The View From 1776

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§ Decline of Western Civilization: a Snapshot

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Monday, September 06, 2004

A Message for Your School Boards

As students begin a new school year and taxpayers struggle with ever higher costs and ever declining quality of education, we need to consider education from a broader perspective. 

The historical background needed to understand this is in three previous postings:

Secular Education Equals State Support for Sectarian Religion

How Multiculturalism Took Over America

The Corruption of Public Education: How It Happened

Regardless of his political orientation, no one can assert honestly that Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11 is a documentary. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “documentary” as: “Presenting facts objectively without editorializing or inserting fictional matter, as in a book, newspaper account, or film.”

Public education is little better than a Michael Moore ?documentary.? We waste vast amounts of taxpayers’ money on “diversity” and “self esteem.?  Multi-cultural education teaches students that America?s history and traditions are shameful and that other societies are just as good as ours, perhaps better.

The message of John Dewey?s progressive education and his philosophy of pragmatism is moral relativism, the belief that right and wrong are unscientific value judgments.  Each student should do whatever works best for him, if he can get away with it. 

Tolerance is the only virtue taught.  But what this strange definition of tolerance means is that no one may judge anyone else?s conduct.  Students are told, for example, that they must not think of the Holocaust as good or bad.  They must look at it from Hitler?s viewpoint.  Tolerance so used means simply the absence of all standards.

Too often we think of our schools as no more than trade schools that will enable graduates to get better-paying jobs.  Too often we attempt to cure educational failure with Marxian materialistic inputs: more money for smaller classes and more computers.  Ultimately, however, what is taught is much more important than how it?s taught and how spiffy the classroom may be.

Teaching mathematics and science obviously is very important, but it avails little if the schools turn out people who don?t know right from wrong.  The malefactors at Enron, Worldcom, and Tyco were technically brilliant people who were just practicing the moral relativism they learned in public schools.

What is to be done?

Prayer in schools has been a losing struggle. We should refocus our energies in a more effective direction, to return education to its historical role: formation of individual character using the moral standards common to all Western spiritual religions.

Morality is not a simple list of points that anyone can follow without reflection.  Everyday life requires us to ponder the right thing to do.  For most people, the stories of what other people have done when confronted with problems are the best guide to their own conduct.

The Old Testament recounts real-life tribulation, such as the Book of Job, to illustrate the relationship between individuals and God.  In the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly taught with the use of parables.

Plato said that Homer was the teacher of the Greeks.  He meant that the Iliad describes legendary heroes overcoming selfishness, jealousy, and pettiness to act with courage, loyalty, and honesty.  Countless generations of Greeks absorbed the ideals of Greek citizenship from those stories.

The same character-formation approach prevailed in colonial America and the early United States.

As recently as the 1950s, high school textbooks were filled with essays and literature that represented the best thought of Western civilization.  Students mastered the English language by reading about virtuous behavior and writing essays about their reading.

The following title page and representative selections from the contents pages of an 1833 textbook illustrate the point:

“The National Preceptor: or, Selections in Prose and Poetry;
Consisting of Narrative, Descriptive, Argumentative, Didactic, Pathetic, and Humorous Pieces; Together with Dialogues, Addresses, Orations, Speeches, &c.”

Calculated to improve the Scholar in Reading and Speaking; and to Impress the Minds of Youth with Sentiments of Piety and Virtue.

Designed for the Use of Schools and Academies .

Contents: Lessons in Prose

Moderate Wishes the Source of Happiness
Affection to Parents Rewarded
The Golden Mean
Against Religious Persecution (A Rabbinical Tale)
Parental Tenderness
No Rank or Possession can make the guilty mind happy (Cicero)
Battle of Lexington
Battle of Bunker?s Hill
The Shortness of Life
Heroism of a Peasant
The Compassionate Judge
The Prudent Judge - an Eastern Tale
Dishonesty Punished
Socrates and Leander
Socrates and Demetrius
Damon and Pythias
Test of Goodness
Examples of Decision of Character
Ortogrul: or the Vanity of Riches (Dr. Johnson)
Formation of Character
On Happiness of Temper (Goldsmith)
Happiness is Founded in Rectitude of Character
Virtue and Piety Man?s Highest Interest
Importance of Virtue
On Happiness (Sterne)
On sincerity (Tillotson)
Character of William Pitt
Character of the Puritans (Edinburgh Review)
Character of Washington
Address to the Patriots of the Revolution (Daniel Webster)
On Conciliation with America (Edmund Burke)
Speech on the Question of War with England (Patrick Henry)
Brutus Speech on the Death of Caesar (Shakespeare)

Posted by Thomas E. Brewton on 09/06 at 02:41 PM
Education • (0) Comments
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