Teaching Children to Accept Absolutely Anything Makes Them Unteachable

 

Powerline linked to a fascinating article in Public Discourse today: “Harry V. Jaffa and Allan Bloom:  The Contested Legacy of Leo Strauss.” It covers a lot of ground, so I won’t quote it at length or try to summarize it; you really should read the whole thing — it’s outstanding. But there was one paragraph in particular that really caught my attention (emphasis mine):

For Allan Bloom, the role of the teacher is to free a young mind from the reigning orthodoxies of the day, the stories told by the city. In his phenomenally successful Closing of the American Mind, he decried the influence of German philosophy on the students he was encountering in the classroom. These young men and women had absorbed a soft nihilism or relativism through the general culture and were, as a result, unteachable. Since they believed nothing, there was nothing from which the teacher could turn their eyes. According to Bloom, “relativism has extinguished the real motive of education, the search for a good life.” What good is it to turn someone’s eyes from shadows if they won’t open them?

This is a profound point.  How do you teach someone who doesn’t care?  Someone who has been taught that there is no more to life than video games and pot — just seeking the pleasures of the day, with no interest in self-improvement or sacrifice for a cause? How can you change someone’s mind, if they don’t believe in anything? Why should they start now? Mr. Bloom is right — such people are unteachable.

Our schools are a mess.  From kindergarten through graduate school, they’ve lost interest in education, working instead at indoctrination.  And we blame our failing schools, with good cause, for many of the problems of today’s youth.

But it may not be completely the fault of the schools.

American society is teaching kids not to care.  About anything.  There is no objective truth, just different perspectives, so don’t judge.  About anything.  So why care?  About anything?  Those who do care about things are called right-wing extremist religious ideologues.  Those who don’t care about things are called open-minded, compassionate humanists.

Which side would the typical six-year-old choose to join?  Heck, what about the average 26-year-old?

Such people are unteachable.  They go to school because they have to.  Not because they’re interested.  They’ve been taught not to care.

Good luck, teachers.

Teachers’ unions have done enormous damage.  The quality of school teachers has declined noticeably over the years.

But the quality of the students may have declined even more.  In ways that are not immediately obvious.  Soft nihilism is not always dramatic or striking.  But it’s destructive.  Because such people are unteachable.

I suspect that Rome had similar problems, once it got really rich.  Right before it collapsed under its own apathy.

This will be a difficult problem to fix.  Because to fix it, we first have to care about it.

And we don’t care.  We’ve been trained not to care.  Trained to accept anything.  Absolutely anything.  We don’t care.  So whatever.

So this will be difficult to fix.


This would be a great topic for a post.  I should get some bourbon, start analyzing this from various different perspectives, considering the origins and progression of this phenomenon, review a few different sources, describe historical parallels, and suggest some possible solutions.  It’d be a great essay.  It really would.

But you know what?  I don’t feel like it.  Just thinking about this makes me sad.  So I’ll just jot down a quick thought and post it.  Whatever.

Which makes it sound like I don’t care, even though I do.  I just can’t stand to think about it.  It’s just so, so sad.

This will be difficult to fix.

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  1. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

     

     

    • #1
  2. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    It might not be so bad, if they didn’t still vote.

    • #2
  3. Joker Member
    Joker
    @Joker

    It took some discipline, or at least the threat of it, to keep most of my grade school classrooms in line. That helped to make you care. I went to parochial schools which could dismiss disruptive types, so maybe there were fewer of them around to begin with.

    The better teachers made it interesting, but the trip to the principal’s office/detention/meeting with parents threat kept me interested in the other teachers.

    • #3
  4. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Joker (View Comment):

    It took some discipline, or at least the threat of it, to keep most of my grade school classrooms in line. That helped to make you care. I went to parochial schools which could dismiss disruptive types, so maybe there were fewer of them around to begin with.

    The better teachers made it interesting, but the trip to the principal’s office/detention/meeting with parents threat kept me interested in the other teachers.

    That’s great, until/unless the trip to the principal’s office just gets the principal yelled at and maybe threatened with lawsuits by the parents, who would rather themselves be home smoking dope etc.

    • #4
  5. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Another good one Doc. Just disagree about one point. The students have been more disappointing than the teachers. The teachers union has destroyed public education in the large cities now for 30 years.  They, with their comrades on the school boards, wanted to demo the few who survived. Like Lowell H.S. in San Fran.  An outstanding H.S. for decades. But too many Asians. Not enough “equity”.  Luckily, the Asian voters in S.F. got involved and sunk the CRT types on the school board. And our DA, thank God. 

