Here are some of my favorite quotes. Many of these speak to the importance of the freedom of the individual as the chief end of politics. In education, this freedom is expressed in parental prerogative. We are fighting a political philosophy battle; our opponents see the chief end of politics as making "society" better. They see "society" as a living organism, as a system that responds to social engineering, and thus in the words of T.S. Eliot, dream "of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good."
from Choruses From 'The Rock' Stanza VI, T. S. Eliot, 1934
Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her laws?
She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would forget.
She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they like to be soft.
She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.
They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.
Forward by Frank E. Perriti
Orthodoxy, 1908, G. K. Chesterton
from Deliver Us From Evil, 1996, by Ravi Zacharias, Word Publishing
A vast, teeming sea of people stretching as far as the eye can see, boiling, agitated. Most are wearing Walkman headsets and the latest fashions; every person has the most recent issue of USA Today in one hand and a television remote control in the other. Some are quite educated, but still lost. Some are lost, but don't care. All are shouting, chanting, bumping into each other as each tries to march in his own direction, spouting a favorite truism. There is no right or wrong, so no one feels ashamed; all opinions are equal, so no one is allowed to think; religious convictions are private, so they are meaningless in any discussion. It's like a massive tabloid talk show gone berserk. p x
But I think this book may well start where our argument started --in the neighbourhood of the mad-house. Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin--a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.
The Mainspring of Human Progress, 1947, Henry Grady Weaver
(This is his description of the education that our founding fathers received.)
Before he was sixteen, the philosophy and history of the entire European past had been pounded into his head. Thus when he was old enough to begin thinking things out for himself, he had in his own mind a storehouse of knowledge, covering thousands of years of human experience. Also he was drilled in logic and the accurate meaning of words as a protection against fallacies of fancy rhetoric! p 192
Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman, University of Chicago Press, 1962
Government can never duplicate the variety and diversity of individual action. At any moment in time, by imposing uniform standards in housing, or nutrition, or clothing, government could undoubtedly improve the level of living of many individuals; by imposing uniform standards in schooling, road construction, or sanitation, central government could undoubtedly improve the level of performance in many local areas and perhaps even on the average of all communities. But in the process, government would replace progress by stagnation, it would substitute uniform mediocrity for the variety essential for that experimentation which can bring tomorrow's laggards above today's mean. p 4
Ronald Reagan "First Inaugural Address" 20 January 1981
If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.
Paul Johnson, "National Review", 14 December, 1992, p. 32-33
The proposition remains broadly true, and certainly we have got to educate the new billions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. But we are sadder and wiser than in Macaulay's optimistic day. We know that to will and enact universal education is not enough. We have done that. No other society in human history has placed such a strong and consistent emphasis on education at all levels as the United States has from its very inception. But there has been a failure somewhere. Prodigious amounts of money are not producing educated people in sufficient numbers. What happened in Los Angeles this June suggests that in Southern California, one of the richest societies on earth, the race is in danger of being lost. Again, the Soviet Union, with all its faults, placed huge emphasis on education. No other country ever produced graduates in such huge numbers, particularly in technical fields like engineering. But here again there has been a failure, and a more catastrophic one. The effort put into education not only bore bitter fruit in terms of the nation's capability to provide reasonable living standards for its people-it did not even produce enlightenment. Racial and ethnic prejudices, the dark forces of the human spirit, appear to be as powerful in the components of the former Soviet Union as ever. All over Eastern Europe, and increasingly in Western Europe, mobs of young people, who have been right through the universal education mill, are ranging through the complete gamut of primitive and irrational behavior-racism, ethnic triumphalism, xenophobia, hatred of refugees. There is a universal complaint in Europe and North America that the young emerge from high school (and often from university) with only tolerable literacy, unable to write their own language well, ignorant of other languages, knowing little of their country's history, literature, and culture-fitter candidates for a mob than for a citizenry.
End of Intellectuals ,Paul Johnson, Harper and Row, 1988
We are now at the end of our enquiry. It is just about two hundred years since the secular intellectuals began to replace the old clerisy as the guides and mentors of mankind. We have looked at a number of individual cases of those who sought to counsel humanity. We have examined their moral and judgmental qualifications for this task. In particular, we have examined their attitude to truth, the way in which they seek for and evaluate evidence, their response not just to humanity in general but to human beings in particular; the way they treat their friends, colleagues, servants and above all their own families. We have touched on the social and political consequences of following their advice.
What conclusions should be drawn? Readers will judge for themselves. But I think I detect today a certain public scepticism when intellectuals stand up to preach to us, a growing tendency among ordinary people to dispute the right of academics, writers and philosophers, eminent though they may be, to tell us how to behave and conduct our affairs. The belief seems to be spreading that intellectuals are no wiser as mentors, or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old. I share that scepticism. A dozen people picked at random on the street are at least as likely to offer sensible views on moral and political matters as a cross-section of the intelligentsia. But I would go further. One of the principal lessons of our tragic century, which has seen so many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity, is - beware intellectuals. Not merely should they be kept well away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of particular suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice. Beware committees, conferences and leagues of intellectuals. Distrust public statements issued from their serried ranks. Discount their verdicts on political leaders and important events. For intellectuals, far from being highly individualistic and non-conformist people, follow certain regular patterns of behaviour. Taken as a group, they are often ultra-conformist within the circles formed by those whose approval they seek and value. That is what makes them, en masse, so dangerous, for it enables them to create climates of opinion and prevailing orthodoxies, which themselves often generate irrational and destructive courses of action. Above all; we must at all times remember what intellectuals habitually forget: people matter more than concepts and must come first. The worst of all despotisms is the heartless tyranny of ideas.
