Against the Great Reset: 'Resetting the Educational Reset'

Continuing today, and for the next 13 weeks, The Pipeline will present excerpts from each of the essays contained in Against the Great Reset: 18 Theses Contra the New World Order, to be published on October 18 by Bombardier Books and distributed by Simon and Schuster, and available now for pre-order at the links. 

 

Part II: THE POLITICAL

Excerpt from "Resetting the Educational Reset," by Angelo M. Codevilla

In 2020, the self-proclaimed “key global governmental and business leaders” who meet yearly in Davos, Switzerland, issued a statement that “the Covid-19 crisis” showed the “inconsistencies, inadequacies and contradictions of multiple systems—from health and financial to energy and education.” From this, there ensued “global context of concern for lives, livelihoods and the planet.” The statement promises to answer this through a “Great Reset Initiative.” By that initiative the authors intend to change “the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons.” This is to result, no less, in “a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being.”

By, of, for Whom? And for What?

The “initiative” does not say what the “inconsistencies, inadequacies and contradictions” under which Western health economics, and education have been laboring, how or what the Covid-19 episode taught us about them, whose is the “global context of concern,” what that concern and that context might be, how alleged problems ought to be remedied, or what these words might mean. It does not argue for specific measures because it is not about convincing. Instead, it is an attempt to induce, cajole, perhaps force nonstakeholders (i.e., ordinary people), into letting their lives be reordered according to the stakeholders’ judgment. That judgment’s basis is these very stakeholders’ claim that the Covid affair showed Western civilization’s failings, and that they know better ways to improve efficiency and enhance dignity. Their authority lies solely in their claim to authority.

They claim to act on behalf of “a global multi-stakeholder network,” meaning such as Bill Gates and George Soros, Jamie Dimon, and other corporate and governmental figures. But mostly the initiative is by, of, and for whomever hungers for a touch of all that coolness, power, and money. Least of all does the initiative argue why these prominent persons should have any right to change the way we live, or why anyone should follow them. Its boldness and lack of foundation may be exceeded only by the authors’ chutzpah.

Chutzpah, because the initiative’s authors—the lords of Davos—are themselves chiefly responsible for turning a virus with an overall infection/fatality rate well within the range of ordinary flus, into a catastrophe for billions of people. Covid-19’s dire effects came almost exclusively because the government, business and educational leaders, stakeholders, and others of the sort who meet at Davos propagated and weaponized a patent untruth—that the virus is some sort of plague—while knowing and hiding the truth. To promote their own self-interest in power, they lied, causing havoc, pain, and death. Their guilt is very great indeed.

The initiative’s claim to represent something new tops off its fraud. In fact, its august personages have been increasing their near-total control of public life in the West over the past half century. In every field of endeavor, they have set the tone and the reigning priorities. Hence the Great Reset, far from a proposal for new ways of living, is an attempt to tighten Davos Man’s grip on our lives and to foreclose alternatives to the way of life that they have been in the process of imposing on us, and that the rest of us are now stubbornly rejecting.

Education tops the list of the aspects of public life with which Americans are dissatisfied. The Covid affair contributed to the dissatisfaction by forcing millions to become acquainted with what happens in K–12 classrooms. College students’ exclusion from campuses also has led Americans to question as never before how important their sons and daughters actually being there really is.

The closer one looks at education today, the more one sees that the dumbing down and perversion of America to which people object most strongly is the continuation of a century-old decay in our civilization. Problems with education bespeak civilizational ones, of which the phenomenon of Davos Man is but one manifestation.

Education Feeds Civilization

Any civilization is the totality of the language, habits and ideas in which people live and move—the human reality that defines their practical limits. To see how grossly unequal to one another civilizations are, it is enough to glance at how much or little understanding of reality the languages they speak contain—what any given language enables, or not. We are accustomed to Greek, Latin, English, French, Italian, German, and other languages with their massive dictionaries full of definitions, pronouns, tenses, moods, and concepts, all tied together by grammar that flows from logic. When we speak these languages correctly, we hardly realize that we are wielding powerful tools of reason, developed over thousands of years.

Against the Great Reset

On sale Oct. 18: pre-order now at the links above.

Without going to any depth in the debate between the human possibilities that nature and nurture provide, enough experiments have been carried out that show that nature does not limit babies born into primitive tribes to lives near the level of quadrupeds, just as it does not endow the offspring of PhD’s with high IQs. Quantification is unnecessary for us to know that much of civilization depends on the habits of body, heart, and mind into which we are civilized.

We may never have heard of Plato’s prescription that the body and mind are best trained for reason by physical discipline, that the right kind of music enhances these and the wrong kind hinders it. We may no longer play musical instruments as much as earlier generations. And yet all who are part of Western civilization carry with us, among
other things, a musical heritage based on mathematics and melody that also sets us apart from other civilizations.