    • #5
  6. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    navyjag (View Comment):

    Another good one Doc. Just disagree about one point. The students have been more disappointing than the teachers. The teachers union has destroyed public education in the large cities now for 30 years. They, with their comrades on the school boards, wanted to demo the few who survived. Like Lowell H.S. in San Fran. An outstanding H.S. for decades. But too many Asians. Not enough “equity”. Luckily, the Asian voters in S.F. got involved and sunk the CRT types on the school board. And our DA, thank God.

    Allan Bloom’s book traces the problem back much further than 30 years, to approximately the 1930s.  The book was published 35 years ago.   The teacher’s unions are a symptom, not the root cause, I think.  The root cause was philosophical, and actually theological, or maybe anti-theological, in my view.

    • #6
  7. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Theological? What are you referring to?  The teachers union wants to control over what is taught in the schools. We now know that includes the CRT and groomer crap.  Don’t get the reference to religion. 

    • #7
  8. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    navyjag (View Comment):

    Theological? What are you referring to? The teachers union wants to control over what is taught in the schools. We now know that includes the CRT and groomer crap. Don’t get the reference to religion.

    do you think it would be possible to teach the CRT and groomer crap if they hadn’t gotten rid of religion/theology first?

    • #8
  9. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Thankfully the religious people will breed. From the religious people we can select those who have read Thomas Sowell and make them our leaders. From these leaders we will genetically engineer their children to be even superior and we can establish a meritocracy. 

    • #9
  10. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    They will be taught what is important.  Democrat good, Republican evil.  Act accordingly.  It is all they need to know from the public point of view.

    • #10
  11. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I have mixed feelings about how much I want students to care about what they are being taught in government-run schools. The schools have tremendous and scary power to brainwash children. My kids had to sit through several viewings of An Inconvenient Truth because so many of their teachers were fired up about it.

     

    • #11
  12. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Joker (View Comment):

    It took some discipline, or at least the threat of it, to keep most of my grade school classrooms in line. That helped to make you care. I went to parochial schools which could dismiss disruptive types, so maybe there were fewer of them around to begin with.

    The better teachers made it interesting, but the trip to the principal’s office/detention/meeting with parents threat kept me interested in the other teachers.

    It does seem like the parent’s threats and engagement have greatly diminished nowadays. Sad.

    • #12
  13. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Home schooling is an option that many parents are now being forced to take, when their eyes were opened to what was being taught during Covid. Now they are getting louder and more involved at Parent/Teacher/Board meetings.  Some are moving to get their kids in better schools. Social media is driving this scenario that you write about Doc – pushing trans-multi-identities, defund police, everything is racially charged, and the never ending climate change crisis. There is no truth, no peace and for young minds being molded to believe in nothing but the latest trends is a recipe for madness.  Many are not going to take it anymore and we don’t have to.

    • #13
  14. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    One of my close friends was a teacher for many years before he became a “success” counselor (I guess “guidance” counselor sounds too pedestrian).  One of his complaints was how parents always backed their child whenever there was a dispute.  He said something like their kid could kill a fellow student, and the parents still would blame the teacher, the school, etc.  He was glad he stopped teaching and became a counselor . . .

    • #14
  15. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I have mixed feelings about how much I want students to care about what they are being taught in government-run schools. The schools have tremendous and scary power to brainwash children. My kids had to sit through several viewings of An Inconvenient Truth because so many of their teachers were fired up about it.

     

    This is an issue.  The schools are a Left institution made of for Leftist and their purposes.  Teachers are the problem.  Not sure why but they seem to think these are their kids to do with as they please and the parents be damned.  

    • #15
  16. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Home schooling is an option that many parents are now being forced to take, when their eyes were opened to what was being taught during Covid. Now they are getting louder and more involved at Parent/Teacher/Board meetings. Some are moving to get their kids in better schools. Social media is driving this scenario that you write about Doc – pushing trans-multi-identities, defund police, everything is racially charged, and the never ending climate change crisis. There is no truth, no peace and for young minds being molded to believe in nothing but the latest trends is a recipe for madness. Many are not going to take it anymore and we don’t have to.

    I suspect that home schooling will be regulated or outlawed before it is over.   Can’t have people teaching things the Left does not want or believe.  

    • #16
  17. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    The belief that one should accept Anything is, like anarchism, inherently unstable.  People who were raised & taught to accept anything have now become very intolerant of a wide range of things.

    • #17
  18. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    In the 1930s, the pope issued a pastoral letter to be read from every pulpit in Germany one particular Sunday.  It was a condemnation of the Hitler Youth movement and urged parents to keep their kids out of it.  The pope was not highly successful in that effort.  Quite a few parents thought (a) isn’t it just the boy scouts with some political junk mixed in? and (b) the kid may make some useful contacts and Hitler-Jugend will look good on his college applications.

    Similarly, the woke soul-poisoning crapfest that is American education is tolerated because of a perception that educators are the gatekeepers to the white-collar middle class.  Americans appear to have largely stopped caring about the actual substance of education.  If someone dressed as the Wizard of Oz could pull Harvard or Yale diplomas from a bag for a large fee, that would be fine with many.  Even if there were a thriving market for a vibrant, transformative classical education, are there any providers left?

