Prof. Plum writes:
Education is driven by two obsessions: individualism and social progress.
At first, it seems contradictory that collectivists and radical egalitarians would promote unbridled individualism. This contradiction is resolved when one considers that the two impulses operate in different realms that must be kept strictly separate. As Robert Bork pointed out in Slouching Toward Gomorrah, radical egalitarianism "reigns in areas of life and society where superior achievement is possible and would be rewarded but for coercion toward a state of equality." In contrast, radical individualism "is demanded when there is no danger that achievement will produce inequality..." Thus, freak shows with nose rings, tongue and lip rings and other multiple piercings as well as exotic aberrations are permissible and even encouraged; the postmodern elevation of ignorance and nonsense to the status of just another "perspective" becomes de rigueur.
Prof. Plum describes how these tendencies operate in edland:
In education, the obsession with the individual is manifest
In the call for authentic activities –which generally means, hands on–also known as play.
In constructivism: which asserts that teachers cannot transmit knowledge, because knowledge does not exist outside the individual. Therefore, teachers merely facilitate students’ constructions of knowledge–which means almost anything goes.
In whole language, fuzzier than fuzzy math, and a superficial study of history and classical texts–because learning the letter-sound system in reading, mastering math algorithms, and reading texts line by line is…HARD.
In class groupings that are so heterogeneous that teachers cannot possibly serve the highest and lowest performers–because homogeneous groupings might hurt self-esteem. [As though remaining ignorant is good for self-esteem.]
In rejection of “drill” and practice and memorization (demonized with the moronic phrases “drill and kill” and “it’s all rote learning”)–because these require more effort than the individual wants to give.
In rejection of achievement standards that are precise, objective, and measurable (e.g., percentage of problems solved correctly)–because that means that the individual could be held to the standards, and that of course would be oppressive.
At the same time, education is driven by an obsession with social progress. This obsession–which finds political expression in so-called left-wing or liberal politics–is often called progressivism. In both the larger society and in education, the obsession with social progress is manifest in
The continual call for more social justice and equality –which too often means wanting more–income, respect, benefits–but producing no more (doing no more for anyone else or for society at large) to get it.
The expansion of the category of “those who deserve,” or “those who are owed”–again, so that some people will get more without doing or giving more.
The demand for politically correct speech and thinking–so that no social group will feel devalued regardless of what it does.
Multiculturalism, which means that members of the predominant–common–culture must devalue their own language, history, core values, moral principles, and social institutions by regarding these as all relative; and at the same time not judging the history, core values, moral principles, and social institutions of other cultures.
The question is, Can an obsession with the individual–and all of the activities associated with that obsession–ever produce the social progress envisioned or demanded by progressives?