As you enter the halls of ‘higher education,’ please: “Beware of the professors, and cleave to the lovers of wisdom!”[i] For importance and wisdom do not attach themselves to the most impressive parchment collection. Consider instead, “…who is better learned, not who is more learned.”[ii] “It seems to me that with this complication and interlacing of language with which they [professors] beset [your souls] it turns out as with sleight-of-hand performers: their dexterity attacks and overpowers our senses, but it does not shake our belief at all. Aside from this legerdemain, [and you ought to know this] they do nothing that is not commonplace and mean. For being more learned they are none the less inept.” And here, sadly, is an disastrous truth: “We have now entered a phase in history when the monopoly over learning and the publication of intelligence have fallen to professional intellectuals―an anomaly, especially in the history of the English-speaking peoples, going against the grain of the nonintellectual genius of their character, and against their traditions of nonspecialization and of common sense (the noun “intellectual,” designating a specific kind of brain-person, became widespread in English only around 1890; like “intelligentsia,” it was a term imported from socialist and Russian usage). This emergence of a meritocracy whereby distinctions of formal education replace older distinctions of wealth and birth is, contrary to the once optimistic pipe-dreams of nineteenth-century liberals and socialists, a poisonous development. It is at any rate, typical of our interregnum.”[iii] Further, and more to the point, “Compulsory public education, in North America and Western and Central Europe, by 1914 reached the average age of eleven, and after four or five years of schooling its recipients had acquired a minimum facility of expression, something that cannot be taken for granted today.”[iv] That this is the case in the American Academy, and has been for some time, perhaps since the early 1980s especially seems proven by the enormous expenditures of funds for ‘education’ with dubious result. “In American education… the fatal decline of its institutions and purposes in the twentieth century [has been] the result of a corroding kind of cynicism within a vast educational bureaucracy, increasingly dependent on their assumption that of American youth not much should be, because not much could be, demanded. As with the presidency, the material costs and the administrations of the schools [have grown] monstrously expensive; yet the duties and the learning and the very imagination of the youth [has] declined. There was more than a parallel; there was a connection between these devolutions. With the pictorialization of instruction and imagination, to which television contributed, the American cult of youth extended the period of confused adolescence rather than that of youthfulness. An increasing number of public figures gave the impression of immature men. A kind of puerilism marked many American attitudes―an unnaturally extended puerilism that tended to transmute itself into senility alarmingly and swiftly. As John Huizinga wrote, “Puerilism we shall call the attitude of a community whose behavior is more immature than the state of its intellectual and critical faculties would warrant, which instead of making the boy into the man adapts the conduct to that of the adolescent age. The term has nothing to do with that of infantilism in psychoanalysis.” In 1851 Tocqueville wrote about the first democratically elected national assembly in France in 1848, “I am sure that nine hundred English or American peasants chosen at random would have much more the look of a great political body.” A century later this was no longer true.”[v] In short, big thinkers and fast talkers will only lead you astray. Seek instead the wisdom of the ages, and though you may think it corny, infantile, and unsophisticated, the Loeb Classical Library, the Talmud, Bible, and Holy Qur’an are not bad places to start, and start you ought… (See Up From Multiculturalism)
[i] Xenophon, Scripta Minora, Pseudo-Xenophon, Constitution of the Athenians, The Loeb Classical Library (LCL183), Edited by Jeffrey Henderson, Page xxxix, year 2000.
[ii] The Complete ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE, Translated by Donald M. Frame, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California; Copyright 1943 by Donald M. Frame, renewed 1971. Copyright © 1948, 1957, and 1958 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, Page 100.
[iii] Remembered Past; On History, Historians, and Historical Knowledge, by John Lukacs, Chapter I, Page 81, edited by Mark G. Malvasi and Jeffrey O. Nelson, ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware, © 2005 ISI Books.
[iv] Remembered Past; On History, Historians, and Historical Knowledge, by John Lukacs, Chapter I, Page 83, edited by Mark G. Malvasi and Jeffrey O. Nelson, ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware, © 2005 ISI Books.
[v] Remembered Past; On History, Historians, and Historical Knowledge, by John Lukacs, Chapter V, Page 612, edited by Mark G. Malvasi and Jeffrey O. Nelson, ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware, © 2005 ISI Books.