0 Items  Total: $0.00

Featured

Censors Versus Bashers: The New Education?

September 9th, 2010 // 11:24 am @

A friend once suggested that we should remove the writings of Robert Kiyosaki from our curriculum. When I asked him why, he said that Kiyosaki’s books contain a number of errors.

“Do the writings of Marx contain errors?” I responded.

“Well, yes,” he admitted.

“What about the writings of Freud, or Dewey?”

He agreed that these contain errors also.

“Should we remove them from the curriculum, too?” I asked, “Or do you think the students actually get a better education by reading these authors and facing their errors head on?”

“That makes sense,” he said.

I asked, “Which books do you know that contain no errors — that are totally perfect?”

He said that the scriptures come to mind, but he couldn’t think of any other books with no errors.

Before I could continue, he broke in: “But when you’re reading these known classics, of course you point out the errors. In the case of Robert Kiyosaki, people just read it and accept it at face value.”

I replied, “But isn’t that all the more reason that a great education would include reading Kiyosaki and other influential books of our time and considering their truths as well as their errors?”

We had an excellent discussion, and he left agreeing that students were better off reading Kiyosaki and really thinking about it than not reading it at all.

Push Your Comfort Zone

But the question concerned me because I’ve heard it so many times before. Like the concerned parent who didn’t want her son to read or discuss Lord of the Flies.

After realizing that we would be discussing its flaws, she suddenly was very excited for her son to participate. Or the executive who objected to The Tipping Point because he felt that some of the conclusions weren’t adequately substantiated. When told he could share his views with the group, he was excited to attend.

thethinkerThe amazing thing is that so many of us today just assume that if someone puts a book on a reading list she must agree with everything it says.

Or we assume that if she has strong disagreements with something, she won’t recommend reading it — a sort of reverse censorship.

The result is the end of learning. If you don’t study new ideas that challenge the accepted wisdom, all that is left is brainwashing.

You end up with people who just accept whatever they read at face value; or you get people who believe they are deep thinkers because they know how to disagree with whatever they read.

Both of these extremes are lacking. The whole point of an education is to learn the ability to discern between good and bad, right and wrong, excellent and mediocre, true and false, useful and irrelevant, etc.

The best way to learn this is to experience great classics, and clarify their truths as well as their errors.

Once we gain this skill, we should apply it to current books, ideas, candidates, etc.

So why do we sometimes want to only read things we already agree with? At one level, it’s just more comfortable.

But at another level, education is about pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones — especially in our thinking.

The Battle

Unfortunately, we may be living in a strange conveyor belt saturated world with two competing sides — the Censors and the Bashers*. The Censors only want to read things without errors or personality. In other words, textbooks.

Every teacher knows that the quickest way to get rid of controversy is just to “dumb something down” to professional or technical jargon.

Ironically, when a book doesn’t say anything important, when it is “boring,” nobody seems to disagree with it. C.S. Lewis worried about just this thing when he wrote that our textbooks are educating “men without chests.”

The new formula for selecting a curriculum seems to be: No Genius or Personality = Flat and Dumbed Down Reading = No Controversy = Good Curriculum.

Of course, this makes for terrible education, because it shuts down thinking. The Censors don’t mean to do this, but the result of only reading what you agree with is the end of real thinking.

As for the second group, the Bashers, they thrive on controversy. But they never build anything. They just attack, criticizing those who are trying to make a positive difference.

Bashers never risk anything to make the world better, but they think they’re helping if they attack those who do. They are the natural response to the Censors.

Censors try to make sure that no controversy occurs, and in the process they unwittingly stop thinking (and suggest that everyone else do the same).

Of course, it’s vital to shelter children from evil and confusion, but Censors take it to the level of trying to shelter adults from dangerous ideas. In history, this always has terrible results — from Caesar to Hitler.

Bashers criticize the Hitlers of the world, but attack good ideas with just as much gusto. In fact, Bashers have come to believe that thinking means criticizing. They seldom use the word “thinking” without the modifier “critical” thinking.

But real thinking, including actually applying new ideas to build and improve the world, requires much more.

Are these two extremes the result of two full generations of conveyor belt education? Censors read The Lord of the Flies, Marx, Kiyosaki, or anything else that challenges the currently accepted wisdom, and say: “Let’s take this off the list — it has errors.”

Bashers, on the other hand, read the same books and say: “Here are all the errors; let’s list them one by one and focus on them.

Better still, let’s just attack the authors.” They believe this is critical thinking, but most of the time it only amounts to criticizing.

Be a Builder

Educated people, in contrast, read with eye for errors and also an openness to truth and application—whatever the source.

In fact, that’s a good definition of what it means to be educated: the ability to recognize and apply truth, regardless of its source or delivery.

As a result, a truly educated people is a free people. What we need is to be thinking people, and that is the purpose of education.

Even if some of our schools fail to educate, we can still put thinking at the center of our reading. Consider this three step approach:

  1. Let’s read the challenging books of our time, and carefully think about what they say.
  2. Where they’re wrong, let’s discuss and learn from the errors.
  3. Where they’re right, let’s work hard and take risks to apply them and build a better world.

As my friend and I finished our conversation, he surprised me — and taught me something. He said, “Before I leave, can you suggest several books I should be reading that will help me think more deeply?”

The truth is, most people aren’t really Censors or Bashers at heart. We just get into bad habits. Most people are really Builders, if you give them a chance.

In a world where widespread Conveyor Belt thinking has conditioned many of us to automatically censor or bash new ideas, we all need to do more thinking.

