Book Review: Everyday Tao – Living With Balance & Harmony by Deng Min-Dao

EverydayTao
TheBreakaway
Zy Marquiez
March 19, 2017

Eastern philosophy is a rather intricate subject that has many different viewpoints.  This particular book couples well into that philosophy.

Everyday Tao – Living With Balance & Harmony by Deng Min-Dao is a very insightful book.

Split up into 15 different sections, Everyday Tao covers a variety of ways into which individuals are able to get in tune with the Tao.  The 15 sections are: nature, silence, books, strategy, movement, skill, craft, conduct, moderation, devotion, perseverance, teaching, self, simplifying and union.

Using Chinese ideograms, which contain inherent stories therein, the author brings about much meaning showing the reader what each ideogram breaks into and what insights can be had.

The way the book is set up, each individual insight covering no more than a page, makes this the type of book that can be read straight through, or on a day-by-day basis.  For me, the latter offered much enjoyment and meaning because I was able to digest and discern much of what the book provided and ponder it deeply therein without rushing.

Through and through, the book offers a no-nonsense approach into Taoist insights.  As someone who’s relatively new to Eastern Philosophy and am open minded about it, there was much to appreciate, regardless if one is locked within a particular paradigm or not.  This volume offers much value, and if you’re seeking more to read on Tao or Eastern Philosophy, do not hesitate – get this book.

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Dialectical Thinking – Zeno, Socrates, Kant, Marx by Tommi Juhani Hanjijarvi Ph.D.

DLT
TheBreakaway
Zy Marquiez
March 10, 2017

This particular book is a great foray for those beginning to delve into dialectics.

In Dialectical Thinking – Zeno, Socrates, Kant, Marx by Tommi Juhani Hanjijarvi Ph.D., the author seeks to show how valuable dialectical thinking is as he examines the minds of former dialecticians.

To accomplish this, Hanjijarvi sifts through critical data points spoken by the likes of Socrates, Kant, Zeno and Marx.  The author does make it a point to supplant additional data and couple it to specific dialectics discussed when the need arises.

For instance, while analyzing Marx’s foray into dialectics, the author delves into information brought about by Engel, Bernstein, Lenin and such.

As the author makes clear, dialectics have extensive uses.  More importantly, as the author argues “Dialectics are always about the dynamics of the self.”

Being someone who is delving into formal dialectics for the first time, it was quite mentally invigorating seeing the different dialectics employed by the great dialecticians.  Moreover, it was also interesting to note where some of their ruminations dovetailed and what paths it led them on.  That said, there were times that the text demanded a bit more from the readers as its complexity increased some.  Still, what the book offers is plenty even if it might be intricate at certain junctures.

These days, the benefit of thinking from opposite spectrums, as dialecticians do and this book showcases, would be a great skillset for individuals to learn.  Rarely do people put themselves on both sides of an equation; people usually end up just simply fostering their points of views without taking the other person’s view into consideration.  For instance, the mainstream media is the greatest purveyor of this and shuns anybody who wishes to think outside the box or question anything that is passed off as fact.  And if they show two sides to a coin, it’s always to stoke the flames of the divide and conquer left right paradigm that we see manifesting in countless forms.

Of course, in reality, there are many sides to countless issues.  This reason is why this type of book is vital, since it helps lay a solid foundation as an introductory volume into the discipline of dialectics.

Thinking unilaterally about incisive issues won’t help people think critically, nor will it help people to think outside the box.  Predictably, this prevents individuals from grasping crucial issues at their core.

For those reasons, and many others, this book is definitely to be considered for the inquiring individual.  In fact, am even going to suggest this book to some friends for homeschooling.  Look forward to reading more books like this.

As an introduction to the dialectical thinking employed by some of the greatest dialecticians, this book carries out its premise rather well.

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This article is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Zy Marquiez and TheBreakaway.wordpress.com.

