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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Another disquisition on public education

In his Wednesday "View" this week, Jerry Pournelle comments briefly (for him :-) on the topic of public education. In the middle of this disquisition is this couple of paragraphs:
"The trouble with democracy is that it tends to pull everyone to a common level: great men cannot rise to their proper level. This was known by Cicero and once known to almost every intellectual in Western Civilization. Now we don't have a Western Civilization, and to the extent that we do our intellectuals are mostly ashamed of it; and while the last thing our Enlightened class wants is real equality, the notion of "equal treatment" is now pervasive. Why would it not be? The official view of man as taught in almost every classroom in the nation is Jacobinism, Rousseau, "Man is born free yet he is everywhere in chains," and the rest of it. Why are we then surprised when a great many people act as if they believe that? The Framers knew better. The Founders knew better. The notion that within most human hearts beats a burning desire to take his neighbors goods and possess his wife was prevalent. As Chesterton observed, one needs only to read the newspapers to confirm the doctrine of Original Sin. One need not be religious to come to the view that to secure rights governments must be instituted among men. But when the notion of rights, and I'm as good as you and I got to have my rights same as anyone becomes the pervasive public doctrine, there are bound to be consequences."
Disquieting thoughts. But then, truths are always harder than lies... "No Child Left Behind" has nothing whatever to do with excellence in education and everything to do with mediocrity, and for that dedication to mediocrity, we get less than that somewhat less than lofty goal. We have indeed "sown the wind". Consider the introduction to the 1983 National Commission on Education report:
Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world.... the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and as a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur- others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments. If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.... We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.
And the whole philosphy behind such abortions as "No Child Left Behind" continues that act of "
unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament." Consider, if you will, that the world of Harrison Bergeron is the least worst of the outcomes we (or our children) might face from such a philosphy of equal—lowest common denominator— outcomes. (Just click the link. Read the tale.)