New Article on the Destruction of Education

An article of mine has appeared at The Brussels Journal under the title, “Hannah Arendt and Richard Weaver on the Crisis of Western Education.” It is accessible at:

Here is a sample:

Arendt writes of assuming responsibility for the inherited world, as the conservative or curatorial heart of education. A strikingly complementary notion occurs in the work of one of Arendt’s contemporaries who also wrote about the perils threatening education in the period of the Cold War. This writer saw in the self-styled progressive pedagogy of his day, which in his view had already begun to subvert traditional education, an essential ‘irresponsibility to the past and to the structure of reality in the present.’ Indeed, he saw that the assumptions of this revolutionary coup-d’état in the classroom could never ‘serve as the foundations of culture because [they] are out of line with what is.’ It was the case that ‘where [these assumptions] are allowed to provide foundations,’ or to allege to provide foundations, ‘they imperil the whole structure.’

The other writer is Richard Weaver (1910 – 1963) and the lines quoted above come from the chapter on ‘The Gnostics of Education’ in his book Visions of Order: The Cultural Crisis of Our Time (published posthumously, 1964). Arendt was a woman of the Left; Weaver was a man of the Right. That their separate and independent commentaries on the same topic, appearing in book form within three years of one another, should be so convergent and complementary is striking. What explains it? A commitment to civilization, shared across the political frontier, might be the best answer to the question. Both Arendt and Weaver, in contrast to the advocates of avant-garde pedagogy whom they criticize, see education in its conservative or curatorial role as a civilizational, rather than as a social, institution. When the high-school English teacher in Santa Monica brought his portable stereo to the classroom and invited his students to listen to Wagner, he appealed to them in the name of civilization, not in the name of society. At the time, society’s idea of music was The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones. When I challenge students to read and appreciate Tono-Bungay by Wells, I do so in the name of civilization, not of society, whose notion of literary challenge is non-existent.

3 thoughts on “New Article on the Destruction of Education

  1. Pingback: New Article on the Destruction of Education | Reaction Times

  2. On a practical level, the problems of education seem to me rooted in the teleological. What is it for? Public education combined with Pluralism make a shambles of trying to address such a question.

    I am struck by Dewey’s dogmatically analytic, and thereby anti-synthetic, view of life… being… everything.

  3. Currently public education is for the perpetuation of liberalism in all its aspects. The liberal monopoly over education is complete and the only “cure” is dismantlement of the system and its replacement by something sane. In 1960 the California public schools, of which I am the product entire from Kindergarten to doctoral degree, arguably constituted the finest system of education in the world. Now California public education is a shambles of “pluralism,” a politicized curriculum, unionism, and masses of dysfunctional clients. But it is the same all over.

    I knew of Dewey’s “Creed” before writing the article, but I had never taken a close look at it. It could hardly be weirder if Helena Blavatsky had written it.


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