Pedagogy for a Dead Conscience



In a recent Tomgram op-ed, former State Department official Peter Van Buren takes note of our extraordinary (can-do!) capacity for avoiding the uncomfortable implications of our most definitive actions:


The nightmare of torture is a far cry from Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. How did we get here? Way back in 1979, the brilliant Eva Brann wrote an exceptional (thus largely ignored) treatise, Paradoxes of Education in a Republic, in which she argues:

EB1Anticipating the familiar objection that such an education would be considered by many to be an unsupportable luxury, Ms. Brann writes:

EB2The tone of her book indicates that Ms. Brann thought that the situation could hardly get any worse than it was in 1979; alas, the precipitous disintegration was just getting started. Within a generation, the notion of a classically defined liberal arts education available by right to all citizens now seems like a remote and impossible dream. Instead, we have conceived an education system derived from the most narrow conception of instrumental utility, one that could hardly be expected to produce engaged and informed citizens within a vibrant republic. As chronicled by the dissenting Henri Giroux:


Within such a suffocating pedagogy, the sorts of inquiries and dialogues necessary for the sustenance of an evolved moral and ethical consciousness – itself fundamental for the civic life (and civic conscience) of a constitutional republic – wither and die. Eva Brann’s “driving impetus”, the basic human question of what is good, fades into the most brutally degraded instrumentality: the philosophical disposition for black sites, rendition, supermax isolation and torture.

The price for such degradation is steep. Returning once again to Mr. Van Buren:




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