What is the culture war about? To a large extent, it is about whether individuals still matter.  Consider this excerpt from Individuals Used To Matter from NooneOfAnyImport’s Blog.

The devil’s in the details.

Even the smallest decision can resonate far beyond its initial design.

Older son learned to read early.  We naively expected schools to take this skill into account, but by the final year of his brick-and-mortar experience, we knew that would never happen.  In third grade, the slow and thorough application of “reading strategies” to standardized (and therefore lame) material was not only the norm but mandatory, regardless of a child’s reading level.

They have to go through this process, I was told.  Even if they can mechanically read the words, they won’t be able to comprehend the meaning unless we use these strategies to teach them, I was told by Educators Who Are Well Meaning But Shall Remain Nameless.

Now consider what C. S. Lewis said in the preface to a short story he wrote, Screwtape Proposes a Toast. Here is an excerpt from that.

In my view there is a sense in which education ought to be democratic and another sense in which it ought not. It ought to be democratic in the sense of being available, without distinction of sex, colour, class, race, or religion, to all who can—and will—diligently accept it. But once the young people are inside the school there must be no attempt to establish a factitious egalitarianism between the idlers and dunces on the one hand and the clever and industrious on the other. A modern nation needs a very large class of genuinely educated people and it is the primary function of schools and universities to supply them. To lower standards or disguise inequalities is fatal.

If this sounds harsh, I would observe that the opposite policy is really devised to soothe the inferiority complex not of the idlers and dunces but of their parents. Do not be in the least afraid that those who live out their school-days—which should be brief—on the back bench of the lowest class will suffer any trauma when they see promotion and honours and official approval going to the diligent minority. They are stronger than it. They can punch its head and kick its stern. All the distinctions they really care about—the popularity and the success in games—go not to it but to them. They enjoy their school-days very much. Our real problem is to see that they impede as little as possible the purposes for which school really exists. (from here)

What was C. S. Lewis writing about? Screwtape Proposes a Toast is the sequel to The Screwtape Letters.  In his stories about Screwtape, an administrator — a senior devil — in the bureaucracy of Hell, the Lewis imagines how devils might tempt us into their realm. Screwtape Proposes a Toast acknowledges the Devil’s “finest” accomplishment, government-run public education and the overriding importance it places upon student self-esteem.

n 1: a feeling of pride in yourself [syn: self-pride]
2: the quality of being worthy of esteem or respect: “it was
beneath his dignity to cheat”; “showed his true dignity
when under pressure” [syn: dignity, self-respect, self-regard]

Self-esteem is about pride.  When our pride separates us from the love of God and overrides our responsibility to love our neighbors, pride becomes a sin (see THE SEARCH FOR THE MOST VIRTUOUS VERSATILE BLOGGER — PART 5).


  1. So are you reckoning that the need to keep self-esteem up w/slower students is the impetus behind the holding back of more advanced students?

    I don’t know.

    The impression I get is they actually believe that a more advanced student “isn’t as advanced as you think.” That they really don’t buy the idea that a child should skip ahead. In my son’s case it wasn’t so hard to sell, given the fact that he was not advanced in other areas: math, handwriting, maturity. But regardless of the individual, the impetus seems to me a fully ingrained idea that all children need to be subject to “a,b,c,d & e” because the (or we) experts say that is best. No individual assessment necessary.

    thanks for the linking, Mr. Tom. I sure appreciate the chance to ponder this further. Even many of my homeschooling peers don’t understand the difficulties one faces in brick-and-mortar schools, having never placed their kids inside one.



    1. Linda, Your question and your observation forces me to think a bit more. Does the need to keep self-esteem up w/slower students provide the impetus behind the holding back of more advanced students? No, I don’t think so either. Self-esteem is one of those “for the children” arguments that provides the excuse. Nonetheless, when children should be learning and receiving sound moral instruction, the emphasis is on protecting their self-esteem.

      Each child is unique with unique educational needs. However, for the sake of the children — to protect their self-esteem — our government-run public school system insists that we run each child through the exact same educational regimen? That’s good for the children? Of course it isn’t, but the educational bureaucracy insists that it is.

      I think I will elaborate in a sequel. Please check back on Tuesday.


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