“I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” –Thomas Jefferson (From a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush of September 23, 1800. ME 10:173; see the quotations page of the University of Virginia Library.)
I had to send a quick, short letter of thanks to Dr. Campbell for his “The Classroom Without Reason.” (See my post of 5-2-09.)
But I’d make the caveat that whether the irrationalists are of the kind he identifies, or are of the kind we find in the Middle Ages (some of which type are still around today), they are enemies of reason and to be opposed. The Scholastics, for example, were “followers” of Aristotle, but they did not even get the essence of Aristotle: follow reason and the evidence of the senses. A Scholastic was anti-Aristotle and anti-reason to the extent that he/she violated the authority and kingship of reality for the sake of subjugating himself or herself to printed word and authority — and was just as anti-reason as the people Dr. Campbell identified in his article. Irrationalism can come disguised as Christianity just as it can come disguised as Marxism. The Salem witch trials, to take a clear example, were not executed by Marxists.
As Jefferson pointed out, it is every form of tyranny over the mind of man (i.e., reason) that must be opposed.
I just wanted to thank Mr. Campbell as a fellow “fighter” for a rational education and against indoctrinating students or numbing or destroying their minds through years of cognitive neglect or abuse. I work really hard in teaching mathematics to get students to think for themselves, to be independent, to know and live first-hand, to develop the methods of mind that will allow them to achieve their own goals and live their own lives — in short, to train students to reason — so I had to tell Mr. Campbell thanks for being another rational teacher out there (going by only the evidence of his article), and I wanted to let him know there there are more teachers facing the challenges and opposition he is facing while striving to develop the conceptual awareness, the “conceptual eyes,” of students.
I enjoyed your essay “The Classroom Without Reason.” I have seen the same thing, and fight the same fights: against irrationality and for reason.
Thanks for your comments on Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher by Stephen D. Brookfield, and Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life by Parker J. Palmer. I saw exactly that type of thing and those types of books when I was getting my teacher’s credentials from the University of Houston in the 90s. And in reading what is going on in modern education, I have learned about more of the same — for example, William Ayers’ “social justice.” In getting my credentials, I kept quiet mostly, so I could get my credentials and get out. I was “threatened” in writing once (a professor saying he thought I should not be a teacher, and if I contested the low grade he gave me, he’d grill me and speak against me) and in getting my B.S in Math and B.A. in Philosophy at UT, Austin, I had a few professors threaten to fail me for speaking against them (‘do not oppose me, or you will be failed’).
Too many teachers I taught with through the years were more collectivist than individualist. (One teacher I taught with told me, a few years after I left the school we had taught at, that he was criticized for wearing a shirt with an American flag on it to work during the Elian Gonzalez fiasco!!) And they bought into many bogus theories of education — well, some people followed those things because their jobs and well-being were on the line.
As you do, I focus on teaching students to reason and think independently. I don’t censor what they say — I just let them know that they damn well better be able to back up their statements with facts and good reasoning. I teach/tutor math, but the way I teach, we of necessity get into some science, writing, logic, philosophy, art, history, and literature. I could not and would not teach if I could not get into diagramming sentences so they understand proofs in geometry and word problems in algebra; if I could not relate learning proofs to learning law (and logic and reasoning) by discussing Lincoln’s study of Euclid’s Elements to become a better reasoner (as presented in Drew McCoy’s “An ‘Old-Fashioned’ Nationalism: Lincoln, Jefferson, and the Classical Tradition”); if I could not show how geometry and algebra are important and useful by discussing painting and sculpture and movies; if I could not show how mastering proofs in geometry helps one master writing; if I could not show how geometry and trigonometry were critical to the development of modern science.
Update (8:45 PM): Made “I had to send…” its own paragraph and added the “I just wanted to thank” paragraph.