TT #19 – The Election and “Progressive” Education

Like most other educated Americans, Traditionalist Teacher has been musing on the mess that the 2016 presidential election has become.  Lest the reader worry that TT is trying to become a political pundit (a class of people already FAR too large), do not be troubled.  TT has absolutely no intention of arguing which party is right or which candidate is the best choice.  Rather, this entry will tie the process of choosing the president to the training that those voters got at the hands of ‘progressive’ educators.

So, first, Traditionalist Teacher will examine a number of aspects of the electoral process as the current political season has progressed since 2014.

Confusion – When one watches the election coverage, it seems that the various news sources occupy a variety of universes.  This is not a situation where there is an issue and two positions on that issue, which can be debated intelligently.  In this season, there does not even seem to be any agreement as to what the issues are.

Inability to deal with inconvenient facts – In each of us there is the desire to pretend that the inconvenient is untrue.  In the household of Traditionalist Teacher’s childhood, this took the form of mother asking where the cookies are, and the youthful TT replying, “What cookies?”  In the modern political culture, an inconvenient fact is depicted as the product of a ‘hit squad’, a ‘fishing expedition’, or an attempt at ‘character assassination’.  The truth of a situation is not assessed, only the seriousness of the charge.

Sound Bites and ‘Gotcha’ Journalism – These two ugly realities seem to travel hand-in-hand.  Out of a presentation, speech, or debate the media select a ten-second statement and then replays it endlessly.  This is especially true if the sound bite makes the candidate or supporter look despicable.  A moment of unguarded speech is used as evidence that the candidate is uncaring, corrupt, uninformed, or incompetent.  Contrariwise, a candidate who does not slip up is accused of being packaged or over-prepared by his/has staff.  Related to the above is –

Obsessions with ‘hidden meanings’ – The various pundits seem obsessed with the location of hidden meanings in these unguarded comments.  Even if the meaning that the news media spins into the comment in question contradicts everything that candidate has ever said about the issue, the clip and the spin become the ‘truth’ from which all manner of conclusions can be drawn.  This, then, places the candidate in a situation in which he/she can either deny the conclusion or ignore it.  Denial giving the conclusion another news cycle during which it can be replayed.  Ignoring it leaves open the speculation that the conclusion might possibly be correct.

Rarity of considered thought and emphasis on emotion – The next time you watch a televised news program, try to separate the time that it appeals to thought from the time that it appeals to emotion.  The first time you try, you will be amazed at the time that is spent getting emotions engaged in the stories of the day.  In part, that is the nature of television.  Pictures, especially pictures that move, convey emotion far more effectively than they reveal fact.  Historians often speculate that Abraham Lincoln and both Presidents Roosevelt would have failed in the age of televised politics.  Lincoln’s and Theodore Roosevelt’s high and squeaky voices would be fodder for Saturday Night Live lampoons. Franklin Roosevelt’s attempts to hide his paralysis would never be tolerated in this supposedly more tolerant age.  Those of us old enough to remember the 1992 presidential campaign can easily recall the effect of Bill Clinton’s saxophone solo on SNL.  Candidates no longer try to dazzle us with the brilliance of their thinking – in fact, the ability to think brilliantly is sometimes seen as an unfortunate tendency that the successful candidate learns to hide.

Emphasis on identity – Identity groups have always been important in American politics.  Andrew Jackson was able to attract the votes of westerners and farmers by vilifying the ‘aristocratic’ John Quincy Adams.  Often today, though, the emphasis on WHAT we are rather than WHO we are appears to be ascending.  Part of this is the fact that followers of different ideologies have the ability to get their information from those of a similar ideology.  In the 1960s of Traditionalist Teacher’s youth, liberals and conservatives got most of their information from ABC, NBC, CBS, Time magazine, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, and the local newspaper.  There were magazines on the right and on the left, but their readership was small.  Today, cable television and the Internet have created a plethora of options that divide us according to race, ideology, gender, gender identification, age, region, and (most of all) political ideology.

Hooliganism – This can be seen as a natural reaction to many of these conditions.  When those whose emotions are engaged in different directions meet, the result is intolerance – which becomes violent very quickly.

Perhaps, by this time the reader may well be wondering when Traditionalist Teacher is actually going to discuss teaching.  Well, that time is now.

If one asks the educated about the value of education, one of the common responses goes something like, “My education helps me to understand people who are not like me.”

Yet, ‘progressive’ education has often had the opposite effect.  “How,” the aghast progressive might exclaim, “could this be?  I have spent my life teaching tolerance.”

Let’s examine that claim by looking at some of the educational practices that have contributed to the current situation.

Teaching skills rather than facts – Basically, rather than teaching students actual facts, we are teaching them to manipulate facts.  This creates the impression that facts are malleable, that different people can have different facts.

The emphasis on the development of uninformed opinions – In the “inquiry oriented classroom,” students are encouraged to develop opinions and hypotheses, but are seldom asked to defend them.  The thesis is developed, and facts are chosen by the student to support the thesis.  Facts contrary to the thesis are simply ignored.  Certainly, given enough time and insight, a teacher could take it to that level – but time is a rare thing.  All scientific/historical scholarship is based on gathering facts.  Only AFTER facts are gathered should a hypothesis be developed.  This is especially true of relatively uninformed students, who are often manipulated by their ‘progressive’ teachers into expressing opinions with which the teacher agrees.

The emphasis on emotion over logic and fact – All too often, teachers and schools see the development of emotional well-being as their primary function.  This is especially true in grades 6-8.  The student’s body and emotions are undergoing radical change, the theory goes, and the student needs to become comfortable with those changes before he/she is equipped to do real intellectual work.  The school becomes an emotional intensive care unit, keeping out those facts and ideas that are uncomfortable.  This would be bad enough if it only affected the ‘Middle School.’  Unfortunately, it spread – first to high school and, more recently, colleges.

Tolerance of emotional outbursts – The emphasis on emotion also extends to those who act out in class.  An outburst of temper is a cry for help, not a lack of the self-control, which is necessary to function in society.  Therefore, self-control is seen as repression – and repression is to be avoided at all costs.

Multicultural Balkanization – Teachers are trained to focus on the differences between students rather than those factors that unify the class.  Students are taught that their differences are the things that make them special.  All cultural ideas are seen to be equally desirable – except the Judeo-Christian values that elevated Europe and by extension North America.

All of the above can be seen in full display in the 2016 presidential campaign.  The candidate who has the most entertaining outbursts gets the attention.  The voters often choose who gets their vote based on how that candidate makes them feel rather than a calculated look at issues, positions, and proposals.  The sight of the name of a political candidate that one opposes written in chalk on a sidewalk causes emotional damage.  Voters turn to those outlets whose overall philosophy are most like their own.  Any pretense of objectivity in news gathering and reporting grows progressively more dim.  Actual discourse between those of opposing views becomes increasingly rare.  Demonization of those whose views are unlike one’s own grows more common.  A thick streak of narcissism runs through many office-holders and candidates.  A sense exists that the only way to be a ‘real’ member of one’s race, ethnic group, or class is to support one party or the other.

Where did this sorry state of affairs originate?  Look no further than your local ‘progressive’ school.

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2 comments on “TT #19 – The Election and “Progressive” Education
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