Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Strongest Political Instrument II

Although most parents have not consciously surrendered their authority and rights over their children to the State, the Federal government, nevertheless, operates as though they did. This posture that public education has assumed towards the family has left a deep impression upon the psyche of Americans. And with this, we are led to Belloc's second point.

In Survivals and New Arrivals, Hilaire Belloc made a valuable contribution to the discussion of public education that few people consider today. He said, "For the most part what is not emphasized is not believed to exist. Often, from its unfamiliarity, that which is a stranger to education in childhood, is thought incredible [lacking credibility] by the grown man." It is not just the raw content we are concerned with in public education but also the order and emphasis to which certain topics are given. It is the latter which significantly shapes how we perceive the world.

Belloc elaborates further: "Truth lies in proportion. It is proportion which differentiates a caress from a blow, a sneer from a smile. It is the sequence and the relative weight of doctrines, not the bald statement, that makes the contrast between what damns and what saves. Let a child experience through the working day and through most days of the year that this or that is emphasized in its teaching, and what is so emphasized becomes, for it, and for all its life, the essential."

One could argue that as recent as 30-40 years ago public schools gave a high priority to the fundamentals of learning such as reading, writing and arithmetic. Today, however, such a claim lacks credibility. Poor academic performance and high rate of high school dropouts certainly does not plague all public schools, but it is widespread enough to be a cause for alarm. In any case, what has replaced the basics of learning as a matter of the highest importance in public education is a curriculum marked by political correctness; not only by a political correct approach in a social sense, but one that is highly politicized. To be sure, high school and even elementary school students are more likely to be taught about gay rights, the proper use of contraception, environmentalism, anti-colonialist propaganda, and the evils of capitalism than they are about Christianity, the Constitution, the Free Market and Democracy. To add insult to injury, deference to Islam is now being promoted even as discrimination against Christianity continues unabated in many schools.

Even if the content of the lesson plans and books were silent or neutral about the founding principles of this nation, the mere emphasis and weight given to topics like big government, environmentalism and gay rights etc., has a profound effect on how children see the world. As Belloc said, what is not emphasized in their childhood education will lack credibility in their adulthood. And what is not being emphasized in today's public schools are those principles which lend themselves to a free society. Instead of fostering self-governance or teaching about the principle of subsidiary or the need to look to God for the solution to life's problems, State-run education tends to advance the idea that the answer to any crisis is to be found in politics.

Invariably, what is held out as the ideal model for problem-solving is Socialism. Administrators and educators may not call it “Socialism,” but the overall worldview being advanced is one which says that government intervention is the the way to go; indeed, State regulations and oversight should be the check and balance against all injustices and inequalities. From this, an entitlement mentality is fostered in the mind of the student. He or she is more likely expect more from others, especially the government, and give less of themselves in their quest to solve problems.

Etienne Gilson, a Catholic philosopher, once said that the purpose of State-run education, its ultimate objective whether it is consciously deliberate or not, is the State itself. The vacuum that Christianity has left behind is a vast one. And in our day, an all-powerful State is in the process of filling that void. If God is not all things to all people, the State will be! But as Pope Benedict XVI said, when politicians seek to do the work of God, it becomes diabolical.

This takes us to Belloc’s third point: How Compulsory Universal Education contradicts important aspects of the Catholic Church's mission…on the next blog.