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Suggested resources reviewed below for those seeking ideas to self-teach and become autodidacts:

Socratic Logic V3.1 by Peter Kreeft Ph.D.
The Trivium – The Liberal Arts Of Grammar & Rhetoric by Sister Miriam Joseph Ph.D.
How To Read A Book – The Classic Guide To Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren
Philosophy 101 – An Introduction To Philosophy Via Plato’s Apology by Peter Kreeft Ph.D.
The Complete Workbook For Arguments – A Complete Course In Critical Thinking [2nd Ed.] by David R. Morrow & Anthony Weston
The Imaginative Argument – A Practical Manifesto For Writers by Frank L. Cioffi

The following books reviewed below cover the disturbing issues within the public schooling system:

Rotten To The Common Core by Dr. Joseph P. Farrell Ph.D.& Gary Lawrence
Dumbing Us Down – The Hidden Curriculum Of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
A Different Kind Of Teacher – Solving The Crisis Of American Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
Weapons Of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto
Drilling Through The Core, by Sandra Stotsky & Contributors

January Book Haul 2017

bookhauljanuary
TheBreakaway
Zy Marquiez
February 10, 2017

At to risk of sounding out of touch with reality, just recently saw my first book haul of my life on someone’s wordpress.  YES, REALLY.  It’s all good, you can laugh.  It’s like someone that loves gaming never hearing of a Playstation, no?

It really shows what happens when you ensconce yourself in a hobbit hole for-beyond-ever.  How does a bibliophile end up not knowing about other people’s bibliophiliness? [If THAT could ever be a word!] Well, by being a book-a-holic de jour, of course.

All jest aside, as someone who reads books like they’re going out of style, figured it would be interesting/different to try one of these out and am going to attempt to do these monthly as well.

In any case, what follows are the titles of each of the books, and a short reason as to why these books were picked up.

Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Wilson

Making my way through The Hobbit and Lords Of The Rings for a second time, this seemed like a natural adjunct to The Hobbit, and it does not disappoint.  If you love Tolkien’s work, particularly The Hobbit, you will LOVE this.  The breadth and scope that Tolkien employed in The Hobbit was vastly more phenomenal than you could imagine.  But don’t take my word for it, do your own research.

Underground History Of American Education by John Taylor Gatto

Having read Gatto’s landmark books Dumbing Us Down [Review Here], A Different Kind Of Teacher [Review Here], and Weapons Of Mass Instruction [Review coming soon], this seemed like a nice way to round out my research into public schooling, particularly the historical side.  Of course, Gatto not only calls it how it is, but he’s methodical and precise in sourcing his material, showing how those within the establishment – in their own words – have wanted to dumb down education and create an enormous engine of conformity for over a century.  And it’s worked in spades, as can be seen here.  This book should really be a zinger.

Dark Matter, Missing Planets & New Comets by Tom Van Flandern

Having read Dr. Joseph P. Farrell’s Cosmic War – Interplanetary Warfare, Modern Physics And Ancient Texts, getting Tom Van Flandern’s book seemed essential to understanding the exploded planet hypothesis that Dr. Farrell discusses in his book.

LONG story short, the hypothesis is that where the asteroid belt now resides, there used to be a planet and it was destroyed.  Van Flander did research into this, and found strong evidence for this particular theory.  Furthermore, there’s also evidence that this event was deliberate and not natural.  Ironically enough, for those that might think that idea sounds ludicrous, check this out:

British Scientists To Lead Hunt For Fragments Of ‘Dead Planets’ Hidden In Antarctica

How ‘bout them apples asteroids?

Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson

Having not been taught nigh anything of the founding fathers in school, this was a must read.  One of those topics that doesn’t get enough coverage, and it’s because most of the populace are ignorant of it, mainly because public schooling is all but removing any semblance of true history from school.

Ask yourself, why don’t schools – high schools / colleges / universities – have any courses in Freedom?  For a country that loves to parade freedom around, it’s quite troublesome that its one main tenet isn’t ever discussed…

Am also planning on getting Franklin’s short autobiography soon, but all in due time.

Disease-Mongers: How Doctors, Drug Companies, And Insurers Are Making You Feel Sick by Lynn Payer

After reading this particular link, getting this book was a must.  As an individual who’s always sharing information about the growing and rampant issues of Big Pharma in order to educate others, this book seemed indispensable.  Although a bit dated, am hopping the book still holds plenty of information valuable enough to share.

