The Paideial Revolution
by Harvey Wheeler
Paideia in Webster's Third International Dictionary
(unabridged) is defined as:
"Paideia — education; culture. From 'Paideuein' — to educate.
the physical and mental faculties in such a way as to produce a broad
enlightened mature outlook harmoniously combined with maximum cultural
This article discusses the need for a revolution in
paideial acculturation; primarily secondary and college — but also earlier
acculturation. Experiments were conducted eight years ago to find out why 55%
of the students arriving at high school failed the entry English placement
exam; and why four years later they had improved little. As 12th graders they
were almost identically deficient in entry level college English. Nearly half
the students graduating from a public high school in California were
"PseudoLiterate" — unqualified for college and eligible for
little better than service industry employment. A new computer-mediated
pedagogy was successful. It is described toward the end of this
Paideia was the classical Athenian term for acculturation — cultural
education of the highest quality. Pundits of all denominations agree that
today's America faces a culture crisis. Nothing less than a complete cultural
transformation will save our nation.
- We no longer inhabit a culture that considers itself to be middle class and
have Anglo/American roots.
- "Americanization", "Melting Pot" and
"Frontier" are no longer valid.
- No longer are there common or shared neonatal and maturation
"passages" possessed by all children when they enter school.
- The new challenge to education is to provide an appropriate acculturation
for poly-ethnic/poly-linguistic students who enter schools that are full of
peer enemies and anxieties; whose teachers are unprepared to cope with either
the diverse types of unpreparedness of the students, or with the new
pedagogical arts teaching now requires.
These are some of the reasons parents of many different economic and
cultural backgrounds find voucher programs attractive, permitting them to
choose a schooling environment more congenial to their own children.
It is one of the reasons for the expanding popularity of Catholic and Temple
schools, and the demand for their voucher support — in the face of the
"wall of separation" prohibition of the Constitution, whose deistic
founders implicitly presumed all students would have been given at home a
thorough religious upbringing.
Today, most students receive little or no home bedtime and kitchen table
neonatal literacy, biblical, or literary foundations. Disney, Nintendo, Pokemon
and now, a literary surrogate, Harry Potter, seem to provide the common
cultural foundations of childhood.
Most children have grown up in several different housing types and
locations. Like "Army Brats" they have no natal or "home
town" identity and hence no regional heritage. They are literally
family-tree rootless and lack a kinship lore and identity. Their
"family" is as polymorphous as is their environment.
The home-maker mother is gone.
The intact marriage is gone.
Multiple job-holding parents are common, as are siblings from different past
Single parent families are more prevalent than families with both birth
Unmarried pair-headed domiciles are common. If there is marriage, divorce is
its natural outcome.
These dysfunctionalities are normal for all locations but are exponentially
magnified in our Inner Cities.
In the past, free public high school education was based on the John Dewey
reforms of the 1920's.
A high school education was assumed to be a prerequisite to creative
occupational and political participation in our democracy. Institutions and
economic functions were relatively simple. Their operations could be understood
intuitively. Literacy and a basic understanding of how machines and
organizations worked were sufficient for functioning creatively in occupations
In college, these assumptions were continued into the two divisions that led
to a BA, Bachelor of Arts, or a BS, Bachelor of Science. The first was more
"classical" and qualified one for employment in organizations and
commerce — and for graduate school in the professions. The second was more
technical and qualified one for employment in technological industries —
and for graduate school in engineering or science.
A college education was typically available to the middle and higher classes
and constituted an informal class division, within the assumption that all
Americans, even the rich, were "middle class". This meant we believed
we had no hereditary aristocrats or castes, and could ignore their functional
equivalents we possessed.
America was held to be the Promised Land. A Horatio Alger "career open
to talents" was accessible by all, even immigrants if they became
"Americanized" in night school and read the Saturday Evening Post, to
learn how American social institutions worked. The Great Depression and World
War II undermined all this. It showed that America did not reward individual
industry and personal qualification. At War's end we tried to compensate in two
ways. First by introducing Welfare State aid for individual failures, together
with remedies for the failure of indigenous social institutions to sustain the
people they produced. Second by providing higher education for nearly all
willing to struggle for it. The assumption was that individual failures could
be remedied by extending education to a higher level.
