Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"A republic. If you can keep it." - Education

Mark E Andersen on DailyKos pointed to recent comments by a wrong-wing economist, Richard Vedder:
Vedder says he wouldn’t mind seeing public higher education disappear completely [...] “I do think we need to re-examine why the government is involved in the higher education business. They’re not involved in the automobile business. They’re not involved in the furniture business.
On the face of it, this is typical anti-statism coming from an Adjunct Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, one of the more important and prominent fifth-column institutions established and funded by the new oligarchs of America. But I think it is crucial that Americans begin to recognize just how dangerous, and even seditious, such thinking as Vedder's is. But to do that, Americans have to reclaim the acute republican (small "r"), anti-aristocratic sensibilities that created the United States. We must become familiar again with our republic's history, especially the concept of the general welfare, because these are the ideas that guided the establishment of the Union.

In response to Vedder, I present an excerpt from John Adams, who succeeded George Washington as President of our young republic. Adams was most proud of the work he did in creating the 1780 Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Here is what Adams wrote into that Constitution, at Chapter 5, Section 2:

Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments, among the people.
Conservatives have spent decades spreading the ideas of Austro-Hungarian imperial economist Friedrich von Hayek that the general welfare is a slippery slope that leads to state authoritarianism. That effort by conservatives, I hold, is responsible for destroying the public's defense mechanisms against the rise of new oligarchies, such as we are confronted with today.
Note how Vedder's idea shows no concern for the general welfare at all - in Vedder's malformed mind, the role of government in education is comparable to a manufacturing industry.

Conservatives like Vedder would have us believe that they are defenders of the vision that created America. They most emphatically are not. They are, in fact, destroying everything good America is supposed to be. It is particularly ironic that conservatives posture as Christians, because ideas such as Vedder's are antithetical to Christian teaching as it was understood at the beginning of our experiment in self-government. Just compare Vedder's ideas with this a sermon delivered in 1786, by Nathanael Emmons, The Dignity of Man. The full subtitle I think points to how this whole concept characterized the epoch: "A Discourse Addressed to the Congregation in Franklin, Upon the Occasion of Their receiving from Dr. Franklin, the Mark of his Respect, in a Rich Donation of Books, Appropriated to the Use of a Parish-Library."
...what has been said concerning the nature and dignity of man, shows us, that we are under indispensable obligations to cultivate and improve our minds in all the branches of human knowledge. All our natural powers are so many talents, which, in their own nature, lay us under moral obligation to improve them to the best advantage. Being men, we are obliged to act like men, and not like the horse or the mule which have no understanding. Besides, knowledge, next to religion, is the brightest ornament of human nature. Knowledge strengthens, enlarges, and softens the human soul, and sets its beauty and dignity in the fairest light. Learning hath made astonishing distinctions among the different nations of the earth. Those nations, who have lived under the warm and enlightening beams of science, have appeared like a superior order of beings, in comparison with those, who have dragged out their lives under the cold and dark shades of ignorance.... the cultivation and improvement of the mind is more necessary for use, than for ornament. We were made for usefulness and not for amusement. We were made to be the servants of God, and of each other. We were made to live an active, diligent, and useful life. As men therefore we cannot reach the end of our being, without cultivating all our mental powers, in order to furnish ourselves for the most extensive service in our day and generation. Knowledge and learning are useful in every station; and in the higher and more important departments of life, they are absolutely and indispensably necessary.
This is what conservatives do: in their love for the economics of the British East India company, they take the most noble aspects of humanity, and grind them down on the buzz saw of the profit motive.

No comments:

Post a Comment