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  An American Manifesto
Tuesday September 30, 2014 
by Christopher Chantrill Follow chrischantrill on Twitter

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The Road to the Middle Class: A Manifesto The Way of Faith

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The Way of Education

by Christopher Chantrill
January 01, 2005 at 5:18 am

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EDUCATION is an essential traveler’s aid on the journey from country to city.  An old woman living in the Gobi desert nailed it when she told the National Geographic:

I only know eating, drinking, and tending animals.  This is what my parents did.  Their parents.  The young people today, once they leave the [Gobi], they never return.  I don’t blame them.  The life of herding is coming to an end.  Work in cities is the future.

The reason the young people of the Gobi don’t return is that they all go to boarding school from first to ninth grade, only returning home in the summer.  Nine years of boarding school education prepares them for life in the city.  So they join the great trek.

Education is also important to the earnest churchgoer in an American sriver suburb.  Said Mary Johnston of Rock Hill, South Carolina, to a Washington Post reporter in 2000: “I want my children to go to the best schools, first grade through college.”

Modern opinion about education assumes a Year Zero some time in the mid-nineteenth century, when the activists for modern universal education began their agitation for free government schools.  The time before Year Zero is treated as prehistoric, an embarrassment of Ragged Schools, one-room schoolhouses, Dotheboys Hall and Wackford Squeers, and opportunity denied to the poor.  In fact, of course, education has had a long and checkered history over thousands of years. Athens, for instance, had a free market in education, and Sparta had a government monopoly.

In the United States, mass education has been accepted from the earliest days of the colonies and literacy has always been high.  In 1787, free male adult literacy was estimated at about 65 percent, and in the census of 1850 literacy was reported as 90 percent.  In colonial times, education was supported with a mixture of private and public funding.  In smaller towns, “district schools” financed by public and private funds were common.  Some poorer children got to attend for free, but most parents paid fees for their children to attend.

In England literacy was not as widespread as in the United States, for the rulers preferred that the lower orders remained illiterate.  However, according to E.G. West, literacy increased steadily from the beginning of the nineteenth century as the lower orders sought out education for their children in defiance of their rulers.    In 1813 James Mill (father of John Stuart Mill) wrote of “the rapid progress which the love of education is making among the lower orders in England.”  He noted that

There is hardly a village that has not something of a school; and not many children of either sex who are not taught more or less, reading and writing.  We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.

Henry Brougham conducted surveys of schools in 1820 and 1828, and found that the numbers in schools had doubled in one decade.  Literacy in England increased steadily until government education was legislated in 1870.

Schools exist to teach children things that their parents can’t teach them.   For the peasant, school gives his children a chance to make it in the city.  For the illiterate costermonger in Victorian London, it gives his sons the chance to move off the street and sell something that needs a bit of book-learning and bookkeeping.  For the earnest churchgoer in an American striver suburb it gives her children the chance to join the professional classes in the big city for whom life is not a grim struggle but a creative adventure, not meat-and-potatoes but nouvelle cuisine. Education, then, is all about embourgeoisment, the making of a citizen, one who lives and works in the city.

It seems that everyone in the modern era, from the “lower orders” of industrial Britain to the illiterate grandmother in the Gobi desert, understands the value of education for their children.  It is curious that we should have developed a system of educational compulsion that treats every parent as a feckless ignoramus that must be dragooned into sending their children to school and compelled through taxation to pay for it. It isn’t as though there is a free-rider problem in education.  Parents everywhere want their children to thrive and will sacrifice for them.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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 TAGS


Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


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©2012 Christopher Chantrill