"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson.
As elections grind inexorably towards E-day, politicians are stepping up the pollution of the airwaves with their lies, half-lies, and distortions. In Iowa as elsewhere, a big issue is education, i.e., government-run education. The candidates exchange volleys of thirty-second ads, pouncing on the words of their opponents in their sick attempts to win last-minute fence-sitters over to their camps.
"You voted to end the Department of Education!"
"No, I didn't! I voted to create the Department of Education! Nyah, nyah, so there!"
"You #$%^*^# liar! You did, too! Check the voting record!"
"I did not! Plus you stink!"
If the consequences of these "arguments" weren't so chilling, they would be comically amusing. Yes, these politicians assure us, "We love education. We want your children to be educated. We'll make your children educated. We'll spend more money, hire more teachers, lower class sizes, mandate higher educational standards, mandate uniform competency tests. We are great, we are wonderful, you would be lost without us..."
Never mind the fact that nowhere in the Constitution is Congress granted the power to pass any legislation or appropriate any monies for education, let alone to regulate or dictate how and when and what should be taught in the schools. That is merely a minor "technicality."
But then, with rare exceptions, principled and moral behavior is scarce among those who rule from their genteel halls of tyranny. Since penalties for fraud and theft are never applied to those who are the most egregious ethical transgressors, i.e., politicians who seek to bribe voters with their constituents own money and then to take credit for their own great "generosity" and "compassion," we can look forward to continued hypocrisy emanating from those who assure us of their probity.
But then, the politicos enjoy a plethora of willing accomplices in this mutual act of voluntary self-deception.
"Most people can't think, most of the remainder won't think, the small fraction who do think mostly can't do it very well. The extremely tiny fraction who think regularly, accurately, creatively, and without self-delusion -- in the long run, these are the only people who count." Robert Heinlein.
The long-term degradation of our educational system began a century ago with the spreading cancer of "progressive," State-run education touted by such luminaries as Horace Mann and John Dewey. Designed to enforce sameness and compliance with authoritarian edicts among the students, these government institutions have wonderfully succeeded in achieving their abhorrent goals.
The issue here is not one of native intelligence. There is no compelling evidence that raw intellect is significantly greater or less today than it was in the days of Leonardo da Vinci or Aristotle or the architects of the Egyptian pyramids. The human brain has not evolved to a higher plane with wondrous new powers in the past few millennia...nor has it devolved to a simpler, more primitive level.
What has changed in the past hundred years is a widespread abandonment of the Enlightenment-celebrated requirements for cultivating and teaching the foundations for valid thought.
Even while the number of people waving advanced graduate degrees expands, we witness less and less ability to think rationally and logically. A piece of official paper proclaiming someone a "Master" or "Doctor" reveals more about the ability of that individual to jump through the hoops of modern universities than it does his innate cognitive skills. I have, sadly, known many highly intelligent and degreed idiots who believed the craziest notions and who displayed the most modest levels of insightful thought.
Facts and information balloon exponentially in paradoxical congruence with diminishing skills at making sense of those observations, i.e., in converting those observations to knowledge and wisdom.
"...brainpower is the scarcest commodity and the only one of real value." Robert Heinlein.
The process begins early in a child's schooling career and exudes its poisons throughout the educational matrix.
Many State-schools promote collectivism and communism from the very beginning. A popular practice is to "pool," i.e., steal, the crayons and other supplies a budding student brings to class. The wee ones quickly learn that "property" does not mean sole ownership and control of a good. "Property" is a sharing of resources dictated by a central authority, i.e., the teacher, in which the individual's desires are subordinated to those of the group. Whereas decades ago, a youngster zealously and jealously guarded his 64-count crayon boxes and, perhaps, cast a wistful, aspiring gaze on the lucky soul with 128 crayons, a tyke today is chastised as "selfish" or "compassionless" or "uncaring" if he should happen to prefer his own crayons over those from the common pot.
This indoctrination of helpless kids, this denial of what they implicitly know and want, continues as the State transforms them into informants encouraged to turn in wayward parents or relatives who fail to comply with the anti-drug dogma promulgated by the failed DARE programs.
Stalin would be proud.
The propaganda hardly stops there, of course. The Pledge of Allegiance glorifies the omnipotent and unified State while subverting the true meaning of "freedom," i.e., the ability to walk away from those who would violate your rights. It continues in the celebration of the new religion, Environmentalism, a creed founded in faith, i.e., a belief system ignoring evidence and facts, that holds "recycling" and "organic" and "nature" in deep reverence while denouncing human beings as creatures outside and apart from anything natural.
Nothing like a heavy dose of self-loathing and self-hatred to breed sound little minds, eh?
Next, the whimpering children are subjected to the spectacle of "zero tolerance" policies that pound in the falsehood that all guns, all violence, all drugs are bad...unless wielded or administered by the State. Further, such nonsense demands unthinking and unquestioning obediance to completely arbitrary and irrational conclusions based solely upon rigid rules that eschew common sense and shred context and circumstances as valid considerations for decision-making.
The students are also assigned unique numbers -- often Social Security numbers -- for "convenience" and "security." Sometimes they are even required to wear their ID's on cards hung from their necks so they will always have them available.
Even while students are drilled in mindless conformity and submission in certain aspects of life, they are granted carte blanche in others, completing the overturning of reason and reality, informing the youngsters that they are both helpless and omnipotent.
The anti-mind corruption of "look-say" reading techniques coupled with "guessing" at arithmetic answers reinforces the subjective, the approximate, the no-wrong-answer mentality. Rejecting phonics, i.e., the abstract/conceptual way of learning to read, and the quaint belief that there can be objectively correct answers, teachers -- who themselves tend to be the worst students in college -- reinforce this anything-goes attitude that conflicts with the do-only-as-I-say policies of zero tolerance and political correctness.
