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Friday, October 28, 2005

Friday Edublog/Rant

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”—George Santayana


A sad commentary on “prisons for kids” today.

Jerry Pournelle notes:

The Lays of Ancient Rome was once part of high school education; indeed I read the Horatius in 6th Grade in Capleville, Tennessee. Now of course we were a poor school district, and couldn't afford expensive textbooks, so our readers tended to be filled with public domain materials. Still, I am not at all sure that was inferior to the expensive books filled with squish now written for our students.

I’d read Tacitus and Plutarch (and others) on my own by the time my high school years had rolled past. All we had in school were textbooks filled with what I thought of as the kind of “squish” Pournelle refers to above.

And that was 40 years ago.

The link is to Pournelle’s intro to Macaulay's “Lays of Ancient Rome.” See the Gutenberg.org version available here. I missed, because I’m a sort of hit and miss autodidact in history, Maccaulay’s histories of England when I was in school. They’re available at the Gutenberg Project, as well.

Students (I almost wrote more honestly, “inmates”) in today’s “prisons for kids” have even fewer opportunities to study history. Hmmm… Ask students about the research papers they’ve written for history classes in high school. None, of course, will be your likely answer. Oh, some feelgood “projects” and such, but research papers where they are asked to dig in and explore then distill an historical event or era? Not.

Even in my educationally impoverished (by the standards Pournelle generally outlines—or by my grandfathers’ standards, for that matter) grammar and secondary school years I was required to write several research papers for history classes each year. Ancient middle east. Feudal medieval Europe. WWII. Had to narrow down a topic, expore it and relate it to the critical events of the time period. Yeh, complete bibliographies and footnotes. This was high school, after all, wasn’t it? (And the research papers were also a way for what I now know in retrospect were some good teachers to make up for the "squishy" history texts the school required us to use.)

I finally saw some of those kinds of papers required of my daughter, for example, after she went off for her bachelors degree…
*sigh*


“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”—George Santayana


Perhaps Santayana should be modified for today: The clueless have inherited the earth. Those who have refused to learn from history are those now repeating its silliest mistakes. Witness the Miers flap, appeasement and coddling of terrorists—within Republican ranks!—and on and on…

Keep in mind: a ruling elite in a supposedly democratic republic needs an ill-informed—indeed, ignorant—electorate. We supply that with a yearly dose of high school graduates.

Let me offer another exegesis of what I guess I'll call "The Santayana Rule": if a ruling elite can keep its subjects dumb, fat and happy, then it can be free to pursue repeating the mistakes of ruling elites throughout history without serious challenge to their stupidities. Or, all that is necessary for the enslavement of a populace is the willfull creation of stupid, ignorant sheep. "Public education" today has been almost completely transformed into a tool for the carefully considered rape of liberty in America. Consider: how many Republican [speech-impaired piscines] even stopped to consider the irony of their critique of Miers' lack of judicial experience in the face of Rhenquist's long and at least moderately successful stint as Chief Justice of the SCOTUS? Oh. Didn't know? Rhenquist had no experience as a judge before his appointment to the SCOTUS. Neither had Marshall... Republican critics of Miers were too stupid to actually look at—or apparently even know—that the historical record essentially gutted some of their strongest arguments against Miers. And their supporters were also... too ignorant to know and too stupid to check. Public "education" strikes again. Now, was that a rant or what? ;-)
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