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Education For Liquid Modernity

A great e-mail from a reader:

Had a very interesting conversation with a guy at my church today whose daughter babysits our children, about their problems with things they ran into in education (curriculum and content), and the alternatives they’re pursuing. The universities no longer have any claim to learning and are just running short of credibility with people like this family, and they really are just dropping out and pursuing other ways to get degrees – online and independent study, low-residence things, all sorts. The kids of theirs pursuing something technical like nursing or engineering, of course, have to attend an accredited program, but with liberal arts, you really don’t have to — and in his opinion are better off if you don’t.

The two of the four of his kids I’ve met are just quality young people. All of theirs were homeschooled, and the two I know are confident, competent, and responsible.

Even with some apprehension, they tried sending a couple to large public universities in our state, and they ran into the sort of radical Left-leaning agenda that we see on so many campuses, and it pushed them away. The really respectable part about that is that it was their kids’ judgment and decision a couple of different occasions to switch programs, even schools. Liberal Arts programs though, they’re just done in this family’s opinion, just utterly destroyed by this stuff, though they still see so much value in what they should be teaching. English departments, from what I can tell, don’t just teach literature any more without this huge overlay of critical theory and an obsessive focus on the race and gender element – and this is in Shakespeare classes, I can’t imagine newer works. One of his daughters started as an English major at a large state university, and ended up switching — even if that meant losing some scholarship money, but with her Dad’s blessing – after the sort of junk they were having them read. After one semester the daughter was distraught and decided to give it one more — was slated to take some sort of course that was supposed to be about children’s books for future teachers, and sure enough, front and center was tons of stuff — for kids — about gay and lesbian families and gender fluidity on the syllabus. She just quit the program, changed majors and decided if she wanted to read, she didn’t need to sit through these awful lectures about their social agenda, all under the guise of “inclusivity”. (And If you want to see the future of English departments, go look at a large university’s website where they show the Ph.D. Thesis topics of future professors).

This dad just told me straight up, “We’ve invested too much into our girls to send them to a university that is actively trying to undermine and undo everything we tried to do right.” It’s true. I have a long way to go before we have to think about this, but I’m more and more mistrustful of public education, especially when I think about what teachers in my very progressive city school districts will be teaching. Even now, with our toddlers, there arw bilingual and math pre-schools here friends of mine have kids in, and I’m interested, but just skeptical of all the other non-sense that comes with it.

This, I think, is the whole problem with public education, that public schools don’t just teach math, science, reading, and writing any more, it’s been co-opted by the Left to push a social agenda, and people like me are just not going to go along with it. It’s not like my small town where my friends’ parents were on the school board, and most of our teachers were probably at least church-goers. My parents didn’t have to worry about this, and didn’t see the school as potentially adversarial, we all had the same general values of respect for adults, showing up on time, completing work, and teaching an agreed upon set of knowledge. The pro-gay marriage and ‘non-judgmental’ attitudes about all permutations of gender and sexuality, I expect, will just be in the water. I think I’ve said this before, but I’m surprised we haven’t had more of a clash so far with public universities and conservative state legislatures. My guess is that legislators aren’t aware of what exactly is being taught.

I’m committed to getting my kids a decent education, but not at the price of sacrificing their character. And more and more the people I see that have followed that model have benefited from it, and even if their kids aren’t getting the accolades and getting to go to prom, they’re going on to live really thoughtful, meaningful lives as adults, or at least have a shot at it.

I see too many examples of people that didn’t think about this stuff, trusted the education system and culture, and their kids are doubting their faith. And in this good example of these faithful, competent young people, they definitely have a vigilant dad, who I’m going to be seeking out for lots of advice and see as an example.

This to me is the heart of what you’re articulating as the Benedict Option, people who just can’t go along with the mainstream culture having to be a little bit more vigilant and creative so that the culture — and now unfortunately institutions of public education – don’t undo everything you’ve tried to do right, in critical thinking, character, and in behavior.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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