Shields concludes that teachers need to retard the smart kids in order to save them from the all but inevitable sickness, death, or at least invalidism, that will inevitably result from letting them study what they want.
I think the hazard with letting them study what, when, and as they wish is not that they’ll succumb to invalidism, but that they’ll succumb to individualism, and especially its most hazardous symptom: autonomous critical thinking.
If Joe Moore is right in his assessments of the Prussian Model schools– and I suspect he’s not far off– as foundationally designed to train docile academic serfs for the industrial/enlightenment age, then their greatest threat is independent rational thought on the part of the laity not inducted into their priesthood. But the book-Brahmins are not wholly idiots: finding it impossible to run a Harrison Bergeron on every overachiever, they’ve taken since the ’80s or so to flattering the smart kids on their intellect, teaching them “critical thinking” that’s critical of all but the Brahmins themselves, and encouraging “Freethinking” that’s primarily free of the influence of whomever’s been elected Emmanuel Goldstein this year.
Thomas Shields (1862-1921), a priest and doctor of psychology at Catholic University of America, wrote his Making and Unmaking of a Dullard in 1909. Although written in the form of a dialogue taking place at weekly dinner parties over the course of months, it is universally considered his autobiography. As a dialogue, it is a resounding failure: no one besides the author comes off any deeper than a cardboard cutout, nor contributes much of anything except leading questions that simply interrupt the flow of Shields’s story.
This book reinforces an impression long held: the central figures in American education history are, almost without exception, unimaginative mediocrities. Horace Mann or William Torey Harris would, I imagine, bore one to tears ov er a beer, if they every did something so common; Shields comes off as precisely the sort of academic Silence Dogood or Mark Twain would have a…
View original post 2,494 more words