H. G. Wells and his Enduring Weapons of Mass Instruction

No writer of the 20th century has had, and still has, more influence on the public imagination  than Herbert George (always ‘H.. G.’) Wells (1866 –1946). But while becoming a world-renowned traveling public figure as well, no enthusiast for science as a new religion, and for a utopian and socialist reconstruction of all human society, had such an absence of practical effect, including on political leaders who often gave him public praise. He lived long enough to see the Second World War conclude with the two atomic bombings on Japan, and when he died a few months later, was an embittered man. His last and little-remembered small work was called Mind at the End of its Tether, in which he declared his disillusionment with the human race.

This bleak conclusion followed his last two decades of voluminous but hastily-written and instantly-forgotten books, pamphlets, and newspaper articles. The exception was his widely-read 1934 Experiment in Autobiography, delighting readers almost as much as his early and brilliant science fiction tales, and bringing him a gushing letter of praise from Franklin Roosevelt, which exulted ‘…our [sic] biggest success is in making people think.’ FDR was then creating his New Deal ‘brains trust’, which did somewhat resemble one of Wells’s many calls for the establishment of such expert cabals. But the need for ‘scientific planners’ was a popular commonplace in the 1930s anyway: American New Dealers and Soviet Communists could alike look back to such proposals from the French Enlightenment’s Henri de Saint-Simon, and even to Plato.

Continue reading →

Deconstructing High School Economics

By Yarema Kelebay and William Brooks

Originally developed as a presentation to the 1987 Canadian School Trustees Association in Charlottetown, PEI, this paper was later published in The McGill Journal of Education Vol. 26 No. 1 (Winter 1991)

Abstract: When economics was implemented as a compulsory subject in Quebec high schools during the late 1970s, the then reigning demand-side Keynesian assumptions were written into the new curriculum. With the coming of the Austrian School’s supply-side revolution in the early 1980s, the government set economics curriculum was ideologically inhospitable to supply-side insights. This has left the current economics curriculum outdated and an obstacle to quality economics education. Curriculum reform is recommended.

The introduction of economics as a compulsory subject in Canadian high schools has occurred over the past five to ten years and it has happened at a very dynamic and volatile period in the intellectual history of the western world. So before considering what is actually taught in economics classrooms, it might be useful to consider the intellectual trends which have influenced teaching over recent decades?

Continue reading →