When Robert was one and a half, we asked his pediatrician if his intelligence seemed normal.
Look, I know IQ is mostly inherited, but mom’s family has some startling up and downs (okay, given the times, that might be nutrition) but also everyone and their brothers had warned us that as severe as pre-eclampsia was during that pregnancy he’d probably be mentally retarded. And Robert was, like every high IQ (and/or Odd) kid ever given to saltational development. What that means for those who haven’t heard it, is that he lags WAY behind in a skill, then acquires it seemingly overnight. Both parts of which scare the crap out of parents. He wasn’t as weird as his brother (Marshall, his brother is a great title for a novel) who refused to crawl like a normal human being, for instance, and crawled around the house on knees and shoulders, looking like a lizard. Then one day he stood up and realized he could reach the chocolate on the table. Within the week he was running.
I don’t remember what, in particular, was worrying us about Robert, but I think we’d got it in our pointy heads (look, we were young) that his vocabulary was too small. (Mostly due to our never having met any other kids his age, at that point.) The pediatrician looked at us like we were crazy and said “Any kid raised in your house, even an adopted kid will have a great vocabulary, and a great knowledge of the roots of western civilization.”
I still don’t know how he intuited that from just seeing us in the office, but anyway, that was what he said, at the time. I’m still not sure it would have been true without trying. I remember years of slog, teaching the kids the RIGHT word for the right moment. And I remember realizing they were getting basically jack about the common roots of Western civilization in school.
I mean, I know my generation was shorted. i was the first in my family not to have to pass at least two years of Latin in middle school. (Which is bad, because Latin is the root of Portuguese, but also because so much of medieval culture is written in Latin. All the way through the renaissance.) I also remember all the times I expounded on something literary and classical and my brother and dad cracked up, because as all auto-didacts I had massive holes in my knowledge. Still do. That I HAD to be an auto-didact is an indication of the fact that school was no longer teaching much.
But by the kids’ time, school was teaching basically nothing, except for the occasional “commandment” like “Save water because Paul Ehrlich says we ran out 20 years ago” or “glass is a natural resource we’re using up” or “you should go up to people who are smoking and confront them and tell them they’re doing a bad thing.”
Of the traditional education we expect in schools there was very little. part of this is that immersion method of teaching languages (stupid enough in languages, if you don’t first have a time period with the rudiments and if your learning is limited to classroom time at best an hour a day) had by then propagated to other disciplines.
I don’t know if it’s actually ever been proven that anyone not otherwise dying for the knowledge learned a single thing from just being in the presence of it. I know that it works really badly for captive children in schools. it is, however, way easier for teachers. Just have the kid in the general vicinity of spelling, or math, and they’re supposed to pick it up automagically. So you don’t have to make them do anything they consider boring, and you certainly don’t have to think on how to reach them.
It took me a while to figure out that was how they were teaching spelling to #1 son. He was just supposed to “pick it up”, with the result that he’s a very educated and smart young man, who periodically commits boner spelling in the highest degree. Say Conquor instead of Conquer. I did however give him enough spelling lists and copying duties it’s only very occasional. I’ve met people his generation who are articulate, smart, and you need an oracle to interpret what they write.
By the time he hit French, I knew I’d have to teach him or he’d never learn.
As for Western culture, the doctor might have been right. We just tend to get in these conversations over dinner that assume a knowledge of Greece and Rome and the history of science, and of course explained the references to the kids when they asked. Robert was mad in love with Rome from age 2 anyway, and Marshall studied ancient Greek on his own and developed a love for the ancient epics (and the mechanisms used in Greek theater, because yeah, embryonic engineer.)
But I know how they’d have been educated except for that, and I remember their classmates, so it doesn’t shock me that, as their generation moves into the work force we’re starting to see complete ignorance in places like NPR and the NYT. (This partly because the people they choose to hire have impeccable lefty credentials, and the left not only despises and resents all of the civilization that spawned them (with some reason, I mean, have you looked at these people?) but also are the greatest believers in “Learning just comes without effort.” But only partly. That generation just wasn’t taught.)
So we get things like confusing the resurrection with the ascension and NO ONE not an editor notices. Or the NYT thinks that the Trojan Horse was built by the Trojans to confuse the Greeks, and then gets in an argument that it should be called The Greek Horse.
