Has the United States become too dumb to survive? Not yet, but some aim to take us in that direction.
A recent piece on Slate argues that we shouldn't send our children to private school, no matter what. Sure, the local schools may be bad. But that's apparently just the price we all need to pay. In fact, the lousier the public school is, the more important it is that your children go there.
No, not just to be indoctrinated into believing whatever the government wants you to believe. Allison Benedikt has an even more frightening reason for insisting on universal education.
She begins by bragging about her own ignorance. She says she read a total of one book in high school, and brags she didn't learn much on her way through the University of Michigan, either. She insists she's “doing fine,” but how would she know? To paraphrase Don Rumsfeld: education, to her, is an unknown unknown. She's never studied, clearly doesn't care to, and would prefer that nobody else do so either.
"I’m not saying it’s a good thing that I got a lame education. I’m saying that I survived it, and so will your child, who must endure having no AP calculus so that in 25 years there will be AP calculus for all," Allison Benedikt writes. There’s a rallying cry: If one kid can’t pass AP classes, get rid of them for everyone. Talk about a race to the bottom.
Sir Isaac Newton declared that if he saw far (and he did) it was only because he stood on the shoulders of giants. Those educated people went before him, wrote down what they learned and passed it on. Benedikt would prefer that we, instead, raise a generation of midgets, who won’t understand the world even if they bother to look around it.
The fact is, as the world has become more complicated, there’s more we don’t understand. Doctors and lawyers specialize in particular areas. Few really know how a cell phone works, or how a PC connects to the internet. We can’t change our car’s oil or build our own homes.
And that’s all right, as long as some people understand each of these things. That’s what we need for civilization to endure. Yet Benedikt has fallen for the illusion of permanence. She assumes that since we have smart phones, and airplanes, and safe drinking water, and flat screen TVs we will always have those things, if not better ones.
But it doesn’t work that way. When the Roman Empire collapsed, it wasn’t replaced by a civilization that built larger buildings and better roads. Instead, it gave way to centuries rightly called the dark ages, when people struggled just to survive. Most forgot how to read and write. Rome’s aqueducts and walls endured for centuries. Some remain today. But it was centuries before people could start building anything like them again.
President Obama is more careful with his language, but he’s pushing the same ideas as Benedikt. When he says he’ll “ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more” and his administration imposes regulations under Dodd-Frank and ObamaCare, he’s assuming that things will continue exactly as they are. Despite the tide of taxes and debt and red tape, he assumes everyone will keep on inventing, innovating and creating jobs at the exact same pace they always have.
However, if people respond to the incentives Obama’s giving, they’ll stop being as productive. Where will our economy go then? Downhill, fast.
Let’s take Bebedikt’s ideas to their logical conclusion. Instead of putting education on a glide path to destruction, why not just shutter all the schools today and send the kids off into the streets? There’s no reason to waste their time for the next couple of generations until we all forget everything we know. Instead, let’s just forget everything and move on.
Despite what Benedikt thinks, private schools are a great way to improve public ones. They introduce a level of competition that public schools have to respond to. You can’t fight City Hall. But if you make it irrelevant, it may change itself. Then we can all keep learning.