Reflections on Education

Bertrand Russell argued that most education theorists have no children or if they had, are carefully screened from the turmoils of youth. They write their theories without any child in mind.

It is because we don’t respect children that we teach badly. If we respected their rights, we would educate them so as to give them the knowledge and the mental habits required for forming independent opinions.

To be a good teacher or educator, one must be filled with reverence for the other. It is because our educators lack in reverence that

we advocate for  machine-made cast-iron systems: militarism, capitalism, Fabian scientific organization, and all the other prisons into which reformers and reactionaries try to force the human spirit.

This post by Dr. Wandia is evidence we don’t have great regard for our children. If our educators had any, such wouldn’t happen.

Our education is designed for mediocrity through

its codes of rules emanating from a Government office, its large classes and fixed curriculum and overworked teachers

and this is coupled with the mistaken belief in some educators they have a duty to mould the child into some specific product.

A good educator, that is, one with reverence, in the presence of a child

feels an unaccountable humility—a humility not easily defensible on any rational ground, and yet somehow nearer to wisdom than the easy self-confidence of many parents and teachers

The state, the church and many institutions that offer education do not conduct it in a spirit of reverence, but are generally concerned with maintaining an existing order. And in any case, when the individual is considered, it is almost exclusively with a view to worldly success—making money or achieving a good position.

One area, he says, that instruction is harmful is religion and history. In most countries, history is taught as to magnify that country.

On religious education, he notes, and I quote at length

Elementary schools are practically always in the hands either of some religious body or of a State which has a certain attitude towards religion. A religious body exists through the fact that its members all have certain definite beliefs on subjects as to which the truth is not ascertainable. Schools conducted by religious bodies have to prevent the young, who are often inquiring by nature, from discovering that these definite beliefs are opposed by others which are no more unreasonable, and that many of the men best qualified to judge think that there is no good evidence in favor of any definite belief.

He observes, that as long as the aim of education is is to produce belief rather than thought, free inquiry will always be a dream, never attained. The end of education should, he writes, foster the wish for truth, not the conviction that some particular creed is the truth.

If this is the aim of education,

Instead of obedience and discipline, we ought to aim at preserving independence and impulse. Instead of ruthlessness, education should try to develop justice in thought. Instead of contempt, it ought to instill reverence, and the attempt at understanding; towards the opinions of others it ought to produce, not necessarily acquiescence, but only such opposition as is combined with imaginative apprehension and a clear realization of the grounds for opposition. Instead of credulity, the object should be to stimulate constructive doubt, the love of mental adventure, the sense of worlds to conquer by enterprise and boldness in thought. Contentment with the status quo, and subordination of the individual pupil to political aims, owing to the indifference to the things of the mind, are the immediate causes of these evils; but beneath these causes there is one more fundamental, the fact that education is treated as a means of acquiring power over the pupil, not as a means of nourishing his own growth.

our educators score between E and F.

If we took education seriously, we would treat as we treat victory in war. No expense would be spared in the instruction of children. We would employ as many teachers as would be required, we would provide the necessary facilities that would not only make learning enjoyable but also provide room for inquiry. We need more money to secure teachers with more leisure and with a natural love of teaching.

It cannot be said enough that discipline as it exists in our schools today is largely evil. There has been progress in banning corporal punishment in schools though we still have a majority of people who think, as is written in the bible, if you spare the rod, you spoil the child and would want to see a reintroduction of the same in schools.

Ruthlessness in the economic struggle will almost unavoidably be taught in schools so long as the economic structure of society remains unchanged. The examination system, and the fact that instruction is treated mainly as training for a livelihood, leads the young to regard knowledge, from a purely utilitarian point of view, as the road to money, not as the gateway to wisdom.

When he says

It will be said that the joy of mental adventure must be rare, that there are few who can appreciate it, and that ordinary education can take no account of so aristocratic a good. I do not believe this. The joy of mental adventure is far commoner in the young than in grown men and women. Among children it is very common, and grows naturally out of the period of make-believe and fancy. It is rare in later life because everything is done to kill it during education. Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth—more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. It sees man, a feeble speck, surrounded by unfathomable depths of silence; yet it bears itself proudly, as unmoved as if it were lord of the universe. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

I can’t help but nod my head.

