What I Have Learned

William Van Til
1986 The Educational Forum  
If the world is not destroyed--any writing about lessons and goals for the future must be prefaced by these words. Fifty thousand nuclear weapons now exist, some a thousand times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. The world's nuclear arsenal is now 6,000 times larger than the total air bombardment by all sides in World War II. I am as old as Kappa Delta Pi, for we were both born in 1911. What have I learned? As to the world, that this is the only planet we have got. That we are all members
more » ... f one family, the human family, and all members of one race, the human race. That more than science and high technology will be needed to make a liveable world. That there must be a colossal gathering of forces for caring and survival. From living I have learned something about human society. That democracy, however imperfect and beset by problems, is far preferable to any form of authoritarianism. That Edmund Burke was right: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (As a reminder, his words are posted over my desk.) I have learned from personal experiences also. That the family is one of humanity's most rewarding inventions and that I have been lucky in mine. That traveling while young widens horizons. That social action though risky, can be deeply satisfying. That hard work in fields to which one is devoted can be as joyful as play. That perfectionism is an unattainable and neurosis-creating goal; so let us stop worrying about our inevitable mistakes. I am both a writer and an educator. My writing ranges widely--travel, yearbooks, textbooks, professional books, and recently my autobiography. As an educator, my specialty is curriculum, particularly the question of what knowledge is of most worth. I learned early that significant educational programs must meet the needs of learners, throw light on social realities, and foster humane values. From these curricular sources, relevant knowledge should be derived and utilized. John Dewey knew this; alas, some of his disciples and all of his opponents do not. Generation after generation, many educators underplay some of the necessary interacting factors in curricular development. Instead, they overemphasize a favored component. For instance, the child-centered progressives of the 1920s stressed the felt needs of the learner. Social demands schools of thought of the 1930s focused on social functions and problems. Values-oriented educators of the 1940s emphasized moral and spiritual values of democracy. One wit has commented that educators have difficulty in bearing in mind more than one thing at a time.
doi:10.1080/00131728609335786 fatcat:uamvmpyjbrajdfun344j2ttjga