(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.