THE LEANING TOWER OF BABEL

by Richard Mitchell

V
THE SOCIAL SCENE

I'm All Right, Juanito
Voucher, Schmoucher
Maximum Brain Dysfunction
The I of the Beholder
The Invers Proportin
The King Canute Commission

I'm All Right, Juanito

If the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birthplace or origin.

But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American. If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn't doing his part as an American.

We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans . . . and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house.

Theodore Roosevelt

There's no one that can set himself up, really, and say you must melt.

Renaldo Masiez

WHO, you may ask, is Renaldo Masiez? Well, Renaldo Masiez is a functionary at our shiny new Department of Education, where the right hand, merrily stirring up the melting pot with "citizenship education," obviously doesn't know that the left hand is concocting a tangy gazpacho of truculent separatism, of which the flavor may prove uncongenial to the American palate when we receive (and translate) a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Nueva York.

Masiez himself has melted, right into a good job in government, where he's supposed to do something about the Bilingual Education Program. The aim of that program, we were told, was to hasten the melting of some children less fortunate than Masiez by teaching them in their own languages while they were learning English so that they wouldn't have to be taught in their own languages anymore. That would not only fit them for life in this country, but it would also spare us the pain of teaching everything in seventy-two languages forever. It seemed a good idea at the time, but only to people who don't know the first damn thing about how public education works, notably a pack of congressmen, or to those who saw in it some payoff for themselves, notably a pack of congressmen. In its ten years so far, the program has cost about a billion dollars and has helped, according to Masiez, "less than one percent of those that were found to be limited English proficient." (His estimate is much too high. We make it approximately 0.0137 percent when you count in all the educationists and functionaries who don't, as Masiez puts it, "receive minimally adequate services" but are obviously, just as much as any schoolchild, proficient in limited English.)

Masiez said those things in a conversation with Jack Perkins on "Prime Time Saturday." Perkins also spoke with the Supremo Director of BE, one J. Gonzalez, who pronounced a newly discovered version of our history. The old way, in which children were taught some English as quickly as possible and put into regular classes where they could learn a lot more, was "very ineffective." When Perkins, flabbergasted, suggested that the evidence did not support such an assertion, and that the Supremo might just be talking through his sombrero, Gonzalez, visibly vexed, muttered, "Well, you could always point to some groups where it has worked."

Yeah. Some groups. Poles, Italians, Armenians, Hungarians, Swedes, Russians, Germans, Basques, Finns, Turks, Chinese, Portuguese, Ukrainians, Japanese, Danes, Bosnia-Herzegovinians, and maybe even a few Bulgarians. There may be more.

Although school work is now taught in seventy-two foreign languages, a great majority of students in bilingual programs are, like most of the people who direct such programs, Hispanic. If it weren't for bilingual education, we could expect that in a few generations those children, their children, and grandchildren, would be living all over this land and doing everything that there is to do, for such was the destiny of "some groups." As it is, we are sentencing them to remain forever in the barrios and to wait on each other in the bodegas. Masiez and Gonzalez, however, will be all right.

The Department of Education has decided that teachers in bilingual programs, once expected to be bilingual, don't need to know any English at all. Bye-bye, bi. And children who have learned enough English to attend regular classes will be shot right back into the--lingual program should their work ever fall below average. That's a valuable lesson in humility for the students and a guarantee of steady work for all those--lingual teachers.

Imagine now that it was not Gonzalez and Masiez but Ronald Reagan who said that we should not require Hispanic children to learn English, and that what may have worked with "some groups" wouldn't work with them. Suppose that it was the mayor of Los Angeles who said that the Chicano children should be "prepared for life in the Hispanic community" where they can stay with their own kind and preserve their cultural heritage as much as they like. And try this, from the Grand Dragon of the KKK: "Well shoot, they sent no reason atall fer them folks ta melt. Reckon id be better they don't, an that's a fack."

There can never be equality of opportunity in a land where class is labeled in language. Let's hope that the bilingual boondoggle never does find more than one percent of those who "need" it. Gonzalez and Masiez will still be all right (it isn't for success that they get paid), and legions of new Americans may escape lives of involuntary servitude.

