Counter-education & obliquity
Walking past our local church the other day prompted me to ask: why don’t I believe in God?* The answer - and I think this goes for millions of atheists - is that as a young child I was told stories about a bearded old man on a cloud and as I grew up I reacted against such nonsense; those who kept their faith only did so by redefining God.My methodist Sunday School failed to produce a religious man. But this is just one example of a wider tendency - that education can be counter-productive. Take, for example, Shakespeare. How many millions of people are turned away from recognizing his genius by having him stuffed down their throats at school at an age when they are not yet receptive to his language and psychological insights? Wouldn’t he be even more widely and highly regarded if people were to discover him for themselves, rather than be prejudiced against him by school?Similarly, millions are turned off of maths and science by terrible teachers.Far from opening doors to science and culture, schools in practice slam them shut. They just give intelligent people something to rebel against. For example, when I was 11 we “did” The Hobbit at school, which only caused me to believe that no man ever spoke a truer word than Hugo Dyson. And my grammar school - pretentiously - had rugby teams but not football teams. I’ve hated egg chasing ever since. Of course, I shouldn’t overstate the point. The thousands of alcoholic teachers don’t turn kids off of drinking. And millions of people’s love of football survives games lessons. Nevertheless, counter-education is, I suspect, widespread. Which raises a question. Isn’t schooling, therefore, an area where John Kay’s Obliquity might apply? The direct approach - trying to enthuse kids about Shakespeare and science - fails in many cases. So, shouldn’t indirect approaches be tried? But what would these look like? I’ve suggested teaching kids to gamble? What other possibilities are there? Or am I missing the point - that education is not about imparting culture or science, but is instead about entrenching class division?* I mean: what’s the reason? not: what’s the rationalization? Bertrand Russell gave us this 83 years ago; Ditchkins add nothing to his arguments.