Sunday, October 20, 2013

What do we want from our schools?

Follow the link to The Anchoress’ page, and read as people bemoan the ignorance displayed by American College Students as Rhonda Fink-Whitman, author of the historical novel 94 Maidens, pounces on them with questions about World War II, the Holocaust, and genocide today. Not only do they moan, they also point fingers, search for causes, and wonder whether a legally mandated curriculum is an appropriate remedy.

One comment, from “Patrick”, didn’t attract attention from anyone but me:

Yeah, well; I aced the advanced placement European history test and was first place in the geography bee, and got the highest grade possible in Advanced American history ... And I can’t say that I’ve led a good life and certainly not a happy one ... So, you know — it doesn’t matter a tinker’s dam to me that I can tell you, in detail, about the Boer War or something.

I’m not surprised no one engaged this bit of educational heresy. Them What Has Bin Eddicated take it for granted that Knowledge is Power®, that those who do well in school generally do better in other areas of life, that to have letters after your name like M.Sc. or Ph.D. will open more doors for you and make you a better person than will a mere G.E.D. If you can’t leverage your education into a good, happy life — oh, well; sucks to be you.

All of which is true in general terms; yet I can’t mock Patrick for expecting knowledge of the Boer War, the Treaty of Westphalia or the bimetallism question to lead him to Elysian fields. Why? Because then he would be well within his rights to ask me, “If it’s not guaranteed to make me a better, happier person, then what’s it good for? Why bother with it?”

How do we answer?