This should be the last installment in this craziness. One can only hope.
So, for the third and final time, we are fisking this person who is talking about “The Myth of the Classically Educated Elite.”
What’s truly hard to believe is how many words I’ve spent on this. But it’s worth it for the comedic value. I enjoy finding new and appropriate memes.
Which brings us back to the notion of a Classical education and its purported role as the foundation of a civilized and humane populace. The ideal that haunts America
You’re the only one bemoaning the idea that politicians should be educated. If this “ideal” is so “haunting,” why are you the only one talking about it?
is the notion of an educated elite: a political class that is also well versed in Classical literature and history.
A political class? Are you kidding? The whole point of America is that there is no elite: this is supposed to be the basic building blocks of our entire society, the idea that we are all equal in opportunity, not outcome. Nowhere ever did anyone actually wish for a “ruling class” in America. Now, do we have one? This isn’t a political blog, so I won’t address that debate here. But you talking about this imaginary “educated elite” as our political overseers is just a joke. There’s no such thing.
People elected to Congress in this country do not have to pass an exam to do it. They can be from any financial or economic or educational background (we may tend to have more lawyers as politicians, but that’s not something written into law).
But it’s clear, at least to me, that whether such an elite ever existed in the United States is debatable.
The “elite class” never existed, but that “elite education” certainly did, as is proven by those old exams given to eight-graders in 1895, that nobody in college could pass these days. Please see part one of this excessively long fisk for the link to it.
If it did, it was only at two moments: in late 18th-century Virginia and early 20th-century New England.
So, you’re going to just decide to hate on the founders of this country in the 1700s, and the rich white folks in New England at the turn of the last century. Good to know you’re not a biased author.
The Virginian planters — the children and grandchildren of adventurers — used their wealth and leisure to study.
Which is a good thing.
In many cases, they were the first generation of their family to be formally educated. And the early 20th-century WASP elite, finally freed from the religious shackles their ancestors had worn,
Those “religious shackles” are the ones that educated those people!
Why is the current public school system set up the way it is? Why do you go to a local school (we call them districts now) close to your home for a free education? Because that’s how — you guessed it — the big, bad, evil, Catholic Church set up the parochial school model. Those nuns educated near-countless numbers of children for centuries in every country on the planet. There are whole religious orders dedicated to nothing but the education of children (the Dominicans and the Benedictines, to name a couple famous ones).
The public school in my town only turned public because the federal government demanded that there be a public school in every city in the country. So, the locals changed the parochial school which had been there from the dawn of time into a public school. All those nuns that had been teaching there just said, “okay, fine,” got a state license to teach, and went right on teaching in the now-public school. There were still nuns teaching there in the 1980s.
There are no “religious shackles.” If you want to be “intellectually honest,” as you claim to be so many times in this disgraceful article, you will give credit where it’s due, and thank the Catholics (and later, all the other denominations who founded schools all over) for their contributions to this education system.
tried belatedly to catch up to the continental attainments that their great-grandparents had fled from.
They fled from political problems, famine, and persecutions, not a good education, you moron.
Yet the extent to which even these classes were, as a whole, particularly well educated or well versed in culture is debatable.
Only by someone like you trying to pretend that the modern world is the only one that is remotely educated or intelligent. Modernity does not equal intelligence.
What is not debatable is that the founding fathers were highly educated and well versed in Classical culture, as was the run of patrician presidents early in the 20th century: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt.
Oh, look. You said something accurate. Somebody stop the presses.
During the in-between periods, however, America was not particularly noted for the high learning, or even for the decorum, of its politicians.
That’s supposed to be a good thing. Unlike England, we didn’t and don’t have an aristocracy. Some poor farmer can get elected to represent his community in the federal government. And, regarding decorum, even those poor farmers had better manners than most modern millenials. Things like “please,” “thank you,” “yes, sir,” “no, sir,” “yes, ma’am,” and “no, ma’am” were just a part of life until very recently.
As Tocqueville noted in Democracy in America, the first generation of politicians in America were the very best our country had to offer. Subsequent generations tended to be much more mediocre in their intellects and attainments.
