Monday, December 27, 2010

"Edu-babble" and the Culture of Death

Our Canadian public education has been politicized and taken over by cultural Marxists and so-called progressive educators who are out to destroy traditional metaphysics, traditional epistemology and traditional morality. Since they do not believe in truth or good and evil, they are necessarily more concerned about social engineering and in conditioning children than in empowering them by teaching knowledge. This is not merely a problem in that it gives children an inferior education; it is far worse than that. This kind of education leads to the culture of death.

Here is a story from the National Post by Kenyon Wallace entitled "The Problem with Edu-babble" about a teacher who gets it.

The inklings that much of the educational dogma being taught at teachers' college might not actually work in schools began to form even before Michael Zwaagstra set foot in a classroom of his own.

It wasn't that the young student-teacher felt he knew better than his University of Manitoba faculty of education professors, or that the overconfidence of youth had taken hold. It was more of a feeling that the in vogue, so-called "progressive" ideologies and unwavering but nebulous theories about how best to teach our kids simply wouldn't prove practical when staring at a class full of uninterested teenagers.

"When I took subjects outside the education faculty, it was great because I was actually learning about the subjects in question," he says. "But I remember thinking in my education classes that what we were learning — the de-emphasis on conveying knowledge in favour of becoming more of a 'guide on the side' — just didn't jibe with what I thought would make sense."

Ten years on, Mr. Zwaagstra is now a high school social studies teacher at Green Valley School in Grunthal, Man., a small town about an hour southeast of Winnipeg. He's had plenty of time to test the education philosophies he was force-fed while at university. His conclusion? They don't work, and we will continue to fail our kids if we don't change the way we teach and the way public education systems are administered.

Mr. Zwaagstra has collected his grievances in What's Wrong With Our Schools and How We Can Fix Them, a new book he co-authored with two of his former professors at the University of Manitoba's education faculty, Rod Clifton and John Long.

As its title suggests, the book attempts to provide what the authors call "common-sense solutions" in short chapters designed to provide parents with a crash-course in the contemporary Canadian classroom. The book touches on a number of controversial practices that have made headlines recently, including no-fail and no-test policies, the spread of "edu-babble" in curricula and a diminishing of teachers' authority in the classroom.

The most significant hurdle facing students, Mr. Zwaagstra argues, is a pervasive anti-knowledge bias that resists the teaching of specific, common content. The "child-centred learning" philosophy expects teachers to tailor instruction to the individual needs of each student while making the experience "fun," instead of teaching facts--the building blocks he believes should be in place before higher-level concepts can be taught.

Read the rest here.

The Nature of the Problem
The most interesting part of his critique is his accusation that teacher's colleges are dominated by an "anti-knowledge bias." The irony is just too much to bear: educators biased against knowledge.

I can accept a society in which the media is image-oriented and entertainment-oriented. I can accept that children will have many distractions and hindrances to education in a high tech, wired and image-driven environment like our contemporary society. I can even accept that teaching techniques will need to change in such an environment and that there can be new and non-traditional ways of reaching the goals of education. What I can never accept is educators themselves renouncing the goal of teaching our children knowledge - both the actual content of various subjects and the skills needed to continue learning independently like literacy, numeracy, research ability and logic.

"Edu-babble" arises out of a relativistic, late-modern, constructivist epistemology that is based on a nominalist metaphysics that is demonstrably false and which, if accepted by a society leads inexorably to the culture of death. Modern Western culture is a culture of death because it has lost its grasp on absolute Truth and succumbed to the "dictatorship of relativism." And relativism quickly melts before the tyranny of the will of the strong and the result is that killing comes to be seen as the solution to social problems. Only a rational metaphysics in which the human reason participates in the Divine Logos is sufficient to undergird an epistemology in which we can know truth from error, right from wrong and good from evil.

The Practical Solution
The teacher's unions have been taken over by leftist activists; there can be no solution to this problem until their power is broken. The top-down approach to educational philosophy must be replaced by a bottom-up approach in which the grassroots are empowered to make decisions at the local level. We should settle for nothing less that a voucher system that allows parents to choose the schools that they believe to be best for their children.

Schools should be governed by parents councils which hire principals who are empowered to hire, evaluate and, where necessary, fire teachers. This way various philosophies can compete on a level playing field as far as funding is concerned and the reality-based educational philosophies will quickly become popular and crowd out the "progressive" ones.

This may sound radical but it is very practical and realistic. It could be implemented tomorrow if it were not for the tremendous political power wielded by teachers unions who act in the self-interest of union leaders while pretending to be acting in the best interests of teachers and students. This is why the teachers unions must be smashed to bits. One can only pray that what is going on in New Jersey with Gov. Chris Christie's crusade against the teachers unions on behalf of taxpayers, parents and children will not only succeed but be emulated all over North America.


Gulen is a Fraud said...
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R Davis said...

If the underlying epistemology is relativist and constructivist, then there's no wonder that this educational philosophy is anti-knowledge.

A helpful new book critiquing this sort of 'foundation' for *Christian* education has just come out in the 'Christian Worldview Integration Series' (IVP). It's by Paul D. Spears and Steven R. Loomis, and is called Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective. See especially chapter 3, 'Who Knows? Education and Epistemology'.

Just as an aside: Paul Spears (Ph.D., Claremont) is a philosopher of education within the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University.

S Masson said...


I read Zwaagstra's book. A brief look at a few of its chapter headings gives a sense of its substance:
1. Subject matter matters
2. Tests are good for students
3. Students need discipline.
4. Classrooms should be teacher-centred.
5. Direct instruction is good teaching.
6. Grades should reflect achievement
7. A pass should be earned.

None of these are in the least objectionable, of course. What is surprising then is the need to assert them at all. It gives a sense of the problem in the educational field he and his co-authors are addressing.

By the way, I spoke on this subject, and traced the longstanding effect of Romantic educational ideas in Canada at a recent conference: