Russell and Duenes

Technocratic Skill Behind the Obamacare Rollout

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It’s been hard not to pay attention to the Obamacare roll out over the last couple of weeks. We’ve been hearing a lot about “glitches,” followed closely by reassurances that it’ll all be smooth sailing before too long. One of the apologists for the online Obamacare system said: “The work they’re doing is amazing. . . It’s incredible what can happen when you give a team of talented developers and managers and let them go.” This kind of euphoric sentiment is emblematic of our virtually unbounded faith in technocratic skill. In other words, if we can just get “tech-savvy” people who know how to manipulate all of the gadgets and gizmos together with the politically administrative whiz-kids, we can implement a smooth running, enlightened, and benevolent state that will handle all of our essential needs. Information Technology is where it’s at. Someone of my acquaintance sang the praises of Michael Bloomberg along these lines. Bloomberg was ostensibly the ideal politician because he had so much technocratic skill which he could benevolently bring to bear upon New York City. Such experts know how to jigger with the variables in our world with such competence that we’d best leave governance of our lives to them. They’re the “experts,” and all we need to do is give them the authority and “let them go.” This faith takes various and often subtle forms, but in my view, it is deeply held, and difficult to dislodge, even when its abject failures overtly confront us.

But where do people get such unbounded faith in our reigning technocrats? Where have we learned to afford such authority to the “experts,” who can apparently manipulate the created order to form the more perfect society, regardless of their personal character and worldview? I don’t think it has come from a humble sense that previous generations have much to teach us, from reading Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, the Greek classics, the Bible, the Patristic writings, the Reformers and the western philosophical and literary canon in general. It hasn’t come from studying and imbibing the great artists and musicians over the last 2,000 years. It hasn’t come from a wonderment, awe and reverence for complexity and beauty of the natural world around us, from a desire to think God’s thoughts after Him.

God says that His “wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech.” Indeed, God asks: “Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?” And the reply is: “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simply, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding. Listen, for I have worthy things to say…Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding.” As with many things, this turns my thoughts to education.

An explicitly Christian education will heed the voice of true wisdom, calling from the heights of the city. This is one of the great benefits that Christian parents can give to their children. They are able to teach them that “technocratic skill” without wisdom leads not to human flourishing, but soul destruction. A Christian education will see the importance of inculcating biblical wisdom, and wisdom from ancient (and modern) sources outside the Bible that are consistent with it. A Christian education, properly given, will teach children how to operate in a technologically advanced society, but will also teach them that there is a statist, technocratic idolatry at work in our human hearts, an idolatry that tells us that if we can just get the technological “geniuses” in places of political authority, they can work their magic and administer the government’s overweening power for the greater good of us all.

God also tells us that “[t]he woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way. ‘Let all who are simple come in here!’ she says to those who lack judgment. ‘Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!’ But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.” Thus, Folly and Wisdom are both crying aloud, vying for our attention. And it is folly to keep trusting that there is a kind of utopian society waiting to be administered to us at the hands of benevolent technocrats. It is folly to think that giving each student in school her own personal iPad is going to improve her education. It is folly to equate the acquisition of technocratic skill and competence with acquiring a well-ordered soul and a well-ordered society and culture. It is folly to jettison the study of ancient languages, writing and wisdom as antiquated, irrelevant, and perhaps bigoted in favor of teaching children that the most important thing they can acquire is the ability to use a computer and other technologies toward the end of being able to control the variables in our world.

All of this folly can be exposed and moved against with a Christian education. Will it? That depends. Doubtless there are Christian schools that are neck deep in the technocratic trope, just as the public schools are. But with the Christian school, it need not be so. For the Christian school can teach what God says, and teach how to practice it, so that the students may gain hearts of wisdom.



Written by Michael Duenes

October 12, 2013 at 9:31 am

Posted in Duenes, Education

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