The subject that I am appointed to discuss is the theory of education in the United States. This discussion has its difficulties. It brings us face to face with a good many serious disappointments. It calls for the re-examination and criticism of a good many matters which seemed comfortably settled, and which we would rather leave undisturbed. The most discouraging difficulty about this discussion, however, is that apparently it cannot lead to any so-called practical conclusion; certainly not to any conclusion, as far as I can see, which will at all answer to the general faith in machinery as an effective substitute for thought, and the general reliance upon machinery alone to bring about any and all forms of social improvement.
If Socrates had come before the Athenians with some fine new piece of machinery like a protective tariff, workmen’s compensation, old-age pensions, collective ownership of the means of production, or whatnot – if he had told them that what they must do to be saved was simply to install his piece of machinery forthwith, and set it going – no doubt he would have interested a number of people, perhaps enough to put him in office as the standard-bearer of an enlightened and progressive liberalism. When he came before them, however, with nothing to say but “Know thyself,” they found his discourse unsatisfactory, and became impatient with him.
So if a discussion of our educational theory could be made to lead to something that we might call “constructive” – that is to say, something that is immediately and mechanically practicable, like honor schools or a new type of housing or a new style of entrance examinations – one might hope to make it rather easily acceptable. There seems no way to do this. The only large reforms indicated by a thorough discussion of the topic are such as must be put down at once as quite impracticable on general grounds, and the minor mechanical changes that are indicated seem also impracticable on special grounds, besides having the appearance of uncertain value and therefore being unlikely to command interest.
…The problem is that the users of the term don’t define what it means. Nor do they cite the metaphysical or epistemological basis of their beliefs, or point to a specific moral, political or economic philosophy or philosopher, including such renowned ones as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hegel, Kant, Marx, Sartre, Hobbes, Hume, Mill, Locke, Rousseau, Rawls, and Oprah Winfrey just checking to see if you’re paying attention.
This makes it necessary to deduce their underlying philosophy from what they say and do in practice and what they advocate in terms of government policy. Listen closely and you’ll note that they advocate much more than providing the poor and so-called disadvantaged with the necessities of life, medical care, and education that they are unable to provide for themselves
Going way beyond the soft collectivism and minimal government coercion of John Rawles, they seem to advocate a complete reordering of society and an overthrow of free-market capitalism. For example, I have asked scores of social justice advocates what the tax rate should be on those in the top income quartile.
They respond with something like this: “Whatever it takes to attain fairness.” When asked if a tax rate of 95% could be justified, they respond with a resounding “Yes!”
Further probing reveals their core beliefs. Thinking in terms of groups, classes and races, they believe that the state, collective, society, and common good are more important than the individual.
Accordingly, they do not think that government force should be restricted…….