Aristotle tells us Westerners that our capacity to speak is for the purpose of persuading each other about right and wrong, better and worse. To do that, and so that we might not confuse one another, the words we speak and think must have well-defined relationships with reality. That is why common, matter-of-course acceptance of these meanings—embodied in dictionaries—is so essential. When asked questions about what is around us, we in our civilization answer ordinarily with yes or no, though we probably never heard that Jesus Christ told us that this is how we should. But Westerners are peculiar. When we hear Japanese and others answer plain questions not with yes or no but with the equivalent of “I hear you” and “as you please,” it does not take us long to conclude that they are less interested in objective reality than they are in relative power.

And why should anyone pay less attention to relative power, to getting along with those more powerful than ourselves, than about what is true and false? We do because we believe that God created the heavens and the Earth intelligibly, and created each of us equal to one another. This is our civilization’s chief peculiarity. But, like every other civilization, all its parts are subject to the ever-rolling stream of biological deaths and births. For renewal, each civilization depends on
educating each successive generation.

How Education Changes Us

What, then has education been doing to our civilization? The very concept of IQ, the Stanford-Binet test, and things similar, is, as its critics argue, a cultural construct—less a measure of potential than of capacities already developed. It’s no surprise that persons growing up in environments which stimulate and enable the development of human possibilities do in fact develop more of these. Some studies suggest that what each generation conveyed to the next made those generations more intellectually/morally potent than their predecessors through the early twentieth century but that this process has reversed itself over about a half century and average IQ has dropped by some fourteen points. The decline seems to have come at the top of our civilizational pyramid. Speculation about the causes is less relevant than noting the effects.

But the deepest philosophical causes are not in dispute. After Descartes’s Discourse on Method reduced reality into something wholly comprehensible by truncating it, the very peaks of Western philosophy reversed the relationship between reality and the observer. Kant and Hegel’s “idealism” is neither more nor less than the further affirmation that the mind, for its own sovereign convenience, can take possession of what it perceives. From these philosophical peaks, any number of streams of far less sophisticated thought have flowed, which effectively and explicitly place the mind’s product under the sway of man’s will, and hence of man’s various interests.

The intellectual mechanism is straightforward: presume to abolish the objective status of what you see and presume to retake possession of what you then supposed to be reality based on what matters to you...

Next week: an excerpt from "Big Tech: Sacred Culture or Cyborg Rapture?" by James Poulos.

The Prince: Angelo Codevilla, 1943-2021

America lost a great patriot and one of its foremost public intellectuals yesterday with the untimely death of Angelo Codevilla at the age of 78.  Professor Codevilla, whose career spanned the Navy, the foreign service, the intelligence community, academe, think tanks, the blogosphere, and the literary world, was one of the the sharpest and shrewdest observers of the contemporary political scene -- hardly surprising, since the Italian-born scholar produced a notable 1997 translation of Machiavelli's The Prince. 

"Wisdom consists of knowing how to distinguish the nature of trouble, and in choosing the lesser evil."

The core of his appeal -- for his students, for those who heard him speak, for those of us who appeared with him on panels and at public events and had the thankless task of trying to match both wits and breadth of knowledge with him -- was Angelo's ability to cut quickly to the heart of any matter, instantly bolstering his fluent and elegant arguments with examples from history both ancient and modern. 

It is therefore, with profound sadness, that we present what might be the last piece he ever wrote, which will appear in Against the Great Reset, a collection of some 16 essays by such luminaries as Prof. Codevilla, Conrad Black, Janice Fiamengo, Michael Anton, David Goldman, Roger Kimball, Victor Davis Hanson, Alberto Mingardi, Salvatore Babones, Martin Hutchinson, Jeremy Black, Harry Stein, Richard Fernandez, and others still to come. I have the honor of editing the essays, as well as contributing one myself, along with an overall introduction. We hope to announce the publisher soon. 

What follows is an excerpt from "Resetting the Educational Reset." Although its topic is necessarily specific to the parlous state of our educational system, it brims with characteristic aperçus, sparkles with the joy of intellectual combat, and positively revels in its defense of Western civilization. No happier warrior lived, fighting on the side of the angels -- and now, surely, dwelling among them.

The closer one looks at education today, the more one sees that the dumbing down and perversion of America to which people object most strongly is the continuation of a century-old decay in our civilization. Problems with education bespeak civilizational ones, of which the phenomenon of Davos Man is but one manifestation.

Any civilization is the totality of the language, habits and ideas in which people live and move – the human reality that defines their practical limits. To see how grossly unequal to one another civilizations are, it is enough to glance at how much or little understanding of reality the languages they speak contain – what any given language enables, or not. We are accustomed to Greek, Latin, English, French, Italian, German, etc. with their massive dictionaries, full of definitions, pronouns, tenses, moods and concepts, all tied together by grammar that flows from logic. When we speak these languages correctly, we hardly realize that we are wielding powerful tools of reason, developed over thousands of years.

