As might be expected around the Fourth of July holiday, there have been a couple of times this week that I have stumbled upon internet postings bemoaning government's snowballing influence over our personal lives. Bloggers and journalists are frequently reiterating the sentiment that our modern understanding of government would cause the Founding Fathers heartburn as would witnessing what Americans have done with their God given right to liberty. I suspect that our Founders would indeed be shocked at our slothful and slovenly pursuit of happiness…but then, what's the difference between pursuit and government mandated contentment as long as we're all equally happy? Don't the ends justify the means?
Is the constitutional protection of privacy…the very same protection which vaulted imaginary abortive rights beyond all others in our national love affair with hierarchical relativism…so important that we can't stand a little internet surveillance or drone interaction over our backyard barbeque to ensure safety? Government, stay out of our wombs but, by all means, feel free to monitor our phone calls without a warrant? Nice.
To echo CS Lewis, what do we teach in our schools these days that abortive freedom is analogous or preferable to actual freedom? Certainly not philosophy, logic or civics, I must say.
Allow me to redirect. Is our current descent into the absolutism of our political ruling class such a foregone conclusion that we have no other choice than to wait breathlessly for our next directives regarding Big Gulps which are such enemies of the State that government intervention is required to save us from our sugar rush? Because the effect of sugar on our overall health is more important than living freely?
It would not be a foregone conclusion if conservatives began taking steps to combat the Left's attempted infantilization of the American people. The first and best move would be to completely overhaul how we implement our education system. It's just that easy. Simply start with the primary level which has always been at best an exercise in group-think conditioning and work our way up. Everybody hold hands while we all cross the street… when did that become everybody hold hands while we all learn the alphabet? Heaven help you if you happen to already know the alphabet and then it's too bad for you. You'll need to be patient while everyone catches up and shame on you for taking the initiative in the first place. Is it any wonder that Ritalin gets dispensed like Flintstone vitamins for the sheer boredom of learning what should already be known? I'd have an attention deficit too…sitting still, stuck in a stare, waiting for the group to catch up, and completely tuned out or drugged up when it's finally time to learn something new.
When you look at the men who are considered to be our Founders, the thing to remember is that most of them were home schooled or tutored. Very few of these men sat in a classroom and those that did were taught only by the educators that their parents chose. Additionally, they learned at their own pace so that someone like John Adams was able to begin Harvard College at age 16 while his cousin Samuel started Harvard at age 14. John Hancock had earned his master's degree from Harvard by 17 years of age while Alexander Hamilton had matriculated from what is now Columbia University by the age of 16. Nearly all of the Founders were well on their way to becoming productive members of society before they had reached 18 years of age.
Does the relatively early academic success of these men point toward a lower standard in colonial American education? I hardly think so. For these men to even consider attending college, they were to have mastered reading, writing and arithmetic, but they were to have also achieved proficiency in Greek and Latin and usually French. That they were experts in the English language was a given. Most of them played instruments well. They could articulate basic precepts of logic and philosophy. They were physically fit even though they used tobacco and/or alcohol beginning at young ages.
But that was during an era when children studied primarily to gain knowledge – not degrees – and it was well before school became a glorified daycare and food distribution center.
Well, then…it was just that our Founders were wealthy, white boys who had every privilege handed to them and this is just proof that more money should be funneled into general education via a burdensome tax system…but again, no. Chicago schools (which are arguably some of the worst in the nation) are spending about $16,000 to $18,000 per student annually although that number goes obnoxiously underreported per the CATO Institute. For that cost, a family with three children could hire its own teacher to teach for three hours a day and still get a more extensive and thorough education than what even the most elite Illinois school districts can provide.
And the idea that all or even most of the Founders were privileged just doesn't compute. Even the young men who came from wealthy families were one of many children, and the only children who would see a benefit from family wealth were the first born and second born males. Children like a young Ben Franklin, who was child number 15 of 17 and tenth in line to inherit, would be apprenticed by age 12 so as to release the family of financial burden. Franklin, by the way, illegally broke his apprenticeship by age 17 to run away to Philadelphia where he made his own fortune. He was secretly writing political letters to the editor of his brother's publication under the pseudonym "Mrs. Silence Dogood" while he was apprenticed to his brother at around the age of 16.
Beyond that, I daresay that even colonial women who were second-class citizens in both wealth and education could run academic circles around most modern American students. Why? Let's start with basics…women were certainly not taught calculus in 1776 but they did know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. And they understood basic accounting principles since many of them would be running the household budgets. Today's children are briefly taught the foundations in math but are told by as early as the fifth grade that they may use their calculators to figure out more complex problems. Considering that so few students are proficient in math at the time of their graduation, how complex could a fifth grader's math problems be that they would fail to benefit from unassisted problem solving?
The women of 1776 could read and write in both manuscript and cursive hand. Today's children are haphazardly taught cursive in second or third grade but are told by around the fourth grade that they may print if that is more comfortable for them. Forget the fluency of thought that is developed through cursive writing for a moment…fluency of thought that could improve the concentration of ADHD children and high functioning autistic children, but I digress. Do you realize that in less than a decade we will be graduating children who won't be able to read for themselves the original founding documents because they are written in cursive? Wow.
Why. Why are children allowed to cut corners when they should be mastering basic skills that will carry them through their whole lives? Because there isn't sufficient time in the six to eight hour school day so that they might be given a little latitude for learning to think for themselves? Better still, why must children be forced into artificial learning trajectories based on something as specious as biological age when many of these boys and girls are far more and sometimes far less capable than what we are demanding of them and when many would benefit from accelerated or decelerated timelines and challenges?
Well, that's simple really. Because this is not about educating our children. This is and always has been about propagandizing them. This is not about efficiency or excellence. This is about keeping them indolent, incapable and utterly dependent…and detesting the learning process in which they are trapped in perpetuity when learning should be an adventure not a form of torture. Torture…and yet it's not unusual for modern American students to seek the shelter and security of university settings well into their thirties and the safety of their parents' health insurance and living quarters into their late twenties. Talk about your Stockholm Syndrome. A generation of perpetual students capable only of sitting in a classroom regurgitating academic pabulum and burning through the financial resources of their parents and their country rather than burning for the freedom to achieve within their chosen professions.
Our nation's first president received the equivalent of an elementary education by tutors and an Anglican minister. He was then self-educated by reading as many books as he could find and was employed as a surveyor for Culpeper County by the age of 17.
Within today's educational parameters, George Washington would have been tied up in college until his early thirties. He would have spent any wealth that was his in gaining a worthless degree in sociology… spending little to no time in pursuit of philosophy, religion, math, science or history. He would have perhaps become a professor or a community organizer. His disdain and fear of war would have kept him from gaining his military experience which served as the foundation for his presidential accomplishments. If he was lucky enough to become president based on such a weak resume, he would have held the position until he died or was run out of town. He would have done so because his fragile and unchallenged ego would have assured him that he was the only person capable of doing the job properly.
Our Founders absolutely would have been distressed by America's rejection of their well-loved guarantees of freedom and would never have understood our complete aversion to risk. They would have been horrified over our unwillingness to educate the next generation of Americans regarding philosophy, civics and natural law…
A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country? ~ George Washington