Mortimer Adler and Robert Hutchins initiated and edited The Great Books and the heart of their view of education is expressed in the concept of PAIDEIA from the Greek pais, paidos: the upbringing of a child.  (Related to pedagogy and pediatrics.)  In an extended sense, the equivalent of the Latin humanitas (from which “the humanities”), signifying the general learning that should be the possession of all human beings.”  (Mortimer J. Adler, The Paideia Proposal (NY: Macmillan Pub. Co., 1982) pb.


                                                      The first paradigm shift was in the 40’s to the 60’s with John Dewey; the second was “Spooked by Spock” from the 60’s to the 80’s; and the third and fourth was educational/cultural decadence from the 90’s to 2000 plus with Derrida as one of the major voices.


                                                      From the 60’s to the 90’s, education has been a conflict for the control of the mind of man.  We live in a seeker, sensual, survival world.  From Spock to Derrida, the “whole language” perspective (the reader creates the meaning in a text) has come to dominate American education.  Competition from the secular sector for education control intensifies.  Survival risks are all about us.  Survival of continuing Christian education in the rapidly changing nineties and the twenty first century is a fundamental challenge at this hour of the Church’s life.  (See bibliography at the end of this paper.)


The Third Paradigmatic Shift:  Deconstructionism Goes to School:


                                                      Deconstructionism now dominates much of our contemporary education.  What is deconstructionism?  Webster’s New World Dictionary defines deconstructionism as “a method of literary analysis originated in France in the mid-20th century and based on a theory that, by the very nature of language and usage, no text can have a fixed, coherent meaning.”  This Derridaian nightmare not only destroys the Bible but Derrida’s works as well!!


                                                      Derridaian deconstructionism has entered the “whole language” educator’s reading process.  The authors of Whole Language:  What’s The Difference? (Heinemann, 1991) write:  “From a whole language perspective, reading and language use in general is a process of generating hypothesis in a meaning making transaction in a socio-historical context as a transactional process.”  From Rosenbatt, 1978 and Goodman, 1984 we are told that reading is not a matter of “getting the meaning” from a text, as if that meaning were in the text waiting to be decoded by the reader.  This view of reading implies that there is “no single ‘correct’ meaning for a given text, only a plausible meaning.”  (p. 19)


                                                      This theory affirms that each reader creates his or her own meaning rather than retrieves it from the text.  Obviously, this is a recipe for the destruction of literacy, not its improvement.  Meaning is created through transaction.  Rather than viewing reading as “getting the words,” whole language educators view reading as essentially a process of creating meaning.  In a transactional model words do not have static meanings.  Rather, they have meaning potentials and the capacity to communicate multiple meaning (p.32).  In The Academic American Encyclopedia on p. 76, we note a parallel with the model of Deconstructionism.  “Deconstructionism is a theory about language and literature that developed in the 1970’s.  Derrida’s model declares that ‘For deconstructionists, language constitutes everything.  The world itself is ‘Text.’  Language shapes humanity and creates human reality . . . yet, upon close explanation, words seem to have no necessary connection with reality or with concepts or ideas, with the respect to ‘reality.’”


The Fourth Educational Revolution (OBE, Goals 2000): This model generates “reader-created meaning” on all texts.  This model has no limit of creativity, thus no text “can” have a specific and communicable meaning.  Deconstructionism has been regularly attacked as childish philosophical scepticism and linguistic nihilism.  Nevertheless, it became the leading literary critical school in the USA during the period following the Vietnam War (Birth of Pluralism).  It is crucial to note that Deconstructionism is basically an attack on the notion of absolute truth and literal comprehension of a written text (cf. the Hermeneutical Revolution has also impacted Biblical studies).  Classical Western and Christian education rests on linear thinking or “logocentric” in that it relies on the word as the means of conveying truth.  The Bible is word-oriented; the influence of The New Right on reading results is well known.  Its consequences are less well known.  Authors give the child control rather than the teacher.  All forms of classical literature, including the Scriptures, are destroyed on the presupposition of Deconstructionism.  Secularistic paganism is the direct result of Frank Smith’s theory that “learning is social, not solitary.”  As with all error, this is partly correct.  This view of the formation of language and meaning will reshape culture.  The consequence is the resurgence of New Age paganism.  When a child is given sex education in kindergarten as part of the Aids prevention program and at the same time taught that there is no absolute word and that the ultimate purpose in life is social and sexual intercourse, we can expect the rising generation to be the most licentious and depraved in American history.  Pagan societies are characterized by idolatry, occultism, sexual promiscuity (lifestyle variation) flagrant homosexuality, violence, murder, human sacrifice, incest, infanticide, child abuse, widespread disease, despotism, political instability, a low level of productivity, and a wide disparity between the rich and the poor with few in the middle.  The key to paganizing America is by controlling how children learn language. 

(Higher Education Handbook of Theory and Research (Vol. I, NY: Agrathon, 1986; N.P. Eurich, “Continuing Education and The Learning Industry” Journal of Continuing Higher Education, vol. 39, no. 3/’91; “Positive, Visionary Leadership” Journal of Adult Training (Wheaton, IL, vol. 1, p.3); G.R. Hussberger, “Christian Leadership of The 21st Century” Reformed Review, vol. 44, Spring ‘91, no. 3.)