“What’s always struck me about Huxley’s novel [The Brave New World] is that, even amid all this license, the savvier characters still recognize that they aren’t in fact free. Bernard Marx at one point refers to himself as “enslaved by my conditioning,” while the Savage contrasts “freedom” with the World State’s enforced “comfort.” This is the first thing to understand about what we’re doing to our children today: it isn’t liberty so much as the opposite. Huxley’s point is that even liberation can become subjugating if it’s turned into ideology and inflicted upon the young,” Matt Purple~
I remember sitting in a classroom in 1993 for parent-teacher conferences for my then-12th grade daughter. The class was health. I was the parent. The teacher was a woman who’d grown up down the street from my childhood home. We had played with our Barbie dolls together. Now we sat on opposite sides of a desk.
My daughter had told me that this teacher had the class line up, each student holding a placard with the name of a male body part. The supposed goal was to get the students to learn the correct order of placement for male sex organs. The class was co-ed.
An unintended (or not) result of such a classroom activity would be a diminishing of natural self-consciousness among the students, a self-consciousness I would argue is God-given and protective.
Twenty-eight years later, sex education in many districts occurs earlier and is often more graphic than placards with words for male body parts lettered on them.
Now we must ask why some people are working so hard to make sure children (now much younger than my daughter was then) understand all there is to understand about sex, sexuality, and sexual identity while others have ceased to ensure that said children can read, write, and calculate at a functioning level or beyond.
“Sharon Slater, co-founder and president of advocacy group Family Watch International, [explains the] ‘harmful elements’ in the United Nations-developed, U.S. government-sponsored Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), including its graphic, pleasure-focused approach toward teaching children about sexual behavior.
“’The publication, ‘It’s Perfectly Normal,’ . . . is in many libraries and school libraries across the United States. [At least one state mandates CSE for classroom use.] It’s very graphic with depictions of children engaging in . . . various sexual acts,’ said Slater.”
Soak that in–children depicted in sex acts. Drawn images, we presume. Otherwise, how would it differ from the kind of pornography explained on our newspaper’s front page last week informing us that the guy who possessed it is now in jail?
And we must note the reference to “pleasure-focused.” Be sure to dust off your copy of Huxley’s The Brave New World, referenced above by Matt Purple. Huxley presents a culture steeped in–and controlled by–pleasure. Oppression through excess of pleasure.
As Purple points out, we have to ask how we got from #metoo to this stuff.
And again, why?
But now to the part most of us assume is the purpose of schools–education, which again, most of us assume is largely comprised of reading, writing, and math. We must be careful not to assume what has previously seemed reasonable to assume.
The state of Oregon is suspending reading, writing, and mathematics requirements for graduating students for at least the next three years.
Perhaps some sort of pleasure indicator will replace the academic requirements.
Maybe other states will follow Oregon’s lead. Even as America continues our decades’ long inquiry into why Johnny still can’t read.
Newcomers to homeschooling have perhaps found during COVID shutdowns that teaching their own children is positive, effective, doable, and within their control.
Many pilgrims to private schools may just be looking for in-person learning as some shutdowns continue. But Kerry McDonald writes that the “trend [of increasing private enrollment] is likely to continue” when (and if) the COVID crisis abates.
It might be fair for us to conclude that some parents are moving children to new educational environments to enable them to pursue excellence instead of pleasure, to enable them to receive a traditional education of reading, writing, math, etc. Et cetera encompassing science, history, and the arts rather than the simple pursuit of pleasure. These parents know the journey to excellence is not always fun-filled. And it doesn’t happen by accident.
“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny,” (Aristotle).
Some in modernity have figured that out too. Even in decadent Hollywood.
The recent anniversary of the death of actor Robin Williams brings to mind his portrayal of an English teacher at a boys’ prep school in Dead Poets’ Society (1989). Williams’ Mr. Keating wanted his students to seize the day–to make sure they didn’t let life slip by without pursuing great dreams.
Such dreams do not come true through hedonism–a devotion to pleasure alone.
“In his immortal performance, Williams gave humanity a great gift of remembering two truths: that we all die, and that the humanities, far from being unserious, drive us toward the serious business of life.” Matthew Becklo.
The serious business of life is the pursuit of full potential, the quest for purpose, the lifelong journey of service to God and people–thereby we find meaning in our lives.
Teaching children that pleasure is the be-all and end-all violates everything education should be.
It sets children up for bondage of all kinds of oppression–public and personal–providing passing good feelings instead of lasting fulfillment. Meaningless pleasure can never be more than a distraction from emptiness. And emptiness is compounded when grown-ups lack literacy and mathematical capability.
The quest for pleasure for its own sake combined with a void of capability creates enslavement as the enslaved one continually seeks more pleasure that provides only more emptiness.
True education fills minds and feeds souls. It recognizes that there is more to each child than a physical body.
Fulfillment comes through a developed character made from challenge and rigor. The work of learning bestows more than knowledge. It instills curiosity and discipline. It enables us to engage in wonder.
Applied thinking, through reading, wordcraft, and calculation, leads children to become people who know when and how to set pleasure aside to reach for a greater good. Only then can they know true pleasure.
Our nation is blessed with many teachers who urge their students toward excellence. Many of them hail from the classrooms of public schools. Not all states and districts have succumbed to the cultural decay of promoting empty pleasure.
Parents must not simply hope for the best. They must not assume all is well in their educational corner of the country.
To assume so is to invite a cost too great and a loss beyond measure. Too many schools ask little or nothing of their students. They promise more than their teachings can ever deliver.
“‘[W]hat good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here — that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”