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by Christopher Chantrill
January 28, 2007 at 12:00 am
OUR PUBLIC schools, liberals teach us, are a foundation of democracy. Without a socialization in which every child partakes of the democratic culture of the public schools we would divide into warring classes and subcultures.
That is the liberal line. But some have dared to question it. In Market Education: The Unknown History, Andrew Coulson suggested an alternate narrative.
Back in the old days, say about the time that Tocqueville was marveling at Americans and their voluntary associations, Americans educated their children in what we would now call diverse ways. There were public schools. There were charity schools. There were city academies. Schooling was a complete mish-mash, but Americans were about 90 percent literate, and parents could educate their children at the school of their choice.
Then along came Horace Mann with a better idea. He persuaded the people of Massachusetts to centralize and rationalize their schools into a state-run system.. His idea would help unify the people and it would cut crime, he predicted.
In fact, according to Coulson, it set the people at each others throats. When there is only one system of education then people must enter the political arena to fight for their beliefs. And too often politics is winner-take-all.
The first notable result of government education was the Philadelphia Bible Riots of 1844. Catholics wanted the Catholic Bible to be allowed into the public schools of the City of Brotherly Love alongside the Protestant Bible. The Protestant majority said: No.
Things cant be that bad today, surely? In Why We Fight: How Public Schools Cause Social Conflict released last week, Neal McCluskey of Cato Institute looked at the recently concluded 2005-06 academic year. He found 150 notable conflicts over public school policy.
Whether over the teaching of evolution, the content of library books, religious expression in the schools, or several other common points of contention, conflict was constant in American public education last year.
Hot issues included Intelligent Design, Freedom of Expression, Book Banning, Multiculturalism, Integration vs. Segregation, Sex Eduction, and Homosexuality. The incident count is probably on the low side because McCluskey only included incidents that hit the media.
In 2004 [American Library Association] executive director Beverly Becker said her groups received reports of 547 book challenges and estimated that perhaps three times that many went unreported.
But how can we keep the nation together without the public schools to provide a foundation for democracy? McCluskey asserts that we have got the cart before the horse. Humans find unity because we want to work together, not because some authority has forced us to get along.
In the absence of authority what is it that makes us want to get along?
The answer is commerce. While suspicion, animosity, and prejudice have been inescapable components of American society... Americans have been very adept at overcoming their worse natures by letting their desires for mutual gain overcome those natures.
Most recently, it is illegal Mexican immigrants and American employers that have been indulging their desires for mutual gain.
So what went wrong? Why have our liberal friends, high-minded to a fault from Horace Mann to John Dewey, from James Conant to Derek Bok, built a system of such eternal conflict?
The answer according to Matthew dAncona has been developed by philosopher John Gray in The Two Faces of Liberalism. Gray argues that there is a
fundamental tension in the modern world between the centre-Left belief that liberalism leads to consensus on the best way of life and the classical liberalism that seeks only peaceful co-existence between radically different value-systems.
Of course when our liberal friends say consensus they refer to the outcome of a trial by political combat in which the liberal winner takes all.
The classical liberal and modern conservative concept of peaceful co-existence is different. It grows out of Burkes little platoons and Hayeks assertion that millions of ordinary people engaged in voluntary cooperation will always outperform in aggregate the expert and the activist, the man from Whitehall or Washington.
This difference between the Two Faces of Liberalism is nowhere more keen than in the current debate over gay adoption in Massachusetts and Britain. The issue is not whether gays may be allowed to adopt. That is already legislated into law. The issue is whether Catholic adoption services should be allowed to opt out of the center-Left consensus that gay adoption is a right.
Let us frame the issue another way. On gay adoption will the orthodox center-Lefties allow Catholics to practice a heresy? Or will they instruct the Holy Office of the Consensus to show the heretics the instruments of torture?
In both the United States and in Britain the center-Left speaks with one voice, whether the issue is education, abortion, gay adoption, or Social Security. Its our way or the highway.
Its a way that leads to conflict.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, 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
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
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
For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008
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
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, Letter to Lord Lytton
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel