Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Schooling Has Consequences

Some have asked why I listed Ideas Have Consequences by Richard Weaver as one of the primary influences on my educational philosophy, so I pulled it off the shelf to read a few of my favorite quotes. Its been over ten years since I read it, but I will always remember the seminal quality of this book, which was published in 1948.

I remember where I was when reading certain passages of this. I was by a certain beautiful, peaceful pool. It was 2002 and we had just sold the house, because my husband, a master electrician, had been in a terrible accident at work and was only just beginning to recover from it, when the company laid him off. He had not been able to find any other work in Colorado, so he had taken a temporary job working on one of the new substations they were installing in the San Francisco Bay area. The boys and I stayed in Colorado and moved into an apartment. So we spent quite a bit of time that summer by the pool (the only pleasant spot in the complex), where we met a retired engineer and inventor, who like to debate the meaning of life and the purpose of education.

Between talking to our new friend and swimming, I underlined sections like this in Ideas Have Consequences:
There is no difficulty in securing enough agreement for action on the point that education should serve the needs of the people. But all hinges on the interpretation of needs; if the primary need of man is to perfect his spiritual being and prepare for immortality, then education of the mind and the passions will take precedence over all else. The growth of materialism, however, has made this a consideration remote and even incomprehensible to the majority.
Mr. Scientist had been very materialistic through his life and climbed to the very top of a professional career, playing a major role in developing the gps for NASA. But then he had lost much of his wealth, along with his reputation, to his second wife. So he had hit the bottom and after some soul searching was now enjoying a very simple life, reading books and talking to younger people, hoping that they would question all of the great materialistic purposes they devoted themselves to.
He was pleased to find someone who was reading a book that was cutting to the chase on all of these sorts of issues. So we would talk, and I would read a quote from the book.

I told him that it seemed many are not content to acquire enough education to have a simple life that provides a humble home and food on the table...
...the prevailing conception is that education must be such as will enable one to acquire enough wealth to live on the plane of the bourgeoisie. That kind of education does not develop the aristocratic virtues. It neither encourages reflection nor inspires a reverence for the good.
Even though Mr. Scientist was beginning to question the purpose of life and materialistic pursuits, he had not thought about the education "system" so much. So we would debate what education is for. He was still thinking, as most do, that education's purpose was to train a citizenry to fit into the spots society has for them. To provide them knowledge that would enable them to serve the bureaucratic system, and work themselves into the most favorable position. There is no denying that a society needs some great "training schools" for various technical and bureaucratic careers. But a true education will prepare the young to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind. The primary tool for doing this is language. Through wide reading and inter-communication we develop our thinking and our ability to understand people.

But we are impatient, and we want it all. We want to cut to the chase and hurry up and train our kids for The System; we hear that "classical education" is powerful, so we add Latin, Logic and Great Books study to all the other necessary subjects (according to our government run schools). We assume that our young will be too busy to ever read again, once they graduate. And they probably will, if they imitate their parents. Perhaps they will also be so burned out by all the study that was crammed into their 12 years of learning, that they will never want to open another book!

The fact that we use our schools as a means of putting young adults in the best position in this materialistic hierarchy has made us look at education as if it was a commodity that all students should have equal access to--to be fair. But if we have an understanding of what true knowledge is, then we know that there will be some whose minds reach higher up into it than others. So there is a no "one size fits all" education. Weaver does lots of "deep talking" on this in his book, but here is one pertinent quote:
In the Middle Ages, when there obtained a comparatively clear perception of reality, the possessor of highest learning was the philosophic doctor. He stood at the center of things because he had mastered principles.
 Do consider reading this fascinating and deep book!

1 comment:

  1. The book seems pretty good and also the way you gave the plot about the book was quite catchy. I will try to read the book.