[IV:7, October 1980]


Voucher, Schmoucher

THERE is very little to be gained and much to be lost in assuring, through education voucher schemes or tuition tax credits, that the public school system will become entirely what it is now only partly--the last, futile hope of the permanently dispossessed and disabled. We say this with testy reluctance, and certainly not, as regular readers will know, because we can see any hope that the jargon-besotted and uneducated tribes of educationists and teacher-trainers will ever provide the land with literate and thoughtful citizens, but because there is no chance at all that credits or vouchers would destroy or even mitigate the government schools, which have proven again and again that they can easily digest and transform into nourishment any complaint brought against them. As the better and luckier students--and teachers--escape, our cunning educationists will have no trouble persuading the same old agencies and legislatures that they now need even more money. But the voucher and credit schemes probably will destroy the worth of the private schools.

To see why, we must consider some popular, widely preached misunderstandings:

"The public schools could provide better education if we gave them more money." This is false. We give them far too much money. They spend it on gimmicks and gadgets and programs and proposals and whole legions of apparatchiks and uneducated busybodies and Ladies Bountiful manquées. The private schools just don't have that kind of money. That's why they're often so much better. If we were to enrich the private schools, most of them would hire the recently disemployed values clarification facilitators and start offering courses in environmental awareness enhancement and creative expression of self-as-individual-self through collage. In a few years, we would have thousands of private schools just as bad as the public schools are now. Furthermore, bad private schools, unlike bad public schools, can do as they damn well please just as long as they can find buyers for what they choose to sell, and they will care no more for our opinions, or yours, than the mongers of obscene T-shirts care about our quaint canons of taste. The people who run the government schools can at least be ridiculed and humiliated in public.

All of that must be seen in the darkness cast by another popular misunderstanding: "Parents should be free to choose for their children whatever kind of education they think best." This is not false, for it asserts only a special case of that right to the pursuit of happiness to which we are supposed to be committed. It is, however, irrelevant and (perhaps) unintentionally cynical, for it presumes the possibility of "free choice" in countless millions of innocent citizens who have themselves been "educated" by the life-adjustment slogan-mongers, and who have come to "think" that a good education is an indoctrination in their pet notions and beliefs rather than someone else's. Their choices of schools for their children will be no more the fruit of informed and thoughtful discretion than their choices of deodorants and designer jeans. The support they might withdraw, through vouchers or credits, from one pack of fools and charlatans they would fork over to another of the same, which, furthermore, will usually be an ad hoc reconstitution of the first pack, now happily embarked on what is for them just one more obviously profitable, bold, innovative thrust.

We can understand the angry desperation out of which even thoughtful citizens can propose, as remedy for the ills caused by one governmental contraption, yet another governmental contraption. And any system for credits will be exactly that, a wholly owned subsidiary of the state and a bureaucratic agency for the propagation of ideology and the enforcement of "standards." And the standards will be devised not by the enthusiasts Of vouchers, who don't really know exactly what they want anyway, but by the same old coalition of educationists and unionists and politicians and social engineers and manufacturers of gimmicks and publishers of pseudo-books, who do know exactly what they want, and exactly how to get it.

It is simply naive to imagine that our government, or any government anywhere, will construe tax credits or vouchers as a way of letting its citizens keep, and spend as they please, some of their own money. Such devices will be thought of as "subsidies," and loftily denounced, especially by those whose livelihoods depend entirely on perpetual subsidization of the public schools, their pandemic problems, and their Byzantine and costly governance, as "handouts" of "public" money. Should credits or vouchers be provided by law, the same law would have to provide, as quid pro quo to a tremendous and noisy lobby of government employees, that most of the policies and practices that make the private schools what they are would suddenly become illegal. When private schools are required to hire certified graduates of state teacher academies, and to offer all the mandated mickeymousery of social adjustment disguised as "studies," and to make sure that the ninth-grade textbook for Appreciation of Alternative Lifestyles doesn't use any tenth-grade vocabulary words, then the erstwhile voucherites will long for the good old days, when you could at least get what you paid for, and when the private schools actually were an alternative to government education.

Those voucher and credit schemes were probably not cooked up by a conspiracy of educationists. Those people aren't that smart. But you just can't beat them for luck.

[V:2, February 1981]


Maximum Brain Dysfunction

EVERYBODY is in a whole lot of trouble. People all over America are losing their car keys and even forgetting their own telephone numbers, to say nothing of their zip codes. A man we know put an empty shredded wheat box in the refrigerator, and a lady in Tacoma asked her husband to pick up a tune of canna fish on his way home. Three out of four diners in the fanciest restaurants move their lips while figuring out fifteen percent of $48.83, and some of them will find that they have left home without it.

