Wednesday, June 4, 2008

You'll Never Guess

A certain person by the name of Aimee Natal once posted these interesting comments on education. As you read them, you'd probably NEVER guess where they came from. Read them first, and then see the sources of these quotes at the bottom of the blog. The bracketed numbers direct you to the "endnotes." Finally, see how Aimee makes use of them. You probably wouldn't guess that either.

“Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without religious foundation is built on air; consequently all character training and religion must be derived from faith...” [1]

“By helping to lift the human being above the level of mere animal existence, Faith really contributes to consolidate and safeguard its own existence. Taking humanity as it exists today and taking into consideration the fact that the religious beliefs which it generally holds and which have been consolidated through our education, so that they serve as moral standards in practical life, if we should now abolish religious teaching and not replace it by anything of equal value the result would be that the foundations of human existence would be seriously shaken. We may safely say that man does not live merely to serve higher ideals, but that these ideals, in their turn, furnish the necessary conditions of his existence as a human being. And thus the circle is closed.

Whoever would dare to raise a profane hand against that highest image of God among His creatures would sin against the bountiful Creator of this marvel and would collaborate in the expulsion from Paradise.” [2]

Now, some quotes pertaining to the curriculum and training in character and habits:

“Special importance must be given to physical training, and only after that must the importance of spiritual and mental training be taken into account. In the education of the girl the final goal always to be kept in mind is that she is one day to be a mother.

The deliberate training of fine and noble traits of character in our schools today is almost negative. In the future much more emphasis will have to be laid on this side of our educational work. Loyalty, self-sacrifice and discretion are virtues which a great nation must possess. And the teaching and development of these in the school is a more important matter than many others things now included in the curriculum. To make the children give up habits of complaining and whining and howling when they are hurt, etc., also belongs to this part of their training.

If the educational system fails to teach the child at an early age to endure pain and injury without complaining we cannot be surprised if at a later age, when the boy has grown to be the man and is, for example, in the trenches, the postal service is used for nothing else than to send home letters of weeping and complaint. If our youths, during their years in the primary schools, had had their minds crammed with a little less knowledge, and if instead they had been better taught how to be masters of themselves, it would have served us well during the years [. . .]

In our educational system, we will have to attach the highest importance to the development of character, hand-in-hand with physical training. Many more defects which our national organism shows at present could be at least ameliorated, if not completely eliminated, by education of the right kind.

Extreme importance should be attached to the training of will-power and the habit of making firm decisions, also the habit of being always ready to accept responsibilities.” [3]

More details about the curriculum, especially focusing on the value (or lack thereof) of Latin and languages, and history:

“First of all, the brains of the young people must not generally be burdened with subjects of which ninety-five per cent are useless to them and are therefore forgotten again. The curriculum of the primary and secondary schools presents an odd mixture at the present time. In many branches of study the subject matter to be learned has become so enormous that only a very small fraction of it can be remembered later on, and indeed only a very small fraction of this whole mass of knowledge can be used. On the other hand, what is learned is insufficient for anybody who wishes to specialize in any certain branch for the purpose of earning his daily bread. Take, for example, the average civil servant who has passed through the Gymnasium or High School, and ask him at the age of thirty or forty how much he has retained of the knowledge that was crammed into him with so much pains.

How much is retained from all that was stuffed into his brain? He will certainly answer: “Well, if a mass of stuff was then taught, it was not for the sole purpose of supplying the student with a great stock of knowledge from which he could draw in later years, but it served to develop the understanding, the memory, and above all it helped to strengthen the thinking powers of the brain.” That is partly true. And yet it is somewhat dangerous to submerge a young brain in a flood of impressions which it can hardly master and the single elements of which it cannot discern or appreciate at their just value.

It is mostly the essential part of this knowledge, and not the accidental, that is forgotten and sacrificed. Thus the principal purpose of this copious instruction is frustrated, for that purpose cannot be to make the brain capable of learning by simply offering it an enormous and varied amount of subjects for acquisition, but rather to furnish the individual with that stock of knowledge which he will need in later life and which he can use for the good of the community.

This aim, however, is rendered illusory if, because of the superabundance of subjects that have been crammed into his head in childhood, a person is able to remember nothing, or at least not the essential portion, of all this in later life. There is no reason why millions of people should learn two or three languages during the school years, when only a very small fraction will have the opportunity to use these languages in later life and when most of them will therefore forget those languages completely.

To take an instance: Out of 100,000 students who learn French there are probably not 2,000 who will be in a position to make use of this accomplishment in later life, while 98,000 will never have a chance to utilize in practice what they have learned in youth. They have spent thousands of hours on a subject which will afterwards be without any value or importance to them. The argument that these matters form part of the general process of educating the mind is invalid. It would be sound if all these people were able to use this learning in after life. But, as the situation stands, 98,000 are tortured to no purpose and waste their valuable time, only for the sake of the 2,000 to whom the language will be of any use.

In the case of that language which I have chosen as an example it cannot be said that the learning of it educates the student in logical thinking or sharpens his mental acumen, as the learning of Latin, for instance, might be said to do. It would therefore be much better to teach young students only the general outline, or, better, the inner structure of such a language: that is to say, to allow them to discern the characteristic features of the language, or perhaps to make them acquainted with the rudiments of its grammar, its pronunciation, its syntax, style, etc.

That would be sufficient for average students, because it would provide a clearer view of the whole and could be more easily remembered. And it would be more practical than the present-day attempt to cram into their heads a detailed knowledge of the whole language, which they can never master and which they will readily forget. If this method were adopted, then we should avoid the danger that, out of the superabundance of matter taught, only some fragments will remain in the memory; for the youth would then have to learn what is worth while, and the selection between the useful and the useless would thus have been made beforehand.

As regards the majority of students the knowledge and understanding of the rudiments of a language would be quite sufficient for the rest of their lives. And those who really do need this language subsequently would thus have a foundation on which to start, should they choose to make a more thorough study of it.

By adopting such a curriculum the necessary amount of time would be gained for physical exercises as well as for a more intense training in the various educational fields that have already been mentioned.

Now, of especial importance and interest to history teachers, both at home or school:

“A reform of particular importance is that which ought to take place in the present methods of teaching history. In 99 out of 100 cases the results of our present teaching of history are deplorable.

Usually only a few dates, years of birth and names, remain in the memory, while a knowledge of the main and clearly defined lines of historical development is completely lacking. The essential features which are of real significance are not taught. It is left to the more or less bright intelligence of the individual to discover the inner motivating urge amid the mass of dates and chronological succession of events.

The subject matter of our historical teaching must be curtailed. The chief value of that teaching is to make the principal lines of historical development understood. The more our historical teaching is limited to this task, the more we may hope that it will turn out subsequently to be of advantage to the individual and, through the individual, to the community as a whole. For history must not be studied merely with a view to knowing what happened in the past but as a guide for the future, and to teach us what policy would be the best to follow for the preservation of our own people. That is the real end; and the teaching of history is only a means to attain this end.

But here again the means has superseded the end in our contemporary education. The goal is completely forgotten. Do not reply that a profound study of history demands a detailed knowledge of all these dates because otherwise we could not fix the great lines of development. That task belongs to the professional historians. But the average man is not a professor of history.

For him history has only one mission and that is to provide him with such an amount of historical knowledge as is necessary in order to enable him to form an independent opinion on the political affairs of his own country. The man who wants to become a professor of history can devote himself to all the details later on.” [4]

Now, a few quotes from this same person regarding his faith, God:

“An educated man retains the sense of the mysteries of nature and bows before the unknowable. An uneducated man, on the other hand, runs the risk of going over to atheism (which is a return to the state of the animal) as soon as he perceives that the State, in sheer opportunism, is making use of false ideas in the matter of religion, whilst in other fields it bases everything on pure science.

That’s why I’ve always kept aloof from religious questions. I’ve thus prevented my Catholic and Protestant supporters from forming groups against one another, and inadvertently knocking each other out with the Bible and the sprinkler.” [5]

“The Ten Commandments are a code of living to which there’s no refutation. These precepts correspond to irrefragable needs of the human soul; they’re inspired by the best religious spirit, and the Churches here support themselves on a solid foundation.

The Churches are born of the need to give a structure to the religious spirit. Only the forms in which the religious instinct expresses itself can vary. So-and-so doesn’t become aware of human littleness unless he is seized by the scruff of the neck, but so-and-so does not need even an unchaining of the elements to teach him the same thing. In the depths of his heart, each man is aware of his puniness.

The microscope has taught us that we are hemmed in not only by the infinitely great, but also by the infinitely small-macrocosm and microcosm. To such large considerations are added particular things that are brought to our attention by natural observation: that certain hygienic practices are good for a man-fasting, for example. It’s by no means a result of chance that amongst the ancient Egyptians no distinction was drawn between medicine and religion.

Does the knowledge brought by science make men happy? That I don’t know. But I observe that man can be happy by deluding himself with false knowledge. I grant one must cultivate tolerance.

