseau said...

The more interesting question for me is why in our supposedly advanced, post industrial modern society, we are so conflicted as to what should be done about education. One would think that we have had enough experience, and tried enough different approaches to come up with at least some consensus.

That we can not strongly suggests that there are wide variations in the equipment and resources that students bring with them to the table.

I wish I had the solution. The best thing that I would suggest is to encourage the development of "curiosity" and "self-worth" at a very early age.

Nice work. I came across your blog while “blog surfing” using the Next Blog button on the blue Nav Bar located at the top of my site. I frequently just travel around looking for other blogs which exist on the Internet, and the various, creative ways in which people express themselves. Thanks for sharing.

Marsha Familaro Enright said...

Thanks for your kind words, Inspector Clouseau. Sounds like you're good at investigating? ;>)

As far as your question, first, I have to ask: why would we expect a consensus? In our society, we don't generally agree on much, do we? In a way, it's part of being free.

But, are you, instead, getting at why there's not some scientific conclusions, some objective principles, on which education should be based?

There ARE, but many don't accept them for philosophical reasons. That is, because they don't agree with the view of knowledge, the view of a good life, or the view of how we should all live together, upon which those principles are based.

If you think that the each human life is an end in itself, that each individual should strive for his or her own happiness, and that peaceful cooperation and voluntary trade are the principles upon which society should be built, that leads you to one set of educational principles.

If you think that the purpose of each person is to live for others, to sacrifice his or her interests to the interests of society, the group, and that individuals should be made to conform to these ends, that leads you to another set of educational principles.

In large measure, I think the conflict and disagreement we observe over education principles are rooted in such different views.

As to your other point, I think there is no doubt that students have a wide variation in "equipment and resources."

And I couldn't agree with you more that, no matter what ability and resources a student might have, fostering their curiosity and genuine self-worth are the most valuable and fundamental characteristics education could work to impart.

That's why I'm so committed to the Montessori Method and its deepest principles. This philosophy of education achieves these ends, when authentically implemented. Often, to a large degree, when it is not implemented in a completely authentic way.

But I want to be clear, I'm not advocating any of this phoney "self-esteem" pushed in the schools the past few decades, derived from simply telling a child they are valuable, pushing them through the system without real achievement.

I think the only real self-worth is a conviction derived from the achievements of one's own efforts, no matter what they may be. This means through real, individual work.

I could continue to blabber on about how government-run education makes it very difficult to do this...but I'll stop. For this point, I'd recommend the chapter on bureaucracy in schools, in Jerry Kirkpatrick's book Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism.