8.6 Some Readjustments of Values Needed In Education


Clearly our purpose in this next look at Beyondist applications a brief incursion into education can only be to state the main emphases which Beyondism brings to such a many-facetted and vast domain. Education has responded more than one could have ventured to hope, since 1900, to reformative, rational and scientific approaches. However, one may venture to assert that in perspective the movement that named itself progressive with a capital P (from Rousseau to A. S. Neil, G. B. Shaw, W. B. Curry, Bertrand Russell and others), will actually prove to have been least positive of the many truly progressive educational-psychological contributions.

In essence it was merely permissive, challenging the assumption it claimed to see in traditional education that "every child left to himself would be a wild beast, a violently antisocial being." With wider experience and a more developed source of psychology, it is now evident that this parody need not be far from the truth! More precisely, we have to recognize that innate human nature is neither good nor bad until some cultural standard or direction is introduced to weigh it. It is then evident, so long as there is any evolutionary movement whatever proceeding in culture and ideals that man's nature systematically lags, as in the CAG concept, and is therefore always, both in ethical and other senses, "below standard." Since, in spite of all he says, the untutored man wants only to be himself, it is clear that he will kick against progress, and will himself progress only when kicked by environmental demands.

Shaw came out with the typical "Progressive" objection to character education, which had been a central theme in the English Public Schools, saying "anyone who tries to shape a child's character is the worst kind of abortionist." But this is rhetoric, for every society and religion has a duty to pass on (not irrevocably stamped in, however) the imperfect discoveries that culture has already made. Even if education were to be considered as concerned solely with intellectual matters, education of the emotions would still be important. For the most vicious errors in reasoning are not logical but emotional in origin. Consequently, it is actually more important to extend character education into the intellectual domain, than merely to bring a sceptical intellectualism into the character domain, as the "Progressives" did. Thus, with one of those swings back to sanity which fortunately occur with some regularity, educators come again to the riper wisdom of Matthew Arnold, which inspired the earlier emphasis on education of character and the emotions[16].

Among other unrealisms of the more noisily fashionable elements in education in the twentieth century have been: (1) an excessive estimate of what the school culture can do relative to the home culture. Much of the difference between school classes and schools in various regions has more to do with the kind of children, their homes and social backgrounds, than the goals set by the teachers. Moreover, this home culture has the capacity to persist for generations, and (2) an attempted disregard egregious among any skilled craftsmen of how the quality and sources of the raw material need to be watched. Both culturally in terms of accepting cultural immigrations and in the neglect of need for social work and genetically in terms of birth rates educators have neglected a genuine duty to call the attention of society to the supply problem[17]. Some of the very best, e.g., Thorndike, Terman, Sir Cyril Burt and Sir Godfrey Thomson, did, but most educators preferred the vision of their own omnipotence offered by the nonsense of Helvetius ("L'education peut tout") and Watson (1914). It may be difficult for education to refrain from overselling the role of education; but it has now also to sell the importance of biological factors.

What Beyondism now calls for in the spirit of education has been so well stated by two eminent scientists that an independent attempt here is unnecessary. (The mechanics of improvement of sheer educational efficiency, e.g., by the teaching machines inventions of B. F. Skinner, and classroom reorganizations through sound personality and ability testing, will take care of themselves.) Thus Thomas Huxley, nearly a hundred years ago, tells educators: "The life, the fortune and the happiness of every one of us, depend on our knowing something of the rules of a game infinitely more difficult and complicated than chess. The chessboard is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the world, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just and patient. But we also know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance. To the man who plays well, the highest stakes are paid, with that sort of overflowing generosity with which the strong shows delight in strength. And he who plays ill is checkmated without haste, but without remorse .... what I mean by education is learning the rules of this mighty game." If this spirit of realism can somehow be incorporated in the thinking of young citizens we shall indeed witness a major revolution in social and political direction, and one without violence. It will open up a willing acceptance of new and positive moral values, on an objective foundation, and prepare the way for the world adventure of great socio-genetic experiments which Beyondism envisages. At the same time it will bring about a sufficient sense of the irrelevance of many political organizations and religious systems among which the young are now asked to take partisan stands.

Besides the elusive change in spirit which this indicates for education, it calls also for some changes in content especially a still larger role for biology, genetics and psychology. This has been well stated by the second scientist we shall quote (the Nobel Prize winner W. B. Shockley who gave us the transistor and various advanced electronic concepts). "The central purpose of our educational system should be to develop a citizen's rational powers and to equip him to understand causal relationships, especially as they apply to man. The greatest obstacle to man's future evolution at the present time is lack of public education on the fact that man is a mammal and subject to known biological laws" (1965, page 104). (To which one might append, as an "Amen" Teilhard de Chardin's "To see or to perish is the condition laid on man.")

Certainly modern man needs to see himself more objectively, as a small but vital part of an evolving universe. He needs sympathetically to accept and adjust to the reality of inborn individual differences. He needs to view racio-cultural groups not as hostile deviants from his own values and kind but as important experiments, to be preserved and advanced. He needs to learn that moral values are continually developing out of scientific research on group and individual survival, and that, as such, they have authority. His emotional and character development must be tied to this perception. Indeed, when we come to the final question in the next chapter of the emotional adjustment that is integral to Beyondism it will be realized that the school has a major assignment in emotional education here.

One need which all ethical systems based on scientific or philosophical analysis share, in contrast to dogmatic religions, is the development in their congregations of a capacity to handle psychological warfare. The growing child typically moves from a domain of benevolent instructions, which proceeds faster the more trusting the relation to the teacher, into a deceptive and malevolent jungle of political cant, journalistic slyness, and a language corroded from the precision and elegance of its meaning by the euphemisms of advertising (e.g., the "good life" defined as expending more than $12,000 a year). At this point education has to recognize that the training in scientific method and logic alone, as set out above, is not enough.

