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    Book Club: Ideas Have Consequences{Chapter 7}

    August 21, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in this chapter, which is called The Last Metaphysical Right. He’s referring here to private property. I have a feeling I would have thought this chapter was incredible had I read it back when Weaver was still alive, but living now, when we’ve witnessed so much erosion of private property rights through zoning, eminent domain, and the like {and those are just the tip of the proverbial ice berg}, that I was hoping he’d have some other alternatives.

    Good thing we still have the Gospel, the only idea big enough to carry the weight of the world!

    It is true, though, that we still have private property {though some of it is, according to Weaver, too abstract to be useful in this particular endeavor}, and we also still have private money financing private endeavors.

    And that is where we’re headed today, folks: private education.

    Private Education

    Weaver himself makes this jump, so I know I’m not just wildly speculating here:

    Nothing is more certain than that whatever has to court public favor for its support will sooner or later be prostituted to utilitarian ends.

    Weaver thinks that public, government-funded education, is the perfect example of this.

    We know that early education in American was quite impressive, that the literacy rate {even including slaves and “uneducated” women–I’m sorry I cannot find the link for the statistics right now} was supposedly superior to our current day, that the pioneers that we perceive to be uncultured often owned a New Testament in Greek {which they were actually capable of reading}.

    Heck, Ralph Moody’s Mom read the family Shakespeare plays for fun!

    So, why the decline? I mean, we are obviously spending far more than ever in American history on education. If there is anything we can initially conclude, it is that funding does not an education make!

    According to Weaver:

    Virtually without exception, liberal education, that is to say, education centered about ideas and ideals, has fared best in those institutions which draw their income from private sources. They have been able, despite limitations which donors have sought to lay upon them, to insist that education be not entirely a means of breadwinning. This means that they have been relatively free to promote pure knowledge and the training of the mind; they have afforded a last stand for “antisocial” studies like Latin and Greek.

    Why? Weaver goes on:

    In state institutions, always at the mercy of elected bodies and of the public generally, and under obligation to show practical fruits for their expenditure of money, the movement toward specialism and vocationalism has been irresistible. They have never been able to say that they will do what they will with their own because their own is not private.

    Keep in mind that Weaver lived long before the federal government got involved in education. That only happened shortly after I was born. {Did you know that this sort of large-scale federal meddling is a fairly new idea?} It has only gotten worse, of course.

    Ideas Have Consequences
    by Richard Weaver

    Weaver says that when the State funds the schools, it requires proof of the effectiveness of dollars spent. We all know that the most important things cannot be measure–that a growth in character or a grasping of universal truth cannot be placed upon a standardized test. So the temptation, to which we have almost universally yielded now in both public and private schools, is to measure that which can be measured, and use those results to gauge success. We can measure technique. We can measure material things. We can also measure “job preparedness.” It’s really short-sighted because we all know that, ultimately, character and general intellectual ability trump “skills” when it comes to most jobs, if not all jobs, but since we can’t measure those things, we dispense with them.

    Government Funded Charter Schools

    In our town, we have a public charter school that is very popular with homeschool families. The appeal, from what I can tell, seems to be the PE money, which translates into free swimming lessons and gymnastics and karate classes and basically all those things families like ours tend to not be able to afford. There are also enrichment classes, allowing children to take classes on campus once per week.

    I have met a number of homeschoolers here who are out-and-out against the charter school, and though I see their point, I can’t bring myself to that position for the simple fact that I know people who would not have begun homeschooling without having the charter school as a sort of middle-step. In other words, I think it has served and is serving a purpose {though that is likely not its intent!}.

    But, after a time, I find that this same school has the opposite effect, and I think I am identifying exactly what Weaver is talking about. I have now spoken with a number of families who have had to leave because they find that merely being associated with this school, even if they express the freedom they are “allowed” through teaching Bible and infusing Christian thought into the regular lessons {they do have the right to choose their own curricula, though the more secular it is, the more likely it is that the school will pay for it}, they are {1} encouraged to focus on material things and {2} discouraged from teaching ideas and spiritual things.

    It’s funny, because no one is sitting over these families telling them what they must and must not do in their own homes, and yet the effect is palpable over time. The school, for instance, requires standardized testing, and so especially during test time, parents find themselves scrambling to teach the Measurable Things.

    {Interestingly enough, a number of our local private umbrellas also require or encourage standardized testing. But I digress.}

    It is all very interesting to me. Because our funding is private–from our very own pockets–we can choose what we think is best. I see this as a tangible example of what Weaver is talking about. Outside of some broad state requirements–ones that I would have followed anyhow, without any law requiring it of me–it often feels like my “freedom” {educationally speaking} is limited only by my own time, energy, and pocketbook.

    The Impact of Standardized Testing

    What I find interesting is that the private schools, which Weaver believes have such freedom, tend to willingly bind themselves to this public school problem. At least this is true here. I see the largest Christian high school, for instance, spending lots of time and money on accreditation, which of course requires, among other things, “data-driven instructional decisions” and a curriculum that is “relevant” and “standards-based.”

    If this world is all there is, Latin and a Gospel-Driven educational model is completely irrelevant, wouldn’t you agree?

