A Slave to Progress

A number of various conversations and readings have all highlighted to me this week the problem that the Progressivist viewpoint poses for the educator. At its basic tenet, Progressivism teaches that we are becoming something other than what we are, and that this is a continuous act of history. Thus we are not today what we were yesterday nor what we shall be tomorrow. We are constantly changing, and the assumption of the view is that we are progressing toward something else. Note all the questions this raises for an educator and how if its true, it makes much of what we do pointless:

Progressing toward what? We hope something better, but it could be worse, or simply could be different. Is it right, in this view, to try to steer the progress toward some good that we perceive, or is it purely a random or unalterable progress? At its heart, this is one of the biggest issues I have as an educator because education demands an end; we must teach to some point, objective, or goal. I am often told that in our pluralist society, we should simply be giving students amoral facts, just information, so they can then form it to their own ends. But what ends? And what about my ends? This almost has the feel of a mobius strip.

Progress implies that we could trace the “journey” on a map. What real progress have we made? Who is bold enough to map out this progress, and state categorically that all progress has indeed been improvement? Most of the issues that are presented to me as indicators of progress are not fundamental changes in the human condition, but rather technological and cultural outcomes.

Is man basically good and thus becoming better, or is he bad and becoming good, or is it possible to argue that he is moving from bad to worse? This seems to greatly inform my behavior as a teacher. Am I seeking to encourage goodness, or reverse a move toward badness, or what? Or again, is it all “value” free? If there are no real virtues other than ones created by man of yesterday, then who is determining the current “good” and how does teaching relate to that good?

I could go on, and may do so later, but for now these thoughts have my head spinning. In the end, I simply reject the notion that we are changing in fundamental ways. I think that I have way more in common with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jeremiah, Paul, Augustine, and all their descendants than most moderns want to admit. What was True, Good, and yes, even Beautiful, for them is so for me as well.


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