Monday, March 8, 2010

The "New and Revised" Absolute Truth

I guess we all adhere to a number of "orthodox" notions--ideas that just seem so self-evident that we never think to think about them.  And naturally, we view such received ideas as definitive--the end of the evolutionary train--the ultimate stage in whatever gamut has been run.

(We have no doubt that homo sapiens, for instance, is the end of the line, the "best.")

But as I think back on all the pedagogical orthodoxies that I've been expected to espouse, each successive one-true-way diametrically opposed to the previous one-true-way, I have become increasingly wary of  the authority of any particular Zeitgeist.

Right now, for example, I'm in a bit of a snit about "democracy."  Goodness knows, this is a political buzzword that almost everyone (except, perhaps, the Saudi king) bandies about with abandon, confident that he/she is on the side of absolute, definitive, end-of-the-line truth.  (Never mind that all those joyous voices raised in praise of the indisputable superiority of democracy are, in actuality, referring to wildly divergent notions of the abstraction they're lauding.)

Still, democracy uber alles. Like, WHATEVER...

Well, the audio-lingual method was once the only effective way to teach foreign languages.  It worked for a while. Then, somehow, it became totally ineffective and, in fact, a waste of time.  Later, the direct method was proved, beyond a doubt, to  be the only true faith--and it worked for a while--only to be condemned a bit later as heretical.  Then the natural approach was canonized, itself to be dumped in favor of TPRS (Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling).  Having thus espoused four consecutive true faiths (and made each of them work for a while before being condemned to ed. psych. hell for doing so), I simply abandoned foreign language teaching altogether.

Isn't it possible that democracy--the current political orthodoxy (regardless of what the word really means)--will go the way of the late and unlamented audio-lingual method?  Because, though it may have worked for a while, it clearly isn't working anymore. Not, at least, in Obama's America.  So, après Obama, le déluge?

I wonder if the NEXT one true political system is already out there, somewhere--in incipient form--just waiting for the chance to prove that it alone is THE "definitive" system--the ultimate, the end of the line.

Maybe something inscrutably Chinese:  a peculiar mixture of Communism, Confucianism and committee rule? Well, whatever it is, once democracy is dethroned and the new system espoused, it will probably work for a while...

That's the good news...  The thing is, now that I've written all of this cynical stuff, I realize that I'll probably miss democracy once it's gone.  (And I never missed the audio-lingual method.)

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