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The Reactionary Utopian
January 15, 2009

Defining Education
by Joe Sobran

[Quite Simple]

When most Americans speak of “education,” they don’t mean the cultivation of the mind for philosophy and the arts; still less the study of religion and eternal things. They merely mean job training to enable children to make money later in life. And this is assumed, without argument, to be the state’s business. (So is “sex education,” as it is absurdly called — a topic for another day.)

As G.K. Chesterton reminds us, strictly speaking there is no such thing as education. Yes, of course, children should be taught something; the all-important question is what they should be taught. And that depends on the answers to crucial questions government schools are not supposed to ask.

Does God exist? Do we have immortal souls? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Such queries are now regarded as purely speculative — which is to say, idle, impractical, profitless.

I defy you to find a single syllable about government responsibility for, let alone authority over, education in the U.S. Constitution. The Framers took for granted that the teaching of children was the province of parents. But today, “education” is considered crucial to “the economy.” Few of us seem to notice the totalitarianism implicit in the assumptions that children’s minds belong to the state and, further, that they must never be taught eternal truths. (After all, how would saving their souls help them in the job market? How much do saints add to the Gross National Product?)

Some wit has suggested that this country be renamed the United States of Amnesia. Amen to that! Most people have no idea who, for example, St. Athanasius was, let alone why he was one of the most important men who ever lived (he led the defeat of the powerful Arian heresy in the fourth century). Have you ever heard his name mentioned in school? That would be very unusual, even in an allegedly Catholic house of learning. I doubt whether Abraham Lincoln, that voice of history, ever heard of him.

We have come a long way from the days when theology was called the queen of the sciences, and many people who assume this is progress can hardly imagine why it was ever so. What is the queen of the sciences in today’s world? Mathematics? Logic? Economics? Political science? When a homosexual priest wrote a manifesto a few years back, one wag quipped that theology was apparently becoming “the science of queens.”

People of a certain age — in a word, geezers — may recall the nationwide hysteria over education that exploded in 1957 when the Soviet Union launched its first Sputnik satellite. We were “behind” the Russians in teaching kids about science! The shock was like that of 9/11, when it suddenly became urgent to teach the kids all about Islam, if only to immunize them against it.

Notice how many terms the modern world has adopted from religion, using them in irony or disapproval with the implication that religion as such is backward, barbarous, and/or superstitious: piety, dogma, heresy, orthodoxy, inquisition, pontificate, and so forth. “Irreverent” has actually become a term of approval: I have long since lost count of how many tiresome “irreverent comedies” we have sat through, each seeming to smirk at us like Bill Maher.

The condition of intellectual life in America today may be judged by the fad for homosexual “marriage.” This idea will merit respect as soon as one bull is spotted mounting another and forming a lasting, er, relationship with him. Verily, only the intelligentsia could have thought this up. It is the sort of brainstorm that might occur to some moron if he had a serious stroke. I suppose I should add “or she.”

Recently The New York Times referred to the sane and standard view of marriage as (what else?) “bigotry.” Get that: The consensus of the human race is now bigotry. True, the Roman emperor Nero once married a boy, but only after having him properly castrated. I wonder if that would meet the Times’ standards.

I suppose the Grey Lady would have said the lad had been transgendered. Admittedly, I’m only guessing here.

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