The Myth of Neutrality in Public Education

Paul Derengowski, ThM

 

You have probably heard it more times than you realize, often from those who are not even in education.  The concept that education or the teaching of facts and information must be done from a “neutral” point-of-view.  One must adhere only to the projection of objectively verifiable data whereby personal opinions, insights, or conjecture are left out of the discussion.  Evaluations of truth claims are off-limits, as that is only left up to the student.  But does any of this make sense?  Is it possible to teach “the facts” neutrally or must those “facts” have a reference point in order for them to be “facts” at all?  What is being presupposed by the advocates of neutrality in education that they are not divulging to the public and is that presupposition logically consistent or is it self-refuting and contradictory, thereby destroying the learning process altogether?

It will be argued in this essay that neutrality in education is nonsense.  That no educator, regardless of the subject, can facilitate meaningful impartation of information or communication with the student without presupposing that what he is doing is neutral at the outset.  That no educator approaches any subject in preparation to teach does so neutrally.  That a specific worldview is both used prior to the arrangement of the lesson plan, as well as in the deliverance of that plan.  That the neutrality ideology is actually a myth used to cloak the real worldview behind its propagation which is relativism or the philosophical proposition which hypocritically assumes there is no such thing as absolute truth and hence there cannot be, not just unbiased facts, but no facts at all!  But let’s break this down to show just why neutrality is a myth by examining what is involved in the education process by defining what education is, what is required of the educator in order to teach, and what the student must do in order to consider himself truly educated when all is said and done.

What is Education?

Broadly speaking education is both the impartation of knowledge, as well as the development of wisdom, skill, and character.  So many times in society and culture the misconception about education is slanted specifically in the direction which believes that education in only about the absorption of facts like a sponge absorbs water.  That depending on how many so-called facts can be stored in one’s cranium, then supposedly that person is somehow educated.  Nothing could be further from the truth, though, and so those who buy into such nonsense fall under the misconception that the person with the Ph.D. is the supreme authority on everything because that person is the one with all the “facts.”  True education strives to not only impart the truth about a given subject, but includes the development of how to use those facts in the most efficient way for the express purpose of making the owner of the facts a better person morally, socially, and spiritually.

Too much of the so-called educational system is bereft of any attempt to develop the whole person, in part because the educational system itself has been gutted by relativistic thinking which asserts that there is no such thing as absolute truth.  Transcendent objectivity has been divorced from our educational institutions in favor of humanistic subjectivity, and the end result has been the development an educational system where no one can be sure about anything, except that which might titillate personal sensitivities.  Truth has been sacrificed on the altar of expediency, so what ends up being taught in the halls of higher learning are disjointed stupid things (aka “facts”) which only serve to confuse the students and the public, rather than inform and instruct for the express goal of serving someone higher than themselves.  When truth is sacrificed, so is wisdom, since wisdom relies on truth to decide which course one should take to make the truth claim ultimately meaningful, and the person receive the full benefit of exercising the truth.  Narcissism, nihilism, despair, and death are the final outcome of being relativistically “educated,” or assuming that there is no such thing as truth, much less wisdom, and are the antithesis of what education ought to be if developing the whole person is really what being educated is all about.  If one ever wonders why the suicide rate is so high among High School and University/College students, one need look no further than the contradictory information those students are receiving from educators espousing a relativistic (i.e. “neutral”) pedagogy for a reason why.

Education should also impart skill to go along with wisdom and “facts.”  Unfortunately fewer and fewer students are graduating from the public schools and universities without any skills at all.  They are “educated” idiots who upon entering the workforce must be trained for the first time, or trained all over again, because the previous four to eight years they spent in college after graduating from High School were wasted, as they sat listening to a majority of college and university professors mouth the mantra of “neutrality,” and provided nothing for the students to hang their hats upon, so to speak, when it came to developing a skill.  They not only lack the skill to think, they lack the skill to participate—in life.  Therefore, falling back on their baser nature, they become parasitic animals, living off of those who have managed to excel beyond the wasted years of a college education and developed the skills necessary to take care of themselves.  Again, if one wonders why so many young people subscribe to the Communistic/Socialistic values of a person like Barak Obama, then just look to the institutions of higher learning which are advocating the myth of neutrality in its curriculums, and one will have an answer.

