The Virtue of Irrelevance - Future Symphony Institute Jan 2017

HOW MANY WRITERS, EDUCATORS, AND OPINION FORMERS, urgently wishing to convey the thoughts and feelings that inspire them, have found themselves confronted with the cry “that’s not relevant?” In the world of mass communication today, when people are marshaled into flocks by social media, intrusions of the unusual, the unsanctioned, and the merely meaningful are increasingly resented if they come from outside the group. And this group mentality has invaded the world of education in ways that threaten the young.

It began long before Facebook and Twitter. Indeed it began with John Dewey, and his call for “child-centred education.” The influence of John Dewey over American thought in general, and education in particular, has never ceased to amaze me. If any writer has set out to illustrate what Schopenhauer meant by “unscrupulous optimism” it is Dewey, who disguised his middlebrow complacency behind a mask of wisdom, like an agony aunt for an old-fashioned women’s magazine. What could be more evidently a travesty of the nature and duties of the teacher than the idea that it is children and their interests that set the agenda for the classroom? And yet what idea is more likely to recruit the tender hearted, the ignorant, and the lazy? What a gift to the idle teacher, and what an assault on the child!

From the educational philosophy of Dewey sprang the “relevance revolution” in schooling. The old curriculum, with its emphasis on hard mathematics, dead languages, ancient history, and books that are too long to read, is portrayed as an offence to modern children, a way of belittling their world and their hopes for the future. To teach them to spell correctly, to speak grammatically, to adopt the manners and values of their parents and grandparents is to cut them off from their only available sphere of action. And in the place of all that so-called knowledge, which is nothing in itself save a residue of the interests of the dead, they should be given, we are told, their own curriculum, addressed to the life that is theirs.

To read the full article, please visit the Future Symphony website here.

Latest Articles

'Sir Roger to the Rescue' - Stephen Presser, Law & Liberty

Those of us who read for a living read a lot, and we rarely come across a work that is, simply stated, dazzling and delightful. Even rarer is one dazzling,...

'The Burdens of Belonging: Roger Scruton's National State' American Affairs - Dec 17

From his position as the dean of English conservatism, Roger Scruton explains the ideas, habits, and traditions that made the West a civilization not only of immense learning and wealth,...

'The social media lynch-mob degrades our culture. We must resist and rebuild what is truly valuable' The Telegraph - 5 Dec 17

Suppose you woke up one day to discover that you were headline news. A leading newspaper has spread across its front page a story that you were seen entering a...

Scrutopia Summer School 2018

Now running for a second year, the Scrutopia summer school offers a ten-day immersion experience in the philosophy and outlook of Sir Roger Scruton, the British writer and philosopher who...

Recent Books

Where We Are: The State of Britain Now

Where We Are: The State of Britain Now

Bloomsbury (November 2017) Addressing one of the most politically turbulent periods in modern British history, philosopher Roger Scruton asks how, in these circumstances, we can come to define our identity,...

Conservatism: Ideas in Profile

Conservatism: Ideas in Profile

Profile Books (August 2017) Roger Scruton looks at the central ideas of conservatism over the centuries. He examines conservative thinking on civil society, the rule of law and the role...

On Human Nature

On Human Nature

Princeton University Press (February 2017) In this short book, acclaimed writer and philosopher Roger Scruton presents an original and radical defense of human uniqueness. Confronting the views of evolutionary psychologists,...

2017 Events

8-9 Dec - Morality and the Sacred, University of Antwerp

Copyright © Roger Scruton. All Rights Reserved.

Website by Mindvision