“Bulverism”, as C. S. Lewis called it—that is, reductionism, of whatever kind—is indeed the bane of education these days, and at every level: from elementary school through graduate school.
I recently had occasion to interview a number of doctoral students for a couple of new faculty positions in my department, and with only two or three exceptions they seemed incapable of thinking about ideas as such. Had I needed yet another sad proof of what you say—that it’s “futile to try to reason with those who’ve been lulled into a hypnotic trance by the white noise of the post-modern era”—I would have found it in abundance.
“I used to think,” you write, “that we teachers were responsible for causing the atrophy of our students’ minds, but the more I learn, the more I see that the system itself is helping us kill our children’s souls.” As for what to do, and whether I think there’s any hope for the schools, my only response is to say that you’re the hope, and teachers like you.
No, I don’t believe there is any way of “remediating” or improving public education, or not at least by means of increased funding or some new “outcomes-based” policy, à la the recent “Spellings Report”. But this doesn’t mean you can’t continue to stand out from your colleagues. You’ve been doing this for seventeen years already: how many students must you have touched in that length of time, and how many more can you touch in the future? And how many of them might go on to become true teachers themselves, whether or not they work within the “professional” teaching establishment?
You know as well as I that the impact of real teaching can’t be measured or quantified—despite the efforts of university administrations, including mine, to pretend they can do so in order to protect their accreditation and secure federal monies. One day, one soul, one insight, one moment of illumination at a time. I’m reminded of Coleridge’s words about the aim of a genuinely e-ductive education and commend them to your prayerful reflection:
“Not to assist in storing the passive mind with the various sorts of knowledge most in request, as if the soul were a mere repository or banqueting-room, but to place it in such relations of circumstance as should gradually excite the germinal power that craves no knowledge but what it can take up into itself, what it can appropriate, and re-produce in fruits of its own” (The Friend, I. 473).