First Published in National Post / May 2014
Since the time of the Enlightenment, self-proclaimed philosophers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the father of modern education, have been seeking to return humanity back to “nature.” Rousseau and his successors applied the scientific method experimentally on human nature in the same way it was being applied to the physical world by the Christian natural scientists of their day, men like Isaac Newton, etc.
The basic methodological problem with their approach is that humanity is the subject and object of the experiment at one and the same time. It is the insuperable limitation, prejudicial to all judgments, caused by being a human and not a god. Experiments upon humanity by humanity can never be verified as true, however loudly they are trumpeted as progressive by the open theologians of our humanity.
The chief project of these atheistic humanists, and the mark they set for progress, was the eradication of what they termed “prejudice,”, i.e. beliefs that did not pass the bar of reason unaided. Immanuel Kant, the great German philosopher, defined the Enlightenment in a little pamphlet by its intellectual autonomy, its liberation from the “self-incurred tutelage of the past.”
That past was, of course, Christian, and rooted in revelation. Enlightened people categorically rejected it.
In 1987, Alan Bloom remarked in The Closing of the American Mind that this experimental project had advanced so far in American universities that the sole virtue remaining in the minds of his students was openness. This tolerance about which they boasted, he lamented, left them incapable of embracing any other virtues, because they would openly contradict it.
The sole recourse for people like Bloom was to hold to private beliefs. His virtuous students insisted upon the repression of his convictions in the public square.
Bloom publicly demonstrated that the cavity of their virtue was remarkably like that of the citizens of the German Weimar Republic.
It had not made for a beautiful smile.
Even the most superficial survey of culture since the Romantic era hints how our culture came to the sorry state it is in, where the conscience of others has been euthanized in the name of tolerance. The heroes of popular fiction, particularly children’s fiction, are invariably orphans, characters who are forced to define their own heroic path and identity without tutelage from their parents. They have been our cultural role models from Dickens to Disney.
Nonetheless, the Enlightenment disease that Bloom analyzed had not yet metastasized till now.
Concurrent with Bloom’s jeremiad, the political correctness movement was sweeping the campuses of the entire Western world, and reshaping our understanding of human nature in the realm of law and politics. This movement, marked by what it termed “positive discrimination,” was an expression of cultural Marxism.
Herbert Marcuse, whose name was a slogan in the mouths of the 1968 sexual revolutionaries, “Marx, Mao, and Marcuse,” brought about the metastasis by sexualizing the agenda of the Enlightenment against the Christian norms of the family.
He made it go viral.
Marcuse’s intentions were plain in his 1965 treatise Repressive Tolerance. Marcuse’s sexualized, and highly intolerant version of tolerance, openly opposed not only Christian sexual ethics, but John Locke’s 300-year-old legacy of tolerance which permitted their expression. In the name of what he euphemistically called “liberating tolerance,” the norms of monogamous marriage and the family, which were the common sense of Western law and society, ought no longer to be tolerated.
The health curricula and inclusivity policies that are being enacted throughout the Western world are the mark of their latest progress, the shift from ignoring one’s parents to operating explicitly against them.
After Marcuse, the battle of sexual freedom against religious freedom became an open war.
It is not merely an assault on religious freedom. It is an undeniable assault on the possibility of knowledge itself.
For the truth decay of the Enlightenment on human nature has also metastasized. There are no longer simply cavities upon the truth. The cavities are represented as the truth.
This is abundantly clear in the third grade of the Ontario sex-ed curriculum, where children are introduced to the thought-experiment that their gender identity may be at odds with their biological sex. They can be a male trapped in a female body, and vice versa.
The moral and psychological and health implications of this experimental teaching alone would be worthy of a parental revolt. The suicide rates for trans people rises above 40 per cent.
Yet even purely intellectually speaking, the public education establishment is involved in disseminating what can only be termed propaganda. Since Aristotle, the law of non-contradiction has been universally accepted as one of the fundamental laws of logic, without which knowledge is impossible. “The most certain of all basic principles is that contradictory propositions are not true simultaneously.”
For educators to subject children to this thought experiment is to reject all scientific verifiability, and to teach that truth and falsehood are indistinguishable.
G.K. Chesterton once remarked, “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”
The cavity in this truth must be filled. The curriculum must be reconsidered.