The 4 Gods of the Public Education System

In his book The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School, former NYU professor Neil Postman names the four “gods” that he believes America’s children are being taught to worship within the walls of today’s public schools.

In my experience, the typical man of today does not question the validity of at least three of these gods, and more often than not, willingly accepts all four. These gods have become axioms of modern education—which, by the way, significantly diverge from the educational philosophy that prevailed in the West for over 2,000 years—and modern life.    

 

In the eyes of most people, America’s public education system is the secular alternative to religious, faith-based schools.

But as I and others have argued, this dichotomy is false. The public education system also promotes a kind of religion, which has its own creed, rituals, and gods.

In his book The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School, former NYU professor Neil Postman names the four “gods” that he believes America’s children are being taught to worship within the walls of today’s public schools. They are:

1) The god of Economic Utility

Postman describes this god as follows:

“As its name suggests, it is a passionless god, cold and severe. But it makes a promise, and not a trivial one. Addressing the young, it offers a covenant of sorts with them: If you will pay attention in school, and do your homework, and score well on tests, and behave yourself, you will be rewarded with a well-paying job when you are done. Its driving idea is that the purpose of schooling is to prepare children for competent entry into the economic life of a community. It follows from this that any school activity not designed to further this end is seen as a frill or an ornament—which is to say, a waste of valuable time.”

To see evidence for the existence of this god, one need go no further than what the U.S. Department of Education defines as the goal of America’s education system: to make students “college- and career-ready.”

2) The god of Consumership

According to Postman, the push to make students “career-ready” is closely tied to a materialistic worldview. It is implied that today’s students should want successful jobs so they can live a comfortable existence in modern society:

“[T]he god of Economic Utility is coupled with another god… I refer here to the god of Consumership, whose basic moral axiom is expressed in the slogan ‘Whoever dies with the most toys, wins’—that is to say, goodness inheres in those who buy things; evil in those who do not.”

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