“New textbooks have not been purchased recently because we are beginning to adopt the Common Core State Standards, and it would have been irresponsible to waste taxpayer money on books not aligned with the new curriculum,” according to district spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson. She added that “you’ll also find schools on the cutting edge of technology and using iPads with continuously updated material.”
The large class size, the district said, was quickly rectified, after the first day of school, by reallocating staff members. It’s what always happens at the start of the year.
There’s another reason Obama’s statement rankles. Of course he’s talking about the age of the books (not the date of their authorship), but his underlying assumption is that newer is better. C.S. Lewis dubbed this logical fallacy “chronological snobbery.” It’s based on, he said, “the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.”
This is the attitude of our age, and it shows. In a new study, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) rates colleges and universities on how much they actually teach.
“In today’s economic climate, it’s important that graduates have a strong and diverse educational foundation,” the group says. “The project examines whether institutions require seven courses crucial to a well-rounded education: composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics and science.”
Some of the findings include:
— More graduates could identify portraits of Lady Gaga than George Washington at the Battle of Yorktown.
— Little more than half understand the Constitution’s principle of the separation of powers.
“Every age has its own outlook,” Lewis wrote. “It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”
What are some “old books” we should dust off and re-introduce into the classrooms? Lewis would say we should start from the beginning, perhaps with Plato. He’s not very difficult, and he asks a fundamental question our age has set aside: What can properly be called “true” and “false”? Aristotle certainly went on to more fully establish logic as a formal study.
“Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?” one of Lewis’ characters mutters.
Then there’s Madison’s own “Federalist Papers.” And Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America.”
Feel free to submit your own suggestions. There’s still much to be gleaned from “old books.”