Before I Go – Letters To Our Children About What Really Matters by Peter Kreeft Ph.D.

It took a long time for me to find a philosopher/individual that not only talked about classical philosophy in a manner one can learn from, but also many other unsung topics within that realm, which are still vital nonetheless.  Enter philosopher Peter Kreeft Ph.D.  Why did Kreeft like a natural fit for me, when there are countless people out there?

Kreeft is methodical, logical, precise, not overly complex, isn’t afraid to ask tough questions, uses simplicity quite often, and thinks in an analogical manner.  If there was EVER someone who would have been awesome as a professor, at least from my point of view, this person would be it.  Heck, Kreeft’s range in thought/discourse is so wide that even has a book on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Philosophy, called The Philosophy Of Tolkien: The Worldview Of Lord Of The Rings, which is on the way as we speak.

In any case, having reading Kreeft’s Socratic Logic [review here], and Philosophy 101 by Socrates: An Introduction To Philosophy via Plato’s Apology [review here], which are two indispensable books, mind you, am making it a point of getting all of his books that appeal to me, and the book above fit within those parameters.

Reading has become a mainstay in my life, and am finding that am learning magnitudes more than ever thought possible when compared to public schooling, which was a complete waste of time and didn’t yield anything of substance that couldn’t have been taught by people in homeschooling or by private tutoring.  That’s why am making it a point to continue being an autodidact, while also researching topics that will be of interest to myself, but might also help others in the process.

Have any of you done any bookhauls?  If you’ve done any, please share them below as it would be great to see what books individuals have gotten – or are considering for that matter – these last few months.

Book Review: Philosophy 101 By Socrates – An Introduction To Philosophy Via Plato’s Apology by Peter Kreeft Ph.D.

philosophy101
TheBreakaway
Zy Marquiez
February 10, 2017

My introduction to Peter Kreeft’s work took place via his magnum opus Socratic Logic A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, And Aristotelian Principles Edition 3.1With that book Kreeft set the bar extremely high for his own work given the phenomenal job he did in the creation of that book.  Thankfully, that type of high quality standard travels with him to this other book.

Philosophy 101 By Socrates – An Introduction To Plato’s Apology by Peter Kreeft PhD is an indispensable introduction into the realm of Philosophy.

Although notably not as long as Kreeft’s book cited initially, this book still packs a punch.  The author creates what one may call a ‘user-friendly’ guide to Philosophy.

Given its length, the book can be read rather quickly.  Additionally, Philosophy 101 by Socrates is distilled to serve as a jump-off point for the reader/learner to venture forth into other philosophical topics.  Not only is it possible to use this book as a portable classroom, but it can be useful for homeschooling and even college classrooms.

Arguably the main strength of the Kreeft thesis is that philosophy takes no prisoners.  It questions everything.  Like a curious kid asking why in their nascent stage, it seeks truth – not belief – within every crevice it dares to delve into.  This may be problematic for individuals that do not want their beliefs question.

Kreeft shows how Socrates ‘philosophy operates in the following passage:

“Socrates is the apostle of reason.  He demands that we give logical reasons, grounds for beliefs, and follow the logical consequences of our beliefs, taken as premises or hypotheses, to their logical conclusions through a number of logically compelling steps.”[1]

Such incisiveness will undoubtedly get to the core of the issue far more often than not if employed correctly.

And yet, as Kreeft implies, philosophy isn’t an antithesis to certain disciplines, such as religion.  In fact, Kreeft goes to show how faith and reason can coexist if used trenchantly:

“One of the main functions of philosophy as practiced by Socrates is a critique of religion, finding reasons for (or against) faith.  These reasons often claim only probability rather than certainty; and even when they claim certainty, they may be mistaken) for man is not God and infallible); but it is surely a gain to use binocular vision, reason and faith, and to make at least somewhat clearer and/or more reasonable the ideas most people find the most important in their lives.”[2]

As an introduction to philosophy and Socrates simultaneously, one would be hard-pressed to find a better book than this.  In that Kreeft does an exceptional job in showing how Philosophy and Socrates interweave, especially given how Socrates planted many of the seeds for this whole discipline with his life’s work.

Using Plato’s Apology as a jump-off point, Kreeft undertakes the task to show the reader many of the ways philosophy can be understood by using forty different descriptions of the subject.  It was particularly interesting seeing the range of descriptions that Kreeft was able to come up with – some of it which might shock the reader – and how he was able to seamlessly show how apt those descriptions were to the act of philosophizing.

Subsequent to that Kreeft gives readers a cursory analysis of parts of the Euthyphro, as well as Phaedo, which are both dialogues by Plato, the latter of which details Socrates’ last days.  There are various purposes for the dialogues and the commentary that follows, and these merge swiftly with the overview of philosophy that Kreeft undertook.

One of the main strengths of this book is its ability to narrow complex topics into practical – but not overly simplified – gems of information that the reader can glean.  By contrast, many other philosophy books tend to overcomplicate philosophy, which turn readers off, or to oversimplify philosophy, which ends up not showcasing the latitude that philosophy can employ when used trenchantly.

This practical primer of philosophy also helps readers realize the importance of the art of cross-examination, which Socrates is the father of.  Coupled with that, and more importantly, by its very precision cross-examination employs in philosophy, Kreeft helps readers gain an understanding of the thorough depth which philosophy will go to in search for truth.  This journey in search for Wisdom will percolate into all disciplines, and can only strengthen an individual’s repertoire.

Drawing on all the data above, the book should be an integral component in education.  What the book offers is a template for what’s possible by philosophy’s employment, and not having these skills/knowledge in life emblematic of a surgeon at the operating room without a scalpel.

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Sources & References:

[1] Peter Kreeft Ph.D., Philosophy 101 By Socrates – An Introduction To Plato’s Apology, p. 104.
[2] Ibid., p. 141.

Breakaway Ruminations #3 – The Power Of Curiosity

imagination7
TheBreakaway
Zy Marquiez
January 26, 2017

“The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind, is curiosity.”
– Edmund Burke

” People function better when they’re engaged and curious.”
– Tom Dotz & Tom Hoobyar, NLP – The Essential Guide

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.  Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
– Albert Einstein

For the individual, curiosity is indispensable.  Without curiosity, the individual finds itself without the compass through which they would plot their journey in life.

In life, curiosity serves multiple purposes.  Curiosity is the path through which we achieve truth, but also the path where we unleash imagination.  Ultimately, one cannot strive for truth, if one cannot search for it.  And one cannot search for truth, if one is not inherently curious.  Conversely, imagination, on the other hand, cannot be employed if one’s intrinsic curiosity is dull at bay.  How can one imagine, if one cannot wonder?  How can one wonder, if one is not curious?

This is why it’s imperative to foster curiosity at every turn, for it will yield amazing results.

Who better to learn about being curious, then children?

Children are amazing beings; they always wonder what’s possible.

If you spend enough time around them you will notice children will do the most random, unexpected, delightful, or at times downright bewildering things.

However, it’s reasonable to argue that most persistent thing a child will do when they reach that age is to ask why.  This is because questions, to children, are natural.  They cannot know the world without inquiring; they inherently realize this.  How else can one attain knowledge, but by figuring things out?  How else can one attain knowledge, but by employing curiosity?

Curiosity is to questioning, as clues are to solving crimes.

Every person that has interacted at length with a child will eventually run into questions of all types.

In fact, as a quick sidebar, not long ago, got into a very mindful and lengthy conversation with my friend’s daughter who was 11 or so.  This young kid had more curiosity than any other adult that has interacted with me for a long time.  It was rapid fire consistent questioning that you never get in adult life, and not aimless either.  There was incisive purpose to the questions throughout.  Every question built on the previous one; everything was as precise as it could be.  It was quite refreshing.  It’s a pity most people seem to merely have the facsimile of curiosity, rather than the actual trait.

As people grow older, this type of passion for curiosity and questioning is siphoned for many reasons and nigh doesn’t exist in adulthood in rare instances.

