Suggested Readings: “The Virtue of Irrelevance”

March 14, 2017

ancientstudents

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 offense 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.  The immediate effect of the relevance revolution was to introduce into the classroom topics relevant to the interests of their teachers—topics like social justice, gender equality, nuclear disarmament, third-world poverty, gay rights…

To counter this argument it is not enough to point to all the ways in which a relevant curriculum debases learning by making ignorance into the measure of what should be taught. For what we dismiss as ignorance is often the smoothed and adapted outer form of accumulated knowledge, like the simple manners of ordinary people that seem inept in sophisticated company only because some forms of sophistication depend upon hiding this reservoir of social knowledge…  The real objection to relevance is that it is an obstacle to self-discovery.

Read Robert Scruton’s complete essay, “The Virtue of Irrelevance,” here: http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2017/02/virtue-irrelevance-roger-scruton.html

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