Education really is the key to society and the future - Part One: A crisis from ECE to post-grad
By Mark Wegierski
If there is anything that left-liberals in Canada clearly and unequivocally understand today, it is that education really is the key to society and the future. The educative process in Canada today is mostly focussed on state education (extending from taxpayer-subsidized daycare to the public university), rather than on parents or religious bodies or private institutions. There have been exerted enormous efforts to make the state education system reflective of a broadly left-liberal ethos, and to make teaching (as well as educational administration) among the most financially well-rewarded and looked up to professions in Canada.
In Canada, education is, formally speaking, under the jurisdiction of the provinces. Hence, there are in theory some chances that a right-leaning provincial government could effect at least some changes in a given province's education system. However, when Progressive Conservative Premier Mike Harris attempted to introduce considerable changes to the education system in Ontario, he faced a ferocious revolt, unprecedented in Ontario history. The media typically used phrases along the lines of "Mike Harris' pogroms against Ontario's teachers" to describe the situation.
It should be parenthetically noted that in Ontario, Catholic primary and secondary schools are mostly funded from Catholic ratepayers in given municipalities, but they also receive provincial funding. Because of longstanding Canadian traditions, there is a "public Catholic" schooling system in place. Ironically, most of the Catholic primary and secondary schools now differ comparatively little from the public primary and secondary schools, as they have been mostly rolled over by the public schooling trends.
In regard to educational matters, one could begin by looking briefly at daycare centres and kindergartens. In many such places, so-called "war-toys" are banned, and "sexist role-models" discouraged. For example, it is considered a scandal if women are shown in so-called traditional roles and occupations in a picture or reading book.
The child then proceeds to grade school, where virtually all of the supplied textbooks and books are designed according to ultra-politically-correct criteria. Such studies as "minority awareness", "global awareness", and the beginnings of the ubiquitous "sex-education" are introduced almost from the first grade.
In junior high school and high school, the curriculum is designed away from learning in the areas of real history or culture. As far as the socially-impacting types of studies, there is usually a so-called "social issues" focus. History and culture are usually conceived in terms of women's, labour's, and minorities' struggles to free themselves from a never-ending cycle of oppression which has barely abated today. There are also the so-called "peace" and "development" studies. One can notice that ideological feminists and multifarious minority spokespeople are regularly brought into the classrooms, in support of that part of the curriculum where such matters are given considerable prominence. Indeed, multifarious types of "minority consciousness" are greatly encouraged, creating a climate where excuses can readily be made by minority group members, for any personal scholastic failures. It may also be remembered that in the 1980s, Soviet "peace delegations" were visiting Toronto and Ontario classrooms, "to give their side of the story." One does not recall U.S. Republican spokespeople – or, for that matter, Canadian Reform Party representatives in the 1990s -- ever being offered such invitations.
Various trends like those above in public education are so massive and all pervasive, especially in large-urban settings in Canada, that it is virtually impossible for most people to perceive them as ideological. In any case, it is all being done ostensibly for the sake of noble ideals like progress, humanity, enlightenment, and so forth.
Because of left-liberalism's long war against the so-called "authoritarian personality", attempts to assert real moral authority, to transmit higher ethical principles, or to impart a sense of social and generational continuity to new generations – are viewed with suspicion by typical educational experts. Such endeavours as "values clarification" and the ubiquitous sex-education are rather miserable surrogates for the lack of meaningful ethical instruction.
Without a doubt, the late modern classroom, especially in large-urban centres, is fraying just like the society around it. Without the sense of a shared higher meaning; of real ethics; of some affection for real Canadian history and traditions; and of something to really strive and live for, the existence of the individual in a socially-fragmented society tends to become meaningless. There tend to emerge the social problems which characterize a shallow, materially-obsessed society – such as, most notably, illicit drug use, compulsive promiscuity, and violence.
The left-liberal "therapeutic", so-called "helping" establishment (usually most prominently represented at the high school level in the person of the Guidance Counselor) is, it could be argued, itself based on incomplete and reductive views of human nature. Hence it is mostly incapable of soothing the authentic rage of persons whose life has been stripped of all real meaning, in the modern wasteland.
The sort of education given today can, in most cases, offer no healthy counter-balance to the overwhelmingly pervasive influences of the Hollywood cinema, television, rock and rap-music, and videogame subcultures -- which are probably among the strongest and most socially-conditioning of the media. The typical modern public high school is probably one of the worst social milieus for any decent and reflective person (whatever their nominal ideology), to be in. Any positive results achieved are usually in spite of, not because of, the education system. There are nevertheless those persons in the education system today who cling to some remnants of tradition, or some normative ethics – which can be of varying nominal derivation.
But it could be argued that (especially in large-urban areas) the modern education system produces, broadly-speaking, four main types of people – those who are destined to be the "Inner Party cadres" of the regime (and usually come themselves from wealthy or extremely wealthy families); the "gullible followers" of the regime (i.e., those who profess the tenets of the system, but derive no tangible benefits from it); and nihilists of greater or lesser intensity. The third group typically profess the tenets of "political correctness" only in so far as they think they can get some tangible benefits from it. The fourth main type is a minority totally engulfed by their minority identity – and usually very contemptuous towards so-called mainstream Canada.
As for what has today been dubbed the "multiversity", it bears little resemblance to the Academy, as it has been more traditionally conceived (except in the outward, purely formal sense). All the socially-impacting disciplines in Canada (such as, especially, sociology, psychology, anthropology, political science, history, and philosophy) are mostly under the dominance of left-liberal and far left outlooks. The Ph.D. process is so onerous, and non-leftist professors in the social sciences and humanities so few, that the Academy has every chance of remaining a hermetically sealed "politically correct" environment, even if there happened to occur major social change all around it. Although some might say that academic study should be the main point of attending university, it could also be pointed out that student politics and student journalism are usually dominated by a left-wing crowd who systematically exclude other viewpoints from the "arena". The tightness of the control goes far beyond anything found in the society at large.
For all its limitations in terms of being grounded almost entirely in Enlightenment philosophy – and in largely misidentifying the main creators of the late modern project -- Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students (1987), also had much relevance to Canada. Indeed, such a debate about the Academy in Canada, has barely yet begun. Canada's falling away from traditionalism is all the more painful because it could be argued that the country once had, many years ago, a more traditional, distinctive culture than America's, in which very fine public high schools, and long-renowned universities, played a major role.
To be continued next week.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.