Two on Education

The Orthosphere has a post on the topic, which begins with a sentiment I think will be popular here:
In common usage, being “educated” means having gone to a Western-style secular school, and being “highly educated” means having gone to college. Thus, for example, it is said that America battled the Taliban so that “Afghan girls could be educated”, and it is said that, in America, all of the “educated” classes vote for the Democratic Party. This usage should be contested. It is false and insulting to so cavalierly assert that Afghan housewives and American plumbers are less knowledgeable in some absolute sense than those with four years of indoctrination in the Regime’s race and gender ideology, as if only Regime ideology counts as knowledge, and not what is picked up from parents, religious tradition, or on-the-job training and experience.

From that root, though, the post develops a brief but sophisticated account of other modes of education:

A much more important skill is sympathetic thinking, the ability to understand different and novel points of view. When confronted with an argument, a theory, a foreign worldview, one must deliberately postpone criticism until after understanding. First, one must be clear about what the other party believes and why he believes it, an understanding sufficiently faithful that one could explain it back to him in one’s own words, and he would agree that it is a fair statement of his views. No criticism can be valid until after this step has been achieved. Thinking sympathetically does not mean abandoning one’s own beliefs and taking up another’s, except imaginatively....

Shall we consider other dimensions of thinking? There is analytic thinking, whereby one advances by a chain of logic from premises to conclusions, the sort of reasoning exemplified in Euclid’s Elements, which is not “critical” but is not on that account to be despised. There is synthetic thinking, whereby one relates disparate facts into a coherent worldview, distinguishing to unite, noting tensions where they cannot yet be resolved. This is related to the dialectic thinking of Socrates whereby one tries to uncover the general principles underlying one’s specific beliefs. There is criticism in the old Kantian sense–thinking about thinking, Barfield’s “beta thinking”–which recognizes the inescapable limits and partiality of our own thinking, to which I would add our inadequate standing to issue sweeping moral condemnations of others, an epistemological truth historically connected to Jesus Christ. 

A fully educated man should be able to do all of those things, and to switch between the modes as necessary without losing sight of the fact that the mode has been switched.

AVI also has a post on education, with a follow up on 'real rules' here. There is some sympathetic thinking on display.

So schools fall back on teaching values, which is what they have always done.  Not so much as they hope, and often not quite the values they intended. There is also conflict when the professional educators teach the values they think are important, regardless of surrounding culture. That's why you got taught so much pointless grammar, because it was supposed to be important for schools to turn out kids who sounded middle-class. Ditto Latin, which is a class signifier more than an education.  The energy would have been far better spent on a living language. Conservatives look back fondly on what was taught for values then, but I'm less impressed. We were taught a lot of patriotism, but that turned out to be a lot of "respect for the flag" and some songs....

We were also taught not to jaywalk, to register our bikes, not to be too noisy, not to be tardy or (horrors) skip school, to do our homework. To stay within the lines, do what authorities told us. That was citizenship, and thus indirectly, patriotism. Now citizenship is more focused on environmentalism, being extra-careful to being respectful of other groups (rather than of older people and government people), but still staying within the lines.  It's the patriotism that Obama talks about, and I don't think it's an act.  He thinks that is what is supposed to be good about America and he wants to see more of it.  Respect for the flag?  Well, fine, but really, not so important.

In the comments to AVI's post, I offered an Aristotelian point that I think our schools miss entirely. I'll reproduce it here.

Aristotle says (and Plato, separately and with somewhat different emphasis) that the most important thing about education is that it should fit a citizen for the kind of state they will live in. Plato tries to give a universal answer for what kind of education is best, but Aristotle says it depends on the kind of state one lives under: one education is right for free men in a republic, another for democrats, a different one for those who live under an oligarchy or a tyranny.... [O]ur system is allegedly pursuing the production of people fit to be free citizens of a self-governing order, but what it actually pursues is producing people who obey authority and submit to daily, ongoing violations of the rights they are told they have. We are supposed to enjoy a kind of political equality (the 'President' is just primus inter pares), but our paternalistic system of education elevates the state into the role of parent and trains students to accept being treated as subordinate children. I think that's a problem that lies behind many of our other political problems, because the citizenry has been trained wrong from youth to be citizens of a free and equal society.


Dad29 said...

John Henry Cardinal Newman had some thoughts on 'education, too, although he specified "Catholic" education. Nonetheless, there's a lot of good argumentation in Newman's essays which really should be considered for "secular" education as well. The (arguably) best quick review of Newman's "Idea of a University" begins thus:

John Henry Newman, writing in England in the mid-nineteenth century, proposed a vision of Catholic higher education that takes account of major difficulties that were prevalent in his day and are no less prevalent in ours. Although his proposals are for the most part framed in positive terms, I shall summarize them in contrast to four tendencies that Newman found unacceptable. I shall call these tendencies utilitarianism, fragmentation, secularism, and rationalism.

More here:

(Newman is not quite as hard on Latin learning as AVI may be.)

ErisGuy said...

Drag Queen story hour certainly teaches children to be proper subjects of Obama’s state.

David Foster said...

"sympathetic thinking, the ability to understand different and novel points of view. When confronted with an argument, a theory, a foreign worldview, one must deliberately postpone criticism until after understanding."

See this article about what has become of high school debate: