When I first read a “Guest Opinion” by Rick Elkins, I immediately thought that this was something that I had written. It resonated with reason and perspective that I really feel is missing in today’s national discussion that pretends towards a balanced and spirited dialogue but, in fact, at the national level is little more than opposing artillery trying to neutralize the other with bombast. It is not preachy and insistent, but allows for some room for response. What it also does is cry out for solution. That is what Rick hit on with his recent piece of the deplorable state of our education at all levels, but more specifically higher.
If you see that your children have gone through a fundamental change in spirit and sense since being away at college, he rightly points out that there is a reason. For certain, the bodies and minds of those children when shipped off were not yet fully formed. And educators know this. It isn’t as if our kids have always been compliant and only recently decided that their parents’ values were antiquated and irrelevant. Aristotle, Plato and Socrates complained about this a few thousand years ago.
What is different today is that there are no Aristotles and Platos and Socrateses in those institutions of higher learning or, for that matter, at the high and middle school levels, who teach morality and ethics in the traditional ways. Not, that is, since “values clarification” became the dominant philosophy behind teaching methodologies. If you don’t know what “values clarification” is, then don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. It is so incipient a part of education these days that there is nowhere you can go where it is glaringly apparent.
“Values clarification” in its very worst form allows the student at the earliest age to begin to determine through a series of guided scenarios and Q&As what is right from what is wrong. What makes this the worst form is that children’s feelings about things and relationships and events are validated even if their conclusions conflict with what their own parents teach at home. And these children, with so little life experience and perspective, really have no ammunition with which to wage this kind of battle. Little wonder parents are so much in fear of their kids these days. Parents think their children are getting smarter at earlier ages when the truth is that they are only getting better indoctrinated.
It used to be that children learned morality and ethics through stories from such things as what are affectionately called “The Great Books.” Teachers would lecture to their students by way of the lessons learned from these stories on what is good and what is not good or what is evil. This was done through all the years in school. Usually it required a teacher who, as far as the children were concerned, also exemplified the best the stories brought forth. At the very least, the students did not debate with the teacher since it all made perfect, economical sense.
The stories would essentially reinforce what is true in natural law, that is, the law to which men accede without compunction. Natural law assumes that most people know that it is wrong to kill others, to rob from our neighbor, to cheat the local merchant of even a penny. And the teachers were so well trained in their chosen disciplines, that the lessons came alive with a persistence that was fully felt. Of course, the teachers did not grow up under the pantheon of “values clarification,” so that they were unafraid to teach truth in morality and ethics.
“Values clarification,” however, assumes, first, that the child already knows right from wrong or acts as if they do through the scenarios presented. In any event, given a certain set of controlled and guided situations, the child is asked to choose the right response. That response will depend always on the way the scenario is set up, presented, and the questions asked. To the extreme, the child is being guided to decide that there are times when killing others, robbing from one’s neighbor, and cheating the local merchant of even a penny are justified.
Now, mind you, none of these scenarios are so blatant as to take on the Ten Commandments with a frontal attack. Not on your life. That would be way too obvious. All is done with flanking maneuvers, obliquely, with smoke and mirrors. But by degrees, with a little agreement here, a small decision there, a mild response over there, a nod and a smirk, the child is gradually over the years developed into one that sees all things in relative terms. Far more insidious, more clandestine, wholly undercover, wolves in sheep’s clothing, nuanced and nonsensical. To put the old saw, “When all is legal, then nothing is legal.” If you know how to boil a living frog without fear of it leaping from the pot, then you know how your child is being programmed—for programming is what it is.
All this prepares them for the final onslaught of the college experience. It has been noted recently that students who go off to the military first, who instead choose a technical college, or who go immediately into the work force seem to be far less effected by the silly notions and vagaries of “political correctness.” In a sense, the choices they have made have created more of a realist. This is comforting since colleges with their very high tuitions and the likely chance that one cannot get their degree in four, but instead six, years, may just be the makers of their own demise.
When, not if, the college loan programs finally come home to roost, as did the very lax mortgage programs of the first decade of 2000, there won’t be any more easily received college loans. The same level of restrictions will be placed on college loan applicants as mortgage seekers are seeing now. And colleges will flounder, suffer, cut back on courses and professors, go dark. No amount of crying, weeping, Lego-building, Crayon-coloring, safe zones, triggering, cultural misappropriation, demonstrations will make it otherwise.
These prospective and real students can march to their little hearts’ content, but those with the money will not be bullied. And here is where the intolerance and lack of intellectual and ideological diversity will meet the hard realities of the real, business world. And here is where everyone suddenly grows up.
The four-year institutions of higher “learning” will take a long, long time to recover. It will be very painful. Community colleges will reap the benefit of this self-inflicted whirlwind. Technical colleges will begin to dominate. Secondary and middle school education will start to reassess how best to prepare students for the real, not dream, world.
And all those leftist professors, who sanctimoniously and, even, subtly and maliciously in passive-aggressive terms fed our children with useless ideologies and warped “truths”, will be standing one behind the other in unemployment lines or, better, going through re-education themselves at those technical colleges so that they can now do some real work. Or, even, flipping burgers at your favorite fast food spot.