First of all, check your source. Tocqueville was a FRENCH ARISTOCRAT judging the American political system, and was a self-admitted leftist (according to the standards of his time, not this one; probably today he would be considered a left-leaning moderate). His work is criticized for lamenting the state of the arts in America, because shortly after he published it, we got famous artists in America, such as Edgar Allan Poe, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Walt Whitman.
Tocqueville’s theory was that the hurly-burly and sheer crassness of electoral politics discouraged cultivated people from participating.
So . . . it was founded by cultivated people, but discouraged cultivated people from participating?
Either only the educated elite have taken over politics, or they are discouraged from participating.
Moreover, when intellectuals, particularly academics, bewail the cheapening of elite education, there’s an almost comical element to their complaint.
So, when I complain about kids who go to public schools being unable to read, that’s funny to you?
For most of their histories, neither the Ivy Leagues nor the Oxbridge colleges were particularly known for the difficulty of their education. It’s impossible to overstate how easy it was to get into Harvard in the 19th century. If you were of the right background and had gone to the right secondary school, you would get in. The Greek and Latin requirements were merely class markers. No intimate understanding of the texts or dedication to scholarship was needed to enter.
Nothing? Okay, we’ll just assume you’re making that up. Harvard is synonymous with a difficult-to-get, high-quality education for a REASON. But, even if you’re not full of it, you’re still wrong.
“Easy” is relative. If you’re talking about “easy” in the 19th century, that’s different from “easy” now. You’ve been complaining about how nobody knew anything in the olden days, and this “Classical” education thing is a myth, but now, getting a Harvard education is supposedly easy, because you didn’t really have to know anything to get in back in the 19th century?
As Richard Karabel documented in his monumental work The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (2005),
Oh, look, a source. Must investigate it, hold please.
Did it. It doesn’t sound like a bad book, just identifying how the Ivy League schools tried to keep their little ivory towers uncontaminated by their definition of outsiders (including Jews, blacks, women, Asians, and poor folks in general, depending on which decade you’re talking about). It’s basically just a study, not a commentary. But I will admit, it might lend some credence to your assertion that there is as “intellectual elite” in America (but that’s not what you’re quoting here, of course).
the general raising of academic standards at elite universities is almost entirely due to the entrance of Jewish students at the beginning of the 20th century.
Did you even read this book? That’s the exact opposite of what this reviewer says the guy said. He was talking about how Harvard added “character” to their admissions policies, and therefore could make it mean whatever they wanted, and use it to exclude whoever they didn’t like. Guess who was at the top of that list? THE JEWS. So you Epic Fail this particular criticism.
Because Jewish kids took all this stuff seriously: they actually studied Latin and Greek; they actually studied and absorbed the Classics.
Good for them. I wonder how they did it. Oh, right. THEY DID NOT GO TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS. They had religious schools just like the Catholics did. Yeah, those guys. The other part of American society that those WASPs didn’t like: the Papists. They knew Latin and Greek, too, for a while. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts they didn’t get admitted to Harvard, either. Which is why there are Catholic universities like Notre Dame, Loyola, Georgetown, and Mount St. Mary’s.
But Harvard didn’t change their admission rules in order to accept more Jewish students. They did the opposite, according to the book YOU JUST CITED. So, what are you talking about? Nothing, apparently, other than proving how bigoted you are.
In this devotion, they were continuing a process that’s occurred repeatedly throughout history:
“Devotion”? We’re not talking about the prayer life of Jewish kids. We’re talking about education. You’re just playing Mad Libs with this thing, aren’t you?
the children of the bourgeois exploiting brief periods when a Classical education might gain them an advantage in a changing world.
I can’t even tell who you’re talking about anymore. Are you slamming the Jews, now, or the middle-class? Or both?
That Classical education DID give those folks an advantage in a changing world. Education always does. So, why is this a bad thing?
They’re similar to the Florentine notaries who studied the secular Classics to improve their Latin and rise in the civil service. Or to the educated laymen of the 14th and 15th centuries in England, scions of gentle families impoverished by the Black Death or merchant families enriched by it, who turned their knowledge of Latin into influential positions at a court that had traditionally been the preserve of the priesthood.