So what, you say? Ha! So you obviously don't know the first damned thing about minimal brain dysfunction, that's what. We do know the first damned thing about that dreaded disorder, and a supremely damnable thing it is: there are at least ninety-nine separate and distinct symptoms of minimal brain dysfunction! You are probably suffering from about thirty of them right now. And here's yet another damned thing: minimal brain dysfunction is itself only one of a whole host of "learning disabilities" that educationistic psychologists have somehow managed to discover in the last fifty years or more. And the damnedest thing of all is that when we ask those educationists why their victims are so ignorant and thoughtless, they say that they'll try to puzzle it out if we'll just give them more money, and we give them more money, and they hire each other as consultants, and the consultants duly discover yet another, hitherto unsuspected, learning disability.

So we were recently appalled, but hardly surprised, by a fat bundle of guidelines called "Michigan Special Education Rules." It is only in theory a separation of goats from sheep; in practice it is a charter of perpetual employment for goatherds. Its covert assumptions make the Doctrine of Innate Depravity look like the sentimental dream of some bleeding-heart liberal, for the Doctrine of Universal Impairment has no counterpart of the Operation of Grace. It looks instead to the Implementation of Grants.

The Michigan Rules include: "R 340.1706 Determination of emotionally impaired." Stubborn neurotics that we are, we just couldn't resist the risk of self-knowledge that offers itself in any list of symptoms. Sure enough, the very first symptom of "emotionally impaired" was: Inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships within the school environment.

A double whammy! That is precisely the environment within which every member of our staff has plenty of trouble with those very relationships. Furthermore, since literacy has recently been discovered--within the school environment--to include lots of that interpersonal relation stuff, we had to find ourselves illiterate too!

Reeling with the shock of recognition, we managed to puzzle out, by lip-movement and subvocalization, the second symptom: Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances, presumably still "within the school environment," although whether that is a "normal circumstance" is worth some thought.

A mystery. What types of behavior and feelings are there? Which circumstances are normal? Is it normal or not, under this very circumstance, to feel, as we in fact do, a feeling, if not a type of feeling, remarkably like another symptom of "emotionally impaired" in Michigan? General pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

So. When it's three o'clock in the morning of the dark night of the soul, don't go near the guidance office. There will be no waiting around for Godot in the hallways, no hesitation at the turning of the stair.

And the thought of all that "school environment" where all the little Donnies and Maries are all agog about Be All That You Can Be Week, and where "to be or not to be" is definitely not the question, brings on the fourth symptom of "emotionally impaired": Tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with school or personal problems.

Right. Absolutely right. Bellyache and vertigo. And fear. Fear and trembling. The simple truth must out: We are emotionally impaired in Michigan. A classic case.

Who shall stand when the Impairment Inspector appeareth? Who shall abide the day of the Disability Determinator's coming? Not we, surely; and, whether out of some inappropriate feeling or this pervasive mood of depression, we're beginning to have some dark suspicions about you. We can see you, sitting there in some appropriate type of behavior, smugly congratulating yourself on all your swell interpersonal relations, and wallowing in your pervasive mood of jollity, without even a touch of heartburn. Well, just you read this little codicil to the Four Symptoms:

The term "emotionally impaired" also includes persons who, in addition to the above characteristics, exhibit maladaptive behaviors related to schizophrenia, autism, or similar disorders. The term "emotionally impaired" does not include persons who are socially maladjusted unless it is determined that such persons are emotionally impaired.

Well, at least you don't have to worry about being found emotionally impaired just because you're socially maladjusted, unless you are found emotionally impaired because of certain maladaptive behaviors that have brought you into your social maladjustment. When just about all of us are normally impaired, your sanctimonious unimpairment is about as maladaptive as you can get. And forget about trying to convince us that those behaviors of yours are not related to schizophrenia or autism. Big deal. What about those "similar disorders"? Do you have any idea how many of them there are? All in all, you're damn lucky to be living in a country that still has to put up with all sorts of deviants. In some countries, those maladaptive behaviors related to similar disorders could get you shipped off to live in some very cold place where you'll probably end up eating your shoes.

It will not surprise regular readers that all this determining is done by members of the Affective Functionary Faction, government agents who keep watch over how people feel. In Michigan:

The emotionally impaired shall be determined through manifestation of behavioral problems primarily in the affective domain, which adversely affect the person's education to the extent that the person cannot profit from regular learning experiences. . . .

The wonderful thing about that Affective Domain, and what makes it both the Lotus Land and the Happy Hunting Ground of educationists and other pseudo-scientists, is that there is no Bureau of Weights and Measures in that fair land. To weigh, to count, and thus to find wanting, are the appropriate, normal, and profitably adaptive behaviors of those whose greasy thumbs are on the scale.

Cardinal Richelieu, who was a member of an Affective Functionary Faction in his time, knew how to determine maladaptive behaviors too. "If you give me six sentences written by the most innocent of men," he said, "I will find something in them with which to hang him." What can it mean for our times that a wily conniver of the bad old days suddenly sounds so refreshingly honest?

[VI:4, April 1982]


The I of the Beholder

I have now reigned above fifty years in victory and peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded my enemies, respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to be wanting for my felicity. I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot. They amount to fourteen.

Abd-ar-Rahman III

You have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.

G. B. Shaw

Indeed, we all wish to be happy, even when we live in such a way as to make happiness impossible.

St. Augustine

HERE are some excerpts from a questionnaire called "Perceptions of Sex Equity for Women Faculty at Virginia Tech":

This section relates to your general feelings of satisfaction with your personal work situation as a Virginia Tech faculty member. In terms of your personal situation at Virginia Tech, how satisfied are you that . . .

This section relates to your perceptions of bias against women faculty at the University and attempts to identify areas where inequities may exist. Do you feel that problems of bias against faculty women exist at Virginia Tech in the following areas . . .

This section relates to your feelings about the treatment that faculty women would receive if they voiced concern about sexual harassment or discrimination. Do you feel that women faculty at Virginia Tech would get a fair hearing on concerns about sexual harassment or discrimination in the following places . . .

Virginia Tech is an affirmative action employer. This section relates to your perceptions of the success of the various affirmative action efforts with respect to women faculty. How successful has Virginia Tech been at ensuring that . . .

This section relates to your feelings about the need for additional efforts to ensure equitable treatment for Virginia Tech women faculty. How desirable do you feel it is for Virginia Tech to commit resources to make additional efforts to . . .

We, too, sent out a questionnaire. The findings are enough to make a stone cry. Countless millions all over the face of the earth are accorded less admiration and respect than they feel they ought to have. There is no numbering the victims of injustice, from life's feast cast out, cruelly deprived of promotion and pay, and even of self-esteem. Whole legions are liked, hut not well liked, and the endeavors of vast multitudes are nor sufficiently appreciated. And everywhere, in each and every land and clime, people are unsatisfied, their potentials unmaximized, their self-images unenhanced. Alone in the dark, children weep, and some people are not entirely pleased with their personal work situations. What is this old world coming to? And what can we can we do to set it right?

Well, obviously, we need to set up a committee, which can draw up the guidelines for the establishment of a permanent commission, which will then formulate policy for the enactment of legislation, which will create a new department, which will mandate the existence of agencies and bureaus and offices, each and every one of which will send out questionnaires, which will remind everybody of how much there is to whine about, and will even offer some helpful hints to those few who foolishly imagine that they just don't have much to whine about. And then we'll need just one more little thing: a whole nation of people who are ignorant and gullible enough to answer the questionnaires. That part we can leave to the educationists.

We ordinarily suppose that philosophy doesn't count. We deem it not even a luxury toward which only the few aspire, but rather an aberration, with which only the few are afflicted.

But philosophy does count, even in the most practical matters, especially in the most practical matters. All we have to do to make people ignorant and gullible is persuade them into a silly epistemology. Then they can believe that belief is a way of knowing, that feeling and sentiment are knowledge, that any opinion is as good as any other, as long as it's sincere, of course, and that such speculations as these are of no practical use anyway, because, as everyone knows, philosophy doesn't count. People in that condition guarantee the continuance among us of astrologers and politicians and other pests almost as harmful. Ed. D. candidates and pollsters would also disappear if it weren't for the ready availability of those who will both offer and accept the uninformed and unexamined testimony of feelings and opinions.

And so, too, would the makers of "Perceptions of Sex Equity for Women Faculty at Virginia Tech."

The passages cited above are brief introductions to the sections of that document. Each is followed by an appropriate list of items to he weighed or selected or in some other way to be "perceived." At the end of the questionnaire, however, there is one last section without any introduction. It looks so naked and forlorn. The responder has to answer these questions without any guidance whatsoever, without even the least hint as to what answers the questioners most want. And these are hard questions, too. Rank and serial number questions, questions of mere fact, to be answered (by those who do choose to answer them) for the sake of mere knowledge.