No wonder so many students bounce senselessly from concrete to concrete, never able to recognize underlying commonalities or to see beyond superficial similarities. With no sensible guidelines or constraints visible to them, they rely either upon unruly impulse or unquestioning compliance in deciding how to act.
"Thinking is man's only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed." Ayn Rand.
The scourge of postmodernism (po-mo) and political correctness tells older students that all opinions are equally "valid" (except those not adhering to State doctrine); that they should tolerate disruptions of speech that is "hurtful" and ignore property rights if done in the interest of "oppressed" minorities, especially if the issue involves "affirmative" action or other racial considerations; that it is well within their rights to complain about a teacher who fails them for plagiarism and to force her to change their grades; that it is fine to object if a teacher uses the word "niggardly" and to coerce an "apology" from her; that it is perfectly okay to demand that instructors and professors undergo "sensitivity" training for perceived but nonexistent "insults" or verbal sexual or racial "harassment" judged solely from the twisted perspectives of hypersensitive students, even if they number only a handful; that it is proper to hold college instructors and professors without tenure hostage to anonymous charges and complaints registered on student course "evaluations" by bad students who don't take proper notes, don't listen in class, don't read the assignments, don't ask questions, don't study for tests, who value "entertainment" over learning, who ignore written and oral guidelines and do whatever they hell they want to simply because that is what they want to do, who believe they deserve "respect" merely for existing, and who "think" that any teacher's demands that they provide evidence and justification for their beliefs is "mean" and "uncaring" and "bad."
From a foundation of unthinking acceptance of the most ridiculous policies, students are weaned to celebrate the tyranny of the minority, a Kafkaesque nightmare in which one person's subjective, false, and unwarranted complaints outweigh any and all positive comments or opinions, where the accused is denied any opportunity or right to confront and refute his accusers. Today in schools (as increasingly in business and elsewhere), we are treated to the delight of rule by the whiners, the complainers, the weak of spirit and mind.
Worse are the deans and administrators who pander to such bilge, granting full credibility to the worst students and discounting the best; who place popularity above competence; who betray the ideals of learning and true education for the sake of their own power and control; who indulge the cowardice and vindictiveness of the ignorant and the undisciplined, those who fear to directly confront the people whose careers they hold in their grimy, gimme-gimme hands.
These "professional educators" infiltrate our colleges and universities, steeped in their "educational" theories that stress "student-centered" education (i.e., letting the inmates run the asylum), immersed in the self-contradictory double-talk of po-mo that rejects reason, logic, reality, and objectivity and blames everything on Western civilization and the white, male power structure, and saturated in the Marxist ideologies that would destroy them if fully implemented here as it has been in other countries.
"Thinking is a delicate, difficult process, which man cannot perform unless knowledge is his goal, logic is his method, and the judgment of his mind is his guiding absolute." Ayn Rand.
What are the results of the billions upon billions of dollars tossed down the educational drain over the past century?
College students who would be lost trying to comprehend an eighth grade textbook from the early Twentieth Century.
College entrance scores that have declined for decades, with only modest increases coming after the tests were changed and simplified.
Students and adults who are abysmally ignorant of elementary knowledge of science, math, and geography.
High school graduation "competency" tests that enjoy failure rates of 50% or more...and "algebra" tests that include no algebra problems.
Teachers -- college graduates -- who repeatedly fail competency tests of their own. Truly the blind leading the blind.
Large segments of our population who are unable to handle basic problems in reading and arithmetic. This functional illiteracy requires that many employers must train even high school graduates how to perform simple tasks. In education, more and more colleges must waste time, money, and resources teaching "remedial" classes so students can gain the skills they should have learned in junior high school.
Massachusetts, that had a higher literacy rate in 1850 (98%) than it did in the early 1990's (91%).
Textbooks that are continually dumbed down, providing what fifty years ago would have been eighth grade difficulty.
Few high school students who actually study grammar, do research papers, complete rigorous outlines, or take classes in critical thinking.
An upsurge in the number of people who act primarily out of emotion, not thought, and who increasingly embrace such irrational drivel as psychics, channelers, astrology, and other supernatural hokum.
"The only purpose of education is to teach a student how to live his life -- by developing his mind and equipping him to deal with reality." Ayn Rand.
Though there are and always will be students who manage to learn and to escape the strangling contradictions of State-education despite the barriers thrown in their path, many other young people might be better off remaining ignorant but with their basic thinking equipment intact than in having the most important and fundamental tool they possess -- their minds -- brutalized, maimed, and defiled by State-run education.
Our educators have failed in their most essential obligation: teaching young people how "to deal with reality."
Instead, they offer us an inversion of reality, where thought is discouraged where most needed and careless assertions are solicited where thoughtful reflection and evaluation are most required. This criminal policy is like giving matches to little kids while crippling their ability to distinguish between garbage that should be burned and homes that should be preserved. By definition, young people have little experience, less knowledge, and a dearth of wisdom. Giving unwarranted influence to young "adults" whose brains have only recently finished developing the physical capacities necessary for rational evaluation and self-control while simultaneously mangling their conceptual potential is evil beyond words.
Perhaps someday we will enjoy a free-market in education, where artificial grade levels and even grading itself are abolished. Teachers will be providers of knowledge, evaluating the skills of their customers if requested, but only as a means for helping a student discover what he does or does not know, not as a way to intimidate, control, or frighten him.
And students will not be able use their own irrationality to blackmail teachers.
Higher education vanished in this country when reason, logic, and objectivity became dirty words. What we have now is "lower education," a race to the bottom, an appeal to the lowest common denominator that betrays the very people it purports to help.
That fact, however, most people have yet to learn.