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Educational Collapse and the Definition of Truth

Educational Collapse and the Definition of Truth

It’s no secret that America’s students are struggling. The latest Nation’s Report Cards have not been flattering, with average scores in both math and reading declining over recent years.

It’s also no secret that pandemic restrictions have only exacerbated the learning decline in the U.S. However, scores have been falling since before the pandemic, signaling that there are more systemic problems holding back young people. In fact, this educational decline comes from a deeper philosophical brokenness about the notion of truth itself.

This rejection of objective truth came first in the upper reaches of academia. Cultural critics like psychologist Jordan Peterson highlight how postmodernism is running through our institutions. Peterson sees the governing philosophy of our times as a toxic brew of postmodernism and Marxism.

Postmodernism adopts the idea that, since people can interpret the world in innumerable ways, there is no correct, orthodox manner of interpretation. Compare this to the traditional Judeo-Christian West, which has maintained belief in one orthodox truth—a truth that shows other interpretations of the world to be wrong. Jesus, for instance, explicitly said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

Marxism expands on postmodernism’s rejection of truth by politicizing it. Marxism judges interpretations of reality as limiting frameworks imposed by the ruling class on marginalized people, and it demands the dissolution of hegemonic structures that justify the status quo.

The combination of postmodernism and Marxism emerges in the trinity of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Diversity asserts that no one’s interpretation of reality is correct. Equity seeks to dissolve dominant interpretations of truth that (reportedly) marginalize certain groups, so as to redistribute benefits in society. Inclusion demands the recognition of perspectives opposite our own, as they allegedly have an equal claim to truth.

Yet once truth has become a set of equally viable interpretations, with no exclusive claim from any one system, genuine education cannot take place. Any attempt to seek truth—an enterprise surely central to education—is doomed to failure from the beginning because the “truth” it seeks is only perspectival. Claiming one has “truth” displays power that “marginalizes” different perspectives.

One of the major philosophical salvos that led to this postmodern understanding of truth is the notion of a language game (Sprachspiel) developed by Ludgwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein denied that words have a simple one-to-one correspondence to things in reality. Rather, he said, words are ambiguous, holding meanings that depend on a given context. Language is not some disembodied mirror reflecting reality; instead, it is like a toolbox with many different purposes (for example, we can make an assertion, raise a question, or issue a command). Given the variable uses of language, we cannot establish any simple correspondence between words and things.

The idea of a language game, within which a word has a certain meaning unique to a context, is a precursor to the postmodern critique of objective truth. Instead of one reality being bound to an orthodox interpretation that is uniquely true, postmodernism gives us an ambiguous reality yielding an infinite array of equally viable narratives. These narratives, like words, are true only within a certain context. Objective truth is gone.

This idea is devastating to a traditional educational structure: If education is supposed to lead a pupil to truth, denying the boundaries between truth and falsehood strips learning of any meaningful purpose. Yet the necessary idea of a single, absolute truth—a transcendent perspective—contradicts DEI. Respecting diversity means validating the interpretation of another group, not upholding one’s own as absolute.

The trinity of DEI undermines the traditional quest of classical education to find the essences of things. For the great thinkers of ancient Greece, the central questions about reality were not postmodern or inclusivist (such as, “How do you interpret reality?” or “What does this mean to you?”). Instead, they dealt with the essence of the thing (the to ti esti, or a thing’s “what it is”). The essence of thing is intrinsic and definitive, and it supports traditional conceptions of truth.

However, there cannot be essences in the DEI regime because to claim an objective essence would be to marginalize those who do not recognize that essence. And so the project of education—the seeking of essences—never begins.

Image credit: Pexels


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  • Avatar
    January 3, 2024, 11:10 am

    There is nothing on earth intended for innocent people so horrible as a school.
    George Bernard Shaw
    My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school.
    Margaret Mead
    I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
    Mark Twain
    Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.
    Joseph Stalin (Hmmm, a supporter of compulsory schooling

    • Avatar
      Robert True Myers, Jr.@Swissarge
      January 3, 2024, 4:36 pm

      Realitivism exploded with DEI (DIE)and its introduction to the educational system years ago. It has destroyed our values that have worked during my 75 years and my 50+ years as a teacher, coach, college professor and Public school administrator. There is a lack of respect for professional educators has led to massive exodus as students are controlling the classroom environment. The lack of respect for those elder is rampant. As we watch our society crumble, I am heartbroken for our youth….! If we don't come together and get some
      common direction in education…..The Marxist "Alinsky's will have won.

      Final note: As a Marine Corps Captain during the Vietnam Conflict where are our young, strong and loyal citizens who will protect us? "When there is no pride in our country….Who will protect us? War will come…What then…..? RTM

      • Avatar
        Daniel@Robert True Myers, Jr.
        January 3, 2024, 10:50 pm

        Exactly, DEI and relativism are connected. Thank you for your service, but let’s never give up hope.

    • Avatar
      January 3, 2024, 10:49 pm

      Clearly there was an agenda in making education “free” and compulsory!

    • Avatar
      Essay Writing Service@Swissarge
      March 2, 2024, 12:58 am

      Indeed Education is a weapon and you can change the world by getting a great education and easily can change your life no matter how messed up your life is. But we cannot also ignore the educational collapse that can badly impact the development of studies and their career. To overcome the educational collapses I saw a great initiative in a the form of an essay writing service which is amazing for balancing the loses and getting a quality education.

  • Avatar
    January 3, 2024, 10:03 pm

    Well said!

  • Avatar
    ellen levy
    January 9, 2024, 10:37 am

    Donation on the way. Thoughtful article. Looking forward to more!

    • Intellectual Takeout
      Intellectual Takeout@ellen levy
      January 9, 2024, 11:09 am

      Thank you for your support, Ellen. Individual donors like you form the foundation of our work. We appreciate every dollar.


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