Education and Economics

slvry*N.B.: This article is based on an excerpt from Great Books of the Western World, Vol. 1: The Great Conversation—The Substance of a Liberal Education by Robert M. Hutchins

A man without the proper use of the intellectual faculties of a man, is, if possible, more contemptible than even a coward, and seems to be mutilated and deformed in a still more essential part of the character of human nature.

~Adam Smith

Apart from John Dewey, the so-called father of the modern public school system and today’s Progressives, up to about 1900 it was self-evident that the majority of academics, intellectuals; even educators, politicians, lawyers, judges and literary writers held that a good education was obtained only through serious, systematic reading and study of the literary canon—the “Great Books” and the “liberal arts.”  This was ipso facto the elite education for the few. Yet my thesis here is could it be the best education for the many if the many have not the capability to seize it? (Carpe diem—seize the day).

“Ellis, are you crazy? This is the twenty first century, the age of the Internet where at the touch of a computer key any student virtually anywhere on the planet can not only read the Classics, but access entire libraries in virtually any language they desire.” Indeed, yet this begs the question: If education will maximize culture and societal intelligence for everybody to be educated, if it is in society’s best interests that the State provide everybody with “access” to a good education, then the question of ultimate concern is this: Can everybody get it [a good education]? This is the most essential question in education. Possibly it is the most essential question in the world.

Maybe this is a rhetorical question that cannot be answered. Now, it can be argued, that we are living in one of the few times in history when everybody has the ability to get a liberal education, yet why are dozens of millions in America so functionally illiterate, incapable of even rudimentary inductive/deductive reasoning, let alone critical thinking? We can, nevertheless, examine the choices, and the consequences of education vs. mis-education (e.g., propaganda). If relaxation, idleness, and political power are objectives for liberal/progressive education, then everybody in America now should possess this life-goal, and therefore, should everybody where democracy and progress exists ultimately demand this “good” education?

This is the Holocaust scenario: What if We the People have been so dumbed downed by decades and decades of mis-education by the federal government, by the State in order that the State can more efficiently enslave and manipulate the masses to vote for this party or that party, to vote for this entitlement or that entitlement program in the name of “equality,” “freedom,” or “choice”? Aren’t we then incapable of attaining the education that a responsible democratic republic mandates of all its citizens? If the answer is yes, then democracy is doomed, America’s Republic de facto dead. Aristotle justly condemned the majority of the Polis (citizens) in his many writings to natural slavery, and since the so-called Progressive Revolution (c. 1860s-present) socialists, progressives and many on the political Left believe that the faster society set about retreating from democracy, capitalism, freedom, and the rule of law the better it will be the environment, for world. Perhaps Marx was right, perhaps people are just too obtuse and irrational to take care of themselves necessitating the omnipotent State to fill the void; to become literally the de facto slave master over the people who have now devolved into a regressive, existential state of nature I call Voluntary Slavery.

Conversely, the Progressive braintrust demands that everybody should have the opportunity to have a “good” education which will fit him or her for responsible citizenship in our democracy. This characterization is reminiscent of Nietzsche’s “Will to Power” whereby each citizen of necessity must cultivate his or her human powers to the fullest extent possible to serve not himself or some metaphysical deity like ‘God’ but the omnipotent State. Mussolini said, “Everything inside the State. Nothing outside the State. Nothing against the State.” This conclusion defines the evolutionary and progressive model toward which the society should and must ceaselessly struggle (Marx). Yet, truly, do Progressives really want everybody educated? I’m not at all convinced of their utopian ideal. Nevertheless, it does not follow that this aspiration to the utopian ideal is worthless or doomed to catastrophe. On the contrary, the educational policy of a nation will be contingent on the morality, intelligibility, and passion with which its educational ideal is quantified and understood.

Poverty or lack of resources of a given neighborhood, city, state, or nation could prevent it from immediate realization of its educational ideal. In the 1700s and 1800s education of the few rested on the labor of the many in America. It was presumed (perhaps incorrectly) that the few could not have education unless the many were deprived of it (a form of education as a zero-sum gain paradigm). As the first Superintendent of the Washington, D.C. Public Schools, Thomas Jefferson’s proposal of three years of education for everybody could have been, and probably was, rejected on the grounds that the economy of D.C., Virginia, or anywhere else for that matter could not endure it. The state of education in America (circa1800s), as the case may be today in underdeveloped countries, can no longer be status quo merely aping the moribund liberal/progressive rhetoric of Dewey’s day—Education for all, from cradle to the grave. Why? Because we now have enough empirical data to dispel that previous sophistry and deceitful suppositions that education for all as being permanently outside the economic intent, capacity, and powers of the United States.

America spends more per student than any other nation in the world, yet are we the best educated in the world? No we are not.