This simple but profound change could make all the difference in our society’s future. It would certainly have a wonderfully positive impact on modern education — or even just the personal education of anyone who applies it.

I think my answer surprised him, too: “I suggest that you start by reading Kiyosaki again, and this time write out a list of everything you learn that is true.

Then put it next to your list of errors. Finally, as you study both lists, consider what you can use from the lists to make a positive difference in the world.”

To his credit, my friend was open and excited to think, learn, and build.

*Thanks to James E. Faust for the concept of “Bashing vs. Building.”

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • PDF
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

Category : Education &Featured

The Calm Before the Storm

September 9th, 2010 // 10:42 am @

gatheringstormYears ago I moderated a discussion about the writings of John Adams and how much we need to apply today the things he taught more than two centuries ago.

One of the participants asked poignantly, “So what do we DO about all this?”

Others expressed similar concerns: Theory is okay, but what can really be done to impact society the way the American Founders did? Or the way other great statesmen and stateswomen in history did?

So much needs to be done in society; what can we do to make a difference?

This concern is not an isolated one. For at least the past fifty years, the classroom experience has been widely separated from “the real world.”

Reading, studying, discussing and writing are things done by students and academics — in a place not quite part of the real world of business, family, law, politics and current events.

So it is natural to ask what we can do — as if studying itself is not doing something.

Yet this was not the case for the great statesmen and stateswomen of history. Virtually all of them spent a significant portion of their lives reading, studying, writing and discussing — particularly in the classics.

Yes, they did other things; but it is doubtful that they could have done them without the scholarly preparation in character and competence.

I am not alone in my understanding that there are storms ahead — certainly the cycles of history suggest there are, for our nation and for other nations.

I do not know what they will be, nor do I believe that the future is ominous or doomed. I am an optimist. I believe that the best America and humanity have to offer are still ahead.

So mark these words well: Every generation faces its challenges, and ours will be no different. Our children and grandchildren will face their challenges. This is what I mean when I say that storms are ahead.

Despite a hectic and challenging world, made more complex by 9/11, we are today in a relative era of calm.

It is a calm before the storms that will inevitably come to our generation, just like they have come to all past generations and will come to those in the future — until God and mankind create a better world.

Arguably, the most important things we can and must DO in the calm before the storm is to prepare. Secondly, no type of preparation is more important than character and knowledge preparation — both of which are impacted by reading, writing, discussing and studying.

In 1764 George Washington didn’t do anything “big” to make a difference in society — except read and study and write and discuss great ideas. In other words, he prepared.

He had been at it for over five years by then, and would spend five more years just reading, studying and discussing great ideas before he would (perhaps before he could) do the big things. But when the storms came, he was prepared.

Nor did James Madison, Thomas Jefferson nor John Adams do the big things to make a difference in 1764. All three spent most of the year reading, studying and discussing the great ideas — in addition to the basics of making a living, going to school, raising families or living life.

But in addition to regular life, while most of their peers just made a living or went to school, they choose to do more: they read, studied, wrote, and discussed great ideas from the classics.

When the storms came their peers wondered what to do. But they already knew.

It was still hard, it still took everything their generation had to give, it still tested them to the depths of their bodies and souls — but they knew what to do because of what they had done in the calm: they had read, studied and discussed classics and history, in addition to living their normal lives.

Find a crisis or time of challenge in history, and you will find one of two things: either a nation with at least a few people who read, studied and discussed the classics in the calm before the storm, or a nation that failed to pass its tests, trials and storms.

I have found no exceptions in history.

Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln are examples. They prepared by reading, studying and discussing the great classics during the calm periods; when storms came they knew how to handle them.

Can you imagine the outcome of the American Revolution if the Founders hadn’t read and discussed classics? Or of the Civil War if Lincoln had just done business and politics but never spent hours and hours reading the great works? Or of World War II if Churchill hadn’t read the classics but just been a successful businessman or politician?

And the same applies to lesser known leaders and statesmen at the community and local levels. Application is essential; preparation is vital. And in the calm before the storm, preparation is even more critical than application.

Churchill even titles his history of 1919-1939 The Gathering Storm. And arguably the greatest folly of this period was that the leaders of the time were ignorant of or ignored the lessons of history and the classics.

Churchill himself spent much of this time trying to convince the leaders that the lessons of history needed to be heeded — lessons he had learned in the calm before the storm, lessons he learned in over a decade of reading, studying, writing, and discussing.

Reading, studying, writing and discussing is doing something. At certain times in history, it is the most important thing.

The real question is, are we doing it as well as the Founders? As well as Lincoln, Washington, Churchill or Gandhi? Or more to the point: are we doing it as well as we must? If not, we must improve. We must do better.

If we are doing as well as Lincoln or Churchill or Madison in our “calm” period of reading and learning, then we are DOING something indeed! And it will have consequences.

This is what Leadership Education is all about. Liberty, Prosperity and good government worldwide are a natural result of a world where people read, write, study, discuss and apply history and the classics.

If we do not do these things well, then our “calm before the storm,” our preparation time of the early 21st century, will likely be the same as other periods of history where reading, writing, studying and discussing classics was ignored — the beginning of failure in the storms ahead.

But I do not think so. I believe that in our generation, as in times past, just a small group of committed individuals can make all the difference.

Image Credit: salaud.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Globe and Mail bestselling co-author of LeaderShift, and a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • PDF
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

Category : Blog &Education &Featured &History &Statesmanship

Subscribe Via RSS & Email

Click the icon on the left to subscribe in an RSS reader, or have new articles delivered to your inbox by entering your email address: