The other day, I got a call from my good friend Marshall Fritz,
president of the Separation of School and State Alliance. He had
attended a meeting in New York of private entrepreneurs interested in
doing something about education. Chris Whittle was there promoting the
idea of government-subsidized private management of public schools. Ted
Forstmann was there to talk about privately funded voucher programs.
Marshall’s impression was that these gentlemen did not have much of an
understanding of the distinction between education and training, and he
wanted my views on the subject.
Education, I told him, is concerned with the development of the mind,
of the intellect, while training deals with learning specific skills.
Education is a more personal activity, in that its main purpose is the
enhancement of an individual’s ability to use his mind for his own
personal pleasure or gain. Training means developing skills that will
be used more for social and economic reasons than for the self. Which
means that education should come first, training later.
Animals, it should be noted, can be trained, but they can’t be
educated. Why is that? It is because human beings have the one
capability that no other species has: the ability and capacity to use
language. Language is more than merely a means of communication.
Language links us with our Creator. God gave Adam the power of speech
because he wanted to communicate with his creation. And he wanted Adam
to be able to communicate back.
Even Noam Chomsky, noted socialist who also happens to be the world’s
leading linguist, writes:
- [H]uman language appears to be a unique phenomenon, without
significant analogue in the animal world. … As far as we know,
possession of human language is associated with a specific type of
mental organization, not simply a higher degree of intelligence. There
seems to be no substance to the view that human language is simply a
more complex instance of something to be found elsewhere in the animal
world. … In fact, the processes by which the human mind achieved its
present stage of complexity and its particular form of innate
organization are a total mystery.
Of course, they are not a mystery if you believe the Bible. In
fact, the Bible makes it quite clear what the purpose of language was as
a God-given gift. First, it enabled Adam to communicate with God.
Second, it permitted Adam to extend his dominion over the animal
kingdom. We read in Genesis 2:19-20: “And out of the ground the Lord
God formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air, and
brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever
Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam
gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast
of the field.”
In other words, God turned Adam into a scientist, an observer of the
world around him, and also a lexicographer, an inventor of names. Thus,
the second function of language was to permit Adam to know the world and
control his environment. The third function of language was to permit
Adam to know his mate, Eve, whom God had given him. This function gave
man the ability to know others in a profound and intimate way. And,
finally, the fourth function of language was to permit us to know
ourselves. For without language we would not be able to engage in that
inner dialogue that helps us know our own natures and chart the course
of our own lives. John Calvin wrote in his “Institutes of the Christian
- Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid
wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and
of ourselves. … [N]o man can survey himself without forthwith turning
his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is
perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly
be of ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than
subsistence in God alone.
This intimate connection to God is demonstrated in the fact that
infants start learning to speak during the very first year of life,
which indicates the strength of this God-given ability. Language is the
most powerful tool that any child can master. In fact, children are
language-learning dynamos during the first six years of life, and this
remarkable development provides the child with a launching pad for
further mental and spiritual growth through the continued mastery of
language through education.
It was the invention of alphabetic writing that gave man the ability
to expand language with ease, and thereby enhance his ability to think
and invent. The alphabet gave Adam’s descendants the ability to do more
than simply name what could be observed. Man could now name the
invisible: atoms, neutrons, bacteria, viruses. He could write books,
plays, biographies, histories, poetry, novels. (It should be noted that
the Holy Scripture is written in alphabetic writing, not hieroglyphics.)
The ancients knew that education meant expanding the power of
intellect, the ability to acquire knowledge. And so, traditionally,
education meant learning to read well and fluently so that by reading
and writing one could strengthen the powers of mind, increase one’s
knowledge of the world, and seek one’s purpose in life. It was an
affirmation of an individual’s freedom to grow spiritually and control
his own personal destiny.
But that traditional view of education has been largely abandoned by
our so-called educators, who now believe that the purpose of schooling
is training an individual to be a useful, politically correct social
component in the economy. It was socialist John Dewey who first
proposed the shift away from the emphasis on language learning to the
hands-on basket-weaving curriculum of progressive education.
That philosophy has finally blossomed into Marc Tucker’s Human
Resources Development System, in which the government trains individuals
to serve the State and the economy. In his famous letter to Hillary
Clinton, Tucker wrote:
- What is essential is that we create a seamless web of
opportunities to develop one’s skills that literally extends from cradle
to grave and is the same system for everyone — young and old, poor or
rich, worker and full-time student. It needs to be a system driven by
client needs, guided by clear standards that define the stages of the
system for the people who progress through it, and regulated on the
basis of outcomes that providers produce for their clients, not inputs
into the system.
As you can see, there is no room in that system for the
development of an independent intellect. In fact, to make sure that an
independent intellect is not developed, the trainers make sure that each
child’s mind is made intellectually dysfunctional through whole language
teaching in the primary grades. That prepares the child for training in
the behaviorist, Skinnerian methodology, in which the reinforcement
techniques of animal training are used on human children.
The takeover of American public schools by behavioral scientists and
psychologists means the permanent destruction of traditional education.
And because most parents, teachers, and politicians don’t understand the
distinction between education and training, there is virtually no chance
that traditional education will ever be restored in our public schools.
Finally, the beauty of education is that, after learning to read, you
can educate yourself by reading and investigating anything you want.
But when it comes to training, you need trainers and schedules, tests
and assessments, psychologists and remediators. To deprive children of
the great personal benefits of education and to throw them at an early
age into training is a crime, and its victims will be a blight on
America for generations to come.
Samuel L. Blumenfeld is the author of eight books on education,
including “The Whole Language/OBE Fraud,” “NEA: Trojan Horse in American
Education,” “How to Tutor,” and “Is Public Education Necessary?” These
books are available from The Paradigm Company, 208-322-4440. For
information about Blumenfeld’s reading instruction program,
“Alpha-Phonics,” please write: The Tutoring Company, P.O. Box 540111,
Waltham, MA 02454-0111.