by Kung Fu Zu 3/20/14
by Theodore Dalrymple • Part I • Spoilt Rotten is the latest book by Theodore Dalrymple. It was first published in the U.K. in 2010. Unlike many of his other books, this volume is not a compendium of various essays and articles previously published in different newspapers or periodicals.Spoilt Rotten is a book based on the premise that many of the societal problems — which contribute to increased crime, lower standards of learning, familial breakdown and general cultural decline — are the result of the romantic/sentimental view of human nature.
While the book deals with the U.K., the observations made and conclusions reached could just as well be applied to the USA. Dalrymple details many of the social problems eating away at the fabric of U.K. culture, and how they developed. He exposes and debunks the fatuous philosophy of the Left and explains how the lies and errors which spring from it damage individuals and society as a whole.
This is an extremely important book. I would urge anyone who is concerned with the direction of our country to read it. It presents a concise bill of particulars against the political romantics of the world. And it can be used by anyone who is looking to confront the lies of the Left and their Libertarian fellow travelers.
Dalrymple notes that all people are occasionally sentimental. But the overarching romantic view of humanity and nature, which the Left is in thrall of, has its roots in the eighteenth century dilettantish “Philosophes” such as Rousseau.
The book’s introduction starts with the observation that, according to a UNICEF report, Britain was the worst country of 21 advanced countries in which to be a child. Dalrymple observes,
“such reports are often based on false premises, suppositions and the like, and are designed to produce the very results that will confirm their authors’ prejudices (or their authors’ employers’ prejudices).”
Nevertheless, while not necessarily subscribing to the overall findings of the report, he does agree that childhood in Great Britain is the most “wretched’ he knows of, both for the children and adults. Not only are the children often miserable, adults are afraid of them. He gives some alarming statistics which help support this claim:
“One third of teachers suffered physical attack from children”, “5/8 as many teachers had problems with parents”, 9 out of 10 trainees in paediatric medicine witnessed a violent incident involving a child”, “40% were threatened by a parent”, “5% assaulted by a parent”
And on and on. According to Dalrymple, a small amount of violence goes a long way. We all know this to be true. And Dalrymple’s numbers indicate that the violence is not small. It is therefore not surprising that many in the population are constantly intimidated and tense.
Why is it, Dalrymple asks, “that people who are generally healthier and wealthier than their recent ancestors are so violent, anxious and aggressive?” Dalrymple believes the reasons, at least many of them, spring from “sentimentality, the cult of feeling” which permeates our present society.
Dalrymple lays out some of the fundamental ideas romantics have about children. Like Rousseau’s idea of the noble savage, sentimentalists believe children are inherently good and it is only through contamination by adults that children lose their innocence. As regards education, romantics have for years maintained that “children.. are naturally intelligent and curious, have vivid imaginations and have both the desire and natural ability to learn things by themselves.” With such a philosophy, the “right education became the prevention of education.”
“Romantic educational theory, subsequently provided with a patina of science by committed researchers, is full of absurdities that would be delightfully laughable had they not been taken seriously and used as the basis of educational policy to impoverish millions of lives… Despising routine and rote, and pretending that in all circumstances they were counterproductive or even deeply harmful, and much hated by children, the romantic educational theorists came up with the idea that children would learn to read better if they discovered how to do so for themselves…..This is only slightly more sensible than sitting a child under an apple in the hope that it will arrive at the theory of gravity. Most children need a clue, and even those few who don’t could spend their time more profitably on other things.”
This quote with its simple logic destroys the pretentions of the modern education lobby.
Dalrymple holds the education theorists of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century responsible for the observable damage done to generations of pupils and students. These theorists and their acolytes have turned schools in large parts of the country into “an elaborate baby-sitting service and way to keep children off the streets.” For anyone who has taught, this rings true. And they have succeeded in this at ruinous costs. As he says, “Never in the field of human history has so little been imparted to so many at such a great expense.” The result of this fiasco is generations of people who are basically illiterate. To illustrate this, Dalrymple gives numerous examples from his career as a doctor in the NHS.
When he recounts his experiences with such poorly educated and uninformed people to various middle class intellectuals, Dalrymple notes they react badly, accusing him of making fun of the people described, and accusing him of making up his stories. They do so in spite of the surveys and extensive anecdotal evidence readily available which confirms his words.
Dalrymple discusses and quotes several “sentimental” educators from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. He exposes, through their own writings, the nonsensical nature of their claims. Despite the illogical nature of their theories, these theories slowly crept into the minds of intellectual pedagogues, seeped into official studies of the education apparatus and thence into the curriculum. Dalrymple notes that even so-called conservatives accepted the nonsense as far back as the early 1930’s.
It is clear that Dalrymple believes many, possibly the vast majority, of the educational sentimentalists do not take their theories seriously or at least they do not subject themselves to the same standards. He takes Steven Pinker as an example.
Using Pinker’s The Language Instinct, he demonstrates the dishonesty proffered in much of the now official romantic view of education. While accepting that Pinker’s view of the development of language may be correct, Dalrymple shows the conclusions Pinker draws from this view are dangerous and dishonest:
To quote Pinker, “...no form of language is inherently superior to any other.” Language says Professor Pinker, “is not a cultural artifact at all, and therefore cannot be taught.” Prescriptive grammar is a ‘hobgoblin of the schoolmarm’; a standard language (such as the one in which he himself writes) is a language ‘with an army and navy.’ According to Pinker, “everyone spontaneously develops the language that is adequate to his needs.” And therefore, as he says at the beginning of his book quoting Oscar Wilde, ‘nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.’
How dishonest is this? It is on basis of such ‘learning’ that the elite pedagogues instituted the teaching of Ebonics. Even Pinker admits the dishonesty of his statements when Dalrymple points out to him that if Pinker’s view were taken seriously it would “enclose people in the mental worlds into which they had been born,” to which Pinker replied, “of course people should be taught a standard language.”
Dalrymple concludes about Pinker,
“In fact, he is simply giving a new, supposedly scientific gloss to old romantic conceits about childhood, conceits that are almost certainly at heart a denial and repudiation of the religious doctrine of Original Sin. I need not recapitulate the apostolic succession of romantic educationists here (Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Montessori, Dewey, Steiner, say nothing of their acolytes), but will confine myself to quoting one of Professor Pinker’s intellectual-or perhaps, more accurately, emotional-forbears, the social reformer Margaret Macmillan who wrote, “Early childhood is a vital and momentous period in education but it is not the time for accuracy…”
One is led to ask, if not now when?
I have often asked myself how much of the romantic bilge spewed forth by these “experts” do they truly believe and how much is propaganda used to help create an ignorant underclass of unthinking drones.
And of course, human vanity probably plays a large part in the furtherance of such sentimental nonsense. People are generally susceptible to flattery where their children are concerned. No doubt, many truly believe their little darlings are special and therefore are not in need of the restrictive discipline found in the traditional classroom. The little darlings simply must be able to express themselves — no matter that most of what they express is incoherent rubbish. After all, they are our little darlings. As an antidote to this nonsense, the parable of building one’s house upon a rock instead of upon the sand comes to mind. But, of course, that springs from religion so we mustn’t mention it, regardless of the wisdom expressed.
Dalrymple next turns to the sentimental/romantic view of the family and personal relationships laying out the resultant devastating consequences for society. Stay tuned for my next article. • (5255 views)