By Dr. Joseph Woodard 

Many parents are discovering that there is something seriously destructive in the ideology driving our public schools. During the COVID lockdowns, Canadian homeschooling doubled, from three to six percent of school-age children, while the US grew from six to over eleven percent. More importantly, three-quarters of the new parent-educators stuck with it, after the schools reopened. This is a new, deliberate rejection of the public schools, and a discovery of the health of homeschools. New parent educators are discovering what the public schools now reject, and what a family-friendly culture nurtures: education in virtue, citizenship, and freedom, embracing a Nature, a Creation of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. This we must recover.

 

Public school “experts” are trashing traditional education in virtue and citizenship, in favour of victimhood and dependency. The inheritance of Western Civilization has been officially discarded by irresponsible intellectuals, in favour of their own “progressive” ideologies. Pushing kids to discover “their own truths,” these ideologies are generally labelled “subjectivism” or “relativism.” Critical theory deliberately undercuts our natural common sense, the shared foundation of our free society, by teaching children that their homes, communities, and even their human physiology are their worst enemies. They do this by “reducing” our natural experience of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty to “no more than” materialistic “animal instincts” (Modernism) and then oppressive “social constructs” (Postmodernism), and, presto, epidemic anxiety.  

 

This cynical challenge of a natural understanding of reality — sexuality and family, crime and punishment, innovation and productivity, self-reliance and free society — is deliberately intended to render ordinary citizens insecure and submissive to the rule of a central authority. As Karl Marx said, 

“Until now, philosophers have only interpreted the world, but the point is to change it”

 — assuming that they (alone) have the wisdom to know what the world should be changed into, and how. Step One is dismantling or “deconstructing” our free, commonsensical culture. These intellectuals infiltrated public education in the mid-20th century, under the banner of “self-discovery,” and they’ve propagandized our kids ever since. They assume the Universe is worthless, unless they’re running it, and their great achievement is our current “woke” mayhem.

 

Such bald-faced academic contempt has quite understandably prompted many parents to dismiss philosophy as a destructive evil, damaging to their efforts to raise healthy children. But real philosophy is not responsible for this. The arrogant ambitions of Modern and Postmodern ideologues is a betrayal of real philosophy, the love of wisdom. Real philosophy has always been the exploration and description of common sense — “what people say,” as Aristotle put it — because natural human speech is the best or only evidence of human nature and all of Nature. In everyday life, we have real experience of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, and all of us say, “We know it anyway.” We do know Truth, Goodness, and Beauty when we see them. And we can raise our kids with Saxon Math, Paradise Lost and Shakespeare. But this may not be enough.

 

Resting content with, We know it anyway, is simply “pulling up the drawbridge.” At some point, our kids will head into the world, and they may not be able to defend themselves against “all the latest thinking.” To equip our kids properly, we need to know that we know it,” by confidently understanding the objective reality of the True, Good, and Beautiful. These are easily defended by a little real philosophy. In reality, “the truth of the pudding is in the eating”— the “pudding” of our basic experience, carefully examined with a moment’s trust. Hang in here.

 

The lie in reducing our natural experience is most easily seen in the defense of Beauty. Pioneer atheist ideologue Thomas Hobbes, for example, says (1654), 

“Beauty is the appearance of a thing desired, the promise of pleasure.” 

This is biological reductionism: Beauty is reduced to a sensory symptom of our desire for a tempting object: a cake, diamond, or person. But this is a bald-faced lie, slandering Beauty. Experiencing Beauty is precisely the opposite of physical desire. Desiring is an emptiness, a dissatisfaction, moving us toward a pleasant thing, a motion. We experience Beauty as fullness of awareness, a satisfaction, admiration, or awe of something wonderfully itself: a soaring eagle, cathedral, or sleeping toddler. Contrarily, desiring to own or consume a beautiful thing short-circuits our admiration. Desiring beautiful objects—a beautiful cake or person — impedes admiration of its Beauty. “We can’t have our cake and eat it, too.”

