Only Actual Public Education, Intelligence Can Save Us Now

27 05 2010

Education is Power of Story and our school stories just suck. I offer today a study in contrasts as my argument that public education (not necessarily public school but education of the public, by the public, for the public) matters more than ever to every single one of us as individuals, even those of us who don’t have kids in school or have no children at all.

Below are two individuals from whom we can learn many lessons, if we do our homework and then choose wisely between them.

Which of these two education “exhibits” would you bank on to help turn things around in this third millennium since Christian doctrine captured the minds of men — not just choosing for your own children but for your community, our country, our collective consciousness as human beings facing evermore complex global challenges?

Martin Gardner died the other day. He was the first science-math intellectual (other than those writing fiction like Asimov or Lewis Carroll, I mean) I discovered and read on my own as a puzzle-enamoured young teen, back in the mid-twentieth century.

In an age when science claims to be all-encompassing and skepticism seems corrosive to faith, Gardner was a breath of fresh air. He could “out-skeptic” the harshest of the New Atheists and yet his imagination was so much more robust that he could intuit a world beyond science.

. . .Martin Gardner possessed a unique combination of literary breadth, rigorous logic, mathematical intuition, and lively, engaging writing.

I never met Gardner, but I know him well — and so do the students who take my freshman honors seminar at Eastern Nazarene College, “Contemporary Questions.” Like many great writers, Gardner has put his soul in print, allowing us to peek in and see what a true genius thinks about the great questions of life — free will, God, immortality, evil, prayer, politics, markets.

. . . Gardner was genuinely skeptical about paranormal claims that went against science but, paradoxically, he affirmed and celebrated a world that went beyond science. . .
Gardner’s essays in The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener are a tour de force of mature, honest thinking expressed in golden and often witty prose. In fact, Gardner’s wit is enough to justify reading him. . .

One of Pretend Pimp James O’Keefe‘s co-conspirators pleading guilty and being sentenced yesterday, was “a former assistant director of a program at Trinity Washington University that taught students about careers in intelligence. . . part of a national effort following the Sept. 11 attacks to interest students at liberal arts colleges in careers as spies. He was also active in the conservative newspaper and other organizations at George Washington University.”

So — during the war-driven Bush administration, federal education dollars went to this private southern protestant university ( “private” except over 80% of all students get financial aid to learn whatever they’re being taught there) to pay an extremely young extremist to administer a U.S. spy recruitment program? Read the rest of this entry »