That truth should be silent I had almost forgot.
Antony and Cleopatra, Act 1, Scene 2
May 2, 2017
A weapon hurled at Baldur
By RONALD N. NEFF
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I have been looking at a book published by Thomas Sowell in 1993. The book is Inside American Education: The Decline, the Deception, the Dogmas (Free Press). I say "looking," because I have not read it through or carefully. I do not intend to. There is nothing wrong with the book; it's just that it's not a subject that occupies me often.
The reader, then, should not expect me to be saying much about education. Or about Sowell's arguments. Or even the evidence he brings to bear.
What caught my attention, such as it was, was the section dealing with what Sowell calls the "dogmas" of modern education: diversity, bilingual education, self-esteem, sensitivity that sort of thing. Sowell's critique is dispassionate and measured, though he offers no arguments in favor of the "dogmas," which he undertakes to refute. This is Thomas Sowell, after all, not Thomas Aquinas. He is aiming again, in this section merely to define the matter, to bring it to the attention of the reader, and to offer a few common-sense, relatively obvious objections to it.
No, my interest in this book lies with factors that may be called "bibliographical," or even "extra-bibliographical."
The book is a hardback. And it was not published by some marginal outfit with a firebrand name such as ... oh ... A bas l'état Press. No, it was published by a mainstream publisher, formerly an imprint of the Macmillan Company, and later an imprint of Simon & Schuster when the latter acquired Macmillan in 1994. It is, as Wikipedia states, "one of the best-known imprints specializing in serious nonfiction."
And the author was no marginal hothead. It was Thomas Sowell, author of more than 40 academic and serious books and who knows how many articles in academic journals. To say nothing of his opinion columns. A man to be taken seriously. Whenever he published a book, I venture to say that he could appear on almost any "talking head" program of his choosing to discuss and promote it. And he could expect to be treated respectfully, even if the interviewer disagreed with him. He did not have to worry about being blasted out of his seat by drunken obscenities from the likes of a Martin Bashir.
His books were reviewed respectfully in "the best" publications. It's not as though this particular book were written by Willis Carto and titled What's Wrong with American Education and What You Should Do about It, published by Liberty Lobby. Such a book would not even be smeared in "the best" publications; it would simply be ignored. Even if it said exactly what Thomas Sowell's book says.
No one would be suspended from his job or be fired never again to find employment above a street-sweeper's for reviewing it. C-SPAN's "Book TV" studios would not be surrounded by antifa thugs, bandana masks covering their faces and murderous fury filling their hearts, smashing the windows and destroying equipment, intent on beating up Sowell and probably Brian Lamb, too. No university president who had invited Sowell to give a graduation address at least in 1993 would have to begird the hall with campus police and firemen to keep peace during the proceedings. And snowflakes would not have been gnashing their teeth, scraping their nails across their face, tearing their hair, ululating their laments, and rending their garments at the prospect.
No, when Thomas Sowell spoke, people listened.
Which brings me to my point.
One reads Inside American Education and suddenly realizes that he is reading a book published in 1993 by a respected author and released by a reputable publisher. One reads it and perhaps observes, "In 1993? This is what American education is still like." Unless he adds, "Except that it has gotten worse."
Nothing about the book reads as though one is reading about the distant past. It all is monotonously (through no fault of Sowell's) familiar. We are reading a description of how things were nearly a quarter of a century ago, and how, for the most part, they remain. None of the "dogmas" Sowell describes has disappeared from how education is delivered in America. Neither at the university, middle-school, grade-school, or even Romper Room level. It has merely become more intense, delivered more relentlessly, with no stone unturned, no corner of life left neglected, "no child left behind."
To be sure, now and then you will find a private school tucked away out of sight somewhere where the administration and teachers attempt to actually impart an education to the 20 or 30 students whose parents or grandparents managed to discover it while scouring the Internet. But if you find one that will in addition eschew all those dogmas including the sacred value of "diversity" please send in your application, in care of this website, for "Unsilent Truth's" decennial Natty Bumppo Pathfinder Award.
How does such a thing happen? How can a book by a noted and respected author (who has spent some time on the New York Times Best Seller list) be sold, read, reviewed, praised, and publicized simply to fizzle out? How does such a book have so little effect?
We understand how and why a culture remains deaf to a book by, say, Murray Rothbard, or Robert Lefevre. We even understand how and why a book by Ayn Rand must come under ceaseless ridicule, attack, and misrepresentation. But how does a book such as this one simply pass without effect?
This culture stands as a kind of Baldur, all weapons hurled at it falling harmlessly at its feet. O God, is there no mistletoe left in the world? Ω
May 2, 2017
Published in 2017 by WTM Enterprises.
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