Prince Charles Was Right


British politicians and journalists roundly criticized the Prince of Wales in November for his comments about Britain’s educational system. Many misinterpreted his comments to mean that people should “stick to their lot in life” and “know their place,” which the prince neither said nor meant. Others ridiculed the prince’s own credentials as a “son of privilege.”

Lost in the fuss is that what Prince Charles actually wrote in the leaked memo is essentially true. “What is wrong with everyone nowadays?” he asked. “Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their actual capabilities? This is all to do with the learning culture in schools—the child-centered learning emphasis which admits of no failure and tells people that they can all be pop stars or High Court judges or brilliant tv personalities or even infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work, effort or having natural ability. It is the result of ‘social utopianism.’”

While the child-centered approach in Western education might make students feel better about themselves (for a while anyway), the accompanying decline in academic ability certainly does not help prepare them for success in the real world.

The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page piece on how some American schools are even turning to Asian curricula to help reverse our decline in math and science scores. “Critics assert that math teaching has been dumbed down in the U.S. over the past two decades. They say that too much emphasis is placed on making the subject accessible and fun and not enough on vital, if repetitive, drills such as multiplication tables. Another big criticism: U.S. math curricula tend to cover plenty of subject areas but not in sufficient depth” (Dec. 13, 2004). According to the Journal, unless something is done to improve our overall scores, it “could push still more white-collar jobs offshore as the next generation graduates.”

No amount of feel-good “learning” will land children important jobs in industries heavy in science and math. As the prince noted, one needs some natural ability mixed with a strong desire to put in the necessary work.

We have often referred to Herbert W. Armstrong as a terrific example of one who educated himself for a life of astonishing achievement. Ambition is more than just desire, he found out as a teenager early on in the 20th century. It’s also the “determination and the will to achieve the desired goal.” Nearly everyone wants to be considered a success. But not all have the will and desire to really seek after it. Many are simply not willing to put forth the kind of effort it takes to excel at something. (Request our free booklet Education With Vision for more about Mr. Armstrong’s views on education.)

Commenting on the leaked memo brouhaha in England, columnist Minette Marrin wrote, “The schoolchildren of this country have been doubly betrayed for decades, both by collapsing standards and by ballooning expectations. It is wicked to teach children that they can all expect the moon; ability varies greatly and competition is fierce. …

“Whatever may have been wrong with old-fashioned education, at least it taught almost all children to read and write. Yet, these days, all kinds of barely literate people of average intelligence expect professional status or feel they have a right to do something ‘creative,’ when they lack the most basic skills or any outstanding ability. They have been unforgivably misled” (Sunday Times, London, Nov. 21, 2004).