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Three Wrong Lessons

Three Wrong Lessons

June 20th, 2011 // 10:09 am @

The result of our intermingled modern educational and class systems is too often that the modern citizen feels, as G.K. Chesterton put it, “I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all.”

Lesson One: A major lesson of our modern schooling is that we are all somewhere on the social scale, we should give way to those above us on the scale and look down to those below us.

Lesson Two: Another lesson is that the teacher, the authority, the official, etc. is above us all, and we should always, always, bow to those above us.[i]

Lesson Three: Too many young people also learn that there is nothing worth fighting for—“Always walk away. No matter what!”

In fairness, these lessons come naturally with the advancing of society—but so does national decline. And these things—false lessons and national decline—historically come together.

Surely there is a time to follow authority, to humbly give way to others, to walk away from a fight. All of these lessons are part of a good education, along with the reality that there is a time to stand against authority (e.g. King George, Stalin, etc.), to reject elitism, and to fight for something that matters (against slavery, against Hitler, etc.).

A combination of these lessons is part of any balanced education. An emphasis on just one side of these lessons is mere brainwashing.

As Chesterton said, Joan of Arc “…did not praise fighting, but fought.” The same is true of Washington, Lincoln, and Gandhi. Gandhi taught that violence is not the way, but strength and standing for what is right is essential. Can you imagine Gandhi caving in to the upper class? He would bow, but in the bowing he would stand even stronger for what is right.

To really educate, we must teach all sides of the issues—not simply the behaviors of class society, dependence on authority and walking away from any threat of force. There are things worth fighting for. Each citizen must think deeply and independently. Experts should be listened to, but not worshipped.

Alvin Toffler put it this way:

“Built on the factory model, mass education taught basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, a bit of history and other subjects. This was the ‘overt curriculum.’ But beneath it lay an invisible or ‘covert curriculum’ that was far more basic. It consisted—and still does in most industrial nations—of three courses: one in punctuality, one in obedience, and one in rote, repetitive work. Factory labor demanded workers who show…up on time…take orders from a management hierarchy without questioning…[a]nd perform…brutally repetitious operations.”[ii]

This societal focus naturally influences our citizenry.


[i] An excellent list of such problematic lessons is found in Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto.

[ii] The Third Wave, by Alvin Toffler.


odemille 133x195 custom Redcoats to the Rescue!Oliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and 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.

Category : Blog &Education &Independents &Leadership

One Comment → “Three Wrong Lessons”

  1. Sara Holt

    13 years ago

    If you teach that there is something worth fighting for then you are teaching by necessity right and wrong, good and bad etc. It is not possible to teach both sides of these lessons without a value system. If the value system of the authority is that there is no right and wrong or even that a value system should not be imposed on the student, then there can be no balance reached.

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