Okay. Without a doubt, the more I study, the more I realize we are having a tremendously difficult time communicating with one another because we use the same terms but are using different meanings. I know I have said that before, but I just have to say it again since I keep coming across the same problem in the language. Could this be the fault of the irresponsible use of deconstruction? Students from the incomplete experiment were stuck in the middle of censorship of terms and had to find new meaning perhaps.
Now we have reconstruction happening, but the meaning of one term has moved underneath another term. It’s like a game of hide and go seek. Who’s got the right meaning? Where’s the term? It’s like when teachers began calling persons, places, things, and ideas “the naming word” rather than just using the word, noun. Does giving something a new name really help people discover meaning? Or has it caused a whole lot of confusion?
I admit, I am able to make a term just about as confusing as anyone, but this is why I love philosophy. It asks me to think about terms like freedom and try to discover what that truly means. If I start to find certain qualities that give that word meaning, then I can recognize both those who actually desire freedom and those who have never really thought about what freedom actually means and have defined it in a way that does not have any of the recognizable qualities of freedom.
So, where does that leave us today?
Here is a list of some words that mean different things to different people:
1. progressive: outside of the box, linear movement forward, growth–those are a few ways to think about that concept. After studying the history of American schools, however, I’ve realized that progressives choose every other decade to use the word progressive to mean whatever they want it to mean. For instance, the Prussian model of education was seen as the most progressive school, so Horace Mann, after witnessing it, decided he would implement it in the new compulsory education in the United States. Some blame the Prussian model as one of the roots of fascism, by the way, because it made state school compulsory, gave central control of education to the state, made teachers go through specific training to support the state’s ideals, and standardized the textbooks according to those who had the control. It also is a great way to educate the masses quickly. That was in the mid-19th century.
Then, we have the new progressive progressive, Dewey. He thought that the education system relied too heavily on the basics, oversimplified, so he sought to help students explore more by switching classes and teachers throughout the day–think Secondary education. This indeed helped schools to operate on an even larger scale. Education became a massive machine of production. Many schools still work this way. However, this was how educators hoped to establish the new version of the American ideal. And, although I am not a complete fan of Dewey because he decided that practical training and exploration was more important than any other subject, this may have been something that helped many Americans from becoming too fascist simply because it offered students more variety during the day. In consequence of this progressive ideal, however, a very large bureaucracy had to be created to support the expansion of the idea of education. More state control of more aspects of student’s live, too.
But, 20 years later, someone had a new version of progressive. This was the progressive progressive progressive idea. This man, Coverley, wanted to be as efficient as possible–utilitarianism ideal. Track students. That means, teachers would pick out who they thought would succeed in certain jobs and would put them on that track, even if the student didn’t want to go that way and often without the student’s knowledge. So, IQ tests became important, even though this relied heavily on language ability–analogies. Anyone who could do these IQ tests well would be put on the college track, all others would be sent to technical training. No more expansion of knowledge, just give the kids one thing to focus on. Creativity is not healthy in this progressive progressive progressive’s mind.
After a couple of decades of that, education was losing a lot of impetus and started implementing “Life Adjustment” classes to teach students how to be American again, according to the new progressive idea of American. It meant in this context, how to be hygienic, how to take care of responsibilities at home, how to, how to, the how to curriculum comes alive! No deep thinking involved. We’ll just tell you how to live.
Then, bam! Space called from a little ship called Sputnik. All of the sudden, the new progressive, progressive, progressive progressive’s ideal had to be math and science, which is something Dewey had thought of, sort of, but that had been thrown out with the other progressive’s ideal.
Just a few years of that, however, without adding the creative subjects back in, people grew weary of that new version of the new progressive, which was the old progressive, partly. From this extraordinary emphasis on rationalism came a giant swing back to emotionalism–the sexual revolution, free love, free thinking. So now the new progressive of the progressive takes a little bit of Dewey and a whole lot of censorship for anything that doesn’t feel right. Deconstruction began to take words apart from their meaning.
By the time the 1980′s came around, the new progressive was to give a whole bunch of definitions and names without context or depth for things like history and to make perfectly unclear healthy career options, to praise every child by the 1990′s for any movement, even if it was harmful, and to progressively stop learning how to read, write, and do math. The meaning begins to move away from its term because no one studies meaning.
In the 2000′s, teachers began to realize that nobody knew how to think critically, so the new progressive became to help students to think. Some realized that teachers were teaching in every which way possible but up, so the students were falling further and further behind. Now, the new progressive is to use research-based methods, or methods that actually work, which turns out to be many of the methods that were thrown out by people who called themselves progressive. Perhaps they will finally get around to figuring out that a certain education system has already figured it out and has been doing it pretty well while secular progressives have been experimenting with education and going every which way to the point where they have even undefined themselves–the progressive undoing itself. Could it be a result of throwing out history, philosophy, basics, and a couple of other important subjects on the way. They might eventually get it. But that’s pretty progressive for some progressives.
It’s become clear to me that when I use the word progressive, I might mean something else. When I read progressive, I might understand it a different way. When you say progressive, what does that mean?
This is what I see it to mean today: if it’s an atheistic version of progressive–that is, one that relies on secular solutions for everything, then there are actually two versions. One version is in the extraordinary extreme of hyper-rationalism (what do you think about those terms?), believing that science and technology has all the answers–like the Borg, they believe progress can only be made by being indifferent to humanity. Then clear on the other extreme is the version that is hyper-irrational, depending on subjective experience to explain all things without any practical science–like Loki’s treatment to Thor; he just wants Thor’s power because he’s jealous even though he doesn’t have the qualifications to take care of that power, they believe progress can only be made by being explosive with their emotions.
Sadly, neither of these versions can even meet on equal terms (terms that have the same meaning) even though they have been paired together as progressive. And even more, they are both becoming so extreme so as to enforce their idea of progressive onto everyone else. At this point, I don’t know who to worry about more–the indifferent ones or the explosive ones. Do you think counseling would help? Perhaps a class on communication? Philosophy? How do we get these two progressive parties to talk to each other, and perhaps even balance each other out?
Lamehousewife, what happened to your list? That was just number 1.
Good point. I guess that’s what happens when there is a confusion in terms. It slows people down because they have to begin to explain everything in order to make sense to anybody else. Know what I mean?
School: The story of American public education, edited by Sarah Mondale and Sarah B. Patton (2001).