On Holding Sudents’ Emotions Accountable to the Truth

 · 1 min read
 · Daniel C. Gibson

Ever wonder why disagreement now seems impossible? Why debate only leads to greater conflict, not greater clarity? It is the inevitable consequence of generations of Americans being taught to seek and to love themselves rather than the truth.

Classical education restores reason to its rightful place in the ordering of man’s faculties, not by teaching that feelings shouldn’t matter, but by recognizing that neither should they rule. As C.S. Lewis recognized: “The heart never takes the place of the head; but it can, and should, obey it.” We teach students the broad body of human knowledge—literature, history, philosophy, natural science, mathematics, Latin, the arts—to develop in them both the capacity and the desire to hold their emotions accountable to the truth.

Modern education endeavors to make students feel good, not to help make them become good. So opinions are expressed by declaring “I feel” rather than “I think,” and experiences described as “my truths,” impervious to contradiction, all in the name of emotional health.

Yet divorced from the truth, disagreements are little more than a battle of feelings versus feelings, resolvable only by power, not persuasion—by force, not philosophy. Teaching the young to shout their feelings more loudly rather than to think about them more clearly cannot restore the deliberation, reflection, and choice that is the foundation of a free and flourishing republic. We must begin teaching our children to know and to love the truth again.

Disagree with me? Wonderful. Think I am wrong? Even better. But let’s stop pretending that we just feel differently.