Saturday, May 03, 2008

Screwtape Writes Again: Education, for Hell's Sake

My Dear Wormwood:

Let me continue my theme of making the little creatures ignorant of the manifold errors of their supposed Creator. The One Above, inasmuch as we can discern what he says at this point, desires knowledge of himself and the world. Yes, he calls for faith, but a knowing, understanding faith. We need to confuse all of this in the mind of the Christian. To do so, we must target their philosophy of learning. I say this to instruct you on dealing with your charge, that loathsome seminary student. (By the way, make him sound sanctimonious every time he tells anyone is he "a seminary student.")

Ah yes, we have come a long way and have done much good work, Wormwood. The result—hordes of people are well-informed ignoramuses!

1. Pound them with data from all sides through technology.

2. Remove the context in which the data may become knowledge and be truly transformative in their lives. (One of our meanest foes, D. James Kennedy (now out of our reach), hosted a radio program called “Truths That Transform.” That is exactly what we cannot abide: truths that lodge in the souls of these vermin.)

How may we accomplish this method? Let me count the ways!

1. We love efficiency and so do they. It is the unacknowledged, taken-for-granted value since The Industrial Age (which, I may add, also gave us much material for that precious metaphor “man as a machine,” and so on). So, make education efficient. That means getting degrees quickly and easily, increasing class size, detaching learning from environments littered with real people in all their messiness, etc. Learning usually suffers! What a great irony.

2. They love everything Internet. In fact, it has become lust, our old friend. So, put “education” on-line and don't let them realize what they lose in the process. Sure they gain some things and we experience some losses. These learners will pick up a few facts, get a grade, and be on their way to degrees, but will never have to be in a room with those flesh-bearers and will never get to know their teachers; nor will their teachers now them. (As I remember hearing, the Son of the One Above required his followers to spend a ridiculous amount of time with him and really meddled in their daily lives in the name of "love." We don’t want anything like that to happen now. Think of the damage it did to our cause then. These “little Christs” actually learned to cast us out of people, which is their rightful location. I am told this really hurt. It hurt more with the Boss Below found out. Well, let’s move on. They don't do much of that anymore--at least in America.)

The Internet dematerializes everything, so to speak. Matter is over-rated, as you know. We are the spiritual ones. We have no bodies at all, and it affords us so many advantages: all that bulky stuff with its secretions and malfunctions—we know nothing of it. So, the more we can dematerialize their earthly life—put them out of touch with each other as creatures in space and time—the better. (Some of them think of the afterlife as entirely immaterial, with no resurrection in sight. And these people own--and sometimes even read--Bibles. There is this insufferable and prolific Anglican bishop who has been writing against this for some years. We have a new campaign aimed at his disinformation.) Encourage that Gnostic impulse that came in after the Rebellion. Whenever I am sad, I think of the Gnostics--past, present, and future. It is one of "my favorite things," as their miserable song puts it.

3. You know full well, Wormwood, that we cannot be too careful about what they read. That enemy propagandist, C. S. Lewis, was lost to The Cause Below when he started reading material from the other side. What plans we had for him. In fact, he wrote, “A young atheist cannot be too careful about what he reads.” We tried everything on him, but lost. And now many earthlings read his ludicrous arguments for Christianity—or at least they say they have to appear pious. We must not let that kind of thing happen again. Real logical argument always ends up serving the other side. Yes, Lewis had a larger than normal intellect (to put it mildly), but event the more modest creatures become far more hazardous and odious to us when they read certain books seriously. How I yelped with delight upon reading those recent reports from The National Endowment for the Arts. Most Americans don’t read a single book in a year! And consider the kinds of books they do read when they do. Think: Oprah.

How to do it? It is deliciously simple: Distract them with other things. The television leaves no room for reading. Put a TV in every room. Make them huge and magical. Keep them on all the time. Have people spend more on TV and accessories than on books and thoughtful magazines. And no church libraries, for hell’s sake! We are nearly victorious in that campaign, I’m proud to say. In fact, I know of a church that began small, but prized the intellect (even apologetics). I was worried. I bid off a lot of my claws over it. They were proud of their little church library. Then, the church grew like a weed--and was just about as pretty in so doing. Hundreds flocked in and the library was first neglected, then sacked. Oh, what a bunch of well-informed ignoramuses we have there now—along with music so loud that it makes thinking impossible.