How refreshing and encouraging it would be to hear that someone, somewhere, has sent out a questionnaire asking for knowledge, for the facts, and for the evidence by which those facts might be known to anyone, anyone at all, utterly without regard to anyone's feelings and perceptions.

It can't happen here.

One of the most effective illusions of our time is the belief that our "educational" system is a branch of our society. In fact, that system is the root of our society. We are its creatures, and truly, since the great, central themes of educationism are devised by agents of government, children of the state. It was not from silly parents, or venal hucksters, or from ignorant pals in the streets, that we learned to prize feeling more than fact, and that mere knowledge is only the "lowest level of outcomes," the first baby step on the long journey to the land of the affective domain, the realm ruled by awarenesses and attitudes, where the entertainers and persuaders flourish and govern, and where policy and law depend on the counting of perceptions.

Of "perceptions," an educationistic code-word for "feelings," there can be no end, and, even more important, no objective verification. Nor is there an end of persons who are less than perfectly happy in every respect. We can understand the Virginia Tech questionnaire, therefore, as a pretext for endless employment in soliciting subjective and anonymous testimony as to their emotions from interested witnesses about whose skills of thoughtful self-examination and temperamental propensities the questioner knows, and seeks to know, nothing.

We call that "research." And with its help, our social engineers, instructed by our educationists, who invented this kind of research by questionnaire, will, pretty soon now, bring in that bright new day when you won't even have to pursue happiness.

And if you have any perceptions or feelings in this matter, please try not to mention them where they can hear.

[VII:2, March 1983]


The Invers Proportin

"...the ability to write well is inversly proportinate to salary...TV personalites who daily abuse the rules of grammar get infinately more than English teachers."

Those alas, and yet once more, are the words--absolutely sic--of a schoolteacher whining about low pay and a bum rap. Why do they do it? They always end up looking, like the striking teacher whose placard called for "Descent Wages," overpaid and guilty as hell.

And, to look into another academic can of worms, here is the complete-- also sic--text of a letter to a teacher from someone in the office of the superintendent of schools in Cook Co.:

Please, show your transcripts to the Personal dept. and the will advise you on procesure. If, any further questions please call are office.

Although such examples are often sent directly to us by readers, these two were sent in more or less indirectly by readers. The first was cited, with appropriate comment, in Newsday, in a serious, thoughtful column by Ilene Barth. The other was used by Mike Royko (one our favorites, because he always calls a fool a fool) in a piece in the Chicago Sun Times.

Barth and Royko, like most newspaper people, are literate and rational, and, in many matters, well-informed and realistic. We are grateful to them for bringing such examples to a readership that is even larger--but surely not infinately larger--than ours, and we certainly don't want them to stop doing that. But they really ought to knock off all the deploring.

The trouble with journalists is that they lead very sheltered lives, never seeing anything more disgusting and horrible than corruption, rape, murder, war, and an occasional volcanic eruption. This is what gives them the amiable but naive optimism out of which they deem it useful to deplore the routine and firmly institutionalized ignorance in the schools.

On the other hand, every member of our editorial staff has spent an entire lifetime in school, in the very belly of the beast. We know there is no hope of reform. In fact, even to put an end to the letters that incense journalists would require nothing less than dissolution of the entire system that we call "public education."

It is only from a special point of view that "education" is a failure. As to its own purposes, it is an unqualified success. One of its purposes is to serve as a massive tax-supported jobs program for legions of not especially able or talented people. As social programs go, it's a good one. The pay isn't high, but the risk is low, the standards are lenient, entry is easy, and job security is still pretty good. By contrast with the teacher who wrote the letter, the uncouth "TV personality" is a daredevil entrepreneur working at a high altitude without a net. Should he commit the televisionistic equivalent of that pathetic letter, he would end up reading the midnight poultry market wrap-up in Lower Possum Trot. But nothing will happen to the teacher.

Regular readers might review our own long list of characters, all those decent, dull mediocrities, who work pretty hard to little avail. Pitiably ill-educated schoolteachers, and the ludicrous, drab professors of educationism who ill-educated them. Principals and superintendents sucked up from the least academic in a system where the merely academic is relegated to the most junior. The camp-followers of every kind, the facilitators, coordinators, consultants, who have jobs only because the system adopts causes and concocts programs that will seem to serve them. In a well and truly "reformed" education, what would happen to such folk? Do we want them out of the schools and onto the dole?

