Educators’ Vision Based on Unrealistic Utopia
By Jerry A. Kane
I recently attended a dinner discussion sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Education Association. The title of the discussion was based on the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” Excerpts from The Dream Catcher were read at various intervals throughout the evening. The story’s tenor suggests that children’s needs are better enhanced through a community effort. The story purports there is a natural symbiotic relationship between a child and its community.
The notion that a child draws its happiness and well-being from the community, while the community grows stronger through sustaining and nurturing the child, is the underlying principle of socialist societies, and not in societies whose foundation is based upon individual rights and popular sovereignty.
It seems that modern American educators no longer understand the philosophical basis for the American Revolution. The philosophical basis of the modem world was carved out in 1776 and 1789 during the American and French revolutions. Although both revolutions occurred in a little more than a decade of each, other, and each involved the overthrowing of a monarchy, they were worlds apart in their philosophies of understanding government and human nature.
The political ideas of the men who laid the foundation of the U.S. Constitution came indirectly from John Locke. The belief in Lex Rex (Law is King), or as we know it, the idea of “inalienable rights” is the founding principle of American government. The underlying notion of this principle is that man’s rights are endowed by his Creator, not by the state. In other words, man’s inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are given by a Supreme Being, and not by the state, and therefore cannot be taken away.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the philosopher who inspired the French Revolution, believed that primitive man “the noble savage” was superior to civilized man, because primitive man was innocent and free from the restraints and authority of civilization. But Rousseau’s idea of individual freedom could only be perfectly reflected in his notion of the “general will” as a part of a social contract. In his (1762) book, The Social Contract he wrote, “[W]hoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body. This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free.”
Rousseau believed human beings could be molded and shaped by the general will once society’s old ideas and institutions had been eradicated from it. His aspirations were utopian in that he believed in man’s perfectibility. According to Rousseau, man’s potential for moral change is essentially unlimited, and it is up to the naturally virtuous human beings to transform man from what he is to what he could and should be.
Rousseau’s utopian aspirations were adopted by some “naturally virtuous” human beings during the French Revolution. Rousseau’s utopian ideals fueled the tyranny of Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, which eventually led to the authoritarian reign of Napoleon.
Conversely, the United States has never been subject to a dictator. Locke’s idea that human nature is neither perfect nor perfectible is expressed in the Constitution’s system of checks and balances, which were included for both the governors and the governed That system has worked because it took into account man’s moral and mental limitations, which were based on a theory of improving the human condition, not perfecting it.
The United States was never intended to be a utopian motherland or “workers’ paradise” ruled by an Aryan superman, or managed by a “new Socialist man.” Our forefather’s envisioned a liberal democracy based on majority rule, individual rights, and limited government. The Founding Fathers did not want to possess a man’s soul or psyche, in fact, they wanted to do the exact opposite. They created a system of government that gave the individual the freedom to pursue his own interests, hold his own opinions, and live his own life.
America’s educators need to rethink what it is -they are doing in their classrooms. Students are without a national identity because they have not been taught what it is that distinguishes America and sets it apart from other nations. ‘They have .also been fragmented into groups, and set adrift in a sea of cultural diversity without a sail or a rudder to steer by. Their belief in national sovereignty has been uprooted and transplanted in a global community.
If America’s educators believe in those principles of national sovereignty and individual liberty as penned in the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist’s Papers, then they must realize that they are obligated by the Constitution to teach those ideals to their students. On the other hand, if America’s educators are utopian socialist engineers working to transform the United States from what it is to what it could and should be, then their hallowed halls and ivory towers have become nothing more than a breeding ground for socialist utopians.
The premise that it “Takes a village to raise a child” is a purely socialist concept. Americans have always understood that the responsibility for raising children belongs to the child’s family, and not to a community or a coalition formed by the Pennsylvania State Education Association. Members of the PSEA surely know that the fabric of American society is weaved around the family unit and parental authority, unless of course their goal is to lay a different social foundation based not on individual rights and parental authority, but on the rights, responsibility, and general will of the community.
NOTE: This commentary appeared in Mainline Newspapers in 1998.