    But here is what I’m getting at: a school which ought to be free has, through accreditation concerns and standardized testing, become, over time, a baptized version of basic, secular Darwinian education a la John Dewey. So while Weaver thought that private funding protected these schools, we see that the secular state has a way of wooing even private money into its service.

    Personally, I think that the tiny, modest Christian classical schools and the homeschools are the last bastion of education freedom.

    And even we are tempted sometimes, are we not?

    Read More:
    More book club entries linked at Mystie’s blog
    Buy the book and join in the conversation!

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  • Reply Melissa Wild August 24, 2012 at 2:51 am

    Brandy, Thank you so much for your encouragement. I especially appreciated the idea that the kids may not hate school but love other things more! That is probably more accurate. My 9 year old son wants to play all day long. My almost 12 year old daughter is an avid reader and my oldest, a boy, is almost 14 and struggles to find books that really captivate him.

    My oldest has some learning issues — processing stuff and fluency in reading along with some sensory issues. I am grateful for the help that it looks like he will get through the sp ed dept at the cyber. I think they are going to equip him with some good tools to help him recognize where his areas of challenge are and help him to find ways to succeed in accomplishing the tasks set before him.

    We shall see how the year goes. I know part of the stress for me is simply the fear of the unknown. Thanks for praying. πŸ˜€

  • Reply Melissa Wild August 22, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I would say that I am an ecclectic homeschooler who uses liivng books and a mish mash of other things. In some ways I lean toward unschooling. I struggle to be disciplined with my kids in school and have always felt that I am not giving them the best education they could receive but I am confident that I am pouring into them spiritually. All that said, for many reasons( financial as it is completely free and it provides a semblance of structure that I feel the kids need and I have not been able to provide), I believe that the Lord has led us to use a public cyber charter school this year. My oldest got his books in the mail the other day and there are ONLY TWO lit books FOR THE WHOLE YEAR! I sure am hoping that more will come as the year progresses or that they will be reading books online through an e reader app of some sort. TWO books!!! And a stack of textbooks of course. This has been one of the hardest decisions I have had to make – switching to public cyber. I am TRYING to be open minded about this school year but it is hard. My youngest, headed into 4th grade, has already been in tears while doing his online orientation. I know the learning curve will be steep for all of us. I want to be able to supplement with great literature if I am right in the fact that there will be no great literature. I am trying to figure out how to do this as my kids don’t have a strong desire to read unless required and I don’t want them to feel like they have “finished” school and now mom loads on MORE to do. They don’t have a great love to learn – they would all tell you they hate school which is a huge discouragement to me… makes me feel like I have not served them well. I LOVE homeschooling them but they certainly don’t love school . πŸ™

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts August 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      Oh, Melissa! My heart goes out to you! I can imagine how hard this all must be!

      I recently counseled a friend to put her children in school, for various reasons that I won’t mention here. But suffice it to say that I know that was hard for her but sometimes life does not cooperate and make itself amenable to the ideal! I know that I keep CUM files {which are suggested, but not legally required} just in case life is such that we ever have to put the children in school {because the schools require them}. I can’t assume that life will always be friendly to what we do here!

      I don’t know if this will end up being a long-term solution for you, but I just don’t think we should beat ourselves up over one year of survival mode, you know? {Not that I think that’s what you’re doing, but I thought I’d throw it out there.} In other words: it is okay to do what you have to do! Ideals are inherently unattainable, right? At least in this fallen world…

      I don’t know if you were looking for ideas or not, Melissa. If you want my sympathy, you certainly have it! But I also had two thoughts while I read this and I hope you don’t mind me sharing them:

      1. I don’t think you are a failure if all of your children don’t love to learn or love their lessons! My pastor often says that we are responsible for the *means* but ultimately God is responsible for the ends. So basically, we will not someday stand before Him and hold up our results; rather, we’ll hope He found us faithful in what He asked of us, regardless of the *consequences* of our faithfulness. With that said, I have one child who specifically says she “hates school.” I decided last year that it wasn’t so much that she hated it as that she loves everything else in life MORE. πŸ™‚ I think she will be more of an ideas person for having been in our home, but I don’t think that I’m going to change her entire personality, and I don’t think that God would want me to anyhow. Just a thought. I have no idea about your children’s personalities, but I know that comes into play as far as how much or little they are drawn to reading and thinking.

      2. Have you thought about supplementing a la Charlotte Mason? I have met people who use CM to do what they call “afterschooling.” Yes, they do a bit of lit, but really they focus on nature study and artist study, and the kids eat it up. Maybe they wouldn’t think you were loading on more if you started with something like nature study or a nice hike? It’s just a thought. I say this as a person who has always struggled with nature study!

      I’ll be praying for you. πŸ™‚

  • Reply ...they call me mommy... August 22, 2012 at 2:23 am

    WOW! Interesting stuff and tons of food for thought…most of your posts take ALL my brain power just to READ let alone understand. πŸ˜‰ That’s why I’m learning right along with my children AND Miss Mason, eh?! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Kelly August 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    This was my favorite chapter in the whole book! Now I really have to get back to reading it and dusting off the old posts. Unfortunately it’s going to have to wait a while.

    Still, when I get back to it, I’ll try to remember to answer this post and Mystie’s — I expect that means I’ll need to write a new post on it.

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