New Teacher, Old Teacher

The New Teacher is a dispenser of grades and ranks, an administrator of late modernity’s societal ordering and sorting system — essentially a bureaucrat or accountant.

The Old Teacher was a guide of the soul’s desire, channeling a few young people’s restless and potentially self-devouring hunger into a happy and habit-forming quest for timeless and necessary understanding — essentially a lion tamer or horse breaker.

The New Teacher is trained to playact unconditional love in order to protect the student’s tender feelings, while in fact maintaining a well-trained, materially-motivated “professional detachment.”

The Old Teacher, qua teacher, invested his life in the well-being of his students’ souls, while playacting a certain detached indifference, in a manner analogous to Leo Strauss’s explanation of “philosophic moderation,” namely that the philosopher must be bold and even somewhat untethered in his inquiries — Socrates depicted philosophy as a kind of madness — but remain reserved and supremely measured in his speech.

The New Teacher is a performer of scripts he did not write, or even properly read, a sophistical purveyor of the popular wisdom of the day, and in effect a veiled agent of abstruse theorists and political subversives he has barely read and never understood.

The Old Teacher was an overt and enthusiastic pitchman for the great books and men he loved most, and if anything was at times too eager to remove all masks, eschew all “roles,” and expose his own mind, warts and all, to his students’ judgment.

The New Teacher wishes to be popular with the largest swath of students by giving them whatever the current catechism is promoting as the shortest path to self-satisfied smugness.

The Old Teacher was a tree-shaker, a tester and assumption-jostler in search of those rare fruit that would not succumb to the turbulence of intellectual or moral challenge and fall wastefully to the soul-rotting common ground of safe opinion or “what everyone does.”

The New Teacher believes, and in fact has been explicitly trained to believe, that his job is to prepare young people to fit comfortably and conformingly into their social group, to diminish themselves to the size and shape required by a smooth-running collectivist state.

The Old Teacher’s dream was to find a few souls who might, with just the right balance of gentle enticement and disorienting challenge, approach the truest human goal, as this was understood by all civilized men prior to the age of progressive education, namely to stretch out long enough to break through the surface of the social sea, from which vantage point one may catch a brief, life-altering glimpse of dry land, distant horizons, and in general Nature Herself, undistorted by the permanently undulating waves of The Now.

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