That’s not a bad thing. If I want to work in insurance, I need a license, so I need to read and study in order to get one. I try to educate myself in order to get the job I want or need. Why are you so hung up over that?
The more important part here is how bass-ackwards your history is. Merchant families enriched by the Black Death? Are you kidding? The Black Death killed a third of the population of Europe, and you’re worried about merchants making money at that time? Guess what, even when people are dying, the live ones have to make money to feed themselves.
And no, the entire court of any monarch in Europe was NOT made up entirely of churchmen. It was made of up NOBLES, you ignorant hack.
Or to Cicero, a fiery orator and novus homo (his family had never held a consulship) who put his talents in the service of an aristocratic party that needed a “man of the people” who could bear its standard and oppose the rising tide of populism.
Did you ever think that he worked for them because he AGREED with them? Because he believed in their cause? No, according to you, he was just conning them with his elitist education, right?
In some ways, these Jewish students killed Classical education, because Harvard and Princeton and Yale realized that, if they were only to admit students on the basis of their knowledge of Greek and Latin, their entering class would be entirely Jewish.
Yes, the gatekeepers at Harvard and Yale and Princeton were worried about that. But they didn’t DUMB DOWN THE EDUCATION to keep the Jews out. That doesn’t make sense. If you want to keep out the smarter or better educated kids, you make the admission requirement less about how educated or smart they are or how hard they work, and more about some other qualification that you can control (like the guy said: “character,” where the meaning changed into whatever they wanted).
They didn’t say “hey, we’ve got too many Jewish kids applying because they’re so smart. Let’s make the standards for admission LOWER so it’s easier for them to get in.”
They included “character” and denied admission based on that instead of their knowledge of Latin and Greek. That’s bigotry. That’s them hoarding their Classical education for themselves, not for everybody who can and wants to work for it. Once again, the fault is with human beings, not with the education itself.
The simple truth is that, by and large, Americans elites have not been particularly cultured. Neither, despite the hype, were the English gentry.
Define “cultured,” and then maybe I’ll talk to you.
In this, we see a common phenomenon: after 1700, when the supply of literate people expanded, the political class stopped producing nearly so many writers, and writers now tended to come either from the gentry, who were so minor that they were nowhere near the halls of power, or from the upper echelons of tradespeople. For the former, see Henry Fielding or Samuel Johnson; for the latter, see Daniel Defoe or Samuel Richardson.
I’m having flashbacks. You’re putting up a distinction where none actually exists. Writers don’t come from JUST the halls of power, but I’ve already said all this, and I’m getting beyond sick of you.
A class can be literate even if it doesn’t produce notable writers, but the English and American elites also became renowned for their disdain for learning.
Yeah, judge all of them by the mistakes of a few, and then use that to condemn the entire “Classical education.”
Although a stint at Cambridge and Oxford continued to be seen as de rigueur for the English gentry, just as acceptance at Harvard, Yale, or Princeton was for their American counterparts, neither set was famed for their commitment to learning. Even among the well-off, fashionable set, it would be quite rare to find someone who remembered their schoolboy Latin or who could discourse with any sense of authority on the work of the ancients.
Can you? I haven’t seen you actually do that in this book-long article. You just criticize everybody else who has or could. Education isn’t a one-time thing. You have to get it, and then you have to maintain it. If you don’t do any Latin after you graduate, you start to forget it. That’s just human nature.
Edith Wharton claimed that, although her childhood home was full of books, nobody ever read them — that in fact, to her knowledge, nobody in her extended family had ever read her own books. In In Search of Lost Time, Proust describes a high society that grudgingly allows entrance to literary figures, so long as they are witty and entertaining, but pays no attention to their works. Indeed, Marcel is shocked by how distant many writers are from the heights of the fashionable society they write about, and by how quickly a writer is dropped by high society if he starts to talk of intellectual matters.
Okay, once again, this is a problem with the people, not with the education. And, given how long in history this “Classical education” model was used, I find it hard to believe that it was really that much of a failure. Otherwise, people would have abandoned it back during the Roman empire. You know, when they first thought it up and realized it didn’t work?
Educated elites do exist and have existed — we can see this throughout history. Authors in Athens were intimately connected with public life: Thucydides, the world’s first historian, only wrote his work because he was exiled from Athens after losing a battle. In Imperial China, a familiarity with the Four Classics was required for preferment within the civil service. And in the classic Story of the Stone (1760), the tale of a prototypical Manchu noble family, we see that the young members of the family were intimately familiar with ancient poetry and frequently challenged each other to poetry competitions (although there is evidence that this is not considered an entirely serious occupation, especially when compared with the study of the Confucian Classics the hero of the novel is always neglecting).
Oh, look at that. Some examples of where and when this model actually functioned.
But the truth is that, as much as cultural evangelizers would like to claim that they are tapping into a long history of America’s educated, cultured elite, that history is largely illusory:
So, there’s no point in trying to attain the ideal, because the ideal was a lie? Sure, it was.
it’s a product of our illustrious founding generation — a generation that stands out precisely because its educational attainments were so singular.
Which makes them PERFECT ROLE MODELS!
This whole screed is basically the pathetic argument of: “that never existed at all, so there’s no point in trying to get it.” You might as well tell a Catholic (or any other kind of Christian): “oh, don’t worry. That’s not really a sin, so there’s no point in worrying about doing it.” It’s the same kind of pathetic garbage, just in a different topic.
It’s like G.K. Chesterton said: “The Christian ideal hasn’t been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” Same with this kind of education. It hasn’t been tried and found wanting; it hasn’t been tried at all, and has been abandoned for a pathetic substitute.
Historically, education was more a byproduct of social position than a cause of it.
No, you have that bass-ackwards, at least in America. We don’t care where you were born or how rich your parents are, and we still don’t have an aristocracy. But, if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer or whatever, you work your ass off and you do it. Your education can help you earn that social position you want.
Oh, there’s the problem. You still have to EARN it, which is antithetical to you liberal elitists.
There were times and places in which education in the Classics could improve one’s standing and be put to good use in the world, but those times were a relative rarity.
No. Just . . . no. See the whole rest of this monster of a fisk for more details.
Generally speaking, the more powerful a member of the political elite tended to be, the less cultured he would be.
Like all those founders you mentioned, right?
When the political elite was relatively small, thinkers and politicians would exist within the same family, or even the same individual. But as the elite expanded, the intellectual and the political halves grew so far apart that they no longer touched. The English squires who ran the country were not the ones writing and reading the books. Similarly, in today’s world, both our nation’s greatest future scholars and our future Jared Kushners will attend Harvard, but the latter make a point of learning nothing while they’re there.
Like you, you mean?
You’ve completely misstated the problem. The Classical education isn’t the problem: it’s the fact that most high school graduates can’t even read (see above). It sounds to me like the country (and probably the world) could use a lot more of that Classical education. It might at least teach people something useful, like basic grammar and arithmetic.
What goes unstated in discussions about cultural literacy is that a person’s education is only a matter of public concern if that person will exercise some public function. To the extent that we are good citizens, and that we have a role as citizens, our education matters. If we will grow up and exercise some form of power, then our education matters correspondingly more.
So, you’ve basically reduced all education to a standard of someone’s “value to society”?
I can’t believe I’m reading this.
The part about it not being the public’s concern about an individual’s education is basically correct. Contrary to the “it takes a village” garbage, the people primarily responsible for the education of children are the parents. Period. But the rest? Yeah, as adults, being a good citizen has some link to education, but not all. Other than the basics– reading, writing, and arithmetic — you can still be a good American citizen if you’ve never heard of the Classics and can’t speak anything but colloquial English.
Education doesn’t automatically make you a good American citizen. If that were true, all the lawyers in Congress wouldn’t be such crazy nutcases.
When critics of Classic literature emphasize its relationship to power, they are getting at the heart of the issue.
And here you go again. Classic literature is mostly free. You can find almost anything out of copyright on the internet, especially at the Gutenberg site. Anybody with basic reading skills can educate themselves and read them. They aren’t hoarded in some secret library somewhere with an elitist liberal WASP guarding the door with a burning sword.
