INDIANAPOLIS—It’s time to stop pretending that American education debates are about education.
Education is supposed to be about enlightenment. It is a process of expanding one’s mind and deepening one’s understanding of the almost endless complexities of this world and of existence itself.
In the end, it’s an almost futile task.
This is why true education becomes a series of lessons in humility. The more one learns, the more one comes to understand the vast amount of things one does not know and cannot know.
Even the answers we find only lead to more questions.
This is what makes so many of our arguments about education in this country so frustrating. So many of the loudest voices in the discussion want to reduce what should be and is a highly individual and empowering experience to a mere transactional process.
They want students – and, more importantly, parents of students – to think they have all the answers before they even know how to ask the questions.
The latest debacle in Florida is proof of that.
For those of you who haven’t been following the train crash in the Sunshine State – lucky you – Florida’s politicized Department of Education just removed 41% of math textbooks from the state’s curriculum for the ‘next year.
Conservative flacks in Florida said the books were rejected because they included critical race theory and other forms of dogma that right-wing intellectual monitors deemed objectionable.
Again, these were math textbooks.
Most have been published by well-respected mainstream houses and have been reviewed by experts in their field before the texts even went to print. This is how the process of publication and adoption of textbooks works.
That is, until politicians decide there are votes to be exploited by distracting Florida residents from the fact that their COVID rates were about three times higher than California’s and instead focusing their attention on a complex legal and intellectual concept that is not even taught in elementary school. and secondary schools.
But then, one would have to understand the basics of math to grasp this reality, and politicians in Florida are doing everything they can to make sure math education there is weakened.
The conservative education despots offered no evidence of the offensive doctrines they found in the rejected texts.
To do this would have required the intellectual honesty essential to a true education.
That, too, is something these fanatics don’t seem to care about at all.
Their technique is ancient, as any student of history could tell you. In the late 1940s and 1950s they were shouting that there were communists under every bed.
There was none, but demagogues have always understood that frightened people rarely ask for evidence or evidence. These frightened people actually become unwitting collaborators in the scam process. They offer themselves to be flayed.
Often, they are proud to have let themselves be plucked so eagerly.
Periodically, I get notes from people who say they are horrified that someone like me is “brainwashing” young people.
I still find it a curious assumption on their part. Are they saying that if they were in a position of responsibility, like mine, they would betray and abuse that responsibility by trying to impose their own personal beliefs on the students? Do they project their own impulses and motivations onto me and all other educators?
But again, I have questions. The habit of seeking is something that a true education anchors in a mind. Once acquired, the tendency to question the slightest information that presents itself becomes a reflex.
The reality is that education does not teach people what to think or how to vote. If so, the late William F. Buckley Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy—who were the same age, came from similar backgrounds, and had similar educational opportunities—would have walked through life at an intellectual pace.
Instead, they disagreed on just about everything.
Education teaches a person to think.
It doesn’t teach what to think. It’s up to the individual.
There are many examples demonstrating this.
Unless, of course, you’re learning your math in Florida.
John Krull is director of the Pulliam School of Journalism at Franklin College and editor of TheStatehouseFile.coma news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.