There is so much more, but get to work on your man now. The place where he is has a huge library, after all, and some very knowledgeable teachers. It is dangerous to us. Inform him, by all means; make him proud, proud that he is “well-informed.” He is busy getting facts, but keep him empty of knowledge. Remember, I am watching you, as is our Father Below.

Your Affectionate Uncle,


The Scottish Reslers said...

A very good post. Since studying here again in Scotland I have learned of the importance of dialogue-partners. Thankfully, God has brought a few good friends into my life to helps us all to dialogue on theological, practical, apologetical, and personal issues. I have rediscovered the power of thoughtful conversation with others who are not afraid to delve into the mysteries of life in Christ to see what we can learn about God, His church, and ourselves.

I hope you keep this short "screwtape" blog going because it causes me to think and at times, to repent. So a huge thank you.

The Scottish Reslers said...

Here is the blog site that some PhD candidates have started about six months ago to encourage thoughtful dialogue.

Dr. Groothuis, if you don't like adverts for other blogs I totally understand.

thanks again for your tireless work for His kingdom. God continues to work through you.

Mary E. Osen said...

Interesting....One of the purposes of this blog is to "expose lies." Well this posting is not informed in the least about online education.

You wrote, "They love everything Internet. In fact, it has become lust, our old friend. So, put “education” on-line and don't let them realize what they lose in the process."

This sweeping generalization is uninformed and hypocritical. Clearly one of the purposes of this blog is to education in the broadest sense. It isn't a university course but it isn't YouTube either.

It's rather ironic that you would violate your own premise by utilizing the the tool you condemn in order to advance your own vision.

<<2. They love everything Internet. In fact, it has become lust, our old friend. So, put “education” on-line and don't let them realize what they lose in the process.>>

In fact online education can become a liberating and democratizing tool because it has the potential of providing access to education for many who are otherwise closed out of the system. Not everyone can get a degree by living near a campus.

Professor like myself who teach university courses online can use many techniques and cyber-structures to create a sense of online community. The potential of online communication is HUGE. I would advise you who are on the Christian right to stick with moral rather than pedagogical issues........unless you are informed about that of which you speak.

The fundamental question is not one of online or not-online education. Rather, excellence in education has to do with quality of the course not the format.

Lynn E. Nielsen

David said...

As far as I can tell, the only claim being (indirectly) made about online classes is that they tend to depersonalize the educational experience. And there might be other reasonable concerns as well, whatever the ostensible advantages to the online approach.

Is that really so controversial and offensive to you?

And for the record, this common argument that Doug is being hypocritical to utilize the internet to critique its cultural ubiquity is becoming tired and worn out. There's no inconsistency here--the internet can yield positive effects when utilized in moderation and for the right ends.

Also, just because you teach online courses does not make your opinion more informed or authoritative. If anything, it makes you less capable of objectively critiquing its overall value.

By the way, Doug has actually written and reflected extensively on the philosophy of technology--and therefore *is* an informed commentator on these matters--and he would probably be the first to remind you of McLuhan's famous mantra: "The medium is the message." So yes, the format does matter, and the quality of the course cannot be considered apart from this factor.

But more to the point: this post which clearly got your blood boiling represents a literary genre that hardly warrants the tone or style of your criticism. Whatever views expressed in the post are subtle and suggestive, rather than direct and propositional in nature. Therefore, you would do well to ask questions of clarification before making assumptions and false accusations.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


You pretty much said it all with respect to "Mary E. Osen," whoever that is. The address is to a 92 year old librarian, who probably does not teach an on line class.

Of course, this blog is not a class and no one gets credit for it. It is another category entirely. Reading my blog is not the same as taking my classes in the flesh, for heaven's sake.

And, yes, I did write a book on the philosophy of technology, with a chapter specifically on education. That book is "The Soul in Cyberspace."