Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Don't know much about his-tor-y ..."

That's a lie. I know a lot about history, a lot about literature, a lot about music, a fair amount about poetry, a lot about politics.

And, so what? Well, so they mean a lot to me; they enrich my soul, give me perspective that I bring to my life and my writing. I value them highly, can't imagine living without the knowledge of them.

So, they must be a high value to everybody to enrich their lives and souls, right?

Nope. I apologize for such an obviously rhetorical question, but most people (many Objectivists adamantly included) just don't seem to get this point. They don't understand that there are objective values for every human on Earth that they must value highly to be happy (career, health, friendship, romance, leisure) and there are "optional" values that are chosen according to one's nature and one's chosen life-path.

History, literature, music, poetry and politics are NOT objective values; they are assuredly optional and rightly chosen in toto or partially by many of us. Therefore, being optional values, they cannot be forced upon us as objective values as adults or as children. Most arguments for "schooling" revolve around information that adults allege children must have and must have at a certain point in their lives -- as if Shakespeare or Livy's Histories will certainly enrich the lives of would-be seamstresses or car mechanics.

These arguments are not about information; they are about control (of children). They are projections of values, and they reveal a skepticism about children's abilities to discover their objective and optional values independently.

None of the above is not to say that a boy who decides to be a car or airplane mechanic at an early age won't seek to know Shakespeare's works or the Gallic campaigns of Caesar. But that boy (or girl) may go through his entire life seeking only a greater understanding of a particular mechanics, of his favorite sport, of wood carving, of fly fishing, of youth-league baseball, of sewing -- and never once give a thought to history, literature, classical music, poetry or politics.

And if he's being objective, he'll be quite happy.


Sara said...

I enjoy your thoughtful writing. Thanks for putting it out :)

When schools or parents or anyone who holds power over a child pushes information or skills on a child against the child's will, no matter how well-intentioned "for the child's own good," I interpret that action as abuse, albeit widespread acceptable, virtually invisible abuse.

David Elmore said...

Thanks, Sara. I agree with the "abuse" comment. Psychological abuse is much more common than physical abuse -- and much more subtle.
Many parents think they are unschooling or, at least, are not abusive parents, when, in fact, they can often be the most controlling. It starts with people not knowing their own minds, as I mentioned in an earlier post.
Take care.