February 08, 2004

What are those reasons we study history?

I owe the following extended quotation to Sharon Collopy, who posted it somewhere with a challenge to identify the source. I should have been able to - I have it - but it is too long ago that I read it. How about the readers of this Blog?

"I agree with lobbyists for federal school aid that education is one of the great problems of our day. I am afraid, however, that their views and mine regarding the nature of the problem are many miles apart. They tend to see the problem in *quantitative terms*-not enough schools, not enough teachers, not enough equipment. I think it has to do with *quality*: How good are the schools we have? Their solution is to spend more money. Mine is to raise standards. Their recourse is to the federal government. Mine is to the local public school board, the private school, the individual citizen-as far away from the federal government as one can possibly go. And I suspect that if we know which of these two views on education will eventually prevail, we would know also whether Western civilization is due to survive, or will pass away.........

In the main, the trouble with American education is that we have put into practice the educational philosophy expounded by John Dewey and his disciples. In varying degrees we have adopted what has been called "progressive education."

Subscribing to the egalitarian notion that every child must have the same education, we have neglected to provide an educational system which will tax the talents and stir the ambitions of our best students and which will thus insure us the kind of leaders we will need in the future.

In our desire to make sure that our children learn to "adjust" to their environment, we have given insufficient opportunity to acquire the knowledge that will enable them to *master* their environment.

In our attempt to make education "fun," we have neglected the academic disciplines that develop sound minds and are conducive to sound characters.

Responding to the Deweyite attack on methods of teaching, we have encouraged the teaching profession to be more concerned with *how* a subject is taught than with *what* is taught. Most important of all: in our anxiety to "improve" the world and insure "progress" we have permitted our schools to become laboratories for social and economic change according to predilections of the professional educators. We have forgotten that the proper function of the school is to transmit the cultural heritage of one generation to next generation, and to so train the minds of the new generation as to make them capable of absorbing ancient learning and applying it to the problem of its own day.....

The source?

The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater, published in 1960.

Posted by Bas Braams at 06:35 PM