Tuesday, May 02, 2017



H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), Minority Report (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), pp. 97-98, § 127:
The public schools of the United States were damaged very seriously when they were taken over by the State. So long as they were privately operated the persons in charge of them retained a certain amount of professional autonomy, and with it went a considerable dignity. But now they are all petty jobholders, and show the psychology that goes with the trade. They have invented a bogus science of pedagogy to salve their egos, but it remains hollow to any intelligent eye. What they may teach or not teach is not determined by themselves, or even by any exercise of sound reason, but by the interaction of politics on the one side and quack theorists on the other. Even savages have reached a better solution of the educational problem. Their boys are taught, not by puerile eunuchs, but by their best men, and the process of education among them really educates. This is certainly not true of ours. Many a boy of really fine mind is ruined in school. Along with a few sound values, many false ones are thrust into his thinking, and he inevitably acquires something of the attitude of mind of the petty bureaucrats told off to teach him. In college he may recover somewhat, for the college teacher is relatively more free than the pedagogue lower down the scale. But even in college education has become corrupted by buncombe, and so the boy on the border line of intelligence is apt to be damaged rather than benefited. Under proper care he might be pushed upward. As it is, he is shoved downward. Certainly everyday observation shows that the average college course produces no visible augmentation in the intellectual equipment and capacity of the student. Not long ago, in fact, an actual investigation in Pennsylvania demonstrated that students often regress so much during their four years that the average senior is less intelligent, by all known tests, than the average freshman. Part of this may be due to the fact that many really intelligent boys, as soon as they discover the vanity of the so-called education on tap, quit college in disgust, but in large part, I suspect, it is a product of the deadening effect of pedagogy.
Id., p. 102, § 134:
A professor, even at his best, is a pedagogue, and a pedagogue is seldom much of a man.
Id., p. 133, § 182:
It is still an open question whether the pedagogical methods of today are better or worse than those prevailing in the little red schoolhouse of the past generations, and many intelligent persons believe that they are clearly worse. There is certainly no such doubt about the improvement of methods, say, in medicine, farming or the common mechanical processes.

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