Educational Wastelands: The Retreat From Learning in Public Schools by Arthur Bestor

Education & Parenting

“Extremists among professional educationists view an interest in intellectual, scientific, or scholarly matters as a positive liability in a public school teacher…an ever-present menace to a curriculum that enthrones anti-intellectualism.”


“Across the educational world today stretches an iron curtain which the professional educationists are busily fashioning. Behind it, in slave-labor camps, are the classroom teachers, whose only hope of rescue is from without. On the hither side lies the free world of science and learning, menaced but not yet conquered. A division into two educational worlds is the great danger that faces us today. American intellectual life is threatened because the first twelve years of formal schooling in the United States are falling more and more completely under the policy-making control of a new breed of educator who has no real place in—who does not respect and who is not respected by—the world of scientists, scholars, and professional men.”


“To make himself truly free, a man must break the intellectual chains that keep him a serf by binding him to his parish, by binding him to his narrow workaday tasks, by binding him to accept the authority of those placed over him in matters temporal and spiritual. A liberal education frees a man by enlarging and disciplining his powers. He is no longer bound to his parish, because education makes him spiritually a citizen of all places and all times. His workaday tasks no longer subdue his mind to their narrow demands, for he is large enough to cope with them and with the great intellectual tasks of a free man as well. He is no longer obliged to accept blindly the authority of those above him, for they are above him no longer. In the things of the mind he is their peer, and he can decide for himself, on as good ground as they, the great human issues that confront him.”

According to Bestor “by misrepresenting and undervaluing liberal education,” progressive education has “contributed … to the growth of anti-intellectualist hysteria that threatens not merely the schools but freedom itself.”

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