The Ever-Threatening Slide

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” – Winston Churchill

I fear for the future of our great nation. We’ve gone a long way on the momentum generated by our forefathers, but we’ve made two mistakes in the field of education that I feel compromise our ability to maintain the liberty that was generously bequeathed to us.

The first mistake came when we moved away from the two millennia old system of classical education based on the Greco-Roman model in the early part of the 19th century. The world had moved on, it was argued, and the old focus on the seven pillars of a liberal arts education – grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy – were abandoned in favor of a newer, ostensibly better approach.

The second mistake was the shift in the way outcomes were measured. This change was more subtle, but no less dramatic. Today’s can no longer focus on cultivating a lusty passion for the truth, instead, they are constrained by the need to hit certain marks in standardized tests.

This well-intentioned double-whammy effectively took the pedals off of the bicycle. The rest of the equipment is there, but without the pedals it is very difficult to do much of anything easily. The ultimate risk, of course, would be that we would unintentionally produce an entire generation (or several of them) whose foundation was insufficient to arrest the ever-threatening slide from democracy to tyranny.

7 thoughts on “The Ever-Threatening Slide

  1. Steve Ventola

    Thanks for spelling it out. Just to lhave the awareness of the seven pillars is enlightening. It is good to see situations as they clearly are. Here can be a new starting point.


  2. Colin

    I think the last part of this post is very sad. Changing the educational system in the wrong way is one of the most efficient methods of ruining a society, as within 100 years very few will even remember that there was an old method. We are almost out of time, but hope is not all lost yet. There are still people who understand the need for an educational system that is more concerned with teaching how to think critically rather than strictly pushing information. This is the only way to come back from the brink.


  3. Coco

      Our educational system is not designed to teach the student to think but to remember. The measure of  standardized tests is a reasonable method to assess the ability to regurgitate information. I read an article that said if someone has a gun in their hand they are more likely to think others do as well. (A challange for our law enforcement community.) Further study showed that if the subject had an athletic shoe in their hand and were shown pictures and were asked to count the number of athletic shoes they saw, it was always more. The researchers felt that we will anticipate and envision based on what we is tangible to us. Goethe said “Everyone hears only what he understands.”
    My point is to teach for the ability to understand, for the passion to care about why. In the 60’s a popular song was “What’s is all about Alfie?”, we sure didn’t think he’d get the question answered in school!
    Great post- this matters.


  4. David R

    Democracy without solid education eventually cedes all control to those who govern the governors via large concentrations of money. Without the abiity to think, the general populace becomes hypnotized, their unrest chanelled into resentment and self-pity, allowing them to be exploited freely. The point you raise would be a big pill for most to swallow, but it’s necessary medicine for any who would seek to make a genuine difference at this stage.


  5. Isabelle

    Had to laugh at the Churchill quote! I have to wonder even at the long term effects of a basic skill, such as writing in cursive, being phased out of many schools. In an of itself, it may not seem like much, but it supports your line of thought as to less importance being put on the liberal arts. I agree with your deduction of mistakes that are currently being made at a national level and hope that we can rectify it before future generations have to look back and reap some unfortunate results.


  6. Brad

    Very well said. My wife and I talk about the education process frequently, it’s her passion to help create a new model or return to parts of a long forgotten one.
    As you’ve noted in past posts, change begins with each of us as individuals, those who are willing to do something different and not simply follow the “tyranny of the majority”. Standing up and making a big public stink about how something is going may alert otherwise sleepy people to a problem but it often doesn’t result in a solution. Seems to me that being an example for others through our living is the way lasting change begins to take place.
    I look forward to more of you thoughts on this matter…because yes, we are on a slippery slope.


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