As adults, many tend to live life within the lines, never seeking life, or answers beyond societal-imposed boundaries.    Adults, or even adolescents for that manner, tend to have a different type of curiosity – a downgraded type of curiosity.  Adults tend to settle for the superficial answer.  And what’s worse, superficial answers barely even scratch the surface, and by their very nature are unable to get to the heart of issues.

Children, on the other hand, employ curiosity like precisely aimed arrows, which is their attempt to ascertain the world around them.  Moreover, just because they hit bullseyes doesn’t mean they will quit either.  If anything, they get more courageous, as if someone just told them there’s no limit to the amount of sugar they can have.

Children’s relentlessness for knowledge coupled with focused inquisitiveness helps hone the type of curiosity that gets to the heart of the matter.

Why is this?

In How To Read A Book [Review Here], Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren speak about very issue:

“The child is a natural questioner.  It is not the number of questions he asks but their character that distinguishes him from the adult.  Adults do not lose the curiosity that seems to be a native trait, but their curiosity deteriorates in quality.  They want to know whether something is so, not why.  But children’s questions are not limited to the sort that can be answered by an encyclopedia.”[1][Bold Emphasis Added]

Children, like detectives, will not be stopped until they achieve the answers they seek.

However, although children are inherently curious, by adulthood, that curiosity has morphed into something else, something more static and less malleable.  Why such a change?

Part of this is the stamping out of imagination from public schooling, and part of it is propaganda.  How can propaganda play a part?  Ponder, haven’t we all heard, “Curiosity killed the cat”?  If that’s not propaganda, nothing is.  It’s a statement made to slam down curiosity, as if it’s a gnat to get rid of in one swift blow.  Translation: don’t ask that, don’t’ do that, don’t’ go there.  One might as well say, “Live within that box, and don’t dare move beyond it.”  It’s emblematic of living in fear, except it chains curiosity to the box.

Unfortunately, corralling curiosity can have detrimental side effects.  Without curiosity, individual learning within the boundaries of the world gets stultified, and we settle for ready-made answers [provided by others, rather than arrived through by personal insight] rather than journeying through the mysterious, and adventuring through life in search of the unknown.

And it is within the unknown that the lessons of life reside.

Philosopher Peter Kreeft, in his introduction to Philosophy via Plato’s Apology, writes in his Philosophy 101 by Socrates, and encapsulates the above issue best:

“…Socrates loves the unknown rather than fearing it.  That is almost the definition, the essence of a good learner.  Children who at an early age are punished for exploring the unknown will find it hard later to trust their own curiosity and will prefer the safety of the known, like scared rabbits afraid to come out of their comfortable holes.  Children who have been encouraged to question and explore the unknown are reward for doing so, will make good students, make many discoveries, and be happy doing so. The unknown is to them not like poison but like food.”[2][Bold Emphasis Added]

The unknown shouldn’t be feared.  In fact, it should be welcomed.  It’s an opportunity for growth; an opportunity to test knowledge, character, insight.

Moreover, a child’s inherent curiosity – or for that matter, everyone’s curiosity – should be encouraged constantly.  How else is an individual to foster creativity, and help imagination bloom if without not curiosity?

And even though children can at times go a little overboard with questions, questions still remains the best avenue for curiosity to be employed, which undoubtedly leads to finding the truth, which is what questions are about.

Regarding this, in The Imaginative Argument [review here], Frank L. Cioffi states the following:

“A very fundamental human act undergirds and empowers this activity of arguing for truth.  It’s one that you see in children all the time, one that might even be annoying: the relentless asking of questions.  Just as a child might ask again and again, “why?” until the parent finally shushes him or her with a “Because that’s the way it works,” or “Just because.  Now leave me alone!” so you as thinkers and writers should be asking question upon question…You should ask questions that will help you understand, assess, contextualize, make sense of a given situation, a given idea, text, or topic.  And these questions should reach outward – “What do others say?” – at the same time that they should delve within: “How do I feel about this?”  Questioning allows you to open yourself to possibilities – an action that characterizes genuinely creative thought.”[3][Bold & Underline Emphasis Added]

When one ruminates about it, when children question, they are little philosophers, for they seek the truth.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the questions children ask, are vitally more important than what most realize.