But if the above is to be true for all of us, then fear must be shown the door. It is fear that holds men back—fear lest their cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear lest the institutions by which they live should prove harmful, fear lest they themselves should prove less worthy of respect than they have supposed themselves to be.

In conclusion, he writes and I agree

No institution inspired by fear can further life. Hope, not fear, is the creative principle in human affairs. All that has made man great has sprung from the attempt to secure what is good, not from the struggle to avert what was thought evil. It is because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves a great result. The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. Education should not aim at a passive awareness of dead facts, but at an activity directed towards the world that our efforts are to create. It should be inspired, not by a regretful hankering after the extinct beauties of Greece and the Renaissance, but by a shining vision of the society that is to be, of the triumphs that thought will achieve in the time to come, and of the ever-widening horizon of man’s survey over the universe. Those who are taught in this spirit will be filled with life and hope and joy, able to bear their part in bringing to mankind a future less somber than the past, with faith in the glory that human effort can create.

Teachers, the ball is on your court.

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Emile or on education

By Jean Jacques Rousseau

This is not a review.

Those who have read the confessions or a little about him know he gave his children out to be raised by others. As such, we could easily dismiss him to be unqualified in telling us how to raise children. But since I didn’t dismiss him, I can say a few things about his lessons.

On practicality in this day, almost impossible. You would need to be  homeschooling and doing nothing else.

Some of the ideas I fully agree with. Don’t introduce religion until they have arrived at the age of reason. Wherever possible use demonstration and not empty words. Expose them to the less fortunate, just enough for them to learn pity but not too much to make them indifferent. Keep them, if possible, away from bad influence. Encourage them to be confident in their teacher, that way they are free to be themselves and not learn early to deceive.

His sentiments about women on the other hand deserve criticism. For example he writes

Unless a beautiful woman is an angel, her husband is the most miserable of men; and even if she were an angel he would still be the centre of a hostile crowd and she could not prevent it.

He continues to write

But ugliness which is actually repulsive is the worst misfortune; repulsion increases rather than diminishes, and it turns to hatred. Such a union is a hell upon earth; better death than such a marriage.

Elsewhere he writes

Your honour is in your keeping, hers depends on others.

The last example I will provide, and there are many more where he tells us the duties of women are tied up with their husbands or fathers. He writes for example

Her honour is to be unknown; her glory is the respect of her husband her joys the happiness of her family.

He asks his readers who between a woman busy with household chores or an author of poems and books will you address with most respect?

Reflections

A year ago I wrote a reflection on what next after the death of god. Time flies fast!

I promise to keep this post shorter than the one linked above.

Today’s reflection is on education. In several blog posts and comment sections, I have always said education is the key to solving humanity’s problems. One would easily ask me when we seem to have so many literate people and the human race seems to be on a path to destroy itself?

I am think that education of the youth, as now constituted, in many places around the globe is useless. It is the kind of education that teaches people arithmetic, a bit of chemistry and some world history. The students end up memorizing the date the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima but not why. This educated halfwit would, if they could, repeat the mistakes that led to Hiroshima for they learnt nothing in school. This in my view isn’t education.

The purpose of education, in my view, is to make men and women good citizens. It should train them to hold fear in contempt, to treat everything they hear with a healthy dose of skepticism, to know the meaning of justice, beauty and truth. Most of all, I think a good education should help the student to know themselves.

It is a useless education that fills the mind of a 12-year-old with useless facts without teaching them how to act. How to live with others. I have in my days met children who can recite all chapters of bible passages but would not know how to judge a simple matter of justice between them. I sympathize with all the Muslims who think it is great learning to commit the Koran to memory. How useless an endeavour!

Let the focus of our educational institutions change. Let us emulate the style of Lycurgus that had the Athenians boys taught to be men before they could learn to be orators. Let us not waste their youth with useless stories as who or when the earth was created. That they can learn later in life. Dialectics is useless for the formation of character.

