THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 293, October 17, 2004

The Triumph Of Mediocrity

Toward a ‘practical, real-world, hard-nosed, get-your-hands-dirty’ political education: Part 1
by James J Odle
jjo1@cox.net

Exclusive to TLE

Dorothy Wainwright: Get rid of them!
Prime Minister Hacker: What?
Dorothy: Get rid of the Department of Education!
PM (puzzled): What do you mean?
Dorothy (in frustration): GET RID OF IT! ABOLISH IT! REMOVE IT! EXPUNGE IT! ELIMINATE IT! ERADICATE IT! EXTERMINATE IT!
—From the BBC comedy Yes, Prime Minister: episode "The National Education Service"

Part One: Author's notes

The subject, my friends is education, of the political kind. On this subject, I have a lot to say. For this reason, I have divided this article into six parts.

Part One: 'Author's Notes'
Part Two: 'Overview'
Part Three: 'What 152 years of government education has wrought': In which we'll take a hard look at are fellow Americans and see if we can discover any critical political thinking skills—any at all.
Part Four: 'A Proper education sampler': In which we'll sample a few examples of the kind of political information that will never be taught in any government school.
Part Five: 'The Psychopathology that is Government': A continuation of the basic themes of the previous part, but with a shift in emphasis to the behavioral aspects of government.
Part Six: 'Attention Parchment Worshippers'—A special treat for those who drop to their knees in reverent awe before anyone who waves a fancy peace of sheepskin in front of their nose. We'll ask these silly people,

"Now would you let Doctor Ted Kaczynski run your life?"

Now, friends, I'm busy, and it will take some time to write the entire thing. Look for one part per month till completion.

It's been roughly seventeen years since I picked up my first copies of both Reason and Liberty magazines and subsequently changed my voter registration to Libertarian.

Throughout the years many articles and books have appeared that have been highly critical of government education. There are columns by Walter Williams denouncing low SAT scores of students at Teacher's Colleges. I have heard stories of significant numbers of teachers in Massachusetts failing the SAT tests they give to their students. I have read books such as Sheldon Richman's Separating School and State and John Taylor Gatto's Dumbing Us Down and The Underground History of American Education, describing the social engineering buried in the educrats agenda. I am fully aware, though I haven't read, of other books, which nevertheless carry the same theme, such as The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses by Alan Charles Kors, Brainwashed by Ben Shapiro as well as The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America: A Chronological Paper Trail by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt.

I have also listened to lectures from my Uncle Larry (a schoolteacher) denouncing Republicans for being cheap, mean and cruel for not giving the teaching profession sufficient funds to do their job. I have also listened to him blame low scholastic performance on disinterested parents and a lack of discipline in the classroom. (Maybe the parents feel powerless where their childrens' education is concerned—made so by the continual fight with government bureaucrats over the matter.)

I hesitate to tell my Uncle the truth. Neither paying teachers more nor shifting the Bell Curve upward—toughening up test standards—will bring about any significant improvement.

The problem is with the content! Government schools are accomplishing the goals for which they are designed—training people into dependency and subservience upon and toward government. They are also about creating a socialist society as a quote from John Dewey, one of the premier proponents of government education, illustrates:

I believe that education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform. All reforms which rest simply upon the law, or the threatening of certain penalties, or changes in mechanical or outward arrangements, are transitory and futile... But through education society can formulate its own purposes, can organize its own means and resources and shape itself with definiteness and economy in the direction in which it wishes to move... Education, thus conceived marks the most perfect and intimate union of science and art conceivable in human experience.
—John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed, 1897 (1)

Or as Sheldon Richman states,

Despite the claim of moral neutrality, public education is linked to a particular set of values, namely, the values of the modern welfare, or social-service, state. Those values include moral agnosticism (erroneously called tolerance), government activism, egalitarianism, "welfare rights" to taxpayer largess, collectivism, and a watered-down version of socialism that looks much like the economic theory of the 1930s known as fascism. (2)

Two things government education aren't about are rugged individualism and freedom.

