By Pamela Donnelly
& Jerry Jewett
The depressingly reductive state of affairs in secondary education has brought us to a time when parents truly need to wake up and ask themselves one simple question: Do we want our teens to be thinkers or robots? As professional educators with Ivy League backgrounds, we advise every parent reading this to assess whether their child is truly receiving an education by the measurements given in the attached infographic.
Education requires the seeking to know the truth. Indoctrination’s goal is to influence students to believe a certain way, with the ends rarely being justified by the means. How can you know the truth when all options for wisdom supposedly reside hidden between answers A and E on a scantron? Common Core and other initiatives related to standardized testing mania represents a multi-billion dollar affront funded by demagogues for the purposes of indoctrination, not education.
Cults indoctrinate, as do political parties and religious institutions. Education should not. Growing up in the USA, where the ideology of freedom is as American as mom’s apple pie, many public and private high school students are nonetheless subtly indoctrinated into belief systems rather than being truly educated. It is only natural for teens to want to develop a unique belief system. When the educational system discourages that, it does so to the great disservice of a generation.
Whereas education incorporates data, facts, and open lines of inquiry, indoctrination bases itself in opinion and absolutes. Whereas education is nuanced, and acknowledges multiple vantage points related to the same problem, indoctrination pretends there is only one valid perspective.
Family comprises the very root of society. There is no tree of civilization, no flower of culture, without it. The concerns of parents as to the well being of their children belong in the forefront of priorities when education gets discussed. The vested interest of a mother’s care for her child must trump the supposedly hallowed concerns of a Federal Departments of Education primarily concerned with its own sustenance. The government, after all, must be held in check in its proper place as a servant of the people, not their lord.
The state mustn’t precede society, nor have any claim of some interests superior to those individuals and families whose existence it exists to assure. As C.S. Lewis said decades ago, ‘The state exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life.’
According to natural law theory, intergroup cooperation requires proper positioning of the leaders and the led. We mustn’t allow the predation of some species, like politicians and corporatists, on our children.
Education understood broadly consists in large measure of training and freeing the mind to think beyond its own experience. The more widely educated people become, the more they are aware of facts, traditions, histories, folkways, doctrines, theories, and social systems other than their own. This holds true whether the distance is across large spans of time or across large spans of the Earth’s surface.
As regards citizenship, those whose education has been so complete as to let them think clearly and understand will likely do vastly better in their own performance and in their social interactions, than those who have only been trained or indoctrinated, rather than fully educated.
Danger lurks ahead in any democracy that ceases to encourage and equip citizens to be able to think for themselves about the issues affecting their lives.
Here are 10 important educational reforms proposed in Pamela Donnelly’s recent book, 4 Keys to College Admissions Success:
Ten Proposed Reforms: Academic
- We must model for students permission to think for themselves, to fearlessly express their points of view, and to publically debate conflicting ideas with respect and a sense of both honor and humor.
- Entire semesters should be devoted to teaching the use of mental focus to foster economic and practical freedom.
- We must reconsider the philosophical view of the human brain as an organ that “thinks”—and prove to them the contrasting notion that it merely interprets stimuli, which simultaneously leads to what we call “thought.” In breaking down the sequence, notions of “having to think or feel” a certain way about events or circumstances will be appropriately eradicated.
- We must teach students the principles of success. This should emphasize the imperative to seek the seed of advantage sown in every “defeat,” and the temporal nature of both concepts (success and failure).
- Students must be granted the privilege to teach. By prioritizing firsthand realization and communication of knowledge, they will own what they learn.
- Abstract concepts must be given their proper, and subordinate, status in favor of practical application of learning in a hands-on way. One example—the applicable skills needed for real life—e.g., how to balance a checkbook prior to prioritizing geometric theorems.
- Original ideas must be celebrated, and conformity shunned. That said, students must learn to distinguish between knee-jerk rebellion and true originality.
- Students must understand the concept of time as a finite asset that must be managed wisely, and create literal timelines of likely and possible milestones needed to build their own, unique, joyful futures.
- We must resist our own resistance in underscoring the danger of believing anything on the mere basis of an authority figure—especially religious instructors, parents, and—yes—teachers.
- We must teach the principle of reaping and sowing (Jesus), of karma (yogic sutras), and of the law of compensation (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Same principle, different names, crucial philosophical truth needing to be discussed in classrooms.