By the same strategy as that by which reduction of drug habits is sought through attacking the production sources, education could reduce this problem by special attention to bringing about a high correlation (over individuals) of intelligence and character values. A person of low intelligence who is emotionally disturbed is perhaps unemployable, or even dangerous as a criminal individual. But a society which allows its most highly intelligent individuals to manifest ill-balanced, emotionally perverted and essentially dishonest character traits is in grave danger indeed, for these are the writers, who then become sources of infection rather than of wise leadership. Unfortunately, the evidence at the moment is that the combination of highest intellectual with highest character education is failing. In the early part of this century the classical studies of Burt (1917, 1925), Chassell (1935), and Terman (1926), clearly showed a decided tendency of delinquents to be below average in intelligence, and of highly intelligent children to be on an average of superior character and emotional stability. In some studies the correlation now approaches zero.

Since this mis-marriage of great talent with meanness of character cannot entirely be avoided (as is recognized in the legend of Lucifer) society needs to armor itself far more by training its citizens in defenses against psychological warfare. It might be a good step to begin by teaching young students to distinguish, in their hero worshipping, between the scintillatingly clever and the steady illumination of the wise[18]. Certainly in a democracy it is increasingly vital, as mass communication grows more powerful, deliberately to give school courses that will enable the citizen to think statistically, instead of being affected by the cunningly chosen extreme case; as well as to learn to detect the emotional, sentimental appeal, and to refuse to be stampeded by reports of mass opinion. These qualities are particularly lacking in our electorate today, and all the advances of economics, welfare and science will get us nowhere until we cease to be a nation of sheep. The problem is, of course, very old, as one is reminded by Plato's grieving over the young (misled by the sophistries of the sophists), by Aristotle's Sophistici Elenchi, and by Francis Bacon dissecting out the "idols of the market place." What is hopeful and new about the present educational possibilities is psychology's better understanding of emotional persuasions and deceptions, beginning with Freud's perception of the defense mechanisms, and the still more precise diagnostic location of emotional twists in thinking that the experimental dynamic calculus now promises to make possible. The better diagnosis of intellectual distortion which the progress of psychology makes possible could lead to an education thoroughly self-conscious in these matters and able to armor the student effectively.

The rather wildly aimed shots of the young revolutionaries of this decade unfortunately indicate a tremendous need for such education. A political writer has recently complained (especially of the young) that "The person with extremist inclinations may succumb with equal readiness to either right or left, depending on which 'ultra' fad catches him first." There is, of course, temperament in this tendency to extremity (Eysenck, 1954, has shown the common hysterical character in the extreme right and the extreme left), but this perennial peril in political organization arises from defective education and intelligence. And judging by the prevalence of extreme and ill-balanced views in the distended university student populations today the educational mis-fire we are experiencing is precisely of the kind just indicated an enormously enlarged intellectual tool kit of information and words (if not always ideas) with extremely poor judgment, lack of training in intellectual discipline, and negligible understanding of methods of scientific and statistical analysis.

Also in this domain but here it deals with self-deception rather than deception by others one encounters the cost of what I called some forty years ago (with experiences of Oxford student debate) "tea-table intellectualism." Russell, on reaching ninety (1968, Vol. 2, page 185), has also become suspicious of this and warns against "The habit of affixing easy labels [which] is convenient to those who wish to seem clever without having to think, but has very little relation to reality."

I would be happy if the label I used might also correspond to nothing, but one fears that, actually, "tea-table intellectualism" is very real and has been spread by the educational system from the leisured academic few to become a national habit of conversation and reasoning. Meanwhile, "far back through creeks and inlets making" comes the silent revolution among the few, trained in original scientific thinking, patient in investigation statistically perceptive, breaking with calm realism through the stereotypes and accepted sentimental attitudes which remain the rhetorical stock-in-trade of the self-styled "intellectuals" and the political zealots.

This brings us finally to the danger in education which few educators will ever admit namely, the danger of too much of it. In some ideal sense one may certainly argue that one cannot get too much, but there are two realities which deny the possibility of the ideal so defined, (1) that education for living in an era at time t has to be given in era (t - 1), and (2) that when education exceeds the reasoning capacity of the student it can lead to more mistakes than would a "lower" level of education. Partly because of the mind's inherently very limited power to "transfer training," an intensive education often ties up the individual's skills and interests in forms which disqualify him for a changing world. In young countries such as America and Communist Russia, with enormous enthusiasm for education, the remark that a man might have too much school education is received with incredulity, but in older countries, such as France or Britain there are usually some rather esoteric expressions for indicating that a man may have "the defects of his education." Such observations as that James I was "the wisest fool in Christendom" or the old folk saying that a more dangerous fool than one who does not know, is one who does not know that he does not know, illustrate that the perception goes back over centuries. There is nothing to prevent intensive verbal education, for example, producing someone like Mrs. Malaprop. Indeed, investigation might well show that an appreciable fraction of our student population today has been endowed with a larger vocabulary than it can command, just as a young man can learn to play more pieces on the violin than his sense of pitch can sustain. The danger of over-education is well illustrated by Napoleon's comment at Jena, that his opponents had read too many books on tactics. Thus they became fair game for an intelligently original opponent. In the rapidly changing world ahead of us there is such a thing as being over-educated in out-worn skills, and made unaware of the limits of one's intelligence. Education to think, using analytical and research methods, and apprehending the limits of one's facts and abilities to reason, becomes the primary requirement.

But, in summary, the chief challenge to education in the coming years is to teach biological and social sciences, and the arts of analyzing arguments, in such a way that a democracy may by prepared to understand the increasing role of expert research in social science in government and the growth of values.















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