The Economy of Learning, Part 3: A Log on a Deep and Mighty Tide of Incompetence

Any discussion of economics and education would be incomplete without Scripture to back up our thoughts and intuitions. All of Proverbs is written from a father to a son, delivering the wisdom necessary to live a godly, prosperous, long life. “Train up your child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” According to Scripture, it is the responsibility of the parent to educate their children. They are to be ready to answer children’s questions (Ex. 12:26, Josh. 4:6-7). Primarily, our children must be taught the fear of the Lord, as evidenced in love and obedience. Or, as Dewey would crudely put it, a “system of morality.” But listen to what Dewey subsitutes for “traditional” morality. “All education which develops power to share effectively in social life is moral.” Recall that social life, although the standard for education, is itself ultimately rootless in its walk “up the future’s endless stair/…Groping, guessing, yet progressing,/ lead us nobody knows where,” as Lewis had it. Other stanzas of the poem are remarkably applicable. In the last examination, Dewey makes education an end unto itself: “…there is nothing to which education is subordinate save more education….the purpose of school education is to insure the continuance of education by organizing the powers that insure growth.” In other words, what we desire is a cancer. Unrestrained growth for its own sake is both rootless, and still deadly in its own inevitable collapse. Dewey sees clearly that education will touch the moral side of a child, shape his character, and even affect his mental disposition and desires. Again, I don’t argue the inevitability of this happening. What I do argue is that when this power of education is surrendered to a decentralized, fascistic state, it will inevitably be both abused by the majority and broken by socialistic egalitarianism.

What does this mean for parents who find themselves unable, insufficiently prepared, or too time-restricted to teach their children? It is then their duty to find themselves some representative who will stand in their stead and deliver a good education to their child. This representative is a teacher. A parent will of course want to hand their child over to someone they trust absolutely to be a good influence on their children: a teacher whose goals are in line with their own. Now, given the sheer volume of diverse goals that parents have for their children (and taking into account the inevitable overlap of basic skills such as reading and writing), is it likely that any one school will match every parent’s desired academic emphases for their children? Not in the least. Thus, a diverse array of schools, teachers, and curricula are necessary to satisfy the public need for education.

But when we flip the picture to see it from the liberal standpoint, we find the teacher is a representative of society. When he is a representative of the individual leaders of families, then it becomes a capitalistic education system, where the individuality and identity of groups within society is maintained, and where the best educators last. Education would no longer be a funnel for public opinion regardless of the individual’s beliefs. But in a socialist state, and the inevitable move towards fascism, education has a duty to fit the child into society, whatever that society is. Dewey worships society by making it the ultimate standard: public education is the bangle on the idol’s wrist. They stand and fall together. From this connection we find ourselves in the schools today teaching against and preventing obesity, teaching our children how the sexual revolution was a good thing, how all religions and cultures are equal (except Christianity and Western culture), and how the world was populated by the savage and beneficent goddess of Evolution. These are not optional: given a view of education where the teacher is a finger of society, preaching the latest fad-gospel is good, righteous, and required. Freedom, as it exists in an independent system of capitalistic education, cannot exist in public education. Dewey’s well-placed and ironic fears have come true.

But not everyone will buy a product completely blind. So how does the Federal government sell their trinket? First, the federal government, since the “No Child Left Behind Act,” has involved itself in setting standards for education that receives funding. The standards have not worked, for they float along with the capabilities of the students like a log on a deep and mighty tide of incompetence. This only makes sense when we take into account that most parents do not necessarily know what it is best for their children to learn, or even have their own goals for their child’s education. We then end up with teachers and schools themselves avowing the benefits of their programs and curricula. But their avowals to the efficacy of their programs depends entirely on their goals for the program, since good intentions cover all. “If we’re teaching the right things and we mean well, then performance matters little,” they think. Our society god accepts our efforts to throw the pinch of incense, however much we stumble. But even the public school system seems to be lacking the power to fulfil their own goals. According to current reviews, America is either at or below the national average in most subjects. Given that our education spending is larger than many countries’ GDP, the results are not worth the spending.

In a capitalistic society, (the only true support for diversity and a heterodonic [a word I made to mean “many-giftedness,” based on 1 Cor. 12] society), we will develop not only better education, but diverse education suited to the desires, capabilities, and opportunities of the individual. On the other hand, a socialist or democratic society, without an ultimate authority, will deliver a stagnant, fruitless education, guaranteed to badly disappoint the needs of most students. It neither fulfils the duties of a suitable representative of Christian parents, nor understands a family-based society. In most of the important ways I can think of, public education, as it has come to look since the early twentieth century, is simply a broken, doomed idea.

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