Lumped and Labeled

It started as a friendly facebook conversation when someone posted that a child had come home from school with an assignment to “write about why it was wrong for the US to drop a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima”.

There was the expected response; that dropping the bomb potentially saved millions of lives on both sides by avoiding having to have a massive attack on the Japanese homeland.

My initial input included a statement that my mother graduated high school in the early 1040’s and had friends killed at Pearl Harbor — and how she talked about Hiroshima, Dresden and Pearl Harbor as all being terrible events. Another commenter mentioned that WW II was about cutting off the head of evil.

In 1879, General Sherman (Civil War fame) told a group of graduates that “War is Hell.” Nothing has changed except the means and the numbers.

No one questioned whether the purpose of the assignment might have been to start a conversation or encourage a debate…. or whether someone else in the class had the opposite assignment…..and I really don’t know.

BUT THEN….. the attack on that specific teacher widened to include “liberal teachers”, teachers in general, the evil established public school education system, etc, etc, etc.

When did “Liberal” become a bad word? Purdue University, as most major universities, has a College of Liberal Arts. Liberal as in a smattering of a wide variety of education. According to Virtual Salt, a Liberal Arts Education teaches you HOW to think. According to an article on Fastweb, “Life is Liberal Arts”.

Now hold on. I do NOT agree with everything that is going on in Public (Government) education…..but those who think it is totally evil should immediately pull their children out of public school and send them to a more perfect private school where they can better control both what is taught and the type of student you have — or HOME SCHOOL.  Anything less, it seems, would be hypocritical.

If you are going to be in the system, then do what you can to improve it instead of just standing back throwing stones. A statement I have made many times about the experience Joan and I had getting our two sons through their public school education is,

“For us….the system worked…..but we had to work the system.”

I have an opinion on tenure…. but that is for another day. There are bad teachers, bad school boards, bad superintendents and bad court decisions…..but there are many wonderful teachers who would rather benefit children than make bigger bucks elsewhere. There are school boards who receive little compensation for the responsibility — and many are “on the board” to do the best they can for their own children in the system.

And I know I am all messed up because I do not believe that the unions are 100% right — NOR ARE THEY 100% WRONG…. and neither are the school corporations and state governments. I have been targeted when not in the union and protected by the union. I have taught both with and without tenure.

Neither side is perfect.

Stop talking in talking points.

Stop lumping and labeling.

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3 thoughts on “Lumped and Labeled

  1. For what it’s worth…

    “Liberal” comes from the Latin word for freedom. The first liberal arts schools were so-called because they were places where subjects were taught to those who had “free” time to devote to the study and contemplation of such things as music and astronomy. These were contrasted to the “servile” arts, which were the study of things which would help one earn a living. We might call it vocational training. Both liberal and servile arts were necessary for civilization, but they had totally different functions. The liberal arts, as you said, were intended to produce virtuous citizens who were both thinkers and doers.

    My observation of the public schooling system in America (up to and including most public universities) is not that it is either “good” or “bad”, but that it is falsely advertised. Our schools give lip service to the liberal arts, but are primarily focused on vocational training. We no longer train children to think well, or to appreciate the arts, or to have a sense of civic duty. Instead, we equip them to be specialists in a particular field of the work force. We tell them that their responsibility to society is to get a job that will benefit their fellow man, and that to do this well one must go to college to become further specialized.

    These are obviously blanket statements and not (yet) universally applicable, but more and more I do believe we are seeing our public schools becoming centers for the propagation of the servile arts alone. I’m not sure how relevant all this is to the discussion at hand, but I do know that Laurie and I want our children to have a true liberal arts education, and we don’t believe they will get that in the public schools. However, I remain personally committed to doing all that is in my power to improve the public schools for the sake of my community and for the children of those who do not share my convictions.

    I recommend for you (and anyone else) to read Dorothy Sayers’ essay “The Lost Tools of Learning” and Doug Wilson’s related book “Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning”. The “lost tools” both refer to are the Trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and Quadrivium (arithmetic, astronomy, music, and geometry); the seven liberal arts.

    One last thing. The assignment to “write about why it was wrong for the US to drop a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima” is a perfect example of a non-liberal approach to education. The “liberal” way to give that assignment would be to ask whether (not why) it was wrong for the US to drop the bomb. This challenges students to employ logic to contemplate the ethical implications of that decision, and rhetoric to persuade others that their opinion is correct. As stated, the question is baited with assumptive language, restricting the liberty of students to come to their own conclusions. Today, public schools largely consider matters of ethics outside the realm of education, but by definition, the very purpose of the liberal arts is to inculcate students with the necessary tools to discern what is virtuous so that they might become leaders who can produce and maintain a virtuous and free society.

  2. Would you mind enabling rss feeds, because this page is difficult to read on my phone. Don’t mean to be a complainer, but I figure if it would help me it would probably help others as well. Thanks 🙂

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