In 1926 Dr. J. Gresham Machen gave his testimony before the house and senate committees on the proposed Federal Department of Education. Machen said, “We do not, I think, want a Federal Department of Education because such a department is in the interests of a principle of uniformity or standardization in education which, if put into practice, would be the very worst calamity into which this country could fall.” The Federal Government, using greenbacks as leverage, eventually did what Machen warned them not to do. He was right! This country is in an academic calamity. Federal authority over local schools is like giving an intoxicated person the keys to the car.
Dr. Machen’s speech resonates with intellectual reasoning and rational discourse.
The reason why I am opposed to this proposal [establishing a Federal Dept. of Education] is that it represents a very ancient principle in the field of education. Education, which, it seems to me, has been one of the chief enemies of human liberty for several thousand years – the principle, namely, that education is an affair essentially of the State, that education must be standardized for the welfare of the whole people and put under the control of government, that personal idiosyncrasies should be avoided. It is a very ancient thing – this notion that the children belong to the State, that their education must be provided for by the State in a way that makes for the State’s welfare. But that principle, I think you will find if you examine human history, is inimical at every step to liberty…this principle of thoroughgoing State control in education.
The notion that the children belong to the State and that their education must be provided for by the State assumes the familial role in the development of the child. In political philosophy it’s call statism. Statism means the state is the savior of its subjects. Dr. Machen points out “the utter falsity of the popular notion that philosophy has no practical effects upon the lives of the people.” If you don’t believe me Google “postmodern education theory” and find out what public education is doing.(http://www.xenos.org/essays/comparing-modernist-and-postmodern-educational-theory.)
The intellect requires the use of rational God given logical processes. The scholar only needs to memorize, believe and put into practice the information provided by the school teacher. The state is not interested in teaching the student how to think; it is interested in teaching them what to think by means of communicating information. The state does not want intellectual subjects. The word intellect comes from the Greek word suniemi, which refers to “understanding or insight into something.” The state wants “schooled” students (scholars) rather than intellectual development, learning the rules of logic, and using their rational ability. The word scholar taken from the Greek word schole refers to the place where students and teachers meet. The teacher teaches the student information.
I’m not necessarily opposed to public education. I’m opposed as was Dr. Machen to Federal control over local schools. That takes me to the thesis of my blog: “the notion that the children belong to the State and their education must be provided for by the State” therefore, the student is obligated to the State.
Unfortunately, many Americans are not interested in the philosophy of education. However, if we do not have a philosophy of education, random entropy will prevail. Any philosophy of education ought to begin with local government (people in the local community) regulating the schools. That includes academic, social and every other aspect of the education of children.