The other day I quoted Plato and Aristotle to the effect that an educated electorate is essential if democracy is to have a sporting chance of success.
The same thought can be expressed differently: democracy, in its present, unchecked form, is bound to fail. For an educated electorate is a pie in the sky.
What exactly is education anyway? In the sense in which it’s relevant to the subject in hand?
The word didn’t really allow for much interpretation in the past. Everyone knew what education meant: an accumulation of knowledge whose desired outcome was a more intelligent and moral person. One best equipped to seek truth, and recognise it once found.
However, when modernity barged in, it brought along a full bag of semantic tricks, ranging from larceny to ambiguity. Hence nowadays education means something – or rather some things – entirely different.
For example, Thomas Sowell, one of today’s best thinkers on such subjects, talks about education in mostly utilitarian terms, as obtaining the useful skills required for survival in the rough-and-tumble of commercial life. He acknowledges that this isn’t all that education is about, just the most important thing.
Developing his thought logically, we’d have to see no difference between a university and, say, a plumbing school. If anything, the latter may even be more conducive to making a stable living.
However, if we accept my definition of education as a process by which a person becomes better at pursuing truth, it’s not immediately obvious how a degree in structural engineering or computer science can achieve that purpose. More employable, yes. Better, not necessarily.
Others equate education with a certificate of academic attainment, usually a university degree of some kind, any kind. This notion has never been sustainable, and now less than ever, even though such certificates make useful wall art.
To begin with, it’s now possible to obtain a university degree without ever tackling disciplines traditionally recognised as academic. Practically every university these days offers credit courses in subjects that, rather than making a person better, are guaranteed to make him worse.
The usual complement of black studies, women’s studies and gender studies is in the forefront, backed up by a wide selection of courses that must have been thought up by inmates of lunatic asylums.
The US leads the way with such programmes as ‘The Lesbian Phallus’ (The Occidental College, LA), ‘Philosophy and Star Trek’ (Georgetown University) and ‘Maple Syrup Making’ (Alfred University, NYC).
But British universities manfully hold their own, with such courses as ‘How to Train in the Jedi Way’ (Queen’s, Belfast), ‘Harry Potter Studies’ (Durham), ‘The History of Lace Knitting in Shetland’ (Glasgow) or ‘The Life and Times of Robin Hood’ (predictably, Nottingham University).
A youngster emerging with a degree awarded for stellar performance in such studies is no better equipped to face up to his civic responsibilities than an average Dachshund. At an unkind moment, I’d even suggest that the dog, if trained to bark at the sound of some key words, stands a better chance of voting intelligently.
However, even discounting such, shall we say, esoteric courses, and agreeing that the mere acquisition of marketable skills, commendable though it is, is irrelevant to acting as a responsible voter, a degree in the humanities is these days more of a hindrance than an asset.
To be prepared for participating in governance, which is what every voter does, a person must have at least some rudimentary grounding in such disciplines as theology, philosophy, history, law, logic, rhetoric, political science and so forth.
However, the teaching of such disciplines, if they are taught at all, is more or less monopolised by people hostile to our civilisation. They see it as nothing but a shameful hodgepodge of superstition, oppression, racism, colonialism, misogyny, homophobia and other irredeemable sins.
Rather than helping youngsters to overcome their youthful prejudices, such professors reinforce them – and then inculcate new ones, worse than the early lot. The results are catastrophic. In fact, I’d venture a guess that, should the franchise be limited to holders of university degrees in the humanities, every Western country would have a communist government, or as near as damn.
Having myself gone to a Soviet university, I shudder to see how similar Western universities have become. But there is an important difference, and not in favour of the latter.
We had to take a whole raft of compulsory subjects designed to brainwash us in the delights of communism. As I remember, the curriculum included year-long courses in the History of the Communist Party, Dialectical Materialism, Historical Materialism, Scientific Communism, Marxist Political Economy, Marxist Aesthetics, Scientific Atheism – and I’m sure I must have left some out.
However, we, most of us, recognised those courses for the mind-numbing propaganda they were and never took them seriously. Our real education came from forbidden texts, usually typewritten, mimeographed and disseminated by intrepid individuals risking their freedom.
Western students, on the other hand, hungrily gobble up the fetid refuse they are fed. And what do you know, the same texts that were forbidden in the Soviet Union are now ‘cancelled’ in Western universities, and for the same reason. A concerted effort is under way to protect young brains from contamination with truth. Courses in the humanities have become exercises in subversive propaganda.
Such is the situation. And I can see no realistic possibility for changing it (for the better, that is).
Before youngsters become students, they spend a decade or longer as pupils. The majority, a dwindling one, will never advance to higher education.
Schoolmasters get to work on young brains still in the embryonic state and, by the time they are finished, their charges are deemed ready to decide who will govern the country, and how. On what basis are they qualified to make such decisions?
They are taught at most schools by graduates of teachers’ training colleges, who are themselves functionally illiterate Marxists almost to a man. That doesn’t prevent them from having firm convictions based on wholesale rejection (and ignorance) of Western civilisation.
Many of their pupils complete their secondary education without learning to read and write properly. But so much stronger is their belief that only political candidates swimming on the wave of putrid biases are fit to govern. And they vote accordingly.
Those who go on to university then fall into the hands of graduates of better establishments, often Oxbridge in Britain or the Ivy League in the US. Most of them are acutely resentful of their lowly lot in life, as compared with that of financial wizards or successful businessmen.
American academics envy Wall Street mavens, and British academics envy American ones because they get higher salaries. Both groups feel, correctly, that they are at the margins of society, extraneous to the philistine dreams that their medieval colleagues would have seen as nightmares.
They see themselves as pariahs, a self-perception that feeds on itself. ‘Progressive’ ideas are their way to explain what they bemoan as their life away from the mainstream.
Notable exceptions exist, they always do. But exceptional academics don’t set the tone at humanities departments. They are sometimes tolerated for the sake of scoring diversity points, but such tolerance runs out sooner or later.
You can see that no reform of education can solve the problem, none can reverse the trend of releasing into political life swarms of people manifestly unfit for the purpose. For education doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
As the popular ditty goes, “The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone, the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone…” – and education is welded unbreakably to the whole ethos of society.
For education to produce responsible voters in sufficient numbers, a tectonic shift must occur, creating a fissure between the West and the past several centuries of its development. By way of a palliative, perhaps one could agree on just a single century – but even that is impossible even to imagine.
History ticks on, and there is no going back. Darwin was right when saying that everything changes. Where he was calamitously wrong is in believing that every evolutionary change is for the better.
That wrong idea has left its original biological domain and drifted into social and political life as the doctrine of unstoppable progress. The same two words I offered the other day as a refutation of democracy disprove this doctrine as well: Joe Biden.