All We Need Is. . .a Rock?

Some of you may have seen this piece floating around: “Congressman Says We Don’t Need Education Funding Because ‘Socrates Trained Plato on a Rock.'” I encourage you to go read that article, or at least watch the video (the congressman’s remarks start at ~45:40, which is when you’re taken via the previous link).

My running thoughts as Congressman Brat gives his remarks:

  • This is the footage from a committee hearing on bill H.R. 5: the Student Success Act. This bill discusses ways in which federal funding is used for education and proposes some changes to this. So essentially, the people in this room, speaking in this video, are the ones who have some of the most influence over how our schools are funded from the federal level. Let’s keep that in mind.
  • Congressman Brat uses the phrase “trained in.” Not as in “Plato was trained in philosophy,” but as in “Socrates trained Plato in.” This is the same verb form that we would use for a justice swearing the president in to office, or someone being flown in to a city. This makes the training an act of installation, rather than an education and enlightenment of the mind. This isn’t even really a form of the verb “to train,” but if we accept it as something that can be said in the English language, it would imply that the goal of education is to train someone to the point where they can be installed as some sort of leader. I’m sure Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle would be pleased as punch to have their lives, which centered around education and thought, reduced to a mere “training in.”
  • Socrates trained in Plato, and Plato trained in Aristotle “on a rock.” This then becomes the center of an argument for why we don’t actually need funding for education — as some of the greatest minds of Western civilization were developed using just a rock, and that rock was also their floor.
  • A good mark of success of our schools is if our graduates can give a good answer to the question “what is a business?” Well, that makes sense, given that the only way to be successful as a human being is to be a part of a business model.
  • The goal of education is to compete with other countries and win. Oh, wait — except it’s not. It’s win-win. Which is precisely how businesses operate in a free market economy, I believe. Everyone wins.
  • The way we can do better: get the private sector in the schools. Every single school. Not a single one should be funded by the government. That’s actually not a bad idea, given that the private sector is well-known for caring about every one of the citizens of the country [oh, wait, I mean the world. Win-win], and not just those who can contribute to their success as a company.
  • If CEOs get into the schools, then we can get beyond the policy debate of how to fund education. I mean, come on guys. The CEOs run our businesses. Knowing what a business is is the primary goal of schooling. Who better to do the job?
  • We need a revolution. We need a breakthrough. We need to get the private sector, which by-and-large measures success by their economic health, funding the schools completely, except by funding the schools completely, I mean giving every teacher a rock on which to hold class.
  • Once again, in case it wasn’t clear: knowing what a business is is WAY more important than skills, conceptual understandings, and the ability to reason through a problem.

There’s a lot to go over here, but I’d like to revisit the Socrates/Plato/Aristotle piece some more. I wonder what else they had at their disposal. Off the top of my head, I’ve come up with a few things:

  • Every hour of every day over several years dedicated to teaching a small number of students who were completely devoted to their studies.
  • The freedom to teach using groundbreaking techniques that they felt were best for them and their students.
  • The respect of their community. (Okay, well, sort of: Socrates was put to death for corrupting the youth of Athens)
  • No goal in mind but the development of the body of human knowledge. Oh, wait, I forgot: they were just there to “train in” their successors. My bad.

So, Congressman Brat, let’s try something. I’ll teach in a public school — anyone can come. They will pay me out of their own pockets whatever I need, à la Socrates. If they can’t pay, then I can’t have them there — I need to eat! I know, I know, that sort of defeats the whole “public” idea of it, but this is how we create the great minds of our civilization! Some students will just have to be cast aside. They have to be my students every day for somewhere around 15-20 years. It’s a worthy investment, considering the great works they’ll do when they’re done! What’s that? You want them done when they’re 18? Hah. Not a chance. We’re talking about the great minds of civilization! No concessions to be made! Also, I can only take a few students on. Let’s say. . .5 or 6. And if I decide they’re unworthy, I can kick them out. But the others better make up for the lost pay! As I said, I need to eat. I’ll get to teach these students in whatever way I want, and I’ll get to teach them whatever I see best fit. Pardon? You want them to perform well on international tests? You want them to learn what a business is? I’ll try to fit that in, but would you question Socrates what he taught Plato? Oh, I see. You would have been first in line to give him the hemlock.

If you can give me those things, Congressman, I think we have a deal. Extend this invitation to every other teacher in the country, too. Now, as for the other 70% of our population, who will be without a teacher: you’ll have to figure out what to do with them. Maybe they can join Congress.

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