Saturday, September 11, 2010

Specialization is for insects

Years ago, I stumbled across a quote in a classical education book from which I was gleaning wisdom to enhance our homeschool.  It stuck with me like a burr.  The truth evidenced in its words was such a contrast to our current education system and culture, that I saw, with new eyes, the crumbling nature of our society.  It comprised the authors thoughts on what it meant to be human....

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein

When our children go to State schools they are tested to see what their propensities are and they are then directed toward studies and jobs encompassing those strengths.  If they are good at English, they are encouraged to be teachers or journalists, if they are academically weak, they are encouraged to go to trade school, if they are good in math they are encouraged in the sciences.  Or, perhaps, they are just encouraged to specialize in current societal voids.  In other words, their energies are directed to one specific area rather than to developing themselves as a whole person.

As we all know, there are people with God given gifts in the arts or languages or sciences.  Of course, we should encourage those gifts, but not at the cost of the whole person.  We should be encouraging our children to be true "renaissance men" and renaissance women".  We should be training them not only for academic excellence but also real life, nitty gritty living.  

Sir Knight and I make it a priority to see that our children are well-rounded.  They learn reading, writing and arithmetic along with canning, hunting, running a household, computer skills, land navigation, shooting, sewing and anything else we have the opportunity to teach them.  We listen to classical music, memorize poetry and read classic literature.  We gut and skin deer, butcher chickens and hogs and render tallow.  We provide first-aid and minister to the elderly.  In other words, we live life to the best of our ability and try to provide comfort and encouragement to those we meet.

Our country used to be populated with people who could do anything.  They did what needed to be done and they did it with skill and grace.  The west would never have been won had we waited for people people with a specific skill set.  It was won on the backs of well-rounded, can-do type people with vision and the ability to get things done.  That is what I want for my children.

We can not rely on the State or anyone else to raise up our children to greatness.  We must be active in their education.  God gave us the job of educating our children and nobody else has greater influence in their children's lives than parents.  What an awesome and wonderful responsibility with which we have been entrusted.  Here are the thoughts of another Patriot regarding our children and who they ought to be...

We are steadily asked about the age at which to teach young people to shoot. The answer to this obviously depends upon the particular individual; not only his physical maturity but his desire. Apart from these considerations, however, I think it important to understand that it is the duty of the father to teach the son to shoot. Before the young man leaves home, there are certain things he should know and certain skills he should acquire, apart from any state-sponsored activity. Certainly the youngster should be taught to swim, strongly and safely, at distance. And young people of either sex should be taught to drive a motor vehicle, and if at all possible, how to fly a light airplane. I believe a youngster should be taught the rudiments of hand-to-hand combat, unarmed, together with basic survival skills. The list is long, but it is a parent's duty to make sure that the child does not go forth into the world helpless in the face of its perils. Shooting, of course, is our business, and shooting should not be left up to the state.”

-The late Jeff  Cooper

We are complete beings created in the image of God, not animals created with a solitary purpose. Living a full life is for human beings, specialization is for insects.


  1. I have always loved that quote--in fact, it sits at the bottom of my own blog to remind me that it's ok to have multiple interests and specialties. So often, kids are given the impression that they have to have their one "thing" that they're good at--math, soccer, piano, etc. This doesn't change when they go to college and have to pick a major--they're still having to sacrifice studying some of the many other things for which they may have an aptitude in favor of the one thing they've chosen to be their major. This is what our professors model for us, so we think that it's what's normal...and, we also think that we'll definitely be able to get a job if we just pick the right speciality. WRONG. (Trust me; I was a music major!) While I'll admit that we do need some specialists in the world, let's be realistic--if ethnomusicology or flute performance is your only skill, how useful will you be in a TEOTWAWKI situation? Oh, the things I WISH I'd learned in college... :)

  2. Employers want specialists, then terminate the specialized employee when that specialty becomes obsolete. Then people have to be "retrained" so they can get another job. Retraining is a very expensive process - for the taxpayers and for the person being retrained. It is so much more sensible to have a well-rounded education and be flexible than to be pigeon-holed. But common sense went out
    the window when public education became the norm. Or, more precisely, when unions took over the educational system.

    I can hear the progressives shouting "long live diversity" and under their breath, "except in education, thought, freedom, politics...."

    NoCal Gal

  3. In addition to knowledge, there is the quality of good judgment. This quality should be integrated into the well-rounded education, if you wish to bear fruit from your childrearing efforts.

    When do you spend the extra money, and where should you save it? When do you buy a piece of equipment versus rent or barter to borrow? Do you get steamed because a neighbor built a fence 4 inches on your side of the property line? Are you a well rounded can-do person but are addicted to alcohol or casino gambling? If so then your mentors have missed the big picture somewhere along the line.

    A mentor will provide more than skills training. They will provide the life lessons necessary to turn that well-rounded individual into more than just a mechanically productive person.

  4. Amen, we teach teh same thing to our kids, we love them, and teach them, the grand parents say that we are too hard on them, but they don't hire a locksmith they call and see if the 15 year old middle child can repin thier lock, thay ask the girl now out on her own for a coumuter repair, they dont call a plumber they call me. In the end we are bruting off the rough edges making each of us more rounded, more full. Bless you and yours, Rev Clonn