Volume Seven, Number Two............March 1983

The Children of the State

A general state education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; and the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation in proportion as it is efficient, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body. J. S Mill

Sometimes our readers imagine that we go too far. Once, when we concluded that the American government school system was exactly what Lenin ordered, certain readers imagined that we had gone too far. Later, when we concluded that religious schools were in no important way different from government schools, and that what Luther ordered was even more oppressive than what Lenin ordered, certain other readers imagined that we had gone too far.

In fact, however, we never have the space to go far enough. Of the inane pronouncements and the sentimental mantras of educationism, we ask one question, a question that should always be asked of any proposition, even the most familiar, especially the most familiar: If this is true, what else must be true? It is a little question with a big answer. It throws a wonderful ray of clear light into sunless stews of superstition all the way from astrology to the affective domain.

To answer that question, however, is usually an exasperating chore. It's difficult enough to puzzle out exactly what the educationists are saying, and why they say it, is, therefore, all the harder to construe. Often, after having worked out the logical, and horrible, implications of their dicta, we don't know whether to indict them for vice or for folly. It is thus a rare pleasure to discover an educationist who does not leave us in doubt.

He is a certain William H. Seawell, a professor of education at the University of Virginia, a paragon of clarity, a plain speaker in whom there is no mealy-mouthing, no obliquity, no jargon at all.

"Each child," says William H. Seawell, "belongs to the state." What could be clearer?

In saying that, Seawell, who is, after all, a paid agent of the government of a state, was doing nothing more than what he is paid to do. That function is called, almost certainly by every government on the face of the Earth, "Educating the People." But Seawell's forthrightness, in a matter that ordinarily puts educationists to pious pussy-footing, suggests that he is no mere time-server who is just following orders. He sounds like exactly the kind of agent that any government most prizes: a True Believer.

And a brave one, too. For he also said, to an audience of mere citizens, gathered to "celebrate" the opening of yet another government schoolhouse in Fort Defiance, Virginia, that the purpose of "education" is "the training of citizens for the state so the state may be perpetuated."

Although Seawell probably holds to the orthodox educationistic belief that "truth and knowledge are only relative"* he seems to have spoken as one who knew with absolute certainty that Jefferson had left Virginia forever, and could not possibly be sitting quietly, horsewhip in hand, out in the dim back rows of the auditorium. It could only be out of some such certainty although ignorance might serve as well--that a man would dare to admit that "public schools promote civic rather than individual pursuits," and to argue from that, that "only public education can he used to gain a free society."

Fort Defiance, eh? Well, times have changed in Virginia. Our source, The Staunton Leader, a remarkably restrained newspaper, says nothing at all about the mere citizens' reaction to being educated by Seawell. We have to assume, however, that even The Leader would have made some brief mention of the fact if the man had been tarred and feathered and ridden out of Fort Defiance on a rail, so that probably didn't happen.

And that it didn't is witness to the efficacy of an "education" designed for the perpetuation of the state. Such an "education" must see to it that its victims are habitually inattentive to the meaning of the words and slogans in which they are "educated." No one, it seems, muttered any tiny dissent when Seawell over-ruled the Constitution and appointed unto himself and his ilk the task that many Virginians might have deemed more suitable to other hands: "We must focus on creating citizens for the good of society."

So. We are now to hold these truths to he self-evident: That all citizens are encumbered by the State that creates them with certain inevitable burdens, and that among these burdens are a life of involuntary servitude for the perpetuation of the State, the liberty to be required by law to learn from their Creators the worth of the civic and the nastiness of the individual, and the assiduous pursuit--and this is Seawell's parting shot--of only those pastimes deemed (by agents of government, we guess) "productive."

It is possible, of course, that hidden among the impositions of George III upon the colonies there were provisions more heinous and tyrannical than William H. Seawell's grand design for Educating the People, but damned if we can think of any just now. And it gives us sadly to wonder.

Some eminently reasonable and well-educated men found King George's comparatively mild and unintrusive intentions nothing less than a "Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism," as a delegate from Virginia put it. But the king never claimed that he was the creator--and owner--of his subjects, or that their purpose was the perpetuation of the state. He did not require the children to attend schools in which his hired agents would persuade them as to his notions about the "good of society." Nevertheless--and it suddenly seems strangely unaccountable--those thoughtful men took up arms against that king. Was it for this that they delivered us from that?

The citizens of Fort Defiance probably gave Seawell, at the least, a free feed. Maybe even a plaque.

