Monday, June 6, 2022


History has always been a sobering discipline because it presents the story not only of man’s achievements but also of his failures. History contains many vivid lessons of what can happen to man if he lets go his grip upon reality and becomes self-indul­gent; it is the record of the race, which can be laid alongside the dreams of visionaries, with many profitable lessons. Yet the modern tendency is to drop the old-fashioned history course and to substitute something called “so­cial science” or “social studies,” which one student has aptly dubbed “social stew.” What this often turns out to be is a large amount of speculation based on a small amount of history, and the speculation is more or less subtly slanted to show that we should move in the direction of socialism or some other collectivism. Often this kind of study is simply frivolous; the student is invited to give his thought to the “dating patterns” of teenagers instead of to those facts which explain the rise and fall of nations. There is more to be learned about the nature of man as an individual and as a member of society from a firm grounding in ancient and modern history than from all the “social studies” ever put together by dreamy “pro­gressive” educators.

Philosophy too is an essential part of lib­eral education because it alone can provide a structure for organizing our experience and a ground for the hierarchical ordering of our values. But under “progressive” educa­tion there is but one kind of philosophy: that of experimental inquiry in adapting to an environment. This has no power to yield insight and no means of indicating whether one kind of life is higher than another if both show an adjustment to the externals around them.

Thus, with amazing audacity, the “progres­sive” educators have turned their backs upon those subjects which throughout civilized history have provided the foundations of culture and of intellectual distinction.


Imaginative Conservative April 2016
Education and the Individual
by Richard Weaver

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