In fact, the questions children ask – that stem from the curiosity children feature – are not as far-fetched and unimportant as they may seem at first blush.

In fact, Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren even go as far as comparing the questions children ask to great philosophical books:

“…we do want to recognize that one of the most remarkable things about the great philosophical books is that they ask the same sort of profound questions that children askThe ability to retain the child’s view of the world, with at the same time a mature understanding of what it means to retain is, is extremely rare – and a person who has these qualities is likely to be able to contribute something really important to our thinking.

“We are not required to think as children in order to understand existence.  Children certainly do not, and cannot, understand it – if, indeed, anyone can.  But we must be able to see as children see, to wonder as they wonder, to ask as they ask.  The complexities of adult life get in the way of the truth.  The great philosophers have always been able to clear away the complexities and see simple distinctions – simple once they are stated, vastly difficult beforeIf we are to follow them we too must be childishly simple in our question – and maturely wise in our replies.”[4][Bold & Underline Emphasis Added]

Thus, in the child-like simplicity of asking questions one may embark on a voyage of curiosity that might contribute something phenomenal to our understanding.  How else is an individual, be they a child or an adult, going to breakaway from the conventional stultification of life and gravitate towards something more intriguing, and more profound?

Knowing this we must be constant in our resolve, and impervious in our creative thoughts as we foster curiosity.

Then, and only then, do we have any chance to arrive at the answers that could truly change your life.

Perhaps, just perhaps, next time we talk to a child or have a genuine conversation with an adult we could remember that the next question you’re asked might just teach you something you’ve never known before.

An 11-year-old’s curiosity changed my life.  When the last time a child’s curiosity – or anyone’s curiosity for that matter – changed yours?

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Sources & References:

[1] Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren, How To Read A Book, pg. 264.
[2] Peter Kreeft, Philosophy 101 by Socrates, pg. 54.
[3] Frank L. Cioffi, The Imaginative Argument, pg. xvi.
[4] Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren, How To Read A Book, pg. 265.

Breakaway Post Of 2016: How A Generation Lost Its Common Culture by Professor Patrick Deneen

[Editor’s Note]

Out of all the articles/news/information mirrored, this was the most incisive by far.

Professor Patrick Deneen speaks at length as to the myriad reasons why the culture is declining and what type of transformation is taking place in society.

If there’s one thing you read today, let it be this, for the concerns shared by Professor Deneen do not only seep into our present state, but will echo into the future, whether we like it or not.

culture

Source: MindingTheCampus.org
Professor Patrick Deneen
February 2, 2016

My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture.

It’s difficult to gain admissions to the schools where I’ve taught – Princeton, Georgetown, and now Notre Dame. Students at these institutions have done what has been demanded of them:  they are superb test-takers, they know exactly what is needed to get an A in every class (meaning that they rarely allow themselves to become passionate and invested in any one subject); they build superb resumes. They are respectful and cordial to their elders, though easy-going if crude with their peers. They respect diversity (without having the slightest clue what diversity is) and they are experts in the arts of non-judgmentalism (at least publically). They are the cream of their generation, the masters of the universe, a generation-in-waiting to run America and the world.

But ask them some basic questions about the civilization they will be inheriting, and be prepared for averted eyes and somewhat panicked looks. Who fought in the Peloponnesian War? Who taught Plato, and whom did Plato teach? How did Socrates die? Raise your hand if you have read both the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Canterbury Tales? Paradise Lost? The Inferno?

Who was Saul of Tarsus? What were the 95 theses, who wrote them, and what was their effect? Why does the Magna Carta matter? How and where did Thomas Becket die? Who was Guy Fawkes, and why is there a day named after him? What did Lincoln say in his Second Inaugural? His first Inaugural? How about his third Inaugural?  What are the Federalist Papers?

