On Violence and Education

Photo of what was done to my community from the Kenosha News

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Not gonna beat around the bush, folks, my latest column at OCPA is personal:

I live about five miles from the area of Kenosha, Wisconsin, that was recently devastated by rioting. The human cost of unjust and unlawful violence in our community, which has come from radical rioters and from abusive police and vigilantes, simply won’t go into words. What will go into words is the long-term educational problem represented by a society that has failed for generations to reproduce in its young people a commitment to even its most basic civilizational ideals: equality under the law, and respect for other people’s rights.

Functionally, the deepest roots of the culture war that has crowded out community and moral imagination are in educational failure:

What the two sides have in common is not simply that they fail to apply our shared moral rules to their own side, but that they do not speak in terms of shared moral rules at all. That is, unless you count the law of the jungle as a moral rule. The moral patrimony is no longer a patrimony, for we have failed to pass it on.

We employ millions of people and spend many billions of dollars a year on K-12 schools and higher education, but the most important lessons aren’t being learned. They haven’t been for generations.

But right-wing assaults on left-wing agitprop in schools could not solve the problem – not merely because they will continue to fail, for the same reasons they have failed consistently for fifty years, although it would profit us to think about that as well – but because they would only deal with the symptom, not the cause, of the problem:

Our schools were ripe for capture by ideology because they were first civilizationally bankrupted by a great narrowing of their purpose. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we stopped thinking of schools as extensions of the family, cultivating human beings for a life that would be whole and meaningful. Instead, we began thinking of schools primarily as extensions of the economy, training workers, and of the state, indoctrinating citizens into values chosen for them by their rulers. Quackery and claptrap rushed in to fill the educational vacuum created by this impoverished notion of what education is.

At the K-12 level, the great narrowing came when a big left/right coalition came together for government monopolization of schooling…

Reforms like school choice are a step in the direction of restoring the older, family-centered model of education, which is a necessary precondition of any moral restoration in education, which is in turn a necessary precondition of sustaining any alternative to the Nietzschean nightmare of mobs and vigilantes stamping on each other forever.

Happy reading!

8 Responses to On Violence and Education

  1. bkendall527 says:

    I am not a fan of school choice. Selectively and intelligently used, it has possibilities. And to be fair, anyone who reads this should know I translate standardized test scores. And the results of my work are why I am skeptical.

    And restoring something that never existed on a large scale is a fantasy. Unless anyone has historically accurate evidence to show otherwise. And if they do, please share the resource. I ask because I recently started a program in the study of the History of American Education. And I have yet to read any description of a “family-centered model of education,” that would take us into the 23rd Century on a large scale. If I am wrong in this, please make suggestions for reading.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Random-assignment experiments, where students who got access to choice were compared to students who applied to use choice but lost a lottery and did not access to it, have regularly shown positive results on standardized tests for school choice programs. I don’t think standardized tests should be our standard, but if they were, choice wins that debate.

      One of the best resources I have found on the history of education in the US is Charles Glenn’s The Myth of the Common School. But the larger point is that before the creation of government schools in the 1830s, the family had control over the education of children. If your history books don’t include that, they must not think that “education” happened before the creation of government schools – and the fact that people find that view plausible when it makes no sense is more or less my point.

    • Malcolm Kirkpatrick says:

      Joel Spring, _The American School_.
      Sol Cohen, _Education In the United States: A Documentary History_
      Andrew Coulson, _Market Education: The Unknown History_
      Edwin West, _Education and the State_
      Diane Ravitch, _Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reform_

      (BKendall): “I translate standardized test scores. And the results of my work are why I am skeptical.”
      Please expand.

  2. Malcolm Kirkpatrick says:

    (Forster): ” … society …has failed for generations to reproduce in its young people a commitment to even its most basic civilizational ideals: equality under the law, and respect for other people’s rights.”
    The NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel’s part-time juvenile detention facilities have not reproduced in its inmates a commitment to even its most basic civilizational ideals: equality under the law, and respect for other people’s rights.
    (Forster): “We employ …Our schools … we stopped thinking of schools as extensions of the family …we began thinking of schools primarily as extensions of the economy …”
    What do you mean “we”, paleface?
    You write as though citizens voted unanimoulsy for the State-monopoly school system.

  3. Insectman says:

    I am a retired teacher and unequivocally proclaim that there is no hope for America as long as Christians and conservatives allow their children to be indoctrinated in the pagan (a.k.a. “public”) schools. We must rescue our children! See specifics at http://www.insectman.us/exodus-mandate-wv/index.htm. I am not raising funds. My goal is to rescue children.

  4. Lin W. says:

    So it did come to your doorstep! Yikes.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Well, five miles isn’t quite my “doorstep,” but it’s my community. We were under curfew for a week and a half, and it would have been longer but the police were caught selectively enforcing the curfew, and there was a lawsuit, so it was quietly lifted a bit early.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s