These efforts were inadequate. Few people were prepared for life in the
post-modern "revolutions" that were taking place. The United States
was at the forefront of a new form of urbanization, a new industrial order and
a new scientific revolution.
1950 was the turning point; the apex of the old and the threshold of the
new. We had not resolved the contradictions of the period before WW II but were
also confronted with the:
- Thermonuclear Age;
- The Bi-Polar Cold War; (followed by America's World Hegemony);
- The Computer Revolution;
- The Biological Revolution;
- A Multi-Cultural Poly-Lingual Society;
- The Information Era;
- Global Free Trade Corporatism;
- Corporate Media Mind Control;
- A Univocal Party System;
- Extreme BiPolar Income Distribution;
- Privatized Impoverishment of Public Resources, Welfare and Education;
- DeCivilization of the MegaCity Environment;
- Prison Exile of Deviants and Rebels;
- Counter-Intuitive Institutions — Complex Beyond Comprehension;
- Unrelieved Poverty and Illness;
- The Obsolescence of Schools;
- The Irrelevance of Education;
- The Incompetence of Teachers;
- Virtual Institutions in a Virtual Society.
We believed that full employment and mass marketing would solve everything.
They solved nothing. They destroyed the working class, increased off-shore
manufacturing, created the services economy, demanded style obsolescence,
disposable goods, environmental depletion, and atmosphere degradation.
This country is in a deep, maintenance-deferred, violence-prone crisis.
Can education come to the rescue?
Not education as we know it. Our schools cannot cure anything.
A new form of education could clarify causes and reveal remedies; could take
us beyond the failings of intuitive perceptions and into the computer-mediated
world of systems-theoretic counter-intuitive understanding: a new Paideia
Nothing else can.
An educational revolution is a prerequisite to American political, social
and economic reconstruction. This is so because only a new kind of
computer-mediated Information Systems education can extend the capacity of the
human mind beyond the limits of its natural capacities and bring it up to the
level of sophistication required for the reconstruction of our social system.
That level of comprehension must be made universal — available to all
— or American democracy is dead.
The educational revolution America requires must be freely extended and
officially required of all people: a total redesign of education, pedagogy, and
its universal distribution.
Nothing like this is available today. That is why we much take an entirely
new look at secondary and college education.
The C-MODE (Computer-Mediated Online and Distant) pedagogy is designed to
cope with these situations. It does so superbly well. Its survey-based
diagnosis of "PseudoLiteracy led to the computer-based "Boot
Camp" training program that brought all students, including those
diagnosed as "At Risk", up to competent literacy in standard English.
C-MODE's development of the conventional English curriculum into The
Universal Humanities permitted providing a "Youth On Earth"
foundation in the Wisdom Classics of the great cultures of the past, giving all
students an understanding of the multi-cultural achievements of our species.
Special computer-based Socratic Dialogue tutorials using selected classics
led the students through the gateway into Piagetian "Formal
Operations" — the prerequisite to competence in the new Applied
Training in the C-MODE Romandala Process provided qualification for advance
placement in college, or employment in the information processing professions
— database entry and processing.
Today's conditions are so complex and so counter-intuitive, in the meaning
of MIT's Jay Forrester, that the unaided human mind is incapable of
crisis-solving. Not even our wisest minds can perceive the systemic roots of
dysfunctional crises. Rather, like treating skin cancer with menthol salve, we
deal only with the surface manifestations of dysfunctional crises. Superficial
fixes of crises aggravate the underlying malfunctions that produced the crisis.
The prerequisite to social restructuring is the redesign, on a
"paideial" scope, our acculturation. This goes against the
traditional philosophy of education which has held that education is a
reflective, not a causative institution. Even Robert M. Hutchins, the great
reformer of the University of Chicago, believed education to be a derivative,
epiphenomenal, institution and not itself capable of curing the root causes of
The need today is to apply revolutionary principles to education as a whole,
including college and the professions: a Paideial Revolution — the
reconstruction our culture.
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