Some students, due most often to serendipitous class choices or a quirky old-fashioned teacher, might know a few of these answers. But most students have not been educated to know them. At best, they possess accidental knowledge, but otherwise are masters of systematic ignorance. It is not their “fault” for pervasive ignorance of western and American history, civilization, politics, art and literature. They have learned exactly what we have asked of them – to be like mayflies, alive by happenstance in a fleeting present.

Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts — whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about — have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings. The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school. It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide. The end of history for our students signals the End of History for the West.

During my lifetime, lamentation over student ignorance has been sounded by the likes of E.D. Hirsch, Allan Bloom, Mark Bauerlein and Jay Leno, among many others. But these lamentations have been leavened with the hope that appeal to our and their better angels might reverse the trend (that’s an allusion to Lincoln’s first inaugural address, by the way). E.D. Hirsch even worked up a self-help curriculum, a do-it yourself guide on how to become culturally literate, imbued with the can-do American spirit that cultural defenestration could be reversed by a good reading list in the appendix. Broadly missing is sufficient appreciation that this ignorance is the intended consequence of our educational system, a sign of its robust health and success.

We have fallen into the bad and unquestioned habit of thinking that our educational system is broken, but it is working on all cylinders. What our educational system aims to produce is cultural amnesia, a wholesale lack of curiosity, history-less free agents, and educational goals composed of content-free processes and unexamined buzz-words like “critical thinking,” “diversity,” “ways of knowing,” “social justice,” and “cultural competence.”

Our students are the achievement of a systemic commitment to producing individuals without a past for whom the future is a foreign country, cultureless ciphers who can live anywhere and perform any kind of work without inquiring about its purposes or ends, perfected tools for an economic system that prizes “flexibility” (geographic, interpersonal, ethical).

In such a world, possessing a culture, a history, an inheritance, a commitment to a place and particular people, specific forms of gratitude and indebtedness (rather than a generalized and deracinated commitment to “social justice”), a strong set of ethical and moral norms that assert definite limits to what one ought and ought not to do (aside from being “judgmental”) are hindrances and handicaps.

Regardless of major or course of study, the main object of modern education is to sand off remnants of any cultural or historical specificity and identity that might still stick to our students, to make them perfect company men and women for a modern polity and economy that penalizes deep commitments. Efforts first to foster appreciation for “multi-culturalism” signaled a dedication to eviscerate any particular cultural inheritance, while the current fad of “diversity” signals thoroughgoing commitment to de-cultured and relentless homogenization.

We Must Know…What?

Above all, the one overarching lesson that students receive is the true end of education: the only essential knowledge is that know ourselves to be radically autonomous selves within a comprehensive global system with a common commitment to mutual indifference. Our commitment to mutual indifference is what binds us together as a global people. Any remnant of a common culture would interfere with this prime directive:  a common culture would imply that we share something thicker, an inheritance that we did not create, and a set of commitments that imply limits and particular devotions.

Ancient philosophy and practice praised as an excellent form of government a res publica – a devotion to public things, things we share together. We have instead created the world’s first Res Idiotica – from the Greek word idiotes, meaning “private individual.” Our education system produces solipsistic, self-contained selves whose only public commitment is an absence of commitment to a public, a common culture, a shared history. They are perfectly hollowed vessels, receptive and obedient, without any real obligations or devotions.

They won’t fight against anyone, because that’s not seemly, but they won’t fight for anyone or anything either. They are living in a perpetual Truman Show, a world constructed yesterday that is nothing more than a set for their solipsism, without any history or trajectory.

I love my students – like any human being, each has enormous potential and great gifts to bestow upon the world. But I weep for them, for what is rightfully theirs but hasn’t been given. On our best days, I discern their longing and anguish and I know that their innate human desire to know who they are, where they have come from, where they ought to go, and how they ought to live will always reassert itself. But even on those better days, I can’t help but hold the hopeful thought that the world they have inherited – a world without inheritance, without past, future, or deepest cares – is about to come tumbling down, and that this collapse would be the true beginning of a real education.

Read More At: MindingTheCampus.org


Patrick Deneen is David A. Potenziani Memorial Associate Professor of Constitutional Studies at Notre Dame.