    The anti-intellectual student’s challenge When would I ever use _______ in real life? has been replaced with What has ______ got to do with social justice? along with a demand to impose an ideological filter shredder to all content.

    Education has to be about excellence, beauty, discovery, value, and learning for its own sake.  Utilitarian misuse makes it vulnerable to capture and caricature.

    • #18
  19. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Who says we don’t care? An eight year old who began “transitioning” from male to female at six says differently.

    https://tennesseestar.com/2022/08/05/far-left-group-suing-tennessee-again-over-trans-bathroom-law

    • #19
  20. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    What colleges have been mainly selling for the last decade or two is neither “come to college because knowlege is valuable in itself” nor “come and learn useful stuff.”  Instead, it’s “get a degree.”  It’s all about the pice of paper.

     

    • #20
  21. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    David Foster (View Comment):

    What colleges have been mainly selling for the last decade or two is neither “come to college because knowlege is valuable in itself” nor “come and learn useful stuff.” Instead, it’s “get a degree.” It’s all about the pice of paper.

     

    Maybe more like “Get a degree, because we’ve made sure your prospective employers will require it.”

    • #21
  22. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    If nothing else, the left wants to dominate.  To dominate, they must destroy the will of those who oppose them.  Everyone must give up and submit.  All is fair in this war.  So our children are taught to submit, or at least to subjugate any thoughts of opposition.  In fact, opposition, any hint, must come with ostrasization, shunning, lost opportunity and even (think antifa) physical violence.  It takes great will and courage to defy the shock-troops of the authoritarian left, Antifa, LBGT and BLM being front and center, but also public school teachers and school administrators, college leadership and faculty, the likes of the Squad and Democrat leaders, liberal judges and politicians, the swamp and the myriad of crazy billionaires who are the true believers and provide impetus with money.  This is a formidable force.  Of course, the opposition leader is Donald Trump, who leads the Never Surrender force with vast energy, courage and common sense.  That’s why they hate him so.  He personifies defiance to their ends.  In this election he’s championing his new generals.  We can only hope that this positive trend continues and when our children wake up and realize that there is hope, that they have a voice, that they can’t be subugated, that the left is filled with miserable, unhappy wretches who want to spread their wretchedness around, then there is hope for the pursuit of happiness in America, and liberty; that it’s worth fighting for.

    • #22
  23. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    If nothing else, the left wants to dominate. To dominate, they must destroy the will of those who oppose them. Everyone must give up and submit. All is fair in this war. So our children are taught to submit, or at least to subjugate any thoughts of opposition. In fact, opposition, any hint, must come with ostrasization, shunning, lost opportunity and even (think antifa) physical violence. It takes great will and courage to defy the shock-troops of the authoritarian left, Antifa, LBGT and BLM being front and center, but also public school teachers and school administrators, college leadership and faculty, the likes of the Squad and Democrat leaders, liberal judges and politicians, the swamp and the myriad of crazy billionaires who are the true believers and provide impetus with money. This is a formidable force. Of course, the opposition leader is Donald Trump, who leads the Never Surrender force with vast energy, courage and common sense. That’s why they hate him so. He personifies defiance to their ends. In this election he’s championing his new generals. We can only hope that this positive trend continues and when our children wake up and realize that there is hope, that they have a voice, that they can’t be subugated, that the left is filled with miserable, unhappy wretches who want to spread their wretchedness around, that there is hope for the pursuit of happiness in America, and liberty; that it’s worth fighting for.

    Which leads again to the big problem with many of the “conservative” intelligentsia etc, they’re in it for the write, not the fight.

    • #23
  24. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    We destroyed our schools  on our own without protest or fighting back but now the Chinese are on the side of the decay and dysfunction.   We don’t have to accept it but we just watch and create an occasional independent school and complain.  Public schools as currently constituted  have to be abolished.  We do not need the teachers unions.   Parents and teachers, real teachers hired by parents can just take over. People who care. can just do it.  It would help if governors in sane states would get behind it, by eliminating taxes that go to schools, but parents can create their own schools and hire their own teachers.  Teachers have to do all the work, all parents have to do is pick the school where they will send their kids and therefore pay.   We do not have the time necessary to transform our schools through the gradual, partial, politically correct way we’re pretending to change things.

    • #24
  25. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    Well wow @drbastiat. This pressed some of my buttons. I think the toxicity of nihilism certainly affects the ability to learn and extends even further.