Why does this matter? The everyday conversation of a free society depends on trust in our commonsense experience of reality. Materialistic Modernism or sociological Postmodernism tries to cut us off from the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of Creation (“the Heavens proclaiming the glory of the Lord”) in the name of elite, materialistic Scientism or political Identity Activism. If we grasp that we have trustworthy, personal access to the “really, really, really Real,” we’re then free to cooperate and innovate with our fellow citizens, building a free society. The Official Narrative then stops being a glowering cloud over our heads, and becomes dust under our feet.

 

Certainly there’s some traction in the notion that Beauty is “all relative,” a matter of taste, “in the eye of the beholder.” Many of us don’t find a majestic lobster particularly beautiful, but a fisherman does. Yet this simply points to true familiarity in what we’re experiencing. Someone who really knows horses, gemstones, or sculptures will see the excellence in those beautiful things, and two equally knowledgeable experts will see the same excellence, and then agree what sorts of qualities — a horse’s markings? — that really are simple personal preferences. This means the experience of Beauty is married to knowledge, further proof of its objectivity.

 

So what are we seeing? Medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas says (1240), “three things are found in Beauty, Integritas, Consonatia, Claritas”:  Wholeness, Harmony, Splendor. The thoroughbred horse impresses us (even overwhelms us) as entirely “its own being,” a unity. We admire the tension of its muscles, proportion of its parts, and poetry of its gallop. So then we are struck with its excellence, the magnificence of its “horsiness,” in contrast to the pugs in an amusement park. We wonder at it being so clearly what it is. We “see that it is good.” Which is to say, its Beauty is not about us, but the excellence of that creature itself. So we understand its being on its own terms, not merely for our own materialistic uses or social constructs.   

 

Mysteries abound, precisely because Beauty is found in things themselves. We admire a beautiful cathedral, in its unique, complex harmony, as something much like a human character (so mechanistic Stalinist architecture is inhuman in its brutal homogeneity). As architecture has been called “frozen music,” so equally, music is like flowing architecture. We appreciate some Mozart or Gershwin as a kind of complete journey, beginning at home, then striking out to explore something with the responses of a wondering soul, but then returning home: a complex unity unfolding over time. Even stranger, what is the wonder in a beautiful sunset? The wholeness, harmony, and splendor of “a unique day”? A moment of time rendered timeless?

 

Yet, for all the mystery of beauty — mysterious because it’s real — cutting-edge scientists like mathematician John Lennox, microbiologist James Tour and theoretical physicist Stephen Barr (Modern Physics and Ancient Faith) insist that Beauty is a fundamental quality of the physical universe itself. Facing contrary solutions to problems in astronomy or particle physics, they say, the most productive mathematical solutions are invariably the “elegant” equations.

The mention of science brings us to the issue of Truth. For Moderns, words express simply our desire or use for the thing named. So the materialist Hobbes says, 

“Our Wits are in our Passions, our desire for power, riches, eminence… Thoughts are in the desires as scouts and spies, to find the way to things desired.” 

The biological reduction is: speech is sound signals or concepts about objects desired or feared, primarily about us and our purposes, and not about the things themselves. This is simply a lie, false in our experience. We do not create the difference between cats and dogs with our concepts, for the sake of using them differently. We can use them differently, only because we discover the difference between them. We do not create the concepts, but discover the concepts in things themselves, things that truly are the concept, idea or nature that we intuit in them. Taxonomy begins in the Garden: Adam “naming” the creatures.

 

This reality or objectivity of Truth is most easily seen in the “click of discovery” that happens, whenever we learn something, whether Classical architecture or the Periodic Table. We’re trying to learn Pythagoras’ Theorem, “the length of the hypotenuse of a right-angle triangle,” so we draw one and measure, draw another and measure, draw and measure. Suddenly: click. We understand—stand under. We see it. What happened? “We must become these things, before we can know them,” Aristotle says. “We must knit what we learn into the fabric of our mind…” At times, it takes time for “the fabric of our mind” to reproduce the complex patterns of Nature, conforming our minds by repeated experience to what things themselves are.