There is philosophy for the youth; the value of truth, beauty, courage, justice, self-determination that will go a long way in forming better citizens than how many stars are there in the night sky. There are many people who know so much about the distant stars and nothing about themselves, no wonder they are such dull company.

I may not make a good teacher, but I believe, a good education is a step forward to improving the lot of everyone or of most people the world over.

against war and religious instruction, in support of the rebel

Those with good memory remember a nitwit described me as having a predilection to violence when in every instances I have written in opposition to war, punishment and violence. I have another reason to oppose war, and I don’t know how best to put it other than to say it is a stupid way to resolve a dispute. That war between nations is only the duel either with gun or sword between individuals that has been transferred to nations and that soldiers are pawns in this game whether they know it or not.

Religious instruction has no value to society other than perpetuating the spread of false ideas as truths. And we must ask with Cohen Chapman

whether we are to permit the priest to hold the future to ransom by permitting this control of the child, or whether we are to leave religious beliefs, as we leave other beliefs of a speculative character, to such a time as the child is old enough to understand them.

And still with Chapman, we must note

it is the function of the true teacher to make his pupil independent of him. The aim of the priest is to keep one eternally dependent upon his ministrations. The final and fatal criticism upon religious instruction is that it is not education at all.

And now finally, in support of rebellion, especially rebellion to received religious dogma.

The Christian church has been tolerant towards the criminal, and has always been intolerant of the heretic and the freethinker. The church could forgive those who were responsible for the horrors of the English factory system but she could never forgive the writer of the Age of Reason.

And we can say finally with Chapman that

history, looking back through the ages, is bound to confess that it is to the great rebels, from Satan onward, that the world mainly owes whatever of greatness or happiness it has achieved.

 

In defense of higher education

Not that it needs defending but because I couldn’t think of a better title for this post. Some of you have read the floundering thoughts post which was  a response to a post whose author has pestered yours truly to read in order that I should be enlightened on what am missing.

When I wrote the other day about length of posts, I had such posts in mind. The author could have as well written

the bible is the word of god because the bible says so

and be done with it but she goes yapping endlessly saying almost the same thing. I could respond to that statement with a single word BULLSHIT and stop there and I will still have done the post justice. I will however say a bit more because there are groups of people who think ridicule isn’t a good response to credulity.

She tells us the universe is evidence for a creator. That everything we see around is evidence for the god of the Hebrews. We are expected to believe that the creator of the universe slept for generations and only felt it important to talk to men about his works to a band of herders. This is to expect a lot from us. She tells us because we can’t create shit, we can’t question shit. No wonder charlatans frauds pastors still make so much money. The world is populated by people ready to believe the most silly of things.

A wise man living a few centuries back wrote

We are assured that the wonders of nature are sufficient to a belief in the existence of a God, and to convince us fully of this important truth. But how many persons are there in this world who have the leisure, the capacity, the necessary taste, to contemplate nature and to meditate upon its progress? The majority of men pay no attention to it. A peasant is not at all moved by the beauty of the sun, which he sees every day. The sailor is not surprised by the regular movements of the ocean; he will draw from them
no theological inductions. The phenomena of nature do not prove the existence of a God, except to a few forewarned men, to whom has been shown in advance the finger of God in all the objects whose mechanism could embarrass them. The unprejudiced philosopher sees nothing in the wonders of nature but permanent and invariable law; nothing but the necessary effects of different combinations of diversified substance.

but we should see god. To see a creator. This is asking for too much from our intelligence. Maybe a mad man would find the explanation that malaria points to god, a god who later on you will learn is all loving, all-powerful and all-knowing. They question on whose authority you would question the love of such a fiend. It’s messengers/ parsons want you to buy this crap under the threat of eternal fire. Keep your fires, keep your stakes!

If pride is the father of unbelief, call me proud. But it takes a certain amount of stupid to believe that it is pride that makes a man of common sense ask if donkeys talk or snakes walked and ‘fishes’ were used for transcontinental transport. Please!

If you were to ask a person of common sense why the bible needs defense, especially if it must be believed, they will tell you it is self refuting and not self proving. To see it as anything more than that, you requires religion.

