Re: A article

From: Douglas Barber <>
Date: Tue May 11 2004 - 18:30:42 EDT

Howard J. Van Till wrote:

>On 5/11/04 1:37 PM, "Douglas Barber" <> wrote:
>><snip> Perhaps, in the long view, militant secularism's cultural
>>hegemony has undermined the ability of the public education resources it
>>has captured to serve any intended purpose at all.
>Sorry, but I fail to understand how you moved so swiftly from the situation
>of bad behavior by a few students (and their defensive, shortsighted
>parents) to assigning responsibility to "militant secularism's cultural
>hegemony." I went to a small Christian school more than half a century ago
>and the scene there was not that much different. My sixth grade teacher
>resigned at mid-year, tired of it all. The sixth grade class following mine
>ran its teacher into psychiatric treatment for a "nervous breakdown."
I fill in the parts of the argument that I swiftly passed over, this
way: I see "militant secularism" as a school of thought, consistent
with Enlightenment values like those of Jefferson but possibly not
entailed by them, which bases ethics on the premise that
self-realization is the ultimate good, and that any attempt to impose
any higher good than that represents the socially unjust imposition of
the religious values of some people upon other people. I had a history
textbook in the 1970's with a title that aptly summarized the point of
view: "Man makes himself." In its earlier incarnations the "self" to be
actualized tended to be corporate - the volk, proletariat, and so forth,
but in the context of Northern European and North American culture since
the 1950's, the self-actualization valued by militant secularism has
increasingly become the outworking of the individual self. The pop
educational psychology which has grown up within this movement regards
"self-esteem" as the motivational engine which equips a person to
accomplish the good of self-realization and resist the evil of
"unnecessary" limitations imposed on self from outside. The presumption
in such a psychology is that there is a greater danger that a person
will emerge from the socialization process with too little self-love,
than that they will emerge from it with too much self-love (a
presumption which strikes me as flying in the face of the obvious).
Discipline becomes problematic in this context in ways and to degrees
that it was not problematic in educational systems designed according to
the schools of thought which preceeded militant secularism. Children
raised on MTV, the Simpsons, and the ideology of self-actualization are
more inclined to resist discipline, educators have more difficulty
justifying it, and parents are more inclined to fear that it is injuring
their child's most important inner resource, than they were in cultural
contexts where militant secularism played a less dominant role.

Doug Barber
Crisfield, MD
Received on Tue May 11 18:31:45 2004

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