 

But what do we become? Our minds become the ideas or “words” that things truly are. Consider the “miracle of translation.” Take cats (please). Thousands of different languages have different phonemes (sounds) for the same word (thought) that we all see as cats. If it wasn’t so, we’d never be able to translate from one language to another. Yet every language is translated—with nuances, of course—into every other language, and their nuances, translated even clumsily, can give us non-speakers new intuitions. So Jewish mathematician-philosopher Jacob Klein says, 

“The Book of Nature lies open before us…a language, not written, but visible. Human speech translates that visible language of things into the audible language of words.”

 

Different languages do translate the same natural word with different spoken words.  So the English word for that, cat, has three letters, and the French word, chat, has four letters. Yet, as mathematician John Lennox quips, the DNA word for that thing has three billion letters, adenine-thymine or cytosine-guanine protein pairs, arranged in 23 perfect chromosome syllables. That’s a lot of letters, but then this chemical word has to communicate all the information necessary to construct the real cat-chat from innumerable, real organic and inorganic molecules.

 

The Truth of each being is the word that it is. There is no perfect cat—ahem—so as we discovered with the beautiful thoroughbred and ugly pug, each natural being is trying to “live up to” its truth or animating idea, thriving with a healthy seed and circumstances, or struggling in a bad season or territory (or, with humans, bad choices). So the original Greek word for “nature,” physos, means “growth” and “generation,” since everything tries to grow into what it is and reproduce itself, as mature cats reproduce kittens that grow into cats. Understood as real words, with the letters of the periodic table, the Creation around us becomes a poem of matter and energy, rhyming in gravity and light. So the father of modern science, Isaac Newton, says, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and most powerful Being.”

 

This brings us to the objectivity of the Good. Our cynical friend Hobbes says, 

“Good is whatever object of a man’s appetite…so there is no common rule of good or evil in nature.” 

Biological reductionism supposes that “good” is merely a lustful grunt about something desired, only so long as desired—and consumption snuffs out that desire, until the next desire. So life is “the ceaseless motion from desire to desire, ending only in death.” Bald-faced lie. As Aristotle, Augustine and their heirs all insist, “All humans desire to be happy.” This is no empty phrase. From the age of reason onward, we all develop a more-or-less coherent vision of what it means to be Fully Alive, a hypothesis of happiness, what real philosophers call our Summum Bonum, highest good. We do not move ceaselessly “from desire to desire.” We constantly judge our desires themselves as good or bad—what depending on whether they promote or hinder our achieving a Good Life. This is human freedom: the rational ability to judge between what we want and what is truly good for us. Aristotle called this the architectonic art, the art ruling all our arts. No surprise, Modern and Post-modern ideologues blindly insist that we are not truly free.   

 

This rational vision of a Good Life makes sense of our lives, answering the question, Why? –why do we do all the things we do? Without choosing anything, kittens grow naturally into adult cats, “partaking in the eternal and divine,” says Aristotle, “in the only manner open to them, by reproducing their kind.” But human beings are rational animals, capable of real choices, so in addition to food and shelter, we seek a true, thoughtful image of the adulthood we mean to grow into, Fully Alive, a blueprint explaining all the choices we make. So the natural blueprint for human flourishing includes a long period of family dependency from birth to adolescence, for our maturing in speech, common sense and cooperation. In a minimally healthy culture — one capable of nurturing its next generation — most kids absorb from their own parents the natural expectation of happiness in their own future families, where they will then pass on the favour.

 

Even more spectacular: given humanity’s remarkable diversity in temperaments, talents, innovations and initiatives, we enjoy a literally ungovernable elaboration of trades, arts, enterprises, complex contracts, and social organizations — a division of labor in a Common Good, or what geographer Halford Mackinder called a Going Concern. “Humanity is a political animal,” says Aristotle, so we find personal fulfillment and happiness only in sharing this community of good. Maturing adolescents (should) develop their particular ambitions, answering their unique characters, circumstances, and talents. So from their early years, kids begin framing their first abstract question: “What do I want to be when I grow up?”— Cowboy or astronaut? Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor? Unless they are “spoiled,” they sketch out their natural aspiration to free adulthood as some sort of productive, satisfying career in a happy community.

