Sometimes, the Term “Education” Is Camouflage for Government Money Grabbing

We hear the term a lot these days, more often than we used to. In the old days, you were more likely to hear someone speak of schooling when meaning the practical side of learning. Education was a general term which meant the overarching achievement of becoming an educated person. But education has taken on a different feel, as a kind of sacred term which hangs like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of taxpaying citizens. There is a reason for this. Use of the term allows Politicians to demand more and yet more money for “education” boldly. Who would be against education?

But the term itself enables politicians to demand money for education without ever having to say where they intend to spend that money! They never use the term spend anyway, preferring “invest,” a term which implies a return of vast wealth in the cultivated minds of the young. In fact, politicians and their cronies in the field of “education” never quite let anyone know what education really is and that the money ought not to go to them in the first place.

True “education” has to take place somewhere and that somewhere is in the classroom. The classroom can be defined variously. It can be a living room table, a grassy spot under the trees or, most commonly, a regular classroom with desks and chairs. For most of us, that classroom is probably in a public school.

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The term “education” is broad and somewhat vague, and those who preach the need of more “funding” would like to keep it that way because real education requires only two components: a student who “learns” and a teacher who “teaches.” The classroom posits a kind of relationship between the teacher and the student, and, like all relationships it requires not 100% but 200% commitment; each partner in the relationship must contribute 100% dedication to it. In what is called “education,” teaching requires 100% of the teacher’s effort, while learning requires 100% of the student’s effort. The present view is deliberately skewed to make it seem as though the total only requires 100% so that the demand for more than the teacher’s share (fictionally 50%) can be made with fake legitimacy.

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That money which politicians and their cronies demand sure as hell does not get to the classroom–the only place where true education takes place. It certainly does NOT take place in think tanks or in the offices of consultants who want to tell others what to do and think in order to get the grants and make their mark (as did Dewey). But they don’t acknowledge what real education is because, for thousands of years, teaching and learning has taken place without them!

We ought to go back to the basic framework of traditional education. Even the use of computers and calculators ought to be discouraged until the old fashioned methods of teaching and learning math are completed in the earliest grades. I am all in favor of advancements in technology that actually enhance the process of education. But today’s technology can actually defeat the effort to educate students. I’ve met young people—the friends of my children for example—who cannot tell time from an analogue clock! If you tell them it is “a quarter to seven” they don’t understand. You have to say it is “six-forty-five” simply because they are used to telling time by reading a digital read-out.

It’s worse, although perhaps less obvious, in the area of literature. The incursion of the so-called “graphic novel” (actually a comic book in the guise of a real book), especially when allowed in the classroom as a learning tool, destroys rather than encourages not only reading itself but the patience required to read a short story or novel by providing the instant gratification of being “entertained” instead of being given lessons in life. Who wants to struggle through The Hunchback of Notre Dame when they can watch a Disney film of the same title? Of course, the fact of its watered-down, even skewed and infantilized method and message are not considered, because unless one can compare the “visual” version to the original, who would know what that original message was?

There are greater dangers to understating the need for deeper traditional methods in teaching and learning. Greatest among these is the fact that reality in life requires the result of traditional methods (the “analog” version of education) more than it demands the results of a watered down, infantilized, (the “digital”) version. Life demands that people add, subtract, multiply, and divide, as it demands that people be able to read extensive text without the demand for graphic versions of the important texts one will inevitably encounter throughout the 70 or 80 years a person is likely to live.

No one seriously objects to the use of technology in the classroom. The internet provides limitless possibilities for research and learning. One is unable to count the resources available now on a worldwide level with a computer and the click of a few buttons. The effort of writing with a pen has not lessened the need effort to write. It has merely evolved to the use of a keyboard. But the need to think never changes, thus one must be equipped with the ability to think, and think critically. The great 20th Century American philosopher Eric Hoffer put it sagely. In Reflections on the Human Condition, perhaps commenting on the state of leftist indoctrination in the university and, now, in public school curricula, Hoffer says, “An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head.”

Of the greatest importance, however, is the maturation process that attends and is a vital component of traditional education. A high school age child who experiences a traditional education will have practiced real learning for many years and will be more competent to take advantage of the real lessons he will encounter in life itself. There is no digital version of that maturation process. In this regard, nothing replaces paper, pencils and books. Nothing. And these cost far less than consultants inventing absurd replacements for simple education, inventions that are really cover for stealing enormous sums from the organic and gradual process of real education.

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