The Morality of Modern Education is Relativism

It would be a mistake or, at any rate, an exaggeration to say that modern education has turned its back on morality.

It has not. It’s just that the morality it pursues is that of radical relativism with its radical skepticism about the benefits of the “great conversation” that has animated educated discourse for almost three millennia. Its morality is, therefore, that of Polonius in Hamlet whose declaration to his son Laertes as the latter prepares to leave for college serves as the motto for all modern secularized and relativized education: “This above all: to thine own self be true”.

Since, according to the tenets of modern education, there is no objective truth, all “truth” must be subjective. It is, therefore, subject to what we care to make of it and do with it. Like Laertes, we are told that we only need, above all else, to be true to our own self. We are not truth’s subjects, existing to serve it. It, like everything else, is subject to us. It exists to serve us. In such a relativist light, it is little surprise that such education becomes self-serving.

One consequence of this subjection of truth to selfishness is the rupture between modern education and traditional virtue. It’s not simply that modern educators have abandoned what has been traditionally considered true; they have also abandoned what has been traditionally considered good. This being so, it is hardly surprising that those who value the great conversation and the light it has shed on the objective reality of goodness and truth have sought to salvage the fruits of traditional knowledge and wisdom from the wreckage of modern education. This has led to the founding of a new generation of colleges and universities rooted in the truths and traditions upon which our civilization rests and without which it crumbles.

Up until now, these colleges and universities have had to rely on standardized college admissions tests, designed by proponents of the modern education which they exist to counter and correct. Now, however, and at long last, there is an alternative.

The Classic Learning Test, or CLT, offers a standardized test for college admission representing an unabashed adherence to the belief that education and virtue are inextricably connected. As the CLT website declares, the “failed attempt” to remain “values neutral” by standardized college admissions tests “has stripped much of American education of the rich intellectual inheritance of Western civilization”:

“Many exceptional educators must bleach out the values inherent in any discussion of depth concerning historical, literary, and scientific endeavor in order to prepare students for a standardized test requiring only a regurgitation of disconnected facts, or the careful presentation of a ‘value neutral’ argument.  In truth, even scientific laboratory discoveries have moral implications as the world so painfully rediscovered at Hiroshima.  In fact, the term ‘value neutral’ is an oxymoron.  Existing standardized tests which require students to deny the moral implications of decisions, ideas, and discoveries train them to both moral and intellectual disability.”

In similarly strident fashion, the website speaks of “the endeavor to repair the rupture between intellectual pursuit and virtue”, drawing parallels between the way that the ancient Greek philosophers understood the meaning and purpose of education with the way that it is viewed by today’s home-school parents and classical school educators:

“How someone learns to think, what they read, and how they live, are all intricately connected. Mainstream education in America is failing because the pursuit of virtue, as classically understood, has been lost.”

Those wishing to find out more about this noble initiative to repair the rupture between education and virtue should check out the website and also the recently released video:

[Image Credit: Pixabay]

This post The Morality of Modern Education is Relativism was originally published on Intellectual Takeout by Joseph Pearce.


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Liberty Classroom 1

Liberty Classroom 2

‘The Penis as Social Construct’—Spoof Article Gets Published by Academic Journal

Another postmodernist academic journal falls for a hoax.

Several years ago, Alan Sokal, a professor of physics at New York University and University College in London, decided to demonstrate exactly how nonsensical postmodernist cultural studies had become.

To do this, he submitted an article to the postmodernist journal Social Text claiming to demonstrate that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct—in other words, completely dependent on cultural and linguistic factors rather than objective reason and evidence.

The article was filled with meaningless postmodernist jargon, and claimed that scientific research was “inherently theory-laden and self-referential” and “cannot assert a privileged epistemological status with respect to counterhegemonic narratives emanating from dissident or marginalized communities.” The journal fell for the hoax and published the article. It and its editors became the laughing stock of the academic world.

Is School Driving Kids Crazy (Literally)?

According to the CDC, the suicide rate among 10 to 14 year olds has doubled since 2007.

May can be a particularly dangerous month for schoolchildren. According to 13 years of recent data collected on mental health emergency room visits at Connecticut Children’s Mental Health Center in Hartford, May typically has the most.

Under Pressure

Boston College psychology professor, Peter Gray, looked more closely at this data and found that children’s mental health is directly related to school attendance. Dr. Gray found that children’s psychiatric ER visits drop precipitously in the summer and rise again once school begins. The May spike likely coincides with end-of-school academic and social pressures.