It’s senseless to encourage man in the idea that he’s a king of creation, as the scientist of the past century tried to make him believe. That same man who, in order to get about quicker, has to straddle a horse-that mammiferous, brainless being! I don’t know a more ridiculous claim.” [6]

“God made men. But thanks to original sin we are men in the age of our world, earning our bread in the sweat of our brow. For five hundred thousand years, God impassively contemplated the spectacle of which He is the author. Then one day he decided to send upon earth His only son. You remember the tails of that complicated story!” [7]

“He has the most sacred duty, each within his own denomination, to see to it that God’s will is not simply talked about outwardly, but that God’s will is also fulfilled and God’s labor not ravished. Because God’s will once gave men their form, their being, and their faculties. Who destroys His work thereby declares war on the creation of the Lord, the divine will.” [8]

“I SAY: MY FEELING AS A CHRISTIAN POINTS ME TO MY LORD AND SAVIOUR AS A FIGHTER. HE WAS GREATEST NOT AS SUFFERER BUT AS FIGHTER. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and of adders. How terrific was His fight for the world. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before - the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.

For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.

And when I look on my people I see it work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week it has only for its wage wretchedness and misery. When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people is plundered and exploited.” [9]

AIMEE WRITES: Stong and powerful statements, aren’t they? Now, I would like to share why I have shared them. These quotes and the ones in part 1 of my post are all direct quotes of a man named Adolf – Adolf Hitler. For the context in which these words were written or spoken, see Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler or or

1. (from Bayne’s The Speeches of Adolf Hitler)

2. From Vol 2 Chap 1 of Mein Kampf

3. Mein Kampf (I used an online version so do not always have page numbers).

4. Mein Kampf

5. Hitler’s Table Talk, pp 58-62]

6. [Mein Kampf, p 83-87]

7. Mein Kampf

8. [Mein Kampf, p827)

9. from MUNICH SPEECH OF APRIL 12, 1922

Aimee Natal as can be seen from these closing comments, uses these citations, in essence, to reject the kind of classical religious education commended by the likes of Charlotte Mason. Here is her logic:

Why would I ever want to look up Hitler or read his thoughts on education? Well, in my study of Charlotte Mason (who’s seemingly popular in the classical Christian education circles) and my attempts at dialogue about her with other moms, I began to find that it would not matter what on earth I quoted her as saying, the receivers would simply not be able to accept the words at face value, due to their preconceived notion as to who Mason is, heavily influenced by the very incomplete notion which predominates currently today due to several popular authors and speakers.

So the idea came to me that I should look up Hitler and see if he said much about education, read it, and have others read it without necessarily telling them straight away who the author is.

Such as I’ve done with this post.

As we’re reading, especially without the knowledge as to who the author is, we may find ourselves taking quite kindly to the thoughts and ideas expressed, agreeing more than not, even thinking that some of the beliefs sound just like Charlotte Mason or many others.

But once we know Hitler said it, wrote it, and we put everything into context (many of the words before and after those I’ve selected are absolutely horrendous), then what? Do we value what he had to say about the necessity for religious education? Do we call his name up, refer to his comments about the importance of character training, will-power and habits?

And what of his saying, repeatedly, that he is a Christian, referring to himself “as a Christian”? Well, it’s right there in print, no denying it, right? He speaks of the Lord, Christ, uses many Biblical references in his speeches. We could pull these lines of his right out of context, as one group of atheists does, trying to prove that Ravi Zacharias’ claim that Hitler’s atheism is what really allowed his atrocious behavior is a false thesis, because apparently Hitler said enough to make him look like, perhaps, a Christian- so atheists want to say maybe it was his Christianity and zeal for the Lord that encouraged his atrocious behavior.... (sideline issue- sorry.)

My point is that our impressions, conceptions, preconceived notions, frames of reference and what have you all play an extremely significant part in what we are willing to read, believe, accept, consider, acknowledge. We put much trust in certain names, and if they said it, then we’re very warm towards it to begin with, or even wholeheartedly accept it, no questions asked, AND defend it, no study necessary.

What I am NOT saying is (and I can just see this being so misconstrued as) that 1) I’m comparing Mason and Hitler, 2) I’m trying to say that Hitler was a Christian or that Mason was not, 3) that I hate Mason and anyone who’s ever claimed her name, 4) that there’s no value at all in any of Mason’s writings.

I *am* trying to point out that picking and choosing certain words from a person’s writings or lectures can make him look one way, or the other. People say Mason is mostly seen one way, as a wonderful Christian grandma who loves the Lord and homeschooling, and that I am the one out there trying to make her look another, as some liberal feminist socialist progressive educator.

Maybe the truth lies closer to the middle (*maybe*) but meanwhile, the line is in the middle and the glass is either half-full or half-empty. Whichever way you see it, there’s no denying that a good half of what’s involved is just AIR, of little value if you’re searching for a drink, water, sustenance, nourishment. (Yet I hesitate with this analogy because air is essentially harmless, where thoughts and ideas are not.)

And for those who insist on pointing out that water’s water, no matter where you get it or how or from whom, yes, I suppose so. But I’d rather not choose to drink from Hitler’s cup, no matter how thirsty...

1 comment:

Aimee Natal said...

Wow, I'm impressed that you kept that all these years.
Everything I said then still stands, doesn't it.
-Aimee Natal