Is one of my favorite group blogs. I stop by there daily. There are a handful of posters that are regularly putting up new posts daily. Bird Dog puts up a round of links of interest to him; The Barrister, like me, seems to be interested in higher education right now; Dr. Bliss posts on psychiatry; Dr. Mercury on computers and nonsense; and, Bruce Kesler on Israel and world affairs. There are others, and my leaving them off the list does not slight them in the least, they just don’t post as often.
Bird Dog put up a re-post yesterday on high school / college curriculum. In particular what he thinks his children should be taking in college if they have not already been exposed to these courses in high school. It is heavy on classical liberal arts education. It is somewhat short on practical vocational course work. There is a pretty lively comment section to the post, with the commenters mostly agreeing but pointing to where they might change the emphasis some.
The commenters at Maggie’s are good people. They are not rude to each other and offer up a lot of good information and opinion. It is part of the reason Maggie’s Farm is one of my favorite blogs.
Anyway, to make a short story long, I’m having one of my moments where I don’t communicate well with other people. I was reading Bird Dog’s post and got hung up here: “for a lifetime of self-education and informed citizenship.” In particular I got hung up on the “informed citizenship” phrase.
Instead of saying I won’t make my kids learn Greek, Latin, or any other language unless it’s something like C++, I couldn’t get past this informed citizenship idea.
That’s because somewhere along the way between the ratification of the constitution and today, we as a people gave up our rights as citizens. There are several inflection points. Pick your favorite. There is the presidency of Lincoln. If you think the civil war was over slavery you a sadly misinformed. The civil was started over the South saying they had had enough of the union and voted themselves out. Less than one hundred years after the ratification of the constitution by a vote, there is no doubt the people believed they could exit the Union. Lincoln said no they could not leave the Union and the carnage of the civil war resulted (Note: there is no defense of slavery in this argument. Also, if you think this notion is crazy, go read the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln freed the slaves everywhere he had no power and nowhere where he did have power.). Next up is Wilson, who presided over the institution of the income tax and the Federal Reserve system. Wilson is followed by the further curtailment of individual liberty by Hoover and Roosevelt through their ineffectual responses to the Great Depression. We could also point to Johnson and his war on poverty and his Great Society. Nixon enters my list with his price controls and EPA. Reagan gets special mention as he is probably most responsible for cutting loose government from any concern over deficit spending. I’ll blame Clinton for the bulk of expansion of Freddie, Fannie and Sallie (the total cost of these three programs is one of the great unknowns we “citizens” will have to deal with). Bush for his crappy wars of no end. And now we have Obama starting another crappy war. Add on to the wars the deficit spending of these last two socialists (there is no other way to describe someone who gives away prescription medicine and another who wants to give away all medicine).
Where in this long line of crappy statist politicians is one that was concerned for the welfare of the citizens?
That’s because we are no longer citizens, we are subjects.
I ask why my two kids should study to be an informed citizen when all around me the smart money guys are teaching their kids how to best game the system. I should send them to Russia for what is likely the best place for lessons on how to become an apparatchik. Why should my kids be informed citizens when the path to a upper middle class lifestyle goes through the forest of government subsidies (just ask a Wisconsin school teacher, they know how to milk the system to their advantage and certainly have no understanding of informed citizenship). My kids don’t need to understand the philosophical underpinnings of republican democracy, they need to know how to align themselves with government protected industries and projects. That’s what subjects do, they try to figure out where the most government largesse will fall out of the sky. Corn fields in Iowa? Wind farms in California? High Tech in Texas? Water for farms in Arizona?
Yes the path of least resistance for a life of conventional success lies in finding where they Eye of Sauron will look with favor. That is what the good subjects of this nation will do.
I will actually walk myself back from the ledge now. My kids, I hope, and work to achieve, will be free thinking, individuals beholden to no man. They will deal with the world as they find it, and they will find their own way, as I won’t be forcing my will upon them much longer.
So as a comment to Bird Dog’s list of courses, I have this to say: While they are young, I want to tilt their education in a more practical direction. Our conversations around the dinner table, with just the immediate family, range widely and cover lots of topics where we encourage additional reading. Conversations with our extended family and our circle of friends reinforces this and demonstrates to the kids the need for being educated in our culture, broadly defined.
But yes, I really do think we are no longer citizens. We are but mere subjects. The government no longer trusts us to find our own way, to negotiate solutions to the problems facing us and our neighbors. No, the government has to impose a uniform solution on each subject. I give you as an example trash. I am proscribed by law from setting my trash out on the curb too early. If I set it out too early, I’ll be subject to a fine. Really.