Barbara Oakley Explains One Huge Flaw in U.S. Education

Barbara Oakley offered a blunt assessment of U.S. education in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal.

What does an expert in learning think about how to learn math (and other things for that matter)?

Barbara Oakley is the author of A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra) and Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential; she is also a distinguished scholar of global digital learning at Ontario’s McMaster University.

In an interview published in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Oakley did not have good words for the permissivist way math is taught in the United States.

By her own account, Oakley was not a good math student: “I just came to the conclusion at that time that I really couldn’t do math,” she says. “I flunked my way through elementary, middle and high school math and science.” She joined the Army out of high school, took a degree in Slavic languages at University of Washington on a ROTC commission.

‘Empathy’ Might Be the Most Overused Word in the English Language

A word analysis shows that people are using the word 'empathy' an awful lot these days. Why?

“You completely lack empathy.”

This was what a longtime acquaintance said to me a few months ago after I shared on Facebook a quote from Jeffrey Tucker, a prominent libertarian scholar, which touched on federalism and Donald Trump’s rescinding of an executive order on transgender discrimination.

The comment stuck in my craw.  I place high value on human compassion. And the comment completely sidestepped Tucker’s actual points.

How One Mother Sends Her Kids to College at Age 11

By now, you may have heard of Carson and Cannan Huey-You. The two brothers hail from Texas and are making news this graduation season as one is graduating from Texas Christian University with a degree in physics, while the other is graduating from a local Christian high school.

Their respective graduations are no big deal – except for the fact that the boys are ages 14 and 11.

As The Washington Post explains, the two are definitely advanced students with brilliant minds. But while their brilliant minds likely played a role in their accelerated status, one has to wonder if those minds would have been allowed to nurture and grow in the traditional education system.

Today’s Schools Are Producing ‘Hollow Men’

One of the most heinous crimes against humanity that modernity has perpetrated is its war on the humanities. And let’s not forget that the humanities are thus called because they teach us about our own humanity. A failure to appreciate the humanities must inevitably lead to the dehumanizing of culture and a disastrous loss of the ability to see ourselves truthfully and objectively.

The follies and fallacies of modernity and their dehumanizing consequences have been critiqued by some of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. T. S. Eliot’s Modern Education and the Classics, published in 1934, complements C.S. Lewis’s own ‘Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English’ which was the sub-title of Lewis’s book, The Abolition of Man. Both works insist that education cannot be divorced from morality and that the latter must inform the former. Similarly Eliot’s The Idea of a Christian Society (1939) and his Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948) dovetail with Lewis’s position as regards the necessity of Christianity to any genuine restoration of European culture. Most notably, Eliot’s depiction of ‘The Hollow Men’ in his poem of that title, published in 1925, prefigures Lewis’s ‘Men without Chests’ in The Abolition of Man who are fictionalized to great satirical effect in Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, the latter of which contains a delightful parody of the disintegration and dumbing-down of the modern academy.

New Survey Shows Americans Have Soured on Higher Education

The end of the school year is always greeted with great pomp and circumstance. But while many exult over the completion of high school, college, and other levels of schooling, support for higher education as usual seems to be waning.

According to a survey from the New America think tank, the American public agrees that it is easier to be successful with a sheepskin in hand, but also believes it’s time to change the iron grip which a college degree holds on society. As the graph below shows, nearly 70 percent disagree with the statement that “higher education in America is fine how it is.”

Education Used to Happen Outside of School

Schooling as a forced societal construct is a fairly recent phenomenon

Prior to passage of America’s first compulsory schooling statute, in Massachusetts in 1852, it was generally accepted that education was a broad societal good and that there could be many ways to be educated: at home, through one’s church, with a tutor, in a class, on your own as an autodidact, as an apprentice in the community–and often all of the above.

Even that first compulsory schooling statute only mandated school attendance for 12 weeks of the year for 8-14 year olds–hardly the childhood behemoth it has become.

Acknowledging that schooling is only a singular model of education opens up enormous possibilities for learning. Looking to successful education models of the past and present, we can imagine what the varied and vibrant future of education could be.

Is School Curriculum Preventing Kids from Reading?

When I was five, I nabbed the book my mother was reading out loud and used my fledgling phonics to sound out the captions below the pictures. Since then, reading has been one of my favorite pastimes.

But when I was in second grade, my English curriculum dictated a unit study on the Beatrix Potter stories. Every story was read, and then a multitude of vocabulary words and comprehension questions were given.