But acquaintance with the languages that most of mankind speak shows that most contain few well-defined words, and almost no grammar. Little intellection. Almost no reason. Sometimes they lack even the plural. Here we must term those who speak a form of English, French, etc. that they barely grasp as superficially civilized, if at all. Monkeys with keyboards.

Without going to any depth in the debate between the human possibilities that nature and nurture provide, enough experiments have been carried out that show that nature does not limit babies born into primitive tribes to lives near the level of quadrupeds, just as it does not endow the offspring of Ph.ds’s with high I.Qs. Quantification is unnecessary for us to know that much of civilization depends on the habits of body, heart, and mind into which we are civilized.

We may never have heard of Plato’s prescription that the body and mind are best trained for reason by physical discipline, that the right kind of music enhances these and the wrong kind hinders it. We may no longer play musical instruments as much as earlier generations.  And yet all who are part of Western civilization carry with us, among other things, a musical heritage based on mathematics and melody that also sets us apart from other civilizations.

What, then has education been doing to our civilization? The very concept of IQ, of Intelligence Quotient, of the Stanford-Binet test and things similar, is, as its critics argue, a cultural construct – less a measure of potential than of capacities already developed. No surprise that persons growing up in environments that stimulate and enable the development of human possibilities do in fact develop more of these. Some studies suggest that the complex of what each generation conveyed to the next made those generations more intellectually/morally potent than their predecessors though the early twentieth century, but that this process has reversed itself over about a half century and average IQ has dropped by some 14 points. The decline seems to have come at the top of our civilizational pyramid. Speculation about the causes is less relevant than noting the effects.

But the deepest philosophical causes are not in dispute. After Descartes’ Discourse on Method reduced reality into something wholly comprehensible by truncating it, the very peaks of Western philosophy reversed the relationship between reality and the observer. Kant and Hegel’s “idealism” is neither more nor less than the further affirmation that the mind, for its own sovereign convenience, can take possession of what it perceives. From these philosophical peaks, any number of streams of far less sophisticated thought have flowed that effectively and explicitly place the mind’s product under the sway of man’s will, and hence of man’s various interests.

The intellectual mechanism is straightforward: presume to abolish the objective status of what you see, and presume to retake possession of what you then suppose to be reality, based on what matters to you.

From Ludwig Feuerbach’s injunction to worship Christianity as our own creation, to Karl Marx’s assertion of sovereignty over the mind’s products as “superstructural,” to class interest, to Sigmund Freud’s assertion of perceptions as reflections of sexuality, the main streams of latter-day high Western thought have de-valued reason and reality in favor of all manner of self-indulgence. Today, colleges teach students to disparage reference to facts and logic as “logism.”

Loosening our bounds to reality is attractive also because calling things by whatever names serves our immediate purpose liberates us from the hard work of understanding things not of our making, and gives us the illusion of mastery over our environment. It is especially attractive to those who have power over others, because it frees them from having to persuade the rest of humanity. For society’s mob of lazy under-performers, pleasing the leaders is an easier way of securing one’s place than competing for merit. Anyhow: intellectual/moral deterioration has ever been an easier sell than the hard acquisition of skills and virtues.

In our time as ever, there does seem to be a natural concurrence of interest in imprecision  and lack of discipline between those who are happy enough to be barbarians and the despots who naturally dominate barbarians.

*****

Cutting the life support of higher-ed institutions requires exposing how little – if any – good they do by comparison with the price and opportunity costs of attending them. A little political action can go a long way in this regard by imposing on them the same requirements for transparency about the effects they have on those they serve as apply to other providers of goods and services.

Reputation, prestige, is literally the main product that they dispense. What do you get for four years at Old State U.? What about at Old Ivy? These questions deserve empirical answers. Institutions advertise the percentage of students they admit, and sometimes the entrants’ test scores, implying that they select the best and make them better. But the edu-class rejects categorically comparing students’ test scores (absolute and/or relative) before and after they attend. The rejection’s vehemence has increased as the amount of study required for graduation has fallen. Legislating transparency in educational outcomes is the most potent weapon against scam.

Fact-based challenges to established colleges’ hazy claims to beneficence can also help those who start up replacement institutions. What if, as is entirely possible, test figures bear out that the average student is not better able to think after four years at Old State or Old Ivy than before?  Could it be that they did not demand more of the student? There is plenty of evidence that they demanded less than in previous decades. The new colleges can credibly pledge to improve students at the very least by requiring more work of them.

More important but beyond empirical demonstration is that the substance of what is being taught, the manner and ethos of education, especially as it flows down from the peaks of academe, have corrupted – are corrupting – America. All manner of corruption is so immanent from America’s commanding heights on down as to make superfluous the presentation of facts and arguments about it.

Whoever would reset education in America from its current path must begin by noting and denouncing its corruption of our civilization. Each new generation internalizes civilization as it does its maternal language. Restoring the integrity of the civilization into which we educate succeeding generations requires educators to pay attention to its language’s every word.