End of Modern Times, Paul Johnson, HarperCollins, 1992
The fall from grace of the state likewise, by the early 1990's, had begun to discredit its agents, the activist politicians, whose phenomenal rise in numbers and authority was one of the most important and baleful human developments of modern times. It was Jean-Jacques Rousseau who had first announced that human beings could be transformed for the better by the political process, and that the agency of change, the creator of what he termed the 'new man', would be the state, and the self-appointed benefactors who controlled it for the good of all. In the twentieth century his theory was finally put to the test, on a colossal scale, and tested to destruction. As we have noted, by the year 1900 politics was already replacing religion as the chief form of zealotry. To archetypes of the new class, such as Lenin, Hitler and Mao Tse-tung, politics - by which they meant the engineering of society for lofty purposes -was the one legitimate form of moral activity, the only sure means of improving humanity. This view, which would have struck an earlier age as fantastic, even insane, became to some extent the orthodoxy everywhere: diluted in the West, in virulent form in the Communist countries and much of the Third World. At the democratic end of the spectrum, the political zealot offered New Deals, Great Societies and welfare states; at the totalitarian end, cultural revolutions; always and everywhere, Plans. These zealots marched across the decades and hemispheres: mountebanks, charismatics, exaltes, secular saints, mass murderers, all united by their belief that politics was the cure for human ills: Sun Yat-sen and Ataturk, Stalin and Mussolini, Khrushchev, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Castro, Nehru, U Nu and Sukarno, Peron and Allende, Nkrumah and Nyerere, Nasser, Shah Pahievi, Gadafy and Saddam Hussein, Honecker and Ceausescu. By the 1990s, this new ruling class had lost its confidence and was rapidly losing ground, and power, in many parts of the world. Most of them, whether alive or dead, were now execrated in their own homelands, their grotesque statues toppled or defaced, like the sneering head of Shelley's Ozymandias. Was it possible to hope that 'the age of politics', like the 'age of religion' before it, was now drawing to a close?
Certainly, by the last decade of the century, some lessons had plainly been learned. But it was not yet clear whether the underlying evils which had made possible its catastrophic failures and tragedies - the rise of moral relativism, the decline of personal responsibility, the repudiation of Judeo-Christian values, not least the arrogant belief that men and women could solve all the mysteries of the universe by their own unaided intellects - were in the process of being eradicated. On that would depend the chances of the twenty-first century becoming, by contrast, an age of hope for mankind. p 783-784
In Defense of Freedom: A Conservative Credo , 1962, Frank S. Meyer (various excerpts)
The educational system
The present state of American education is the direct consequence of the instrumentalist philosophy of John Dewey. Applied to the educational process and transmitted to the American educational system through an institutional network of associations, training schools and publications, instrumentalist theories have, in two generations, annihilated the education that, in one form or another, has for a thousand years formed the men who made Western civilization. This education, inherited from Hellenic civilization and transmuted by Christianity, moulded the men who developed Western civilization the framers of our Constitution, the founders of the Republic. It was based on the assumption that the function of the school and the college is to train the mind and transmit to the young the culture and tradition of the civilization, thus forming a firm foundation for virtue....
Furthermore, under the presuppositions upon which contemporary education functions, the very ability to think is destroyed. To learn to think requires effort and pain. There being no pressure to exert effort or to undergo pain, the mental habits of run-of-the-mill students become simply slovenly, while the tendency is for the bright ones to develop into brash youngsters in whom flashes of brilliance only emphasize the lack of intellectual depth. True, there are exceptions--hard-thinking young people, whose salvation from the smothering norm is the result of the surviving vestiges of firm and principled home influence, the providential and increasing presence of a few good teachers in our educational institutions, and, in recent years, the growing revolt among students against the whole structure of collectivist liberalism....
The entrance of the state into education, moving inevitably through quasi-monopoly towards monopoly, crushes all differentiation. Its opening of the way to leveling theories, dedicated to assuring that no unworthy son of a wealthy father shall receive an education he does not deserve, has made it certain that no one, rich or poor, can receive an education pitched above the mediocre. When the mediocre becomes the standard, as it inevitably does if differentiation is ruled out and education is judged by the degree to which it can adapt to the average, not only is quality destroyed, but with it is destroyed the very possibility of an education capable of laying the foundations for a virtuous life. For virtue does not become the end of a person's existence by "other directed" adjustment to the norm, or through the apotheosis of the "experience" of the natural, untaught, doctrineless young. Standards of virtue are the hard-won prize of millennia of civilization; and they can only be inculcated in the young by men devoted to them and skilled in their understanding of them-men who will teach with authority the traditions of the civilization and the doctrines of virtue. Teachers imbued with Deweyan and similar ideas are obviously incapable of fulfilling this responsibility; they are, in fact, hostile to the very thought of its fulfillment. p 155-167
The End of Education, Neil Postman, 1995, Alfred A Knoph
To put it simply, there is no surer way to bring an end to schooling than for it to have no end.
