The temperature of controversial discourse reached a boiling point. One might argue it’s been this way for years, but the violence that erupted in Virginia last weekend as well as the firing of an Engineer at Google for speaking out against “diversity training” are both explosions from the same pressure cooker of identity politics and echo chambers building in America over the past several years.
I submit that the lack of substance in recent political debates as well as the tactic to shout down controversial speakers on a university campus are rooted in the failure of the education system to properly form citizens. Not the least is that members of the population developed sexist and racist views such that national headlines are made, but it has become a tendency that violence erupts when people don’t know how to deal with points of view that they disagree with.
A Catholic education is grounded in the idea of paideia, the Greek view of education that is not functional for the training of singular jobs, but of well-balanced members of the polis, true citizens who can lead, participate in the democratic process, and in turn influence those around them to elevate the quality of life in their community. A Liberal Arts-based education includes literature and philosophy that covers the full dimension of the human person in their full dignity. Even as an Engineering graduate from Waterloo, I’m disturbed with the heavy emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and its limited functional results at the expense of English, History, and Philosophy. With a proper understanding of humanity, protests could have been avoided or resolved through peaceful mediation; elections could be decided on rational consideration of issues rather than on populism and rhetoric; and questions about solving problems like diversity in technology could be asked and debated without offense.
It’s a difficult argument to make that our young people should take English courses instead of Computer Science and expect success, but I would absolutely advocate a restructuring of education curricula to ensure that a fully participating citizen strive towards a balance that covers the fullness of the human experience, including ethics, spirituality, philosophy in additional to the technical. Catholic Schools can lead the way if they strongly emphasize this difference against other methods. When educators of all stripes realize this, only then can civilization remain civilized.
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