Well, not to worry. All this took place long ago in May of 1981. By now, surely, all the other educationists will have vigorously dissociated themselves from Seawell's eccentric views. As soon as we hear news of his repudiation, we'll pass it right along, lest you fret about the state of the Republic.

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, but 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.

Only the Worthwhile Facts, Ma'am

The little "thought" reprinted below comes to us from the Teaching Excellence Center Newsletter, which is regularly emitted by the Teaching Excellence Center at the Oshkosh branch of the University of Wisconsin.

The Center's staff includes, along with Richard (Dick) Buckley, two other part-time excellencists, Luella (Lolly) Ratajczak and Paul (no nickname) Johnson. And lest you accuse them all of lofty esotericism in their ivory tower, be informed that, as the excellence newsletter puts it: "Each of the three are teaching and administrative faculty who continue their teaching and administrative duties during their association with the Center."

(As to the agreement of pronouns and verbs, they have no duties. They have their hands full with excellence.)

We have no idea what subject it is that (Dick) "teaches," of course, but it doesn't matter. What he does teach, if that word can be used in this context at all, is (Dick); and that is perfectly harmonious with a major theme of educationism: the equation of both teaching and learning with "self-expression" in almost any form. Thus it is that (Dick)'s little "thought" seems to be made of approximately recalled snippets from any teacher academy's catalog of courses in inter-relating, or perception enhancing, or any other of the self-indulgent--and oh so easy to "teach"--practices of those folk.

(Dick) "searches for the meaning behind the teaching act." But a teacher, who is not in the business of committing "the teaching act," whatever that abominable practice might be, wants to know what happens in front of his teaching. He already knows what is behind it; and what is behind it is not "cultural baggage" and "a different filter." It is knowledge and the practice of a discipline. It is in the absence of those things that "teaching" must be hokily construed as a gaga groping around in other people's minds.

It is hard to imagine anyone who would accuse (Dick) of being in an ivory tower. That metaphor is remarkably inappropriate for one who asks, out loud and in public, why others don't seem to want to explore his reality. He is rather in the very opposite of the ivory tower, whatever that low station might be called. He says exactly what they all say, and what he supposes his "thought" is not, but only a wandering recitation, distinguished from any pretentious freshman composition only by that startling "whom's," which may actually be a piece of cultural baggage, used in the belief that "whom" is the form favored among intellectuals. His pedagogical "theory" is the usual--it's all a matter of "relating" and hoping to "fathom" not a discipline but the students. His epistemology is right out of that Taxonomy we looked at last month, yearning for escape "beyond the facts," of which some are not even "worthwhile," and on into the "wasteland," which he has at least named correctly, although his characterization of the place suggests that he knows no more of it than its name (That often happens to those who imagine that some facts, usually the ones they don't know, are just not worthwhile.)

"Dialogue with us," writes (Dick), "so that we can meet your needs."

Thanks, (Dick), but you've given all we need. Just the worthwhile facts.

An Editorial Thought

by Richard (Dick) Buckley

ONE SEARCHES for meaning behind the teaching act. One tries to fathom the minds of the parade of students who pass through the classroom. The teacher brings to the scene much cultural baggage and so does the student. Each perceives the world through a different filter. Can they truly communicate with each other or do they merely talk to themselves?

What do people mean when they accuse me of being in an "ivory tower"? Do they mean that I am out of touch with reality? With whom's reality am I out of touch? My world seems real to me. Why don't others want to explore that reality? Maybe they don't have the background of my experience to explore that reality with me.

Once one gets beyond the facts (and which facts are worthwhile to know), there is a wasteland of unexplored interpretations, feelings, and concepts to explore. Which interpretations are valid? Whose feelings are legitimate? Which attributes of concepts make a plausible conceptual map?

Teaching is a creative act. The best teaching is done before one even enters the classroom. When one plans what one is going to do (when the script is written), the teaching act it already highly staged. In this planning, it essential that the teacher tries to understand his/her reality and how it might fit with the reality which the student brings to the classroom. One leads students to new arenas, but the student can only be lead [sic] by someone who does not cause cultural shock.


And this just came in from the College of Education at the University of Arizona, another place where people explore each others' realities:


Specific methods, objectives, organization of subject matter and evaluation procedures involved in teaching personhood development as well as techniques for building a positive and balanced self-concept in the student. Limited to those who have taken Personhood Development.

The Underground

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Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune, whose words do jarre;
nor his reason in frame, whose sentence is preposterous.

* From Bloom's Taxonomy, which we examined last month. It's still in force. back

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