By Jacob van Flossen
Americans are bombarded with pleas for an egalitarian ethic. But there is no equality in nature. The concept of equality–the mathematical equation of two or more entities–has no place in a biological universe. No two apples on any tree are ever the same; nor two trees in the same orchard. No teacher will ever teach two pupils with the same complex of aptitudes, achievements, personalities or responses. Similarities, of course; recurring patterns, to be certain. But true equality–a precise equivalence of measurable traits–never!
The point is not that the differences are always significant or even definable. At times they are extraordinary; at times scarcely perceptible. Yet by what compulsion do we make the denial of human difference–the denial of that which makes each of us unique–an ultimate goal? No one questions the concept of equal access to the Law; to a just and fair treatment for all in the Courts, before the bar of Justice. Though even here, a goal of perfect equality is not obtainable. For any experienced trial lawyer must admit, how a client is perceived will affect the judgment he faces; as each Judge or Juror’s own perception will reflect the individuality of his nature.
In the field of human relations, in questions of success or failure, education, art or culture; the concept of equality is less than absurd. It is a malevolent delusion, contrived by those who either envy the achievements of others, or grasp at ways to demonstrate a wholly misdirected altruism. It is embraced for a great variety of the wrong reasons. To the extent that its advocates achieve an agenda, we lose a part of our character and freedom. In a leveling of traits, we assail that which makes each of us important. What we have said, should be obvious. But let us make an essential distinction. We do not criticize efforts to upgrade ability. That after all, is what education is about; to better prepare each person, rich or poor, white or black, male or female, to better meet the challenges, exploit the opportunities and fulfill the potential of his own life.
Meaningful education, like meaningful altruism, must deal with the individual as an individual; recognizing his strengths and weaknesses, interests and problems, joys and sorrows. A teacher who teaches according to a statistical abstract, will teach but little. Every child has distinct needs and distinct aptitudes. From genius to moron, from the malleable to the incorrigible, neatly constructed formal guidelines (promulgated by an educational bureaucracy, looking to means and averages) can only interfere with real learning. To better help a child, you must get to know that child as a particular being–one of a kind. It is no different in any other type of human relationship. Thus far, we speak in generalities. But what are the most meaningful traits of the species? (We leave questions of an original creation, the soul, and theories of an hereafter, to the theologians. These are outside our scope.) But in the secular sense, the basics are easily determined.
Modern living involves a great constriction in the perception of distance, a vast extension in the variety of distractions–the gadgets and amusements of a technological age. On every side we are bemused or bedeviled by a parade of new experiences–items and concepts of which our forebears never dreamed. Yet in all of this expansion of interest, the dominant needs remain unchanged. Our greatest pleasures; our joys, heartaches and frustrations, flow from those needs; and remain as they were before history was written. In every age, man has required a place to rest. But as this comes to be achieved–at least in modern times–with some degree of permanence, it is seldom a daily preoccupation. All must eat. And the provision and preparation of food have always been matters of absorbing interest; while the circumstances of its consumption have provided, through the generations, our most popular and utilitarian occasion for both social and ceremonial expression. <<<>>>