“Every educational system has a moral goal that it tries to attain and that informs its curriculum. It wants to produce a certain kind of human being. This intention is more or less explicit, more or less a result of reflection; but even the neutral subjects, like reading and writing and arithmetic, take their place in a vision of the educated person. In some nations, the goal was the pious person, in others the warlike, in others the industrious. Always important is the political regime, which needs citizens who are in accord with its fundamental principle. Aristocracies want gentlemen, oligarchies men who respect and pursue money, and democracies lovers of equality. Democratic education, whether it admits it or not, wants and needs to produce men and women who have the tastes, knowledge, and character supportive of a democratic regime. Over the history of our republic, there have obviously been changes of opinion as to what kind of man is best for our regime… This education has evolved in the last half-century from the education of democratic man to the education of the democratic personality.
The palpable difference between these two can easily be found in the changed understanding of what it means to be an American. The old view was that, by recognizing and accepting man’s natural rights, men found a fundamental basis of unity and sameness. Class, race, religion, national origin, or culture all disappear or become dim when bathed in the light of natural rights, which give men common interests and make them truly brothers. The immigrant had to put behind him the claims of the Old World in favor of a new and easily acquired education. This did not necessarily mean abandoning old daily habits or religions, but it did mean subordinating them to new principles. There was a tendency, if not a necessity, to homogenize nature itself.
The recent education of openness has rejected all that. It pays no attention to natural rights or the historical origins of our regime, which are now thought to have been essentially flawed and regressive. It is progressive and forward-looking. It does not demand fundamental agreement or the abandonment of old or new beliefs in favor of the natural ones. It is open to all kinds of men, all kinds of lifestyles, all ideologies. There is no enemy other than the man who is not open to everything. But when there are no shared goals or vision of the public good, is the social contract any longer possible?”
The Closing of the American Mind – 26-27
A few notes to consider
1.) Though Bloom doesn’t use the word to describe what he is getting at what he is telling us is that education is hopelessly religious. He gets close to saying this toward the end when he notes,
“This did not necessarily mean abandoning old daily habits or religions, but it did mean subordinating them to new principles.”
If people are subordinating their old religions to new principles what is really going on is that they are subordianting their old religion to a new religion. This reality that education is hopelessly religious reminds us that the whole idea that government (nee – public) schools can avoid routinely violating the establishment clause is a myth. All schooling is based upon and descends from some religion. One simply cannot educate apart from religious indoctrination. On cannot produce a certain kind of human being apart from that human being being animated by some religion.
2.) Bloom tell us that the idea of “neutral subjects” is a myth. As neutrality is a myth so the idea of neutral subjects in education is a myth. Every subject will serve the end of some god, some religion, and some theology.
3.) With the two above we already have enough to ask ourselves … “Are we satisfied with the kind of man/woman that our educational students are spitting out?” If we answer that in the negative then we also have to say that we are not satisfied with the state religion that we are supporting. If we are not satisfied then we have to make some hard decisions about our children’s education. Dare we leave our children in these government schools if we don’t like what we see in the people of the broader culture?
Christians especially need to get their children out of government schools because these religious centers we call schools are not only destroying the little Christianity our children may have had going in but they are making it nearly impossible for our children to ever have Christian faith. This is true from grade school through University and beyond.
The Churches (Denominations) have been especially dismal here with their refusal to identified what Bloom identifies above as well as the implications I am teasing out here. The Churches, by their unwillingness to call for a emptying of government schools are now complicit in this crime against the God of the Bible as well as their children.
5.) Bloom’s whole idea of “natural rights” was always a chimera — always completely subjective. Only God has natural rights. Man’s rights are not natural, instead defined and determined by God and only then in the light of a previous duty. Public education has been anti-Christ for a very long time now.
6.) At the end of the quote above Bloom writes,
“There is no enemy other than the man who is not open to everything. But when there are no shared goals or vision of the public good, is the social contract any longer possible?”
Bloom was both right and wrong here. Bloom was correct in noting that the ethic of our time is the ethic of absolute licentiousness. Each man must be allowed to do what is right in his own eyes. No one must say that any behavior or lifestyle choice is wrong except to say it is wrong to say that some behavior or lifestyle choices are wrong.
However, Bloom is wrong when he says there is no shared vision. The shared vision is chaos and if one disagrees with chaos then one is an offender of the public good.
We will say though, in the end Bloom is correct again to imply that no social contract is left possible. A social order can not long be maintained based upon the shared goals or vision of the public good defined by a shared anarchy. However, for those who never believed in the social contract theory this may not be a bad thing in the long run, though in the short run it could get pretty ugly.