For somebody who claims to have self-educated, you’re sure quick to make it impossible for anyone else to do it. You read those Classics on your own. But somehow, they’re guarded by the elite?
Literature tended to be composed, in ancient times, by those who were within spitting distance of power but not currently wielding it themselves. Literature was a tool for influencing society and their own position in the world. Generally, the tool was ineffective, but it usually bore some relationship to the problems faced by powerful people.
I’ve already slapped this BS down, and I’m not going to do it again.
Historically, in America, the true strength of the Classics and of a Classical education has not been among the elite but among the rising middle class.
THIS IS A GOOD THING.
Although this is now seen as a flaw, America has an extremely decentralized system of government (comparable only to Switzerland among the major democracies in terms of powers delegated to local and state governments).
Uh-huh. Sure. Maybe on paper, but not in execution, not anymore. But this isn’t a political blog, so I’ll refrain from addressing that.
The average middle-class American could expect to wield some influence over some organization, whether it was a civic club, church, school board, or city council. Even women partook of much of this authority, and they have often driven major political changes (the temperance movement, for example).
With a broad middle class fighting for a large, but finite, number of positions of authority, the idea of a Classical education took hold. Americans bought encyclopedias and Great Books collections by the boatload. They signed up for lecture groups and read learned periodicals.
So . . . the point of the Classical education is really to allow the middle-class to control the world? Not so that they can have valuable knowledge, or educate their kids so that they can be doctors or lawyers? Nope, to you, it’s all about politics. Thanks for taking something beautiful and reducing it to nothing.
Of course, their understanding of Classical culture was usually shallow, ill-informed, and incomplete, as Sinclair Lewis memorably satirizes in Main Street (1920).
Either this thing you’re criticizing did exist, or didn’t, not both. Either it made America what it was, and the middle-class wanted to obtain it, or it didn’t. Make up your mind. And even if you’re right, and that understanding was shallow, ill-informed, or incomplete, it was better than no knowledge at all.
But when evangelists harken back to some golden age of cultural literacy, to the extent it ever existed, this is what they are remembering: a time when a Classical education seemed both desirable and attainable by the masses.
Maybe because . . . it actually WAS? You know, because people alive now actually REMEMBER giving their kids that kind of education?
That time is over.
No dispute there. Most high school kids can’t even read. But it isn’t because the Classical education is unattainable; it’s only because it isn’t taught anymore.
To a certain extent, it’s a victim of widespread college enrollment. The middle class is largely defined now, as it wasn’t in the 19th century, by college attendance.
So, now it’s college’s fault? How about it’s the fault of the college only because they DON’T ACTUALLY TEACH ANYTHING ANYMORE?
By the time people in the middle class graduate, they are ready to put learning aside. The growth in and prestige of scientific knowledge has also taken its toll: people are more likely to read works of popular science or psychology now than they are the Classics.
Classical education and the sciences aren’t mutually contradictory. I went to a liberal arts college, and it is possible to graduate from there and go into a scientific field.
To a large extent, it’s simply not possible to give a Classical education to an unwilling student.
If they’ve been getting it their entire school career, yes, it is possible.
Although 10 years of steady reading will get you through most of the canon, it’s impossible to compress that decade into a four-year college career. I’m not sure that Allan Bloom et al. have really thought through the mechanics of how they might impart a Classical education to a college student without it taking over their entire university experience.
How about giving it to them OVER THEIR ENTIRE LIVES, YOU IDIOT?! A Classical education can’t just take up four measly college years. It’s something you have to have from the day you start school, or even before that, when your parents are teaching you to read using board books and flash cards.
Please see “The Well Trained Mind” by Susan Wise Bower.
What I hadn’t realized when I was in school was that a degree only takes maybe 12 courses.
Oh, please. My college had a mandatory 18-hour course load per semester for all freshmen, and unless you had valid transfer credits, you maintained that 18-hour load for almost your entire college career. All four years. So, I take issue with your college’s standards.
If, for each course, you read only 10 books (Stanford is on the quarter system, so each class was only 12 weeks long), then you get a degree by reading 120 books. Of these, most, if you’re an English major, will be comparatively recent modern novels. Others will be much too long to teach in a single course. That’s how you can graduate from a Russian Literature program (as my ex-boyfriend did) without reading Anna Karenina or War and Peace or from an English Department without reading Moby-Dick.
