Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's Wrong With American Education

"As long as education is driven by technocratic imperatives and the tyranny of the practical, our students will fail to acknowledge that precious goal of Socrates: To know thyself -- and so your own limits and those of your country as well."

So asserts William Astore in his post, "Educating Ourselves to Oblivion," over at

As such, Astore is contributing to the long line of laments against the American educational system dating from at least 1980 and probably a good deal earlier. Astore thinks that current American academe is training rather than educating its students, so they cannot use critical reasoning to challenge authority.

Would that Astore himself would exercise some critical reasoning - for it does not follow from the proposition that critical reasoning is valuable or even necessary that therefore current higher educational institutions - with their huge rates of tuition - are the venue in which to impart such skills.

Indeed Socrates himself, whom Astore cites, illustrates this point. Socrates did not sit in any sort of university chair nor did he charge anything for his services. Rather, Socrates criticized the sophists, who were attempting to sell their skills. He roamed Athens' agora or attended dinner parties, symposia, where he would engage in ad hoc dialogues with those whom he happened to meet.

I suspect, were he alive today, that he would be denied tenure. After all, he never published anything.

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