A Rediscovery is an excellent look at why liberalism has failed as a political philosophy, even though it has been almost universally accepted in the U.S. and Europe since the end of World War II. advocates for rediscovering the Anglo-American conservative tradition, which has its roots in ancient British constitutional theory and was best explained in the U. S. by George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and other leaders of the Federalist Party.
Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute has written in National Affairs that the competing goals of schooling are at the heart of our national fight over education policy. Conservatives and liberals have different ideas about what education is for because they have different ideas about what it means to be human and where political duties come from.
Conservatives, liberals, and the point of education
Conservatism recognizes that people are born into families, clans, tribes, and nations, among other social structures. These social structures teach people how to be honorable and live good lives. So, it makes sense that conservatives care a lot about education.
In its many forms, education is about passing on culture from generation to generation by teaching values, ideas, and institutions that our ancestors thought were important. Chesterton said that education is just a society's soul being passed on from generation to generation. It's the passing along of a way of life.
Note that conservatism doesn't say that we should keep everything from the past or that our institutions never need to change. We need to fix our institutions because even the best ones will break down because of how people are and because some institutions haven't worked or been fair. But conservatives want to fix institutions while hurting traditions as little as possible.
Because liberalism starts from different ideas about what people are and where political obligations come from, it has very different ideas about what education is for. Liberalism is based on the modernist idea that the “free” individual is the basic unit of society.
Liberalism says that people can use reason alone to develop universal political principles that can be used to set up societies based on people's choices. Liberals think the government's main job is to give people as much freedom as possible and free us from tradition, which is always seen as old-fashioned and oppressive.
Education means learning to respect our fathers and mothers.
Individual freedom is also a top value for conservatives in the Anglo-American tradition. Still, for them, it is part of a bigger picture that sometimes includes competing for social obligations and goals for the government. Many of us got a similar view of politics from our parents, grandparents, the Bible, or religious community, but probably not from our secular, government-run schools.
But if cultures, among them those that value freedom and democracy, are to last through the ages, children must learn to respect the past that gave rise to all those values in the first place. The theory of social and political organizations that work well suggests an approach to education that recognizes the value of cultural traditions passed down from generation to generation.
It suggests a curriculum based on history and literature that underscores how the past is often an idea-driven struggle to build bonds of mutual loyalty in the face of collective trouble and how each student is called to make their contribution to the growth of society within the structure of traditions passed down from our ancestors.
Liberalism: ignoring the past
There is no clearer difference between such a liberal and conservative political order than how they treat the past. In a liberal society, the things a child must do to respect and stay loyal to his parents are seen as unpleasant or wrong for one reason or another.
It's important to show that liberalism is not Marxism. But liberalism's disdain for traditions passed down from the past makes it fatally vulnerable to Marxism's obsession with conflict. This is clear in the way modernist and progressive educators put more emphasis on critical thinking than on teaching about culture.
Since its goal isn't to protect the country and its institutions, critical thinking is happy to keep finding new reasons to criticize until all the old ideas and ways of doing things are discarded. Critical reasoning is a revolutionary way of thinking and always ends up in nihilism.
Conservative teaching and social reform
As was already said, conservatism doesn't ignore oppressive systems or the need for social changes. Students shouldn't be taught a version of history that leaves out or doesn't discuss war and social problems. The most obvious example in the United States is the history of racism and slavery, a big break from the Anglo-American tradition.
But even the Civil War and the fight for civil rights can be understood from a conservative point of view. This is because conservatives know countries fall into chaos and violence when certain societal groups are treated badly and regularly disrespected.
Social, cultural, and political traditions must always be fixed and changed. Students should see that participating in these changes is their duty and responsibility as American citizens. But we work on these changes because we are part of a tradition, not because we are radicals who want to destroy everything we have inherited.
“The tension between a person's ability to make decisions and the spread of ideas in society takes on a whole new look if we look at the search for truth as a group effort. This doesn't mean that the person has to agree with everything given to them. But he also doesn't want to throw away or eliminate what has helped him.
We are putting families in charge and leading a conservative life.
Mechanisms for school choice policies should be looked into so that every family has schooling options in places that respect parents as the primary teachers and give families the power to teach their children in a way that aligns with conservative values.
Children are forced by law to go to liberal schools, where there is no mention of God and no knowledge of how the Bible is the foundation of our society. This is degrading and dangerous, and it should stop wherever most of the public wants it to.
Even though school choice is strong, there is still a chance to promote education that aligns with conservative values. As long as there are public schools, they belong to the communities around them, and they should ensure that education is about passing on our complex cultural heritage.