“Moby Dick” is two words, idiot.
But, if you’ve been reading those books since you were old enough to read, then there’s no problem. You can review them, and then learn about the details without having to slog through the whole book again. You’ve fundamentally misunderstood exactly what a Classical education is. It’s not just a college education; it’s the education you should be getting over your entire life.
The truth is that if one is to be truly given a Classic education, there is no room for fat in the curriculum. One of your 12 courses must be devoted to Plato and Aristotle, another to the Greek playwrights, a third to Shakespeare, and so on.
I don’t see a problem here. Except that you want someone to be “given” an education. No. If you want that education, you get the hell up and work your ass off for it. It can’t be spoon-fed to you.
In the bygone era of the WASP or Victorian British gentry, students had to start this education in secondary school, and even then, most graduated college without knowing much of anything.
So you say. I have trouble believing you.
The impossible ideal of a collegiate Classical education — an idea so beloved of so many university professors — has killed the spirit of autodidacticism that allowed many 19th- and 20th-century Americans to achieve the same result.
It’s not impossible, you idiot. It’s only impossible if people listen to you.
So, wanting to have the Classical education, holding it up as an ideal, killed the “spirit” of “self-education” that allowed people to actually get the Classical education?
But even if college didn’t stunt people’s desire to learn on their own, it’s highly unclear whether knowing the Classics confers any social or professional advantage.
Yes. Because knowledge must be desired for the sake of some end, not for its own sake. Sure.
The Classical education gives people much more than just a bunch of facts and trivia. Once again, read “The Well-Trained Mind.” It truly teaches young people how to think and how to obtain knowledge, how to learn. It trains a person how to move through life. It doesn’t just give them the ability to recite The Aeneid in the original.
What proponents of the Classical education misunderstand is that people never learned Latin and Greek merely because it would “make you a better thinker” or “give you access to the world’s knowledge.”
So I “misunderstood” it, did I? It does make you a better thinker, and it does give you access to the world’s knowledge.
They learned those languages because, at certain times and places, it offered a concrete way of getting ahead.
Oh, you mean like in law or medicine, where Latin is still used today?
Generally, those were times and places when there was strong growth in a nation’s management responsibilities and when the traditional aristocracy was unable to meet those responsibilities.
Kill me now. This is insane.
The middle class, to prove itself, would adopt the culture of the aristocrats, and do it better than they ever could.
For the final time, WE DO NOT HAVE ARISTOCRATS.
At most other times, the Classics would languish: they would either be actively disdained, as in early medieval Britain or high Republican Rome, or they would be given mere lip service, as during most of American history.
“Lip service,” huh? What do you think those Ivy League universities, all the Catholic universities, every school in this country more than a hundred years old, actually TAUGHT TO THEIR STUDENTS?!?! The CLASSICAL EDUCATION MODEL.
It’s only the active engagement of the middle class that has ever renewed knowledge of the Classics.
And how is this a bad thing?
Notice, I leave aside the question of whether knowledge of the Classics makes you a better thinker or more capable leader. I would argue that it probably does but that, in most eras, the wisdom conferred by the Classics is more likely, as Tocqueville noted, to discourage you from pursuing paths to power.
Those two things don’t have anything to do with each other, and I’m not sure if you’re just mis-quoting Tocqueville, or if he really said it. Either you’re dead wrong, or you both are.
As we can see in our own culture, nuance and wisdom are nowhere particularly desired. This is a time for anger, action, and black-and-white thinking.
And this is not a good thing. This is something to be mourned, and then corrected.
Oh, with the CLASSICAL EDUCATION MODEL!
Moreover, during this time, power is increasingly wielded only by the few, and they wield it due to their birth rather than their merits.
Considering some politicians now believe that Guam might capsize I can’t dispute that they have no merit, but the idea that they’re born to that entitlement is debatable.
It’s obvious in the biographies of our politicians, our business leaders, our actors, singers, biographers, and academics. Increasingly, only the extremely well off and well connected are achieving prominence and wielding power.
