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Chapter Eight: Middle Childhood

Section 6: "Antidisestablishmentarianism"


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Filipina Dance by the Baranga Dance Company at the Filipino Heritage Festival, Plaza de Cesar Chavez, San Jose, CA, on Sunday, August 2, 1998.


The shortcomings and ill effects of traditional education have been thoroughly documented. In somewhat of an overreaction, an antiestablishment humanistic educational philosophy has been created. The basic tenet is the inherent "goodness" of human nature. The implication was that all bad had to be trained and, thus, the educational system was to blame for the sorry state of society. The remedy was to remove all authority in the classroom, avoid imposing society's morals, and relegate the teacher to the role of nurturing facilitator.



This philosophy does not adequately take into account two features of human nature. The first is that we begin our lives egocentrically, unable to assume the perspectives of others, and unable to coordinate different perspectives. The second feature, common to most higher animals, is that there is a tendency to master one's environment. The latter requirement leads people to shun chaos, or to "escape from freedom" (the phrase in quotes is the title of a book by Erich Fromm, which adds psychoanalytic support to this position). Unless education expands people's ability to coordinate perspectives, the former feature will prevent the formation of democratic orders based on cooperation, and permit only the formation of autocratic dominance hierarchies.



Works of fiction often reach a level of truth surpassing nonfiction counterparts. Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a telling account of the social character of preadolescent boys. In that story, children crash-land on an island and form a primitive, even savage, autocracy. The results include scape-goating, humiliation of the weak, violence toward outsiders, and even murder.



The fact that humanistic values develop only in the context of sophisticated social environments, which promote and require cooperation among the members. Children have neither the skills nor the wisdom to form such social environments on their own. Clearly, one of the primary responsibilities of the educator is to convey the skills, knowledge and values that make democracy and political friendship possible. The (secular) disestablishmentarians abdicate this responsibility.







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Transcultural Friendship: Our Political Future


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