This is the next post on my summary of Rushdoony’s Intellectual Schizophrenia.
To understand the humanistic view of teaching the whole child, we must understand the impact of John Locke, who besides being the father of modern psychology was also a prominent educational scholar. Locke “gave to the Enlightenment its ideal weapon against God and the past, the concept of the mind as a blank piece of white paper.” (2) The idea of the infant as a tabula rasa has developed into today’s popular idolatrous belief that “[m]an [can] remake man and the educator…play[s] the role of a god.” (2) Other humanists like Pestalozzi put this ideal into practice, hoping to “produce universal brotherhood and a paradise on earth, freedom and happiness for all.” (3)
Rushdoony credits (or indicts?) this humanism as dominant in the French Revolution, which attempted to put away time and begin all over again. The Marxes and Lenins subscribed to the same belief, which “has been basic to all Utopian thinking.” (3) The blank slate concept lent itself to what modernists would see as legitimate scientific thought, a view Rushdoony calls “one of the great myths of modern times (3), dispelled thoroughly by men like Herman Dooyeweerd and Cornelius Van Til.
Slate wiping “is inevitably productive of a radical rootlessness in the intelligentsia.” (4) Fortunately, there is still some “cultural vitality” that has awakened a resistance and resentment of this institutional pride that says “we are the people; wisdom was born with us, and, if we are not careful, may die with us.” (5) Nevertheless, these thinkers disregard the fact that “culture is never the product of the clean-tablet mind or of mind in isolation, but of the whole man, who has now been rendered schizophrenic and sterile by this educational concept.” (5)
The biblical concept in part is “to bring out abilities and talents in the person and thus to develop him in terms of himself.” (7) Proverbs 22:6 speaks of the way a child should go, implying not only righteousness but also giftedness and motivation. “But the clean tablet concept wants to do no such thing; it is not concerned with education but radical re-creation of the person beyond anything envisaged by religion. It is a radically messianic and religious program….” (7)
The Enlightenment was a reaction to its contemporary and rival Calvinistic/Reformed teaching, “manifested in the Pilgrims and Puritanism….” (7) Though the Puritans wanted a “new order,” they were “past-bound” in their reliance and insistence on the revealed word of God. Though they looked to the future, they were not bound to it either, as evidenced by their quick rejection and correction of their unsuccessful attempt at communism.
Strong among Calvinists was the concept of covenant, of which Rushdoony here covers two aspects, life and promise. “Education was…inevitably a covenantal act, an incorporation of the person into the life of a rich and vital body.” (8) Far from a static ideal, the covenant affects life here and now as well as in “the life to come.” (8) On earth, it seeks the beating of swords into plowshares, the filling of the earth with the knowledge of the Lord, and long life expectancy. Since “[c]ovenant theology [is] a doctrine of salvation, a plan of conduct, and a philosophy of history as well as the foundation of education,” (9) godly scholarship can be nothing if not connected to God’s history, family, and generational sanctions. Covenant has a cousin concept of confirmation, called by Rushdoony the “full adoption into the inheritance from the past and the promises of the future.” (9)
No compromise can exist between the educational philosophies of the Enlightenment and of Calvinism. The former sees the child as “a passive creature who is to be molded by statist education for a concept of the good life radically divorced from God and…all transcendental standards.” (10) The latter begins
with the biblical revelation and the ontological trinity,…thereby with the equal ultimacy and the fundamental congeniality of the one and the many in the trinity, three persons, one God. The concept of the covenant furthers this unity in that the self-realization of the individual is the advantage of all and is advanced by and integral with the self-realization of others. (11)
Of course, covenant education is indoctrination, but it is much more than that.
Indoctrination is after all no more than teaching in terms of principles…But it is definitely not conditioning…for it holds man to be not a passive and blank object, nor a creature of the state, but God’s vicegerent, created in His image and called upon to establish dominion over all creation and over himself. (11)