By a god to serve, I do not necessarily mean the God, who is supposed to have created the world and whose moral injunctions as presented in sacred texts have given countless people a reason for living and, more to the point, a reason for learning. In the Western world, beginning in the thirteenth century and for five hundred years afterward, that God was sufficient justification for the founding of institutions of learning, from grammar schools, where children were taught to read the Bible, to great universities, where men were trained to be ministers of God. Even today, there are some schools in the West, and most in the Islamic world, whose central purpose is to serve and celebrate the glory of God. Wherever this is the case, there is no school problem, and certainly no school crisis. There may be some disputes over what subjects best promote piety, obedience, and faith; there may be students who are skeptical, even teachers who are nonbelievers. But at the core of such schools, there is a transcendent, spiritual idea that gives purpose and clarity to learning. Even the skeptics and nonbelievers know why they are there, what they are supposed to be learning, and why they are resistant to it. Some also know why they should leave. … p3-5
(Postman on Jefferson's puzzlement on modern education )
There was a time when American culture knew what schools were for because it offered fully functioning multiple narratives for its people to embrace. There was, for example, the great story of democracy, which the American artist Ben Shahn once proclaimed "the most appealing idea that the world has yet known." Alexis de Tocqueville called it "the principle of civic participation." Gunnar Myrdal encapsulated the idea in the phrase "The American Creed," which he judged to be the most explicitly articulated system of general ideals of any country in the West. The first chapter of the story opens with "In the beginning, there was a revolution." As the story unfolds, there arise sacred words such as "government of the people, by the people and for the people." Because he helped to write the story, Thomas Jefferson, the Moses of the great democracy-god, knew what schools were for-to ensure that citizens would know when and how to protect their liberty. This is a man who produced an essay that could have cost him his life, and that included the words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It would not have come easily to the mind of such a man, as it does to political leaders today, that the young should be taught to read exclusively for the purpose of increasing their economic productivity. Jefferson had a more profound god to serve. p 13
(Postman's comment on computer training )
One thing that comes to mind, of which something will be said later in the book, is to provide her with a serious form of technology education, something quite different from instruction using computers to process information, which, it strikes me, is a trivial thing to do, for two reasons. In the first place, approximately 35 million people have already learned how to use computers without the benefit of school instruction. If the schools do nothing, most of the population will know how to use computers in the next ten years, … p43
(Postman's conclusion )
The title of my book was carefully chosen with a view toward its being an ambiguous prophecy. As l indicated at the start, The End of Education could be taken to express a severe pessimism about the future. But if you have come this far, you will know that the book itself refuses to accept such a future. I have tried my best to explain, and elaborate narratives that may give nontrivial purposes to schooling, that would contribute a spiritual and serious intellectual dimension to learning. But I must acknowledge-- here in my final pages-- I am not terribly confident that any of these will work. p195
Heretics, G. K. Chesterton,
"Let us not decide what is good, but let it be considered good not to decide it."
The particular individuals who talk about progress would certainly fly to the four winds of heaven when the pistol-shot started the race.
Forbes Magazine, Peggy Noonan, 1993
...I heard a wall falling, a thousand year wall, a wall of sanctions that said: We as a society do not approve of teenaged unwed motherhood because it is not good for the child, not good for the mother and not good for us. The old America had a delicate sense of the difference between the general ("We disapprove") and the particular ("Let's go help her"). We had the moral self-confidence to sustain the paradox,...
The God of the Machine, Isabel Paterson,
Why did the humanitarian philosophy of the eighteenth century Europe usher in the Reign of Terror? It did not happen by chance; it followed from the original premise, objective and means proposed. The objective is to do good to others as a primary justification of existence; the means is the power of the collective; and the premise is that "good" is collective.
In Defense of Freedom, Frank S. Meyer 1962
... a broadly consistent and delimitable body of dogma pervades the decisive and articulate sections of our society, shaping the minds of those who form opinion and create the conditions within which public decisions are made. p 35
from CAN MAN LIVE WITHOUT GOD p 43-44 Ravi Zacharias
quoting Steve Turner, the English journalist, in "Creed"
If chance be
the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
and when you hear
State of Emergency! Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage! Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!
It is but the sound of man worshipping his maker.
from a review of Dostoevsky in Furnace of Doubt by Arthur Trace
"Basically what Dostoevsky wanted to demonstrate is that bad ideas are vastly more destructive than bad passions, not only to individuals but to society generally and indeed to civilization."
... "Atheism not only threatens lives, Dostoevsky is saying; it also threatens civilizations because it denies the sacredness of life,"