This appeared in THE JOURNAL OF PRE-COLLEGE PHILOSOPHY, VOL. II, NO. 4, JULY/OCT 1977.

THE HIDDEN FACE OF INEQUALITY

Minority groups have made a shibboleth of what they consider to be equality--a legal enforcement of social and economic "rights."
      However, they overlook that form of equality which underlies and sustains all others: the right to an equal ability to think clearly, critically and analytically.
Wherever we turn, the emphasis is on equal opportunity, equal rights, and equal "education."
      Rarely, however, is the meaning of such terms, as 'equal education,' and Bush's 'leave no child behind,' examined.
I shall refrain from referring to that educational inequality which stems from the usual forms of deprivation.
      On this subject, much has already been written.
      Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that a partial cause of such deprivation is that the "education" of our children begins too late.
One educational investment we could make for our children would be that of nursery classrooms with large open areas in which all young children (beginning at three months) would have accessible to them for a substantial part of their day not only three good meals a day and a safe social environment but also the possibility for unlimited safe experiences such as colors, sounds, shapes, etc., under the guidance of teachers, and/or parents, who know how to stimulate a young child's visual, auditory, and tactual curiosity.
      Poor environment (including poor diet) contributes to inequality in all human beings.
      Lack of certain perceptual and conceptual stimuli adversely affects the development of neuron configurations.
      Thus lack of the development of learning capacities before a child reaches kindergarten age will be highly probable.
Important as the above may be, however, it does not speak to the issue with which I'm here mainly concerned.
      I wish to consider those years of life for which it is assumed that no such deprivation has occurred.
The inequality to which I refer is fundamental.
      It affects all strata of society--not merely minority groups.
      It is caused by the unequal development of the ability to reason.
      Consequently, too many of our citizens are doomed to mental mediocrity which forever remains a personal badge of inequality.
      Such inequality is endemic to the affluent, the middle class, and the underprivileged alike.
      It is a consequence of the inability or the refusal of those in positions of responsibility to teach fundamental principles of reasoning and the concepts necessary to instill critical and analytical acuity.
      Most forms of inequality are nurtured in an environment of prejudice, intolerance, or greed, and in an anti-intellectual society like ours, by antipathy to rational solutions and an apparent preference for political and legal ones.
Often, lack of learning and reasoning abilities is attributed to poor environmental conditions and socio-economic forms of inequality.
      To a large extent this is correct.
      Yet most normal children who are not raised under such adverse conditions fare little better.
      This is so because their educational and conceptual environment is deficient in the ideas and principles necessary to the development of critical and analytical acuity.
      This deficiency is caused by teachers who concentrate primarily on the three R's and the accumulation of "facts" with an excessive disregard for teaching the techniques of reasoning.
      The fourth R (reason) is apparently to be acquired by osmosis.
      Presumably it is supposed to emerge without any special study of its complex subject matter.
It is evident, then, that despite its many commendable achievements, the schooling process, itself, is responsible not only for not preventing educational inequality but for creating and perpetuating it.
      The head start that inequality already has when a child enters the classroom is greatly reinforced by our schooling institutions.
      It is fostered by the failure of our schooling monolith to place equality of subject matter that is conducive to the development of rational techniques above subject matter demanded by the general public and the needs of the market place.
Educational priority should be given to the development of good reasoning ability--and only secondarily should it accede to the demands of an industrial society, the interests of self-serving groups, or institutions wishing to fill their ranks with disciples of their individual ideologies.
      So long as those who school us continue to refuse to heed this admonition (frequently expressed by the best of our great thinkers), inequality of every form will forever be with us.
In principle, philosophy as freedom of examination into alternative views constitutes the bottom line for all forms of rational equality
      Without the development of analytical inquiry, educational equality is impossible.
The laws of the land guarantee equal treatment.
      But just as morality cannot be legislated, neither can equal treatment.
      The illusion of equality, yes.
      The fact of equality, no.
      All the forms of equality for which so many have fought come to little more than equality in theory or at best to a DEGREE of equality.
      And ever it will be, no matter what the economic status; for
           equality is a function of knowledge as much as it is a requirement of law or an inalienable right.
We must, then, address ourselves to the fundamental sources of equality: knowledge and education.
      I emphasize that vocational training and much "academic" subject matter is not education.
      They are too often ridden with rote learning or dogma.
Unfortunately, our schooling system is structured so that training students to reason and to think analytically, clearly is forced to take a back seat to college requirements and to the practical needs of our technologically oriented world.
This would not be the case were we to give equal attention to the need for learning the principles and the ideas required for analytical thinking and for recognizing the enemies of reason, e.g., contradictions, vacuous words, unwarranted beliefs and assumptions, the confusion of concepts, beliefs, and psychological certainty about other dimensions of existence, to wit, "heaven" "hell," "life after death," and particularly our excessive ABUSE of language..
Students are not required to take courses which will guarantee them greater capacity for critical and analytical thought.
      In most cases, their choices of subject fail to immunize them against the social diseases of the mind, viz., irrational responses to problems, unclear thinking, mediocrity of thought, gullibility, ignorance, and worst of all ignorance of their own ignorance.
      Their inability to adapt to a demanding world of complex concepts in scientific, sociological, political, and technological progress becomes, therefore, one of their greatest deficiencies.
      Whether or not a student develops as a clear thinker with an open mind is left to the accident of his parentage, his experiences, his peers, his choice of subjects, and the usual exigencies of life.
We must, of course, achieve equality without diminishing the life styles, economic status, and standards which have been prevalent for the majority in the past.
      Otherwise, we would diminish our nation and thereby each individual.
      However, the causes of educational inequality are not being eliminated by pouring millions of dollars into programs which are presumed to alleviate the inequalities of a socio-political economy, of racial prejudice, of "educational" deprivation, of psychological trauma born and borne in a ghetto-social structure of the economically disadvantaged, etc.
      Furthermore, such financial appropriations perpetuate themselves into permanent fixtures in our economy, our politics, our government--and most seriously--in our thinking.
If we are to cure the disease of inequality while we continually apply soothing ointment to the sores of our failures, radical surgery is in order.
      Such surgery would eliminate the recurrent need to subsidize "equality" with enormous expenditures of funds by eliminating inequality with well thought-out, long-term programs of education based upon subject matter which promotes rational and analytical acuity.
Programs designed to give meritorious minorities equal recognition, employment, remuneration, etc., are both useful and worthwhile.
      But they are only stopgaps.
      However, these are the kinds of equalities which would emerge eventually with a maturing and rational development of our citizenry.
Moreover, the problems of social equality in its most inclusive sense (economic, civil, ethnic, and political) have small hope of permanent solutions in a society which pays so little attention to development of rationality in its schooling structure.
      No society can bring permanent solutions to its problems when its schooling structure is aimed predominantly at job training and conformity to the "status quo."
Until our citizens and their leaders, as well as teachers and their leaders, recognize that the weaknesses and inequities which permeate this nation (all nations) are founded in our refusal to formalize the cultivation of reason in course development and curricula, rather than to expect reason to emerge as an accidental bonus from the accumulation of "knowledge" superficially analyzed, we shall forever be doomed to costly make-shift, haphazard, and failing techniques for the eradication of this cause of all other forms of inequality--the most fundamental and demeaning of them all: the unequal ability to reason.
SEE FILE 21: PERENNIAL QUESTIONS

 

© 1997 by Pasqual S. Schievella