Tuesday, May 03, 2005

1984: the new Ancient History

After reading this, this and this, I felt the full weight of the responsibility of rearing children in a climate such as this. This bit from the latter link is especially revealing:
A few days ago, while stationed in a corner at one of our local Starbucks -- as I am most afternoons -- I heard a couple of high school kids talking. Said one: "I have to wonder if this book is even relevant anymore. After all, 1984 was more than 20 years ago!"

These kids were talking about George Orwell's 1984. Honestly, I wanted to shake the little bastard and yell into his face. But I restrained myself. Just another victim, I thought, of the Ministry of Truth (i.e., government schools) and its program to rewire today's children, "our most important resource" (as Hillary might say).
The counter cultural shift of the 1960s is at least partly to blame for the current state-of-affairs. Among those that bought into the socialist tripe, perceived equality was the goal, despite measurable differences in ability and motivation. When objective facts are ignored in the interest of promoting self esteem, we end up with school systems marred by minimal academic standards and teachers (often the lower achieving college graduates) that emphasize effort over accuracy. Social relations are gradually replacing critical thinking skills; Ritalin is gradually replacing discipline.

By any reasonable accounting, American public schools are performing well below the potential of the children that they are funded (by excessive taxation) to serve. Even so, is this really the root cause of our relative national ignorance? The vast majority of the kids in question have at least one resident parent. Speaking as one, I recognize that the job of educating my children is ultimately mine to do. Sure, I allow the local school to deliver the basics. More importantly though, is the knowledge of how to think, which is a primary parental obligation. In addition to critical thought, self discipline/motivation and mutual respect are essential. Also, the encouragements to excel and to explore their curiosity are prescriptions for success that simply are not what public education is known to provide. Arguably, private schools are more attentive to their pupils’ futures, but they too are not parental substitutes.

The three Rs, the sciences and history are indeed must-haves. If I may be so bold…young minds must also be developed, so as to be receptive environments capable of dealing with information. Education is wasted without a cultivated intellect with which to process, evaluate and sift fact from fiction, truth from propaganda. Despite my own mediocre public education as a kid, as an adult and a parent I’m responsible for my own thought processes and for the development of my minor children. And if I’ve done my job, they will repeat the cycle and make contributions rather than become burdens.