SCHOOLING TARZAN OF THE APES

What is an unraveling ultimately about? Have you considered what it means to be taught and to teach?

No doubt you have heard of Tarzan of the Apes. Tarzan’s story provides Western literature one of its more popular fables. After a trip to the zoo, it is easy to imagine a little baby boy raised by the great apes. Well, it most certainly is if you are an imaginative youngster who would rather be daydreaming than doing math homework.

What would happen if a great ape could and would give suckle to a small human child? Would a child raised amongst apes would ever become civilized? In the story, at least, Tarzan becomes quite the gentleman.

From an early age, we learn the values of our culture.  What is the culture of the great apes? I suppose Jane Goodall would say they have a culture, albeit a much simpler one than our own. Yet I suspect even she would admit that if the great apes raised a human child those apes would produce highly regrettable results.

We each learn how to be human from the people who raise and educate us. We each begin our own lives starting from what the people who raise us know and believe, and we do not easily depart far from that starting point. King Solomon put it this way.

Proverbs 22:6 King James Version (KJV) 

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

In our time, however, such wisdom is less accepted. Too few parents seem much worried about which way their children should go (or even where they might be). Most of us allow public school teachers, people we did not choose, to train our children. That is, we entrust the care of our precious children to the choices of politicians. Perhaps that is why so many youngsters find the story of a child raised by the apes so plausible.

Each people, even where government dominates the education of the young, promotes particular values. Each people insist its children practice those values. It is the values a People teaches its children that we call an ideology (List of political ideologies). We wrap these ideologies within that thing we call culture.

  • Western Civilization: Google “Western Civilization”, and that will produce 6,770,000 results. In a society where no one agency dominates, what children learn about Western Civilization primarily depends upon who devotes sufficient energy to make a difference.
  • American values: Google the expression “American values”. That search will produce in 2,370,000 results. Although the expression may seem bland and nebulous, it actually does mean something. We do not call it an ideology. Nevertheless, what that something is we compete to determine. Of course, that competition also leaves our children quite confused.
  • Conservatism and Liberalism: The values represented by these two ideologies can vary widely. Therefore, what children might learn very much depends upon the variant. Nonetheless, we can say this much. Where the modern Conservative generally emphasizes social rights and individual responsibilities, the modern Liberal emphasizes individual rights and social responsibilities.
  • Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and so forth: Implicitly endorsing Solomon’s wisdom, many people choose to raise their children in a strict religious environment. Because their hearts and souls have been organized, trained and equipped to believe, these children grow to provide the foundational support of each of the world’s great religions.
  • Communism, Nazism, and other totalitarian ideologies: Totalitarian regimes by definition demand unquestioning obedience. That is, the leader of a totalitarian state perceives loyalty to any other ideology but his own as traitorous. Therefore, in practice good communists must be atheists (see State atheism). Similarly, Nazis fought against religion. Had their regime remained intact, the Nazis would have tried to subvert Germany’s Christian churches (see Religion in Nazi Germany and Word for Word/The Case Against the Nazis; How Hitler’s Forces Planned To Destroy German Christianity).

As parents and grandparents, we can take charge of the education of our children, or we can abandon them to chance. If our children are lucky, some kind souls may devote sufficient energy to train our children in the way they should go. Most likely, however, whoever teaches our children will never love them as much as we should love them. Therefore, if we let other control the instruction of our children, we take the risk that the apes who instruct them will love them less than any human should, that our children will taught to be savages, that they will never learn by example how God wants them to behave.

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