Friday, June 05, 2009

What's Wrong With Modern Education?

"...For a long time I puzzled over this image of the well-educated person, especially because so many of the men and women I teach with are actually strongly motivated by a love of truth. Slowly, however, I have come to realize that we tend to teach as much in response to our fears as our hopes. There are, perhaps, two main and very different intellectual fears. The first is a fear of opportunities squandered, of truths unnecessarily missed. The second is a fear of deception, of falsehoods wrongly cherished.

It is crushingly obvious that the present dictatorship of relativism is profoundly motivated by the second fear. Aside from the natural sciences, we give students little more than training in critique. Loyal to our critical principles, we can barely squeak out the slenderest of affirmations. Fearful of living in dreams and falling under the sway of ideologies, we have committed ourselves to disenchantment.

I find myself recalling one of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. He urges us to remember that love is just sexual intercourse: “it is the friction of member and a convulsive expulsion of mere mucus.” We are to apply this method of critical thinking to all aspects of our lives in order to free ourselves from fanciful notions. “Where things make an impression which is very plausible,” he advises, “uncover their nakedness, see into their cheapness, strip off the profession on which they vaunt themselves.” The goal is simple: Humanize yourself by disabusing yourself of illusions.

No philosophy or faith worth its salt endorses a witting love of illusions. It’s the truth we want, not fantasies. Yet, there is something desperate and loveless in the triumph of suspicion. Love falls. As the urgent, searching bridge in the Song of Songs reminds us, love risks the dangers of deception and betrayal. We cannot fall into the embrace of truth by way of cool, dispassionate critique. If we fear that truth will elude us, then we must search and seek with reckless desire..."

-R.R. Reno, "Teaching in the Twenty-First Century"

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