Finally, education must instill and develop the character of the student; otherwise the student cannot be considered to be truly educated.  Why?  Because true education compels people to not only uphold the value of freedom, but compels them to strive for a free society.  An education predicated on the truth puts the student under the conviction that freedom has value, and that to act contrarily to that freedom brings consequences and judgment that only a foolish person would wish to endure.  True education matures a true character; one which is consistent in both the public and private life of the individual.  He sees his role in concert with the rest of humanity and not as an island unto himself, whereby he believes what he does will effect everyone else around him, whether for good or for evil, and because he knows that truth matters, he will strive to uphold the truth, rather than undermine it through fallacious thinking and actions.  One reason why so many High School and college students think and behave like the nihilistic oafs that they have become is because the educational system has failed to challenge them to develop honorable characters, and so acting upon the baser nature, drunkenness, illicit sex, and cheating in school (to name just a few) have become the accepted standard for what it means to go off to college and become “educated.”  Little do such idiots realize that they are not educated, but the educators often do not care, given the relativism they are advocating under the rubric of “neutrality.”

The Requirement of an Educator

Aside from intelligence, a lesson plan, and job to go to in order to teach, the educator must understand what his worldview is, because that is what he is going to be using to educate others.  Failure to come to that realization or to advocate that he is teaching “neutrally” is both a disservice to those he is teaching, if not an absolute lie.  No teacher, instructor, or professor ever teaches from a purely neutral position as if there is no worldview in play.  Why?  Because the truth is presupposed by the educator before he ever stands before his students to teach.  That presupposition is arrived at through his particular philosophical worldview whereby he has interpreted certain data to be either true or false, and it is that interpretation that he will then convey those “facts” as true to the students.  “Facts” without a reference point to interpret and convey them are not facts at all.  They are meaningless bits of disjointed data that serve no purpose, much less facilitate understanding, until they are associated with a worldview that can consistently interpret in the light of a bigger picture than man is not the measure of all things.

Another requirement of the educator commensurate with the realization that worldviews are how information is transmitted from the educator to the students is that truth is absolute.  It is not something that is relative, as if the basis for truth is the educator himself.  Truth is something that one aligns his worldview with in order to consistently convey the “facts” of a subject to others.  Sadly, though, too many educators are under the self-refuting notion that truth is relative; that there are no universal rights or wrongs, only individual opinions.  When pressed on the issue the relativistically inclined educator becomes upset when faced with contradictory notion of his relativity, for he realizes that if he recants of his contradiction, then he places himself under someone who will hold him accountable, and he just will not have any of that.  So, he continues on with the ruse of relative thinking, while hoping to mislead or deceive others into believing that truth is what one makes of it, since there is no one who has universally set the standard of what truth is.  The true educator, however, does not play that kind of game with the lives of his students.  He realizes that truth must play an integral part of his instruction if what he has to say to the student is to have a positive impact upon that student’s understanding and livelihood as a person.

In order to positively impact the student’s character the educator must consistently demonstrate good character himself.  He cannot be a fraud.  He cannot be a phony.  He certainly cannot lie to the student and expect the student to respect his person, his profession, or portrayal.  He must demonstrate genuineness and virtue based on a worldview that is consistent with what is real.  Sound moral judgments that abhor evil and exalt benevolence are a regular part of his repertoire of personal action and public instruction.  He exacts high standards because he lives them himself.  Educators who fail to exhibit honorable character commensurate with a sound worldview and adherence to objective truth are a cancer upon society.  They are self-serving charlatans that cannot be depended upon for anything because they are living a lie.  Everything they say, regardless of the supposed good intention, is rooted in deception and meaninglessness, which ultimately betrays those who have been entrusted to the educator to develop not only their understanding, but their characters as well.  In short, they are not educators at all.  They are the cancer which, instead of eating away at the physical body until it dies, eats away at the mind, heart, and soul of a person until it dies intellectually and morally.

A Truly Educated Student

A truly educated student is a reflection of his tutelage.  He is not a lone ranger who managed to capriciously and mysteriously absorb those “facts” which are believed by some to be simply wafting through the breeze waiting to be discovered.  His education exemplifies the effort on the part of his educators to instill in him the values which led to the development of his knowledge base, as well as his wisdom and skill, to use his newfound or maturing knowledge to effectively build his character.  Although the student is not a clone of his mentor, he certainly imitates him in how he thinks, works, and behaves.  It is because the student mimics his teacher that the teacher must be extremely cognizant of his own personal development, since that effort will show up in his students, whether for good or for evil.

The truly educated student acknowledges the finitude of his education, ever-striving to grasp a deep understanding of the world in which he lives, and particularly of his own person.  He realizes that what he claims to know about any subject is limited, regardless of the genius he may or may not possess about any given subject.  He knows that he is not the source of knowledge, but the repository of knowledge which has come about through personal effort, thought, and contemplation, as well as those who have preceded him in their efforts to eventually instruct him.  Ultimately he eventually arrives at the conclusion that the knowledge he possesses is a gift from the source of all knowledge, which is God himself.

