On education and the hatred of children

So a little girl is sitting in a third grade classroom and the teacher begins to show the students how to create a key word outline so they can imitate a fairy tale.

“You’ll probably want to pick the subject and the verb in most sentences,” the teacher says, when the little girl raises her hand and asks, “Mrs. Teacher, is this grammar class?”

Good one, eh?

No, it’s not funny. I know that. It’s not funny at so many levels it makes me want to slam my desk.

She’s a third grade girl and she has already learned, by the structure of the curriculum, that one class does not have a relation to another.

What leads to this madness?


That’s correct. Subjects. Where does this idea of subjects come from?

It’s hard to say, excactly, but it seems to have been sealed by the progressives of the early 20th century. I think the traditionalists also thought in terms of subjects, but they seem to have been more open to the fact of types of knowledge.

Let me explain what I mean. In the classical curriculum, there were not “subjects.” There were arts and sciences.

I know, I’m being semantic. But as my friend Joe used to say, you don’t want to be anti-semantic. After all, what does semantics mean? (It means meaning, for those who care).

Subjects became the dominant way of describing what children studied in school when the powers that be decided that all knowledge was equal in value and that skills were not transferable from one “subject” to another. It takes experts to come to conclusions like that, I know.

Actually, it takes ideologues. The egalitarians decided that if some knowledge was more useful than others than people who had it would be superior to others. In their bitterness, they castrated the whole human race rather than risk the possibility that somebody would know something they couldn’t know.

If you are an ideological egalitarian, which all our school leadership seems to be, then you pay no heed to reality. You simply cannot tolerate the possibility of anybody excelling. Life is a zero sum game. If one person gets ahead, the rest fall behind.

So, to switch the metaphor (and yes, I know I’m angry – there’s a time for it), they performed a lobotomy on any child whose parents were willing to subject them to their operations.

In the classical tradition, it has always been understood that not all knowledge is equal, that some knowledge informs other knowledge and enables us to fulfill our duties as particular humans in particular places more effectively, and that all knowledge was woven together with the ability to reason and perceive.

It was also understood that people who can’t reason or perceive make horrible leaders and that if we don’t equip our leaders with the ability to reason and perceive we are going to be as lost as lostness itself.

Therefore, the classical curriculum did not teach subjects. It taught the arts of thought, which required content and focused on ideas. By structuring learning on the development of the mind on the one hand, and on the natural relationships among the things known on the other, it presented a curriculum that accomplished astonishing feats in the minds of those who learned it.

The modern seems to fear the classical curriculum because it will promote western bigotry. They are shooting themselves in the face to spite their nose. The classical tradition arises from a love and reverence for human nature.

As the little girl above shows, the contemporary school hates human nature, which wants to see the harmony of knowledge. The structure of the curriculum arises from the formal rejection of the human mind.

Think about that.

As a result, human nature goes uncultivated and the economy, for which the modern school pretends to be preparing children, drifts further and further into the doldrums, as it has for the last 30 or 40 years.

Now let me qualify. I don’t mean that contemporary school experts actively dislike children, though I am quite certain many of them do. I simply mean that they are not about to be distracted by the reality of the child’s nature when they build their programs and methodologies.

They will not sacrifice their quantitative controls no matter how unquantitative a child is. They will not allow the teacher to exercise her own judgment no matter how much the teacher in the classroom understands both content and child.

Any teacher in America can probably tell horror stories about the breakdown between the planners and the child’s soul. I hear them all the time.

So they take children out of their natural environments, put them in cinder block buildings with mobs of pre-civilized (I’m being optimistic) children, and then exercise autocratic control over every movement (including bowel) the child makes through the day.

I call that hating children. The sentimentalized demagoguery they use to perpetuate their cruelty only reinforces this contempt. That they are obtuse to the damage they cause is no excuse.

7 Responses

  1. Mystie, great question, and Angelina, great answer.

    Let me develop it a little bit more. Subject is a rather vague word that began to be used to describe what students study sometime, I think (I’d be very interested in anybody with knowledge on this matter), in the 19th century.

    Prior to that they spoke of arts and sciences. The meaning of these two words changed too, an even more fatal error.

    By speaking of everything students learn as a subject, we could apply the non-hierarchical epistemology of utlitarianism to the curriculum. All you have is a bunch of equal subjects.

    Christian schools then take that pattern and add a Bible class.

    But nature is not so structured. The human mind cannot study the sciences with any authority until the student has mastered the seven liberal ARTS.

    You can’t speak with authority on ethics (a moral science) if you can’t speak coherently or listen well.

    You can’t speak with authority on physics, you can’t engage in physics independently, if you can’t do math.

    And so.

    Therefore, the education of free people would never teach “subjects.” It would teach the arts of thinking, which give, in turn, access to all sciences (domains of knowing).

    That is precisely what classical rhetoric in its highest form is attempting. As Angelina shows, LTW “is” the trivium; it is the only “curriculum” a student needs apart from math.

    From a different angle, teaching poetry, for example, as a subject tends to cause both teacher and student to see its relation to other “subjects” and to reality.

    Teachers then teach poetic technicalities to students who couldn’t care less about them. It disintegrates the student’s mind when we teach that way.

    If you are teaching the liberal arts of grammar, logic, and rhetoric you teach these tools as living creatures instead of dead carcasses.

    But honestly, I’m not sure anybody but a home schooling teacher could do this today.

    I do hope this clarifies.


  2. Yes, thank you!

  3. ” In their bitterness, they castrated the whole human race rather than risk the possibility that somebody would know something they couldn’t know.”

    Good post Andrew. I share your anger as expressed in the line above. Love the choice of castrated. We long since gave up the procreational for the recreational. Moving on to the servile.

  4. I’m trying to wrap my head around how NOT doing subjects looks different. Not doing poetry as a subject, for instance, would mean reading together and talking rather than deconstructing and analyzing? It would mean doing it throughout the year and not a 6-week unit study? What about grammar or history or a science? Do you mean merely not keeping it distinct and unrelated from other areas? Certainly separate time has to be set aside for instruction in grammar or history, doesn’t it? And then, “Grammar” would be listed on the schedule. Is that still treating it as a subject?

    • If I can be so bold as to offer a reply… Mystie, I don’t think the problem is systematic instruction in skills or even teaching those skills in isolation for a time to achieve mastery. Rather, the problem comes in acting as if there is no relationship between one type of study and another.

      If I am reading Winston Churchill’s history books and I am struck by a particular turn of phrase, I can point that out to my children. We can discuss the word choice, the grammar, and the beauty of the phrase. All this in a “history” class.

      And my children are already becoming so accustomed to my applying the 5 questions of LTW to EVERYTHING that they are concluding that what we do all day is not study subjects, but learning how to use our brains and cultivate our souls. Does that make sense?

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