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public educationThe immense folly of the government run public schools is lost on American citizens blinded by misplaced trust in the false promises of a bankrupt educational system. The utilitarian social utopians who designed the curriculum rejected the original promises of an authentic education based on principles and replaced them with the calculating schemes promising to prepare a commercial workforce with the requisite skills to usher the United States into a prosperous economic future. For decades the public schools have promised to produce America’s best and brightest by endowing all students with critical thinking skills, problems solving skills, reading skills, writing skills, interpersonal skills and communication skills sure to prove our students qualified competitors in the workplace. The schools have wholly failed!

The promises are false, completely false, because those in the public schools have no idea how a human being ends with the above promised skills; thus proving further that they have no idea what an education is. Another element that insures the falsity of these promises is the wretched misapplication of empirical science in designing and implementing modern curriculum. Further exacerbating the demise of public education is that the entire structure is built on the premise of a false anthropology cut off from moral and divine agency. This false anthropology is relentlessly propagated by a popular culture in the grip of intractable materialism.

The grand irony concerning the false promises of public education is that what is pouring forth from the schools are millions of humans bereft of an authentic education and lacking the very skills promised. In fact, the opposite is actively taught by an army of ill-prepared educators. The public schools explicitly teach “how to read” and students end formally illiterate. They explicitly teach “how to write and they end incompetent writers. They explicitly teach communication and most public high school graduates can’t hold a mediocre conversation. Problem solving? Forget about it! Critical thinking skills? This is a monstrosity requiring its own essay! Empty skill sets are taught and forgotten because the very way a human acquires skills has faded from memory and use in the public schools.

Students finishing a course of study ought to end willing and able to partake fruitfully in the economy, however, after 17 years of public schooling they do not. It is common knowledge that our supply of graduates exceeds employment needs, yet employers consistently lament the lack of suitable applicants among them. The majority of employers rightfully claim that recent graduates lack basic and requisite interpersonal and communication skills. It is also widely conceded that college graduates lack critical thinking skills, adequate writing skills and don’t know how to problem solve. The public schools have produced in prolific abundance precisely the opposite of what they vociferously promise!

It is consensus among hiring managers that to find one candidate suitably qualified with all the requisite skills is akin to finding a rare and precious stone. There is much recent debate and discussion lamenting the obvious shortfall of qualified college graduates. Many companies and educational think tanks are putting forth recommendations to remediate the disaster. Unfortunately, the remediation ideas are exactly what caused these obdurate problems in the first place.

One of the most offensive groups offering useless remediation ideas is Ashoka United States “investing in new solutions for our world’s toughest problems.” Ashoka is an organization promoting “agents of social change.” They are an ideal example of the nonsense thinking that grows out of the horrible ideas propitiated by the public schools and universities. Go to About Ashoka in the United States | Ashoka – USA. Their mission is to “find and foster the most powerful emergent ideas being led by the most effective social entrepreneurs and provide a pathway for all citizens to be changemakers.” Their vision is stated as: “Ashoka envisions an Everyone A Changemaker world. A world that responds quickly and effectively to social challenges, and where each individual has the freedom, confidence and societal support to address any social problem and drive change. [sic]” Clearly, writing well is not a high priority for them, but neither is critical thinking. These ideologues are sure to exacerbate the very problems they purport to fix.

Ashoka is the near perfect example of the real aims of the public schools, to produce people who believe in themselves and that by human effort we can solve all our problems, regardless of any reasonable tie to reality. These ideologues believe that technical ideas can solve moral problems. They are entirely pathetic on every level. All their solutions will have a temporary appearance of remediation, but like all social utopian projects, they decay quickly once enthusiasm wanes. Ashoka epitomizes the root of the problem, bad philosophy and false anthropology.

Ashoka contributor Rukmini Banerjee in an article in Forbes magazine rightfully points out that the employment crisis and the educational crisis are two sides of the same coin but the inept think tank goes on to recommend a partnership with businesses as guides to help shape the end product so the schools can churn out the ideal workers to supply the needs of employers. According to Ashoka, what is really needed is that schools “prepare students to lead, collaborate with others, and create positive change in the world. Skills like problem solving, leadership, teamwork, empathy, and social/emotional intelligence are still being left out of the curricula of most schools, which contributes to the widening of the talent gap.” This kind of pathological navel contemplation misses the point completely and is sure to only muddy the already murky waters more by distracting the schools even further away from what will really help students to acquire real skills.

So what is the real solution?

The public schools, Ashoka, and all other ideologues dogmatically deny the two things that lie at the root of our problems in education and in the economy, the breakdown of the family and the loss of Christian Culture. It causes great offense to public schools and to ideologues to state categorically that the Christian couple married, faithful and monogamous raising biological children in proper accord with sex roles engendered by God is the gold standard for raising good children and thereby growing the civilized society. The well-ordered family is the only unit capable of instituting a proper economy (law of the home) and the healthy societal economy can only grow out of healthy families comprising healthy communities.

Christian Culture as it has shaped Western Civilization is the matrix in which the well-ordered family can thrive. This is the proper cultural context for the family. Most other cultures fall far short of this ideal. Where Jerusalem and Athens meet, the cardinal virtues are made perfect by the theological virtues that signal the true ends of all human souls; to come into possession of the virtues by way of a proper education to live out the good life.

