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On the Other Hand Perspectives


By Bruce Deitrick Price

A friend in England suggested that I take a shot at the Bastiat Prize, a UK award for writing about freedom.

Here's what I would write about: freedom is not possible without better education than we are having now. Thomas Jefferson said a country can be ignorant or free, but not both. Education is the premise, freedom the result.

Probably the judges would give the prize to writing that was explicitly about freedom, something in the news perhaps. So I didn't enter the contest, but I like my fundamental point: diminished education leads to diminished freedom.

Now, on this site, the big topic is creativity. This is an important item all through American education. But again I feel that in almost all cases it's education that is the premise, the real starting point. What American schools are doing, all too often, is distracting parents with talk of arts and creativity, not because our elite educators care about either one, but because they want to sugarcoat the decline they are presiding over.

In short, I'm not all that impressed by so-called creativity curricula, nor by using up a lot of the school's time and budget for arts. I believe it's vital that kids have good foundational knowledge—the basics and academics. I think they'll be better citizens AND better artists.

I tend to think that our relationship with knowledge, with continuing education, remains the same for all of us, all of our lives. Sometimes the way that people, of whatever age, will be maximally creative is to do some oddball research, some esoteric reading off to one side of the project, and presto, the fresh images come galloping. Again, as for freedom, education is the catalyst, art the conclusion.

Even at the college level, if a future painter asked me for advice on what to study, I'd say, "For the most part, anything solid, anything unknown to you. History. Biology. Philosophy. Literature. Math. Things that will bend your mind into new shapes, and make sparks in your head. Art will find you."

Admittedly, I tend to be obsessed by education. I believe it's a primary factor even when we don't think of it. Good education, bad education, no education—each will have its inevitable consequences. I worry that our Education Establishment is more concerned with social engineering than with mental engineering. In practical effect, these people are anti-intellectual. I write about this attitude and its ramifications, on my site and many other places. Basically, I'm waging my own personal crusade to save the schools from these old ideologues.

Well, as I often say, join my crusade. Or start your own. Either way, let's improve education. •

© 2009 Bruce Deitrick Price

Bruce Deitrick Price is an author, artist, poet, and education activist. More »