Money talks. That’s the standard here, not birth or even education.
In this environment, only the education of those few can be a matter of public interest. For the bulk of Americans, who are destined to be employees rather than bosses, and whose public role, even as citizens, has been increasingly devalued by the slipping-away of our democracy, there is little need to concern oneself with their education, nor do I think it will be possible to get them to ignore the fact that the wisdom conferred by a Classical education will be useless to them in the life of precarity and drudgery to come.
Okay, wow. Back the despair-train up.
Your solution to the uneducated idiots ruling over us . . . is to perpetuate the same education system that gave us those uneducated idiots in the first place?
Things are so hopeless that you want to just forget the whole thing, and make sure that we all resign ourselves to that “life of precarity and drudgery”?
Oh, not YOU, of course. You don’t have that life. You’re one of the elite, right?
The Classics can’t save us.
How the hell would you know?
They can’t generate wealth and opportunity from nothing.
No . . . people have to do that. They work hard, and create things. Which is easier to do with an education, you elitist hack.
If we ever emerge from our current civilizational rut, they’ll be there waiting for us.
Not if the book-burning, censoring, cancel-culture jerks get their way.
If there is anything we can learn from history, it’s that the Classics do not need defending:
SO WHY HAVE YOU SPENT SO MANY THOUSANDS OF WORDS BOTH SLAMMING AND DEFENDING THEM?!?
at the moments when they are most useful, the moments when ordinary people once more have a role to play in public life, they inevitably emerge to guide the way.
First of all, those Classics can’t just materialize out of thin air. Somebody has to have them, and also be around to explain them. It’s possible for an adult to educate himself, but it’s rare. Most of the time, most people need an expert to explain something to him, and that’s okay. That’s why there are teachers in the first place. It’s possible to get copies of most of the Classic literature you’ve mentioned for free online, but UNDERSTANDING it is a whole other problem.
You’re reducing the whole point of the Classical education to a political prop, which is like taking Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and turning it into a MIDI file for a ringtone and then saying that it has no musical merit.
There is so much more to a Classical education than just how valuable it is for those “useful” people in society. Truth, beauty, and goodness, which the Classics contain, are valuable in themselves.
I bought “The Well-Trained Mind” to use as a guide for homeschooling my children, and I have to say that it is one of the best books on the subject out there. It was written by a homeschooling mom and her now-grown homeschooled daughter, and their approach is simple, straightforward, and easily executed, even by someone who thinks “I have no idea how to teach, I’ll never be able to homeschool my kids.” That’s what the author said when she first decided to try it, and lo and behold, all of her kids are well-educated, well-adjusted, valuable members of society (if I remember correctly, two of them have PhDs, and I think one is a doctor).
That’s just one example of the Classical model being useful. What about all the priests my college has educated? The nuns, too? All the professionals in Washington DC? All the well-educated stay-at-home moms who can now use their education to educate their children, and turn THEM into well-educated members of society? Future doctors, lawyers, musicians, teachers, and even politicians?
It’s not the Classical education system that’s broken. It’s the society that threw it out the window. The second the government took control of education, it was doomed (just like everything else the government gets involved in). We’re seeing it now. The Covidiocy lockdowns were a back-handed good thing, because they showed every parent in the country exactly what their children were learning (and NOT learning) in school. So what happened?
Homeschooling rates increased substantially in a single calendar year, and it wasn’t just because of the Covidiocy. Top reasons were listed as “health concerns, disagreement with school policies, and a desire to keep what has worked for their children.” In Texas alone, “The Texas Home School Coalition reported that 15 times the usual number of families withdrew their children and will opt for homeschooling.”
The Classical model for education is coming back with a vengeance, and I’m glad of it.
You, however, wasted so much time slamming and debunking it, proving it didn’t exist, and how it shouldn’t be mourned, and then decide to switch horses mid-stream and hope that it comes back . . . as a political tool?
It’s so much more than that. Maybe you’ll live to see the results. I certainly hope I will. I want to see my well-educated children and all their well-educated friends change this country back into the place those well-educated Founders intended it to be.