It’s not the kids’ fault. They just weren’t TAUGHT. Their generation was so busy reading the assigned (not even joking) book about a Latin Lesbian who is tormented by religious people, or stories about the Vietnam war by someone who admitted making it all up, or the vomitous communist sympathizer Gabriel Garcia Marques who has written only one bad thing: everything he wrote, that they never learned, read or are even aware of the works that formed civilization.
When younger kid, in a fit of “I have to take another humanities course” tried to find a classical history course, it didn’t exist. There MIGHT have been Chinese history, but all the other history courses were part of the victimology studies: women’s history, queer history, African history.
I’m not saying those shouldn’t be studied, mind you. Heck, as most people who know me know, I study and read EVERYTHING, including, yeah, ridiculously biased leftist things (okay, sometimes I skim them) because if you don’t, how do you know what they’re up to?
And some of those can be interesting. I have on myself a history of prostitution, for instance. Sometimes you just need additional color on a period of history, and that fills it in. But the point is that those are fragments. It really means nothing unless you know what else was going on a the time. For instance, yeah, sure, Tudor England hanged gays (at least gays of not sufficient status to get a pass) but they also killed Catholics and everyone who diverged from what the regime was trying to create, as a cohesive society. it wasn’t anti-gay discrimination, it was, for the time and as much as they could make it, a totalitarian regime with no freedom of belief or thought. If you just study gay history you come away with the impression that they have been victimized/tortured through time, with some very rare exceptions. If you study history as a whole, OTOH you realize everyone different was marginalized/ destroyed, and some of the persecuted groups are people you wouldn’t now guess, and worse, that this happens every time a government has too much power. Every single time. Which is a completely different thing from “the government must protect these victims.” (Government doesn’t work like that.)
The problem is, worse than that, that these children (a stretching of the point, since some of them I suspect are early thirties) have some reason to THINK they’re educated. I mean, they spent their time in school. They reaped passing grades and praise. They know things their parents don’t know, and if south American Victim literature is so unimportant, why did the teachers assign it? No, it must be that it’s important and the parents are bigots. Hence they not only don’t know much, but are unaware of the they don’t know And also — self-esteem education — they know they’re the smartest generation ever. So these things we tell them they don’t know must be unimportant. They’re the walking definition of Dunning Kuger and sound like it too.
Here’s the thing: still not their fault. Here’s the other thing: the self-esteem bullshit prevents them from educating themselves after they leave school, as I and a bunch of others my generation did.
A third thing: our civilization can’t survive this. To explain things like “why the constitution is still important” they need to have some link to the past the founding fathers came from. They need to know that every regime that kills you for what you think and believe is a horror and ends up killing pretty much everyone in random heaps.
When you explain that Marxism is a Christian heresy, and why it doesn’t work, these children need a modicum understanding of religion (and don’t get me started on how religious education in the main churches is possibly even worse than secular education. A diet of veggie tales and the giving tree does not spiritual guidance provide.)
Instead, they are ignorance covered over with overweening pride. They glory in the false and superficial knowledge they’ve been given and use their present day mores and manners as a stick to beat the great people of the previous generations. And they don’t know enough to realize some of the things they do might well be looked upon as as evil as slavery is now. Because they don’t understand history and the “manners and mode of the time” and how they can blind even the best of us.
In other words, they’re savages, wearing the clothing of civilized people and convinced there is nothing civilization can teach them. They are men come from the wilderness into civilization, who have no idea what created the riches of the civilization
What they lack is not technical knowledge. You can always study that as needed. What they lack is the software in the head of a man who lives in a free society. This is part of the reason they prefer absolute regimes, because that’s what savages do. It’s also why they gleefully try to pull civilization apart: because they don’t know what it is or how it was built. And why they believe cultures where women are stoned for being raped are better than their own: they know nothing of their own culture, except a few insults at the past their teachers taught them to recite “Racist, sexist, homophobic” and they certainly know nothing about other cultures, except that they can’t be as bad as ours, because they were taught ours was the worst.
Civilization might — MIGHT — be able to survive a generation like this, but it won’t survive many more.
Educate them where you meet them. Puncture their overweening self-conceit, so they can at least try to learn. And teach the younger ones. If you must send them to school, make sure you know what they’re studying and supplement it at home. You might have to learn some stuff yourself, to be able to teach it. School has become part of the apparatus for destroying Western Civ.
As a species we cannot afford the long dark ages until civilization is reinvented (if ever.)
I’m sounding the tocsin. There is a fire burning in the night, and it’s taking with it all that has raised MOST of humanity out of the ancient and intractable poverty of millennia.
Work now. Make them learn. Do not let civilization die in the dark.