Illiteracy is at an all-time high. High school completion continues to lower, especially in areas such as the inner city of L.A., where completion rates regularly dip below 30%. Violent crime is on the rise, and “higher-brow” crimes of financial, sexual, or interpersonal immorality of all kinds seem to become the openly-admitted rule rather than the shameful exception. The manipulative propaganda of increasingly bold advertisers easily compels the unthinking and sub-rational motivations of millions of consumers, who simply do not have the attention span to analyze, comprehend, and evaluate the message of a 90-second commercial.
It behooves us to reconsider our strategy, to repent, to consider the older model. The truly traditional model is the pre-Deweyan format of small group discussion. In this model, people are seen as gardens to be husbanded rather than computers to be programmed. In this model, interpersonal relationship is not a a non-science to be ignored (or pseudo-science to be studied like any other ‘hard science’) but the organic context and natural setting in which human beings engage in scientific inquiry together.
In this model, therefore, the teacher-student relationship remains a proper part of the material of education, on equal footing with the particular material being taught within the context of that relationship. “Physics” becomes “How to live well, and Physics;” “Biology” becomes “How to love other sentient life, and Biology.” “Math” becomes “How to relate to your elders, and math.” If you think this overambitious, or the conflation of educational loci, then consider the alternative: “How to treat others like animals, and Biology?” “How to be socially inept, and Math”? This is what is currently being taught. It is simply a fact that a teacher’s example, as much as his verbal instruction, is a major influence upon the students. We can do it well or poorly; we cannot avoid it.
Since the advent of neo-darwinian educational models, options for moral and scientific education have become scarce, in some places simply unheard of.
However, we appear to be at the darkness before the dawn.
Not only are “classical academies” springing up by the dozens at the middle-school and high school levels, but, for those of us past high school but desirous of a traditional education, for ourselves or our children, options are becoming available.
Here is a list of approximately thirty classical higher education institutions in the United States and Canada where a real educational efort is taking place. These are institutions wherein students are not considered talkative monkeys, but human beings, and where education is not considered cultural programming, but, in Lewis’ gentle patrimonial phrase, “old birds teaching young birds to fly.”