With the attainment of knowledge the truly educated student seeks the discernment to utilize that knowledge in the most efficient way.  He becomes wise, in other words, with what he has learned.  The knowledge is not merely attained for the sake of passing an exam and then discarded as a worthless rag.  As mentioned previously, acquired knowledge is put to work helping the student understand the world and his place in it.  In growing number of instances, people exercise what they know to destroy society for the sake of self-aggrandizement.  To the truly educated student, though, he takes what he knows to wisely build society, for he knows that the return on his investment to make society better only betters his life as well.

With knowledge and wisdom comes the acquiring of skill.  Knowledge is manifest in the effort to work.  Knowledge, therefore, is an action word.  It is not something which implies passivity, but activity.  Although work is often viewed as a dirty word among the parasitic, who would rather live off the public dole than get off their lazy posteriors and make a positive contribution to themselves and the communities in which they live, work is the extension of what one knows.  It does not mean that all work is glorious, or that by working one will live in a mansion, complete with butler and maid.  Work, though, implies a certain skill, which requires certain knowledge to perform a particular task.  The more one grows in one’s knowledge, the more skill one should garner to perform even greater, if not more difficult, tasks.  Personal fulfillment and satisfaction are realized in the achievement of the task as it relates to one’s education, and gives due diligence and credit to the source of that education, which is none other than God himself.  But, if knowledge is not put to work, then one cannot be considered truly educated.

Finally, a truly educated student demonstrates moral character which seeks to not only preserve personal life and integrity, but community life and integrity as well.  “However you want people to treat you, so treat them,” is the motto of a truly educated person.  The welfare he seeks personally is further manifest in the welfare of others.  What the truly educated knows, and then puts into practice via wisdom and skill, is for the exaltation of that which is good to the debasement of that which is evil.  In contemporary education, falsely so-called, character development has been long lost as an objective.  The end result has been rampant immorality of all kinds, and a society that has slipped into a mode of thought with the youth being allowed to do whatever it pleases, with preceding generations groaning for a solution because of its neglect.  Education that does not promote the development of healthy character is not education at all.  It is merely exposure to disjointed information that encourages the student to act upon his fallen nature as the way to find meaning in otherwise meaningless existence.  The abnormal becomes normal and in the end everyone pays the price.

CONCLUSION

Neutrality in education is a myth, if not a downright lie.  No instructor or student can either teach or be taught neutrally.  In both instances truth is presupposed, which in turn requires a worldview to interpret the “facts” leading to propositional statements that are made by the professor and either accepted or rejected by the student.  At no time is a “fact” propagated without a worldview interpreting the “fact” in the first place.  That fact is then interpreted again by the person hearing it.  There is no such thing as a “neutral” fact, as the whole notion is nonsensical, if not oxymoronic.

True education, therefore, cannot be neutral.  True education implies not only the impartation of knowledge, but knowledge with a reference point which makes the information meaningful.  There are ultimately only two reference points available to mankind to interpret the data leading to what might be known.  Those two reference points are either man or God.  If it is decided that man is the reference point to interpret knowledge, then that interpretation will be finite, incomplete, and relative.  It further means that if man is the measure of all things, then major disputes, unable to be rectified verbally by an appeal to objective truth, will be settled by force.  The man with the biggest gun wins, so to speak.  If God is the reference point to interpreting what might be known, then that knowledge will be infinite, whole, and absolute.  Major disputes can be settled by an appeal to someone higher than man in his thoughts, and the final decision may be counted on as reliable, authoritative, and just.  Whichever approach one decides to take, in neither instance is the knowledge leading to true education “neutral.”

True education also implies the development of wisdom, skill, and character, none of which are neutral in themselves.  They are all positive qualities and attributes which demonstrate motion in an upward direction.  Neutrality shows no motion at all.  If one does not believe that, then the next time one gets into one’s car to drive it, just shift it into neutral and see how far one goes.  Faulty education neglects the aspects of wisdom, skill, and character, which is why society sees so many juvenile delinquents either walking the streets or sitting in jail.  Until the whole myth of neutrality worldview is abandoned in public education, and educators are compelled to adopt a worldview that is consistent with reality, then society will continue to see more failure on the part of succeeding generations of students that are acquiring fragmented knowledge about the world and themselves, to go along with zero instruction in wisdom, skill, and character.

Unfortunately, though, such abandonment is not likely to occur, meaning that destruction of society as a whole is imminent.  Nations are destroyed because of a lack of true knowledge and education, along with a faulty worldview, and the United States will be no exception.  Guiding the ship to its demise will be the myth of neutrality, which is rooted in relativistic thought, and the abandonment of absolute truth as seen in Godly principles.  Ironically those contending for neutrality cannot even be consistent in their contention.  For as soon as they begin to argue they are no longer neutral.  Only the blind could not see what is taking place, but it is the blind that are making the educational decisions on High School and college or university campuses.  For that one can only hope that the blind either repent or are replaced.  The alternative is dire indeed.

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