Yes, there's been a lot of bitching.

There has also been something completely missing from libertarian circles.

I am not aware of a single libertarian article or book, which made any effort whatsoever to describe what a proper political education would look like.

If the Reason Foundation, the CATO Institute, Future of Freedom Foundation, etc. were to establish a private school, would subjects such as racial tensions, World War II, the Great Depression, the Gold Standard as well as historical figures such as FDR, Abraham Lincoln and others all be presented through the same statist, self-serving rose colored glasses as happens in government schools?

If not, what exactly would be different?

Bitching about the way things are does nothing to improve the situation. We must have some idea of what we're for. Where politics is concerned, what knowledge and skills would someone with a 'practical, real-world, hard-nosed, get-your-hands-dirty' political education possess?

Thomas Jefferson advocated a basic tax supported universal education on the belief that it took an educated populace as well as vigilance to defend liberty. Well, defense of liberty requires something more than this noble sounding rhetoric. Keeping something resembling real individual liberty in 'society' requires some understanding of the many subtle ways liberty is being attacked as well as some knowledge of the day-to-day reality and psychology of government. Much as a World War II sky watcher who is trained to identify various types of enemy aircraft, maintaining individual liberty in 'society' requires a greater understanding of the nature of government. What's needed is an education that transcends theory and history—the only subjects that are taught in government schools—and approaches comprehending the behavioral aspects of government.

Without that, it's as if an entire leg is missing from the tripod of one's 'political education.'

It's no wonder that, politically speaking, people are so wobbly.

As we shall see throughout the remainder of this article, for those who value real individual liberty, 'a practical, real-world, hard-nosed, get-your-hands-dirty' political education is such a vital subject, it cannot be safely entrusted to government.

After all, we can't defend ourselves from the oppressions of government if we don't understand government.

Challenge to the Reader

Earlier, I asked,

Where politics is concerned, what knowledge and skills would someone with a 'practical, real-world, hard-nosed, get-your-hands-dirty' political education possess?

In my unhumble opinion, all properly politically educated people should be able to do at least two of the following,

1. Work up an FBI-type psychological profile on the institution of government, any government under any administration;
2. Recognize propaganda when we see it;
3. Distill from the mass of mostly useless historical and political information some universal principles of government. Basically, here I'm looking for something along the lines of,

Lord Acton: Absolute power corrupts absolutely!
H.L. Mencken: Taxation is not for the benefit of the taxed!
Me: Across every Voters Guide the following should be printed in the boldest possible letters:

Warning! Politicians and their bureaucracies are hazardous to your health, wealth, freedom and sanity!

Me: If doing the right thing will cost a politician his power, then you can depend on him to do the wrong thing! You can depend on this the way you can depend on the sun to rise in the morning! (If I ran a casino I would take bets on it.)

I submit that anyone who can't do this and who has a Bachelor's degree or better in Political Science, Economics, or Journalism with an emphasis in politics doesn't really understand the subject matter.



Notes

1 http://johndeweysociety.org/lecture.php, (Note: his underlying assumption throughout this nonsense is that 'society' is a singular entity motivated by purposeful behavior. Socialists think that 'we' are all herd animals and thus 'we' are all supposed to dream the same dreams, think the same thoughts and arrive at 'their' predetermine goals at the same time. This is why Al Gore can utter absolute blather about 'building a bridge to the 21 century' and also why liberals/socialists/progressives continually whine about income disparities between the rich and poor. Apparently 'we' are all supposed to have the same income, too.)

2 Sheldon Richman, Separating School and State: How to Liberate America's Families, Future of Freedom Foundation, 1995, p. 23.



James J. Odle is a splendid fellow who, unlike the vast majority of so-called 'public servants' has a real job in the private sector performing real work, which a real employer voluntarily pays him to perform.
He is also a Life Member of Gun Owners of America.


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