Ideology vs. Philosophy: An Education Dilemma

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

Star Trek’s Dr. Spock must be so confused.

Seeing the thought process of some of the politicians, business and labor leaders today causes most rational persons to question how these people think. Their thought processes are sometimes so distorted that it causes me to question whether our education systems have changed from teaching us how to think to one of teaching us what to think.

Do today’s leaders think that just because they voted on something that it will work? To think that simply by passing a health care bill everyone will have health care is simply illogical.

Many of us have heard the caution that we are all entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts. I wonder how many appreciate the wisdom of that comment.

True progress in our society will only take place when we replace impassioned invocations with reasoned discourse. Solutions know no political boundaries but true solutions solve problems rather than create new ones of even greater severity.

Education should help our children learn how to think. A scientific method, an inductive and deductive reasoning process may be taught but it is unwise to teach as "science" something based on what feels good to a current generation.

As an example, the unfunded liability of the state, local, and teachers’ pensions is on everyone’s mind. I am reminded by those receiving the pensions that these obligations have been approved by the legislatures and therefore must be paid.

The reality of this obligation though is that a non free-market legislature has granted a benefit that must be paid for by a free market society. You can legislate all you want but markets will determine the fairness and sustainability of the policies you enact as well as the ability to pay. State and local governments are not too big to fail.

It is illogical to think that just because something can be legislated means that it is earned or sustainable. Granting pensions without realizing the impact on those who pay them is purely illogical and irresponsible. There are two parties to every transaction.

Reasoning is apolitical. Logic is logic. Thought processes though do not have to be logical but they should be for public policy to be effective and long term.

During the last depression, Congress and our President responded by passing the Social Security bill to protect our citizens in their golden years. People paying into the social security system today who expect pensions in 20 years will be devastated to find out that their dreams have been destroyed by the very system that was set up to protect unprotected retirees in the 1930’s.

The noble quest to protect the unprotected in the 1930’s has in reality harmed the protected in 2020. What a paradox. The failure to understand how a system such as social security could be abused is an indication of a naïve political process and not a great one. Yet educators recently reaffirmed President Roosevelt as the greatest president of all times. Really? Ideology or Philosophy at work?

In a great society an education system should encourage intellectual freedom and not espouse a political philosophy.

Intellectual freedom is based upon freedoms of thought regardless of personal feelings. It is based upon reasoning and rational thought. It is based upon factual analysis and not one in which a conclusion is desired and facts are developed to support the conclusion.

An educational system supported by the state is one that may incentivize teachers to reinforce the goals of the state rather than the goals of intellectual freedom and the needs of the student. Educational systems that empower teachers as the customer rather than the students as the customer are doomed to be philosophically aligned to favor the wrong group. Teachers’ wants will end up trumping the needs of the student and of society. In that case, all lose and we are left with a product of an educational system that is unable to think for itself.

If we are truly to rebuild America, we need to teach our students to think and not how to think. We need to ensure that our children question and not merely comply. A truly free society welcomes questioning. An enslaved society welcomes conformity and subordinates the needs of the individual to the needs of the state.

Allow school freedom of choice. Make schools compete for students. Make parents accountable for the education of their children. Give students the greatest gift possible – a freedom of thought and a victory of philosophy over ideology.

Frank Ryan, CPA specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the state CPA societies. He is on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at [email protected]