Know-Nothings in College

by George Leef

Even at many “good” colleges and universities, most of the students have minds that are, writes Notre Dame professor Patrick Deneen, “largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift from a previous generation.” His Front Porch Republic essay Res Idiotica hits upon the disturbing truth that lots of smart young Americans nevertheless have very little knowledge.

“The pervasive ignorance of our students,” Deneen writes, “is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome…It it the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide. The end of history for our students signals the End of History for the West.”

Deneen’s point connects perfectly with the argument Heather Mac Donald made in her classic 1998 essay “Why Johnny’s Teacher Can’t Teach,” where she fingered the “Anything but knowledge” fad that had swept through American education schools. Teaching students about facts is bad, according to progressive educational theorists because it’s mere “rote learning.” That kind of teaching bores students and will keep them from becoming “lifelong learners.” (It also means that teachers don’t need to know much, which is alluring to the weak students who are drawn into ed schools.)

Worse yet, many of our college students are perfectly happy in their know-nothing state and roll their eyes when anyone tries to enlighten them about (to mention a few things in Deneen’s essay) the Magna Carta, the Battle of Yorktown, or the Federalist Papers.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip: Charlie Geshekter

Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.