Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Educational Establishment versus Civilization

John W. Robbins
Streaming audio of full lecture

PDFDownload the PDF version of this review. 

Almost sixty years ago, Walter Lippmann delivered an address titled “Education versus Western Civilization” to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As his title indicated, Lippmann clearly understood the threat to civilization that the educational establishment in America posed. In his address, he propounded several theses on education:

First: That during the past forty or fifty years those who are responsible for education have progressively removed from the curriculum of studies the Western culture which produced the modern democratic state;
Second: That the schools and colleges have, therefore, been sending out into the world men who no longer understand the creative principle of the society in which they live;
Third: That, deprived of their cultural tradition, the newly educated Western men no longer possess in the form and substance of their own minds and spirits the ideas, the premises, the rationale, the logic, the method, the values of the deposited wisdom which are the genius of the development of Western civilization;
Fourth: That the prevailing education is destined, if it continues, to destroy Western civilization and is in fact destroying it; .†.†.
And finally: What is now required in the modern educational system is not the expansion of its facilities or the specific reform of its curriculum and administration but a thorough reconsideration of its underlying assumptions and of its purposes.

The educational establishment that Lippmann saw destroying civilization in 1940 has not only continued, it has grown and flourished. There has been no thorough reconsideration of its underlying assumptions and purposes. Instead, its curriculum has been reformed innumerable times, and its facilities have been vastly expanded.
But while the educational establishment has grown, moral and academic standards have all but disappeared. The evidence of abandoned academic standards, if not so dramatic as the evidence of abandoned moral standards, should be equally sobering: falling SAT scores, functional illiteracy, not merely of students but of teachers as well, and a vacuum of cultural and theological ignorance among both teachers and students. The decline of American education has been reported in dozens of books over the past half century. The entire American educational establishment, from kindergarten to university, is in collapse. This is the generation that must begin all over again....remainder of article posted here.

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