Drill & kill

In the first chapter of his work on Poetic Knowledge, Professor James S. Taylor uses the delightful expression, “drill and kill,” to describe the methods of mechanical education. The student is made to repeat his lessons, until he has developed a hatred for the topic. Fear, including the fear of tedium, but really the fear of punishment, will inspire him to continue on this battlefield. The penalties, should he withdraw from it, must necessarily be harsh.

Once those who have proved themselves sufficiently bored, and/or frightened — have in other words developed humility and respect for Cartesian tyranny — they matriculate. The full graduate then rises to a position of power in the economic and political bureaucracy, as a “professional,” creating unpleasantness for others. (A well-trained professional can create a huge quantity of unpleasantness all around.)

Of course, this consequence is inevitable wherever modernized classical “schooling” exists. By contrast, true education is conducted by human beings, normally one-to-one. (This is why “home schooling” vastly outdistances “public schooling” in results.) What must transpire in a classroom of thirty pupils will be a tiny fraction of what can exist between human beings — especially when both are paying attention.

Upon turning the legal drop-out age of sixteen, I decided to abandon the Canadian version of this treadwheel, and seek my education in some other system. For unlike most of my friends, I hadn’t lost my eagerness to learn. It was one of the few sensible things I ever did. Even today, I am still leaving school.

The alternative to the treadwheel would be some version of “education through art,” in which the student indulges a natural mimesis. Education through art was Plato’s system, and by extension, Greek.

“Poetry” in Prof. Taylor’s sense is not restricted to literature in verse. It includes the sciences, for instance; or all the pure sciences, which are kept clean by their contact with philosophy and, through philosophy, with God.

Love might describe the developing relationships among the neighbours — students, and teachers, “in solitude, for company” — where the joy in genuine learning is allowed. But I shouldn’t present this as a fixed “ideal,” which like most secular ideals, will encourage falsehood. It would detract from the ideal of self-discipline, and the student’s acquisition of the moral law (in the singular: for there is only one) — key products of a Godly education.