“The present state of the world is not the proof of philosophy’s impotence, but the proof of philosophy’s power,” wrote Ayn Rand. “It is philosophy that has brought men to this state—it is only philosophy that can lead them out.”
Readers of TOS know that if we want to solve the massive political problems facing America and the world at large, we must spread good philosophy, namely Objectivism. The problem is that by the time people reach the age of philosophic inquiry—late teens to early twenties—they have already absorbed so much bad philosophy that few are able and willing to embrace a philosophy of reason, egoism, and individualism. (Observe that although many millions of young adults have read Ayn Rand’s works, only a scant few have embraced Objectivism.)
Major elements of bad philosophy—mysticism, altruism, and collectivism—regularly are touted as virtuous in movies, television, and other aspects of the culture. And children consume this conceptual poison substantially from such sources. But bad philosophy is most steadily and most effectively pushed on children by their parents and teachers.
Many parents deluge children with disastrous philosophic ideas from the day they can listen:
- Faith is a means of knowledge. Believe in God, and you will know He is real. Disbelief is a sin.
- Obey God’s will, and you may go to Heaven. Disobey Him, and you’ll burn in Hell.
- Self-interest is bad. Don’t be selfish. Put others first.
- Self-sacrifice is good. Sacrifice for others. That’s what being moral is all about.
- The group is greater than the individual. Serve the greater good . . .
And so on.
American parents typically spoon-feed their children a hash of mysticism, altruism, and collectivism. Given the extent to which parents administer such poison, it should come as no surprise that few children reach their late teens able and willing to think independently enough to challenge the status quo.
Mix such rampant bad parenting with the methods and aims of America’s schools, and you have a recipe for intellectual, cultural, and political disaster.
For several decades and counting, American children have been “educated” in ways that leave them essentially ignorant of science, literature, history, and other subjects about which they need knowledge in order to think clearly, live well, and become adults who are able to establish or maintain a free society.
Since the mid-20th century, American schools (both state-run and private) have been guided dominantly by the principles of so-called “progressive education.”
John Dewey, a founder of this approach, explains that progressive education is concerned not with conveying “bodies of information and skills that have been worked out in the past”;1 not with teaching the child “science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography”;2 but rather with preparing him for “social cooperation and community life” and “saturating him with the spirit of service.”3
Observe how progressive education dovetails with the altruism and collectivism pushed by parents and the culture at large. Progressive educators take full advantage of the fact: “The mere absorbing of facts and truths is so exclusively individual an affair that it tends very naturally to pass into selfishness,” warns Dewey. “There is no obvious social motive for the acquirement of mere learning, there is no clear social gain in success thereat.”4 Thus, schools should not focus on conveying facts and truths; rather, they should engage the student in “social activities” through which he will “conceive of himself from the standpoint of the welfare of the group to which he belongs.”5 . . .