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Sunday, February 27, 2011

On Education

I have just read another disturbing article on the current state of our educational system. Lisa Van Damme, in The Objectivist Standard, states that our children are being dumbed down by a relativistic, "facts don't matter" educational system. I disagree with the title of her article, vehemently, however, I cannot argue with any of her facts when it comes down to how stupid our children have become because we have totally abdicated our parental authority for that of the ease of blaming the teachers for how our children turn out.

It is the rare child who is actually smarter than their parents. Today, it is the rare parent who will actually look at their text-books and see if they are being taught anything remotely resembling the truth. Even more rare? The parent who might actually know if the information in the textbook is wrong.

I remember, quite clearly, to this day, freshman literature class in high school. We were reading Dickens drivel and I argued a point with our teacher that Dickens was, in fact, even a decent writer. She would bring up other stories he had written, and I shot down the "goodness" of the story quite quickly. Great Expectations is a piece of crap that I didn't want any of my children to read. It is not a story of redemption or the greatness of man or the human spirit. It's about degradation, depression and insanity. I've read it a couple of times and that's all I came away from it.

I keep thinking to myself, we're trying so hard to keep these kids from suicide and they hand them Dickens with glee, first thing inside the high school doors. Along with Alas, Babylon, Animal Farm, 1984, Of Mice and Men. You name any depressing 20th century American lit book and they will ram it down the throats of young children everywhere, telling them THIS is the America they want.

Classical Education is defined as a form of education based in the traditions of Western culture, with a particular focus on education as understood and taught in the Middle Ages. Or, An education in the Classics, especially in Ancient Greek and Latin.

Inadvertently, because I was extremely bored in school, I gave myself a classical education. It began in third grade when we began to learn the origins of our spelling and vocabulary words. I was vastly rewarded in high school biology when the teacher made everyone learn Latin and Greek prefaces and suffixes so we could understand the words used in science. Imagine that, actually understanding what you are studying. She was a maverick.

The reading of books did not even have to be hinted to me. I was devouring everything I could get my hands on by second grade. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn started my love of adventure stories. My mom then dropped Robert Louis Stevenson on me and I was off. Family members could not give me enough books. I didn't read them just once. I had to re-read and analyze each one. By the time I'd ripped through The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys in third grade, the local librarian, wherever we lived or went to school, knew me as a permanent fixture in the stacks. I checked facts, looked up interesting parts of history an author happened to mention. My desire to know everything still is insatiable.

I remember hating to read books in literature class. I had either already read them, at least twice, or found the prose such drivel that I could not plough through it, no matter how desperate I was for reading material. I felt that way about Dickens, any given Bronte sister, all early 20th Century American authors and anything from the European Continent after the early 19th century. I despised the books that we were forced to read because, to me, they did not show the best within us, or hold us, human beings, up as being good and worthy of living. Apparently, I recognized nihilism even before reading Sartre's steaming piece of shit.

A classic education fed my thirst to know how it all came about, how we got to where we got to where we are now, and perhaps give me a look into the future, having learned from the past. And I know I am not alone. I've met others who know the things I know and see the same things I have seen and understand where we are at, right now. I know that my understanding of language has driven my love of learning. I know that my understanding of exactly what words mean give me an edge in any negotiation I hold out there in the world.

I also know what it means when you try to hide from what words mean, and try to make words mean something different. It's fear. And the minute I detect it, my Predator Maximus hormones go on alert and I can taste the dumb. I use my education to cull away the crap and find the kernel of truth I seek.

A classical education taught me to use my mind, challenged me on levels I didn't even conceive until I got older and realized what a boon it was to me. I understand language, logic, history and how it effects all of us on this planet, whether we respect that or no. It has shown me the depths of ignorance among our "elite" in the educational system. To me, my classical education is like a truth detector or Bullshit Meter.

It is possibly the only reason I forgive most of my teachers for not challenging me enough, giving up on my constant demands for work to do and sending me to the library.

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