In the superstition of the ages the author says this about theology, what our author here calls the study of divine things

There is a science which has for its object only incomprehensible things. Unlike all others, it occupies itself but with things unseen. Hobbes calls it “the kingdom of darkness.” In this land all obey laws opposed to those which men acknowledge in the world they inhabit. In this marvelous region light is but darkness, evidence becomes doubtful or false, the impossible becomes credible, reason is an unfaithful guide, and common sense changed into delirium. This science is named Theology, and this Theology
is a continual insult to human reason

I digress.

Our author asks

What then is the value of the scholarship which does not trust scripture?

A question which I interpret to mean scholarship should make us all bible believing dimwits. Seriously?

We are told

If a person must rely on the testimony of men to give approval of the scriptures, then that person will always be at the mercy of another mans learning.

This is not God’s way as He demonstrates the power in His word  that men’s faith be not in men.

And I keep saying this is high irony.

The first book of the bible starts

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light……..

and yours truly must ask, is this the testimony of god or of man?

The author then tells us that pilate deserved no answer when he asked what was the meaning of truth. I would imagine a god would want to settle the ignorance of men but not to the staunch believer.

It is strange when one is a believer how everything is the fault of the reader. A person of common sense reads of Lot shagging his daughters and finds this abhorrent, the believer tells you scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. I will be generous here, someone please tell what lesson we get from this story. I will wait.

Towards the end, there is this charge

A person tells you the bible is a fairy tale. He says you are a lunatic if you believe ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’ He thinks you are insane if you actually believe there was confusing of languages in Babel,  he tells you Abraham never existed, he tells you Sodom was not a real city, and he tells you sin is a fabrication. He then tells you the death of the son of God was a joke. He informs you  that the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ is a deluded hope. He tells you men of higher learning have found errors with scripture.

He then finishes by informing you there are mistakes in what he calls the book of myths, and pleads with you to answer his endless charges.

Which looks like a legit charge but answerable. I will give an analogy; when watching a movie, you know from the onset it is a tale but at the end you say about some scene they lied. You know where you have a guy in a brown shirt and the same guy in a green shirt but he hasn’t left his desk. There is no contradiction in telling you the bible is a book of fairy tales and then pointing out the portions of the fairy tales that are an exaggeration or badly told. So yes, the bible is a book of fairy tales, some badly told and some so exaggerated but fairy tales all the same. It may say something factual about the human condition but this is to be expected written as it is by men, for men and about men.

I will end this post in the words of Shelley P. Bysshe

The educated man ceases to be superstitious.

On the education of children

Yours truly approves of the passage below by Arthur Schopenhauer in one of his essays where he writes,among other things, on the education of children. We believe that if this were done, we would not have blockheads ready to strap C4s around their waist blowing up people left right and centre for believing in the wrong god, bigots of the christian variety opposing LGBTs, assisted dying, stem cell research, use of contraceptives and so on that mostly requires one to be religious to find a reason to oppose.

Children should be kept from all kinds of instruction that may make errors possible until their sixteenth year, that is to say, from philosophy, religion and general views of every description; because it is the errors that are acquired in early days that remain as a rule, ineradicable, and because the faculty of judgement is the last to arrive to maturity. They should only be interested in such things that make errors impossible, such as mathematics, in things which are not very dangerous, such as languages, natural science, history and so forth; in general, the branches of knowledge which are to be taken up at any age must be within reach of the intellect at that age and perfectly comprehensible to it. Childhood and youth are the time for collecting data and getting to know specially and thoroughly individual and particular things. On the other hand, all judgement of a general nature must at that time be suspended and final explanations left alone. One should leave the faculty of judgement alone, as it only comes with maturity and experience and also take care that one does not anticipate it by inculcating prejudice, when it will be crippled for ever.

There is bad education, and very bad education :-D

I haven’t particularly followed our education system but from what I remember, we receive a good education. The teachers may have so many students to attend to, but they do their best in the circumstances.

There are children in the United States of America who are getting anything but an education. If I were these kids, I would sue every behind responsible for such a bad education.

Are fundamentalist schools up to standard?