The Aldous Huxley Solution to the Texas Textbook Debate
We live in a time when great efforts have been made, and continue to be made, to falsify the record of the past and to make history a tool of propaganda; when governments, religious movements, political parties, and sectional groups of every kind are busy rewriting history as they wish it to have been, as they would like their followers to believe that it was.
Bernard Lewis, quoted in Teaching Religion, Washington Times, 23 Dec. 2008
If you want to hear the flak on the Texas Textbook changes – here it is in 7 minutes
Maybe the question is “who cares”? Here’s why.
First, who are we trying to educate and for what purpose? Does a chemist need to know anything about history? How about a Physicist or an electrical engineer? Do they need to know anything about any history – american history or world history – to do their job? How about a factory worker? Or a person that works at McDonald’s or Wal-mart? Do they need to know anything about history to do their job?
Perhaps we are over-educating people. Perhaps 4 years of high school is too much. Why not simply “cut to the chase” and train people to do a job that larger society needs done? Who needs history, philosophy, literature, and all the rest? It would seem to simply “get in the way” of the task at hand of learning a marketable skill.
I recently read this: “Don’t have any economically unproductive thoughts”. No one is going to pay people in any of the careers cited above for their knowledge of American history – or philosophy or literature – for that matter.
Maybe Aldous Huxley got it right in Brave New World
“Set out the books,” he said curtly.
In silence the nurses obeyed his command. Between the rose bowls the books were duly set out–a row of nursery quartos opened invitingly each at some gaily coloured image of beast or fish or bird.
“Now bring in the children.”
“Now turn them so that they can see the flowers and books.”
The Head Nurse, who was standing by a switchboard at the other end of the room, pressed down a little lever.
There was a violent explosion. Shriller and ever shriller, a siren shrieked. Alarm bells maddeningly sounded.
The children started, screamed; their faces were distorted with terror.
“And now,” the Director shouted (for the noise was deafening), “now we proceed to rub in the lesson with a mild electric shock.”
“Observe,” said the Director triumphantly, “observe.”
Books and loud noises, flowers and electric shocks–already in the infant mind these couples were compromisingly linked; and after two hundred repetitions of the same or a similar lesson would be wedded indissolubly. What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder.
“They’ll grow up with what the psychologists used to call an ‘instinctive’ hatred of books and flowers. Reflexes unalterably conditioned. They’ll be safe from books and botany all their lives.” The Director turned to his nurses. “Take them away again.”
With this solution it makes the whole Texas Textbook debate moot. Rather than spending time teaching these folks history, philosophy, literature, and the rest why not use this opportunity to teach these folks to be good consumers of products and entertainment? This would ensure a continued, and perhaps increased, stability of the economy plus people wouldn’t ask too many questions.