The economic question is of ultimate concern and can be explained that liberal/progressive education, for example, is worthless to a man who is in poverty, or in the words of Adam Smith to the man whose mind “seems to be mutilated and deformed” nevertheless, the Founding Fathers taught us that the first obligation of man is to honor God, next to contribute to society through work, by learning and appreciating the value of work furthering society through work and earning. Hard work was tantamount to worshipping God. I’ll call this the First Education Model (circa Adam & Eve up to Darwin). The Second Education Model (circa 1860s-present) replaced the Judeo-Christian worldview with an evolution atheist worldview which is openly hostile to and possesses a venal hatred toward God, family, tradition, freedom, capitalism, natural law, natural rights, and American exceptionalism. Therefore, the ubiquitous question for this Neo-Pagan Age is the question of The Rules for Radicals author Saul Alinsky asks his fellow radicals: Whose side are you on?—i.e., C-O-N-T-R-O-L. The State is now aggressively fostering to enslave as many millions of new recipients to embrace the welfare state; to be in some manner entangled in the tentacles of the Leviathan hydra; to equate and conflate entitlements with constitutional rights more than ever before.

Historically, industrialization, automation, the assembly line as the typical component of Western industry, must now regard this modern “progress” as a mixed blessing to say the least. The robotic monotony, impersonality, uncreativeness, and slavishness to crass materialism has, especially since the 1960s, led towards a steady reduction in the hours of labor, particularly in the manufacturing fields. Those types of “blue collar” jobs have steadily moved to other countries, first Mexico and South American, now China, and the Far East. But what if this type of worker can do nothing else? What if his cognitive abilities amount to nothing in his head that is demonstrable or profitable to society? Is there value in all work or is there some cosmic diminishing return for the time that is gained for life off the assembly line which is exchanged for State mandated leisure (welfare)? Is President Obama’s current policies that seem to encourage people not to work a new higher ideal, or can such pursuits only be defined as Romantic melancholy of a bygone era, even subhuman?

Adam Smith proclaimed the case over 200 years ago: “A man without the proper use of the intellectual faculties of a man, is, if possible, more contemptible than even a coward, and seems to be mutilated and deformed in a still more essential part of the character of human nature.” He argues that this is the state of nature of “the great body of the people,” who, by the division of labor are shackled in their employment “to a few very simple operations” whereby the worker “has no occasion to exert his understanding, or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur.” The consequence, according to Smith, is that “the torpor of his mind renders him, not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life.”

Yet the replacement of machines for slaves offers society perhaps our final chance to build a civilization as magnificent as that of the Greeks, and far more enduring because since the Greek and Roman Empires Western civilization has adopted Christianity and later capitalism, thus are we not more just? I do not accept that “torpor” (laziness) of mind is the natural state of mankind, or that these people are irredeemable or incapable of participating in any rational conversation, or of possessing liberal, noble, and loving sentiments, or of establishing just judgments regarding the matters of private and public life.

If liberals, progressives, humanists, socialists, post-modernists, anarchists (i.e., the Left) are consigned to this false utopian purgatory that never was, and if they exist in this modernist, slavish state of nature as a consequence of the division of labor that embraces a Marxist/Socialist worldview, then industrialization (progress), democracy, freedom, natural law to these people are fundamentally in opposition. For Progressives who have summarily rejected the Judeo-Christian traditions of the constitutional Framers, they have indeed rejected the very Constitution which delineated those transcendent ideas they profess to revere; however, they have historically embraced an existential, evolution atheistic state of nature. Therefore, they are not competent to govern themselves nor government.

In conclusion, I do not think that progress (i.e., industrialization, modernity) and democracy (republic) are fundamentally opposed. However, they have the great potential to in effect be diametrically opposed unless the chasm between them is bridged by liberal/progressive education for all. At least that is the rhetoric we’ve been taught by Dewey and the Progressive establishment.

Long before Dewey, as early as 1857 the year the National Education Association (NEA) was founded, this egalitarian rhetoric of “education for all, from childhood to the grave” was propagandized to the nation. Yet, just two years later the advent of Charles Darwin’s evolution atheism with the 1859 publication of his pseudo-scientific book, On the Origin of Species, “Secular Man” begin to systematically replace Western civilization’s Judeo-Christian worldview, first in Europe, next in America, Russia, and now throughout the entire industrialized world, with a militant, intolerant, anti-Christian evolution atheist worldview.

Nevertheless, what has 160+ years of “free public education” given the world? Certainly not the education utopianism and liberal egalitarianism, neither the apotheosis of the ‘New Man’ John Dewey promised, nor a more literate society, but just the opposite—We have become a nation of mis-educated slaves who through the Internet and tens of thousands of public libraries which enable us to literally possess the Classics at our fingertips, however most children (and adults) chose to become obsessed with watching trash TV, or posting some strange picture on Facebook, or Tweeting some inane babblings of a monkey to friends and strangers across “cyberspace.”

Is it that modernization pushing society into the abyss? Is it that modernization which has both the tendency to devolve a man into a robot, yet also provides the economic foundation, leisure, and idleness that will empower him to seize this elusive and paradoxical liberal/progressive education? Indeed, this is the paradox of paradoxes—Absent a serious, systematic study of the Classics over many years (including the Bible), will this “good education; this “modern” education make him truly a man, or will this liberal/progressive education turn him into an unremarkable, uncreative, mis-educated, compliant, consensus cog in the vast Leviathan machinery of the State?

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