In fact, the system is perfect, except for one little detail. We must find a way to get the children out of it.

[VII:4, May 1983]


The King Canute Commission

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.

We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us.

Reagan was right. The rising tide lifts all the boats. And the rafts, too. And all of the flotsam and jetsam, as well, the drifting grapefruit skins and beer cans, and the rotting bodies of dead things.

Now, "a rising tide of mediocrity" has just been detected by some sort of national commission on something or other about the schools. Gosh, it's scary. Even the commission's report seems, if that first quotation above is typical, to have been washed ashore by that very tide. That broken English about imposing the performance that exists has an unpleasantly familiar sound. We suspect that a couple of cagey educationists wangled slots on that commission and imposed the performance that exists in the report.

The second quotation is not to be found in the commission's report, but it should be. In fact, it ought to have been the report. It says it all, and in much better English. And it has this further virtue, that it speaks in the first person, not of some hypothetically imposed performance, but of what we have done and left undone.

In the manner of the typical social studies text, which is likely to ex plain the Civil War by saying that "problems arose," the commission's report laments all sorts of bad things that are said to have "happened" in the schools. The commissioners are perturbed to notice that courses in physics and courses in bachelor living carry the same credit, but hardly the same enrollment, in most schools. That, as they must know, didn't just happen. Persons did it, and they did it by design and out of policy. And while those persons were doing that, and perpetrating countless similar outrages, other persons were standing around leaving undone those things which they ought to have done. Put them all together--you get we. And that includes every member of the commission.

To whom, then, do they speak? To them who brought us to this, in the fond hope that those miscreants are now willing to do the only thing they ever could have done to improve the schools, which would be to seek some other line of work? To the idle bystanders, who have known all of this for years, and who will now suddenly decide to do their duty and set everything right, an endeavor that can never succeed until all the bums have been thrown out?

But there is no whisper in this report of the bums who must be thrown out if anything is to change. The sad state of the schools, which the commission aptly characterizes by its allusion to courses in bachelor living, is remarkably less sad for those vast legions of people who make livings from the fact that the deepest principles of American educationism do not merely permit but actually require courses in bachelor living, and other like travesties beyond counting. Such things were not smuggled in through the boiler-room in the dead of night. Commissions, committees, boards of "education," all approved them. Professors of education, who concocted such courses, commended them, and designed programs for "teaching" the "teaching" of them. Legislatures enacted them. Supervisors, developers, coordinators, facilitators, hastened into the service of every new empire and began at once the preparation of grant proposals for more of the same.

All those people, however some of them may have profited, were acting on principle, the explicit principle of American schooling for the last sixty years or so. It is, briefly and therefore all too simply, stated, the belief that the purpose of education is to bring about a certain kind of society, and that the individual benefits from education to the degree in which he is adjusted to that society. Combine that with educationistic epistemology in which mere knowledge is "the lowest level of learning outcomes,"* and you end up with what we have: the deliberate neglect of strict disciplines, which are not conducive to the persuasion and adjustment of students. Those bachelor living courses and all their siblings are not nasty growths on an otherwise healthy organism. They are the heart of the matter, and they will never go away unless the ideology that spawns them is specifically repudiated.

There is nothing even close to such a repudiation in the report. Taking pains to offend no one, the commission wags its finger in no discernible direction and never says what most needs saying: The trash must go! We must stop doing those things that we ought not to have done and do only those that we ought to do. The two cannot live together, for the bad will always drive out the good.

If it had said such things, however, the report would not have provided anyone with fresh ammunition in the Great War for Money. Good schools, stripped of all rubbish, would cost less money, but only the students would profit from such schools.

As only one of the many factions that make up the vast political entity we call "education," students have little clout. But all the other factions should be delighted by the report. It offers golden opportunities for academies of educationism, administrative bureaucracies, teachers' unions, purveyors and manufacturers of devices and materials, even guidance counselors and change-agents.

Well, maybe they just did the best they could. We can hardly expect to achieve "excellence" without a little compromise, can we? And when "the best," the champions of excellence who lack all conviction, are sent out to do battle with "the worst," those thrusters and adjusters who are filled with passionate intensity, what else would they do but cut a deal? You wouldn't want anyone to get hurt in a squabble over excellence, would you?

________

* See "The Master of Those Who Know," (VII, 1; Feb; 83), for a consideration of the epistemology of educationism. back

[VII:3, April 1983]


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