 

Parenthetically, the libertarian and socialist antagonisms between the individual and community, personal liberty and collective responsibility, is a false dichotomy. Our Common Good — family, town, region, and country — is an essential element in our personal flourishing, and our communities cannot flourish without the free, willing cooperation of all their members, their crucial middle class.

 

Now, it’s no secret that Modern and Postmodern ideologies have declared war on human nature, aided by the supposed “fact-value” distinction—the notion that no statement of simple fact can entail any ethical conclusion, that no “is” can entail an “ought.” But this cleverness obscures what we mean by “a fact.” As child development pioneer Dr. Herbert S. Ratner observed, “Animals attain their natural good by instinct, but Man, with reasoned speech, has free will, so he can confound his natural good by false learning or (snicker) higher education.” There is no controversy about the facts of a healthy thoroughbred. It not only “is,” but naturally seeks its good, fully realizing its potential particularly in breeding and rearing foals. So Thomas Aquinas will say, “To Be and To Be Good are convertible terms… each Being seeking to be fully what it is.” All the evidence of our senses tells us, the universe has Purpose, a Why.  Being is Good.

Likewise, there’s no real controversy about the facts of healthy human beings, especially the family life necessary for nurturing the next generation’s healthy adults. The conditions of human flourishing are facts. Virtually every developmental pathology is directly correlated with broken families (confirming child psychology’s conclusion that, “the Sexual Revolution always meant sacrificing the real needs of children to the desires of adults”). This “reproductive choice” to nullify our natural blueprint is generational suicide. Likewise, the legal choice for “restorative justice”—denying free will—is societal suicide, and drug addiction is personal suicide. These elite, intellectual efforts to conquer human nature are pathological choices for generational, societal and personal “not-being,” concrete “self-contradictions,” making their victims unhappy.

 

Now, in the original Greek, physos or “nature” is essentially “generation,” each thing reproducing its kind, true to its kind. So what is happy according to our Nature—our only real happiness—is proven by the mature ability to reproduce—as horses breed horses (while mules, unnatural offspring of horses and donkeys, are sterile). So, in the collective, self-centered sterility, our anti-natural ideological elites are forced to focus their efforts on other people’s children. Yet in the end, demographics is destiny, and “the meek shall inherit the earth.”   

 

If you’ve managed to make it this far, congratulations. You now know that you know that we human beings enjoy objective experiences of the really True, Good, and Beautiful, what are called the Transcendentals. Knowing that we know it, to repeat, we must realize that the Official Narrative today in our schools and other government bureaucracies is not a glowering cloud, but dust under our feet. The contemporary errors about the True, Good, and Beautiful are not simply mistaken explanations. They are lies, mis-describing and misrepresenting the experiences themselves. They are incapable of explaining what we really experience: Transcendence.

 

The Transcendentals—“across our senses”—are necessary intuitions we naturally and must make when we “make sense of our senses”—what Aristotle calls our common sense. The first transcendental is actually Being: to make sense of our senses, we must naturally intuit that they arise from “that thing there,” as the unified source of what we see, hear, feel, smell, and maybe taste. We likewise intuit that “that thing” is intelligible, “some kind of thing,” its truth. Then we intuit whether it is a human artifact (and its purpose?) or a natural being — its own good or reason for being. Then, though not always, we may intuit whether it’s a healthy or crippled whatever it is. In all of this, we are not only intuiting, says Aristotle, but “we know that we’re intuiting” — consciousness. So, in reducing our experience to biological reflexes or oppressive social constructs, Modern and Postmodern ideologues implicitly deny the reality of human consciousness. They criticize our very experience out of existence: real “self-contradictions.”

 

Conclusion? Relax. We have Reality on our side, and historical experience testifies that these recurring efforts by political elites to make themselves Masters of the Universe—building Towers of Babel — inevitably end in their own collapse. “You can drive out Nature with a pitchfork,” says the Roman poet Lucretius, “but she always returns.” Or in the words of the Psalmist, “Princes plot against the Lord and his Anointed… yet the Lord is laughing them to scorn.” What is needful for us is simply the deliberate refusal to join their Confusion.

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