Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Liberal Education

Brit blogging I'm still off as I don't feel much like writing at the moment. I do still have the energy to pass along good reads, as I did with von Balthasar the other day. Via Blimpish, here are two left leaning Englishmen making me wish activity of this sort was occurring on this side of the Atlantic as well. I'm still Tory and it is hard to imagine any circumstance that could lead me to vote left, but - stepping back just a moment - as Joe Citizen I would like to see Canadians offered strong platforms from all of the parties. I hate the way this country seems to be locked into the Liberal party and want to see that bug squashed. I'd prefer a Blue squashing to an Orange one, but hey! If the Orange party can do the squashing (rampant speculation on my part, I know) without trashing the place, it would be better than than the current 'kick us again, we're Canadian' voting pattern we've seen since... Well, it seems like it's been since forever. Here is Shuggy's wisdom on the subject of education:
There are really not enough words to describe the absurdity of so-called "liberal" educational theories that this blogger came across during his teacher training: false dichotomies between different forms of learning that I would expect one of my brighter senior pupils to spot within about four minutes; the ludicrous notion that telling a pupil they're wrong represents an "authoritarian theory of knowledge" - are just a couple of the symptoms of the other-worldly disconnection with reality that so disfigures our educational system. For the best take on a true liberal education, more people should turn to the liberal, but self described conservative, Michael Oakeshott. He argued that a truly liberal education had nothing to do with allowing pupils to "do their own thing" or being "contemporary". Rather, the liberty of the pupil is ensured by two things: a) the narrowness of the focus - the teacher is concerned with the delivery of a subject, not some aimless character-building exercise (most teachers, including myself, are not competent to do the latter) b) that what is really liberating about education is that it delivers the pupil from the "tyranny from the here and now". It does this by teaching subjects that represent great investments in human thought, not ones that are fashionable or entertaining. This version of a liberal education is surely preferable to the present situation where at least twenty years of the culture of compulsory euphemism has produced an enormous number of bureaucrat-educationalist whose sole professional function appears to be to receive inflated salaries for their skill in rationalizing failure?
More Leftward reflection offered by James Hamilton:
It's not a good idea to be reading Stephen Pinker's "The Blank Slate" [been meaning to read this book for a very long time now - ed.] whilst pondering the future of the left in Britain. It really isn't. The effective trashing of the idea that nurture has a prevailing imperative over nature; the trashing of the idea that humans in an ideal environment live in harmony with nature and each other; the trashing of the idea that we are more than just biological machines and our faults aren't permanently built in - all answer the question "What's Left" with a sullen "Not much". ... I'm in my local public library, a place that like so many others under the Blair government has refurbished itself from top to bottom. In front of me is the section on American history. It consists entirely of... well, the titles will be familiar to you; suffice it to say that it's just that collection of hucksters, profiteers and rabble rousers who have used the crisis to sell books. The Left is meant to be the intellectual counterweight in politics, but of late we've been breeding monsters. Certain of our more prominent figures have perfected the art of making a fortune from the art of indoctrination. For intellect read conspiracy; for analysis read hysteria. I suppose that's what happens when we assume that we're clever but neglect the life of the mind. There has always been this air of wishful thinking about left wing intellectual activity; one long late evening of Finals revision was enlivened for me by a book with the absurd title Late Capitalism; you can find humour anywhere at three in the morning. Then you might refer to the Webbs turning their faces from murder in Stalin's USSR, or reflect upon the sinking feeling as reopened archives confirmed that McCarthy victim after McCarthy victim were as guilty as charged. We are steadily losing our martyrs, from the Rosenbergs to James Hanratty. Society as a whole is following us into irrational thinking - weren't you shocked to learn that 86% of doctors in Scotland were happy to refer patients to homeopaths? And we think we can laugh at American Intelligent Design...
All I can add is that my own experience backs up Hamilton's assertion. Lefties seem to think that they don't have to argue their case, that it must be assumed and the onus is on anyone who challenges it. Why that should be is likewise unexplained. I don't travel or read in those circles much - not anymore - but my hunch is that Canada's left has a long way to go to catch up to Blair's Labour. In the U.S., the Democrats seem to be involved in some heavy petting with the kind of Left that we have in our Orange party (that's the socialist NDP for American readers) and which is also well represented by the sweaty red boob currently leading the governing Liberal Party. I'm not trying to paint Blair as a saint, but he's had considerably more electoral success than anything on offer on this side of the pond (speaking of the the NDP and the Democrats). I just don't think the Micheal Moore constituency is all that large (loud, yes) and there is therefore a lot more to be gained by pealing off disaffected conservative voters with a moderate message. Here's a negative example from the "centrist" Liberals. I doubt Canada's Left will make any attempt to portray itself as more moderate and more reasonable. Instead, they'll claim that they have the same message, with the added benefit of greater sincerity. The message itself will go unexamined. I suppose such foibles are an occupational hazard when you place yourself at the pinnacle of progress.

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