    During the years my daughter was systematically dismantling her life, I was brought into close contact with a wide variety of young urban connections of hers and spent a lot of time and money trying to help them. I have alternated between bemusement and outrage at the effort of the last few years to blame their dysfunction on things like “white privilege”. In a long post I wrote years ago on Facebook I said this:

    Almost without exception, the people I have tried to help have failed to take advantage of the help I have offered. The young men usually end up back in jail. The drug addicts usually end up back on drugs. It has nothing to do with their race. Zero. It has everything to do with their character and with their culture. They love and value the wrong things. Their understanding of the world is at odds with what is true. Their culture denigrates the very commitments and disciplines that could otherwise alter the trajectories of their lives. They do not value work. They do not accept the benefits of delaying gratification. They are dying, not because of white privilege, but because their culture has embraced deadly ideas. In fact, having a scapegoat like white privilege is actually toxic for a young man who won’t stop smoking weed, get out of bed, and maintain a steady job.”

    So my own life experience is very much in keeping with the phenomenon you describe.

    But I’m also haunted by the suspicion that public education does nothing so well as act like a topical anesthetic which temporarily blunts the pathological societal effects of family breakdown. My own friends who work in public education can tell stories that will make your hair stand on end regarding the state of the American family. And their stories are not mere exceptions. I find myself wondering if, when teachers and politicians suggest parents shouldn’t have input into the schools, they have come to that view because of their constant exposure to family breakdown. It may have warped their perspective.  The need to deal with pathological families in public schools thus overrides consideration for the needs and wants of normals.

    It is, I’m afraid, a very unusual student who is able to learn while living in the midst of a chaotic home.  Nihilism will undoubtedly compound the problem, but it may not actually be the source of it.

    • #25
  26. The Cynthonian Member
    The Cynthonian
    @TheCynthonian

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

     Even if there were a thriving market for a vibrant, transformative classical education, are there any providers left?

    Education has to be about excellence, beauty, discovery, value, and learning for its own sake. Utilitarian misuse makes it vulnerable to capture and caricature.

    Yes, there are.   Gotta hunt for them, though, and expect a waiting list for admission.

    https://classicalchristian.org/what-is-cce/

    • #26
  27. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

    Well wow @ drbastiat. This pressed some of my buttons. I think the toxicity of nihilism certainly affects the ability to learn and extends even further.

    During the years my daughter was systematically dismantling her life, I was brought into close contact with a wide variety of young urban connections of hers and spent a lot of time and money trying to help them. I have alternated between bemusement and outrage at the effort of the last few years to blame their dysfunction on things like “white privilege”. In a long post I wrote years ago on Facebook I said this:

    Almost without exception, the people I have tried to help have failed to take advantage of the help I have offered. The young men usually end up back in jail. The drug addicts usually end up back on drugs. It has nothing to do with their race. Zero. It has everything to do with their character and with their culture. They love and value the wrong things. Their understanding of the world is at odds with what is true. Their culture denigrates the very commitments and disciplines that could otherwise alter the trajectories of their lives. They do not value work. They do not accept the benefits of delaying gratification. They are dying, not because of white privilege, but because their culture has embraced deadly ideas. In fact, having a scapegoat like white privilege is actually toxic for a young man who won’t stop smoking weed, get out of bed, and maintain a steady job.”

    So my own life experience is very much in keeping with the phenomenon you describe.

    But I’m also haunted by the suspicion that public education does nothing so well as act like a topical anesthetic which temporarily blunts the pathological societal effects of family breakdown. My own friends who work in public education can tell stories that will make your hair stand on end regarding the state of the American family. And their stories are not mere exceptions. I find myself wondering if, when teachers and politicians suggest parents shouldn’t have input into the schools, they have come to that view because of their constant exposure to family breakdown. It may have warped their perspective. The need to deal with pathological families in public schools thus overrides consideration for the needs and wants of normals.

    It is, I’m afraid, a very unusual student who is able to learn while living in the midst of a chaotic home. Nihilism will undoubtedly compound the problem, but it may not actually be the source of it.

    Why do people make kids with such frequency when they can’t take care of them? This is a part of human nature that I don’t understand. 

    • #27
  28. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Why do people make kids with such frequency when they can’t take care of them? This is a part of human nature that I don’t understand. 

    Maybe because, if women on average don’t have at least 2 kids each, the race dies out?

    • #28
  29. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Why do people make kids with such frequency when they can’t take care of them? This is a part of human nature that I don’t understand.

    Maybe because, if women on average don’t have at least 2 kids each, the race dies out?

    So? Other breeders pick up the slack. Why breed if you are unhappy and unsucessful?

    • #29
  30. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Why do people make kids with such frequency when they can’t take care of them? This is a part of human nature that I don’t understand.

    Maybe because, if women on average don’t have at least 2 kids each, the race dies out?

    So? Other breeders pick up the slack. Why breed if you are unhappy and unsucessful?

    The successful ones don’t seem interested.  They probably don’t get enough recognition.

    • #30
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