Breaking Away from the Educational Hobgoblins

Many of you know how much I value, read, and love what Wendell Berry has to say to our day.  In particular, I am convinced that if we sought to approach education the way he is calling us to approach farming we would turn around the dismal state of our current schools within a generation or two.  But the problem is that to do so would require a major overhaul of most of our pet paradigms.  Two recent things I have read by Berry have impressed the enormity of this vision to change how we educate upon me.  So I have a couple of blogs to post here, first this one “the hobgoblins of our schools” and later one designed to give some practical action steps for dealing with these hobgoblins at an individual and personal level.

Actually, as we know, the new commercial education is fun for everybody. All you have to do in order to have or to provide such an education is to pay your money (in advance) and master a few simple truths:

  1. Educated people are more valuable than other people because education is a value-adding industry.
  2. Educated people are better than other people because education improves people and makes them good.
  3. The purpose of education is to make people able to earn more and more money.
  4. The place where education is to be used is called “your career.”
  5. Anything that cannot be weighed, measured, or counted does not exist.
  6. The so-called humanities probably do not exist. But if they do, they are useless. But whether they exist or not or are useful or not, they can sometimes be made to support a career.
  7. Literacy does not involve knowing the meanings of words, or learning grammar, or reading books.
  8. The sign of exceptionally smart people is that they speak a language that is intelligible only to other people in their “field” or only to themselves. This is very impressive and is known as “professionalism.”
  9. The smartest and most educated people are the scientists, or they have already found solutions to all our problems and will soon find solutions to all the problems resulting from their solutions to all the problems we used to have.
  10. The mark of a good teacher is that he or she spends most of his or her time doing research and writes many books and articles.
  11. The mark of a good researcher is the same as that of a good teacher.
  12. A great university has many computers, a lot of government and corporation research contracts, a winning team, and more administrators than teachers.
  13. Computers make people even better and smarter than they were made by previous thingamabobs. Or if some people prove incorrigibly wicked or stupid or both, computers will at least speed them up.
  14. The main thing is, don’t let children get in the way of being nice to children. Children are our Future. Spend plenty of money on them but don’t stay home with them and get in their way. Don’t give them work to do; they are smart and can think up things to do on their own. Don’t teach them any of that awful, stultifying, repressive, old-fashioned morality. Provide plenty of TV, microwave dinners, day care, computers, computer games, cars. For all this, they will love and respect us and be glad to grow up and pay our debts.
  15. A good school is a big school.
  16. Disarm the children before you let them in.

From “the Joy of Sales Resistance” (preface to Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community, pp. xii – xiv)


One thought on “Breaking Away from the Educational Hobgoblins”

  1. Love it! You have hit the nail on the head of much of the silliness that masquerades for education nowadays. Great quote.

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