I’m in the middle of Jim Goad’s The Redneck Manifesto, and it’s got me thinking. What do we want from public education?
Some basic common cultural knowledge? Useful skills for the job market? A place to warehouse our kids for twelve years?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the common conservative complaint that schools (especially colleges) are just large liberal indoctrination camps. I have to say that my usual reaction to such an accusation is 1.) “Oh, then how come conservatives run things if you’re the poor put-upon intellectual minority?” 2.) “Ha, ha.” 3.) “You’re the ones who want to be rich so you take jobs that pay more than teachers and professors make. If you leave teaching in our hands, how can you expect us not to spread our philosophies?” and 4.) “Ha, ha.” again.
But the more I think about it, the more I think there’s a legitimate criticism here underneath a pile of whiny nonsense. We have this tendency to believe that we should educate people because, if only people knew as much as we do, they would, of course, see the rightness of our position and adopt it.
But who doesn’t think that or at least some version of that? And why is such a belief so much more offensive when coming from the Left?