A Reply to John Searle and Other Traditionalists by ProQuest

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            A Reply to John Searle and Other Traditionalists



                                                           Robert Greenleaf Brice

	     In	an	article	entitled	Traditionalists         education.	The	threat	comes	in	many	dif-              were	the	very	reasons	people	were	denied	
& Their Challengers,1	 John	 Searle	 says	           ferent	forms;	Searle	lists	seven:                     an	education.	
there	is	“supposed	to	be	a	major	debate”	                                                                       “Encourag[ing] self-definition by eth-
                                                       1.	Too	much	emphasis	is	placed	on	sub-
in	 the	 universities	 as	 to	 whether	 liberal	       groups and culture. This comes at the               nicity, race, gender, or class,” says Searle,
education	 should	 be	 replaced	 with	 mul-            expense	of	“standard”	interpretations	of	           “has	not	been	part	of	the	theory	of	what	the	
ticulturalism.2 He finds this debate “puz-             history,	social/political	movements,	etc.           university was trying to do.”7	But	Searle	
zling,” “disappointing,” even “depressing.”                                                                either overlooks or simply ignores the fact
                                                       2.	 There	 is	 the	 threat	 that	 if	 we	 accept	
By dividing academia into two groups, the                                                                  that “encouragement of self-definition”
                                                       all	 cultures	 as	 equal	 we	 shall	 slip	 into	
so-called	“defenders	of	the	tradition”	and	            “cultural	relativism.”                              may	be	necessary	in	places	where	simply	
their “challengers,” Searle says he hopes                                                                  teaching information is not enough.8	 In	
to	 “expose	 some	 common	 core	 assump-               3.	 The	 belief	 that	 every	 culture	 must	 be	    Teaching to Transgress,	 bell	 hooks	 re-
tions of each side…by stating naïvely, the             represented.                                        counts	 how	 she	 “lost	 her	 love	 of	 school”	
traditionalists’ view of higher education              4.	Education	is	political.	It	is	an	attempt	        when encouragement of self-definition was
and equally naïvely, the most obvious of               to	make	students	share	the	same	political	          removed.
the challengers’ objections to it.”3	Despite	          views	as	those	of	the	instructor.
                                                                                                             School changed utterly with racial inte-
such	 claims	 to	 offer	 an	 even-handed	 ap-          5. Challengers have no objective standards.           gration. Gone was the messianic zeal to
proach	to	the	debate,	Searle	unfairly	and	             (Another	threat	posed	by	relativism.)                 transform our minds and beings that had
inaccurately represents challengers’ as-                                                                     characterized teachers and their peda-
sumptions.                                             6. In the academy, a marriage exists                  gogical practices in our all-Black schools.
                                                       between left-wing politics and anti-ra-               Knowledge was suddenly about informa-
	     Like	 other	 traditionalists,	 Searle	
                                                       tionalism.                                            tion	 only.	 It	 had	 no	 relation	 to	 how	 one	
believes something will be lost if changes
are	made	to	the	canon.	A	“standard”	will	              And finally,                                          lived, behaved. It was no longer connected
                                                                                                             to anti-racist struggle. Bussed to White
be	 lowered,	 or	 worse—eliminated,	 if	 we	           7. The belief that Western civilization is            schools,	we	soon	learned	that	obedience,	
make adjustments here. According to the                oppressive.	                                          and not a zealous will to learn, was what
traditionalists,	there	is	a	“body	of	works	of	                                                               was expected of us. Too much eagerness
philosophy,	literature,	history,	and	art	that	       	   I’d	like	to	consider	many	of	these	as-              to	learn	could	easily	be	seen	as	a	threat	
goes from the Greeks right up to the present         sumptions/threats	in	some	detail	and	show	              to	white	authority…Now,	we	were	mainly	
day…[w]e	call	this	the	Western	intellectual	         where	 traditionalists	 like	 Searle	 are	 in	          taught by White teachers whose lessons
tradition.”4	The	debate	turns	on	an	objection	       error.                                                  reinforced	 racist	 stereotypes.	 For	 Black	
to this “tradition”; challengers argue that it                                                               children, education was no longer about
                                                                  Subgroup Matters                           the practice of freedom. Realizing this, I
is	too	restrictive,	too	exclusive,	and	not	open	
                                                                                                             lost	my	love	of	school.9
to	new	membership.	When	you	look	closely	              1. The subgroup into which you were
at	the	canon,	you	immediately	notice	that	             born—your ethnic, racial, class, and gen-           	    Searle	also	overlooks	the	obvious	fact	
it is comprised of almost nothing but dead,            der background—matters enormously; it               that “encouragement of self-definition”
White,	European	males.                                 is important for education.6                        was	 never	 promoted	 in	 the	 universities	
	     For	 all	 his	 “best	 efforts,” 5	 Searle	                                                           because	 an	 implicit	 framework	 was	 al-
                                                          Searle is correct, challengers do
presents the challengers’ position in such                                                                 ready	in	place.	Historically,	students	who	
                                                     believe the subgroup you were born
a	 weak	 way	 that	 no	 sane	 person	 would	                                                               attended	the	academy	were	predominantly	
                                                     into	 matters,	 it	 may	 even	 “matter	 enor-
accept	 it.	 While	 some	 errors	 are	 more	                                                               White males; their encouragement, if they
                                                     mously,”	but	only	to	the	extent	that	it	has	
egregious than others, Searle’s list of chal-                                                              needed any, was simply by being around
                                                     previously	been	excluded	from	discussion	
lengers’ assumptions expose a misplaced                                                                    other White males.	
                                                     and	consideration.	Searle	succeeds	in	dis-
belief	 that	 he	 and	 other	 traditionalists	                                                                  By dismissing the “encouragement of
                                                     torting the challengers’ assumption here
share: challengers pose a threat to higher                                                                 self-definition” approach to education in
                                                     by not fully explaining why	it	matters.	It	
                           
								
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