Education is one of the things that nearly every American agrees is important. I am one of those people. I do everything in my power to give my children every educational opportunity. I was well-pleased with my education choices when, today in my child’s 3rd-grade class, the teacher turned on some music, and half of the children were excited because it was Beethoven, and they each spontaneously told which Beethoven piece was their favorite.
However, to educate properly, the primary principle that you must operate with is this – education needs to be sensitive to the nature of humans. If your educational philosophy or your political philosophy of education fails to take into account the nature of humans and how they learn, the final result will be that you spend a whole lot of money, and no one gets educated. That’ pretty much sums up where we are headed.
The problem is that when the politicians talk about education, they do so as materialists. Materialists are really, really bad judges of human nature, precisely because they deny any such thing as human nature. I cannot tell you if our politicians are materialists, but I can tell you that they educate like materialists.
For instance, here is a common line of thinking among the political class:
- We need higher wage workers to improve the economy
- Technical fields pay higher wages
- Technical fields require higher degrees in technical fields
- Therefore, we can improve our economy by building more colleges and providing more funding for scholarships
Now, I disagree with every point above, but for the sake of this argument I will assume that 1-3 are at least generally correct. I would argue that the proposed solution actually makes the problem worse, because it leaves human nature out of the equation. This equation is precisely how a materialist views the world, and it is precisely wrong.
First of all, the reason why this is a materialist solution, is that it is treating life choices such as careers, complex subjects like academic proficiency, and complex interrelationships such as the relationship between technical knowledge and useful work, as though they were simply parts of a physics equation, where one only need to plug in the amount of force needed and the mass of the object to get the amount of acceleration needed to push.
The fact is that real humans are not made of equations. They are, instead, souls that need to be nourished. Simply sending them through a curriculum to pop out a degree on the other side isn’t what is needed. What is needed is to understand the values that are required to be educated and entrepreneurial, the motivations that lead people to want to be educated, and then provide the education simply as a tool for those who want to be educated to use.
If you want a real equation, here it is: when you pump a bunch a people who don’t want to work hard through a school system in order to get people out the door with advanced degrees, the only way to accomplish this is by dumbing down the course. If people who would not otherwise want to be educated, except by the fact that it gives them big money and they can do it without having to front the costs, then that is simply going to be a glut on the whole system. It will make it harder for employers to weed through the posers to find the actually qualified applicants. It will mean that businesses waste tons of money by being led down a wrong path by people looking for easy money. If your solution to the need for technically-qualified people is to simply push more people through higher education, you will simply create more problems than you started with. You won’t have any more truly qualified people, instead the qualified ones will just be buried under the gold-diggers.
Want to start a revolution in education? Start by looking at what motivates kids to love learning. Money can motivate kids to *do* the work, but that’s not what education is. Loving learning is what will make kids educated, whether they go through college or not. None of the standardized tests will tell you if your child loves learning. None of them will say, “this person wants to get to the bottom of things, and won’t stop until he finds it”.
As Niebuhr said,
…we cannot deny the indictment that we seek a solution for practically every problem of life in quantitative terms; and are not fully aware of the limits of this approach. The constant multiplication of our high school and college enrollments has not had the effect of making us the most “intelligent” nation, whether we measure intelligence in terms of social wisdom, aesthetic discrimination, spritual serenity or any other basic human achievement…No national culture has been as assiduous as our own in trying to press the wisdom of the social and political sciences, indeed of all the humanities, into the limits of the natural sciences…the result is frequently a preoccupation with the minutiae which obscures the grand and tragic outlines of contemporary history, and offers vapid solutions for profound problems. (Niebuhr, The Irony of American History, 59-60, emphasis mine)
We must stop engaging human problems such as the education of our children as materialists. It is not some dry equation or dollar amount that will provide them or us what we need. It is instead the very soul of humanity which we need to nurture, which materialism denies but Intelligent Design seeks to understand.