Even in this modern moral morass exacerbated by the public schools, there is a sign displayed among an unwitting teacher class that confirms the primacy of the well-ordered family. At the end of the school year when all the meaningless testing is completed, each school gets a final score called the API—the Academic Performance Index—and though the score is as meaningless as a dollar bill on the moon, every teacher knows that schools in areas with better families score higher, they call the API the Affluent Parent Index. And even though this is undergirded by Marxist envy, they point to the truth that schooling has nothing to do with success in this day and age, but coming from a good home is everything, even to the depths of the meaningless tests. In the end, no success belongs to the public schools, and any apparent and claimed success is only a usurpation of the work well-ordered families do.

Do a thought experiment. Take two groups of children, 50 from secular, broken, and impoverished homes educated with state values in the public schools and 50 from intact faithful Christian families who homeschool their children in the Great Books programs inculcating the virtues. Imagine you have to hire one group to run your company. Which group would you choose? Surely even soft-minded ideologues once they finally get over taking apoplectic offense will flaunt their hypocrisy for the sake of self-enrichment and pick the later over the impoverished group they helped to create.

A return to the ideal of the well-ordered family comprised of virtuous men and women committed in subsidiarity to the role of first and foremost teachers in their children’s lives is our only hope. Parents who embrace their duty to transmit Christian Culture by way of the Great Western Tradition is our only chance for a true recovery of a healthy economy and society. Children coming out of such well-ordered families naturally have excellent reading, writing, communication, interpersonal, problem solving and critical thinking skills. The truth is in plain sight for those with the desire to see.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

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Published: May 10, 2014
Author
Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg
Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. A convert to Catholicism, he is a catechist, a school teacher, and a writer and speaker on matters of faith, culture, and education. He holds a degree in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Steven is a member of the Teacher Advisory Board and writer of curriculum at the Sophia Institute for Teachers, a contributor to the Integrated Catholic Life, Crisis Magazine, The Civilized Reader, The Standard Bearers, Catholic Exchange, and a founding member of the Brinklings Literary Club.
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3 replies to this post
  1. Having just retired from teaching, my experience is in teaching college, the statements made in this article do not match my own experience nor the experiences of others with whom I have spoken. First, not all public school districts are the same. Some hold high standards while others do not. And from what I and others have witnessed for the schools that are affected is that the failure of the schools cannot be exclusively put on one group. Rather, the failure is due to the actions of all stakeholders in the educational system.

    Certainly administrations who choose curriculum and who pressure teachers into passing students through the system rather than enabling them to pass the courses is a significant part of the problem. But administrators are not alone in applying pressure to pass students unconditionally, parents play a role in that as well. In the school district where my kids attended, parents would pressure administration to terminate teachers who didn’t pass their kids. And parental pressure doesn’t stop with the public school system or even with education. Parents come to colleges to inquisition or even pressure the administration into passing their kids. I had a parent of one of my students come to my office and scream at me because of the grade that parent’s kid got. And the kid got the grade because of a lack of effort and attention to the demands of the class. But even beyond education, we have heard multiple reports of parents going to businesses because of how they perceived their kids were being treated.

    Teachers could resist the above stated pressures by relying on unions but, from my knowledge, they haven’t. Many teachers are extremely frustrated with the lack of respect they receive from students, parents, and administrators. In addition, many are frustrated because of the Gov’t “Leve No Child Behind” teach to the test program. And remember that that program was a joint program supported by Christians along with others in the gov’t.

    Finally, students, who have become addicted to entertainment and electronics, go along for the free ride. And why not, according to them? They have a free ride with no consequences.

    We could add one other problem. We are relying too heavily on electronics and technology in education. To give an example, I was teaching a math class where they had to pass Algebra to get in. I gave a quiz where they could not use calculators and they had to divide 34 by 60. Over 1/4th of the class could not perform the calculation by hand. And half of those who could not perform the calculation told me that it was impossible without using a calculator.

    Everybody is involved in the failure of the schools and this includes parents and even Christians and parents.

  2. Public education has been a curse on this land ever since the Unitarians started pushing it during the early 1800s.

    The first objection to public education is the obvious one that The Bible expressly places on the shoulders of PARENTS the duty to educate their own children. American Christians apparently didn’t know this – otherwise, why did they go along with the Unitarians’ plot?

    I was blessed with a Father who had a classical education. He began teaching me Logic and critical thinking when I was a toddler. He never gave me the answer to a question. Instead, he would say, “Well, let’s analyze this.” Then he would walk me thru the analytical process – showing me how an educated intelligent adult thinks.

    Public schools don’t teach Logic and critical thinking. Public education consists of indoctrination. Students are told WHAT TO BELIEVE and are tested on their ability to regurgitate what they have been told. This is why Americans – even those with law degrees and Ph.Ds – can’t think. Worse, they don’t even seem to know the activity exists.

    And then, with “values clarification” and “self-esteem” classes, we created a People who are immoral and conceited as well as ignorant and unthinking.

    And all because 200 years ago, parents and the Christian clergy ignored God’s commands to parents to teach their own children.

  3. Rich versus poor.

    Achievers versus non-achievers.

    God versus no God.

    Educate the soul or school to work.

    Elitist or egalitarian?

    As much as I would like to see the public school system radically change, I don’t expect this to occur. What you and I would like to see can only happen in homes and private schools. Still, it is enjoyable to read the formula you prescribe.

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