THE LEANING TOWER OF BABEL

by Richard Mitchell

IV
BASIC MINIMUM CHRISTIANISM

Uncomfortable Words
The Other Ignorant Army
Tongues of Ice
Over the Rainbow Way up High
The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat

Uncomfortable Words

I say unto you, Every word that a clergyperson shall speak, he/she shall give account thereof in the Day of Judgment.

WE don't usually trouble ourselves with the jargon or gobbledygook of elected officials or captains of industry. If voters and stockholders can find no fault in the babble of mindlessness and mendacity, they have their reward. For the same reason, we have ignored the trendy claptrap of pop religiosity, stoically denying ourselves even the easy pickings to be found in what William Buckley has so perfectly named "The Rolling Stones Version of the Book of Common Prayer." But even our saintly forbearance has its limits, and Edward W. Pierce, III, a self-confessed clergyperson in Akron, has exceeded them.

In a recent issue of a newsletter called "minister," we found Edward Pierce's prescriptions for "Using the Pastoral Relations Committee as a Support Structure."* Hear what uncomfortable words he saith:

The schematized model that follows is an attempt to visualize a pastoral/ministerial relations committee that will be a support structure. This paradigm is in no way meant to be a final or complete answer to the quest for a viable support mechanism for clergy. It is a model recommended by the interface of the study, experience, resources and evaluation of three years' experience in my own ministry.

Now that's exactly the sort of thing that will happen to anyone who lets an interface, especially the interface of the experience of his experience, recommend a model, a schematized one, at that, importantly different, no doubt, from an ordinary, unschematized model, which passeth all understanding anyway. To be sure, what actually does follow looks more like a simple outline than a model, schematized or not, but we can't be sure. This is our first encounter with a model that is an attempt to visualize a committee, a committee that will be a structure. But then, religion is a mysterious business, isn't it? It even allows room for the existence of a paradigm "in no way" meant to be the answer to a quest but well worth putting forth anyway. ("In no way" is probably a more pious version of "not," as in: Thou shalt in no way covet thy neighbor's viable support mechanism, nor his ox. On another hand, however, it may be from a hitherto unsuspected translation of a once famous Pauline admonition: "Let thy Yea be Yea and thy Nay, in no way.")

We are not taken in by Pierce's calling. We know the language of the clouded mind when we see it, and we have to conclude, with dismay but not surprise, that the educationists have infiltrated the seminaries. When he describes his "viable support mechanism," Pierce is also describing, and in standard pedaguese, the typical class in an "education" course:

The type of process with which I have had the best success is the problem-solving variety. In this arrangement, there is a problem poser who defines the issue as succinctly as possible; a facilitator who acts as a clarifier and maintains the process; and problem-solvers who compose the rest of the group, seeking to elaborate and support the issue by suggesting various alternatives and solutions.

It's all there. The type is not only a variety but also an arrangement, a series of pointless distinctions, like those elements, aspects, and facets, without which the teacher-trainers might actually discover that they have nothing to say. The problem, however, is also called an issue, as though problems and issues, unlike types and varieties, required no distinction. And that makes a problem--or is it an issue?--for those hapless problem-solvers. When they ought to be busy solving the problem, they are set instead to the curiously inappropriate task of elaborating the issue (whether succinctly or not we don't know), and to the absolutely incomprehensible task of supporting the issue. And then there is that facilitator, who, not content even with that exalted rank, insists on acting as a clarifier, thus undermining himself by implying the need of a clarifier who knows how to act as a facilitator, lest facilitation be left undone.

And when Pierce gets to his outline, the one he calls a "schematized model," he provides the mind-twisting suggestion that the pastoral relations committee include "between 3 to 5 members." Try to figure that one out. Shortly thereafter, we come to item 4, "Choosing and Implementing Strategy," under which we find, of course, as item 4a: "Input and Inclusion of Spouse." There is no 4b. So much for the strategy of pastoral relations, and a little plug for sacerdotal celibacy too.

Well, we don't really care how clergypersons think and write, since we are not required by law to drop money into their collection plates. But we are fascinated by the fact that Pierce's prose, both in style and content, is an exact replica of the mindless maunderings we get from our educationists, who do make off with great bundles of legalized swag. Somehow, though, it all makes sense.

After all, the schools have for decades been gradually transforming themselves into insipid and semi-secular churches, preaching the pale pieties of social adjustment instead of teaching difficult discipline. At the same time, the churches have transformed themselves into insipid and semi-secular schools, teaching the pale pieties of social adjustment instead of preaching difficult doctrine. Both have found more profit in peer-interaction perception than in precepts, and readier rewards in guidance and relating than in stern standards. No more teacher's dirty looks, lest creativity flag, and, lest self-esteem be disenhanced, no more sinners in the hands of an angry God. The principal can say with the pastor, "My brother Esau is a hairy man, but I am a smooth man."

And smooth they are, and featureless. We never hear in their words the ring of a human voice, but merely the drone of ritual incantation in something not quite language. They are full of high sentence indeed, deferential, glad to be of use, politic, cautious, but not meticulous. They are Milton's "blind mouths." Should Socrates appear among them, proposing the examined life, or Jesus, saying "Thou fool! This very night shall thy self-esteem be required of thee," they would be glad to interface and share concerns in a type of problem-solving variety of an arrangement, elaborating and supporting the issue and suggesting various alternatives and solutions.

They, who were to have been the salt of the earth, the zest of life's best endeavors, are become a tepid mess of pottage. Wherewith, indeed, shall they be salted?

__________

* We suspect that the lower case m in "minister" is not an example of the cockroach typography we were discussing last month. Maybe it's simple humility? back

[V:3, March 1981]


The Other Ignorant Army

"When the community appeals to higher standards of academics, that always kills spiritual values. All those schools like Yale and Harvard started out as Christian schools, but then they got concerned with quality."

THOSE are the words of the Reverend Mr. Rex Heath, quoted in Time, June 8, 1981. Heath directs the life of the mind and the search for knowledge at the Mother Lode Christian School in Tuolumne City, California. He speaks as one who might stoutly profess obedience to at least two thirds of the first and great commandment: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy mind. Sixty-six and two thirds percent falls short of the perfection commanded elsewhere, of course, but maybe it's a passing grade at the Mother Lode Christian School.

Heath is a member of what calls itself the Moral Majority, a populous club of dedicated television watchers who have so industriously practiced tube-boobery that they can claim to detect important differences between the randy imbecility of "Three's Company" and the mawkish imbecility of "Little House on the Prairie." Other members of the Moral Majority (or, in memory of that president who brought into Washington the doctrine of salvation by faith, not works, the Peanut MM) are the Secretary of the Interior, who expects that the Second Coming will take our minds off the high price of fuel, and a certain Robert Billings, a functionary of the Department of Education. In his manual for promoters of new schools safe from concerns with quality, Billings, whose perceptiveness surpasseth that of the guidance counsellor who can detect a two percent drop in self-esteem way down at the end of the hall, ordains that "No unsaved individual should be on the staff!"

The "Christian" school movement (it may comfort some other Christians to see those quotation marks) is a natural, but often bizarrely mistaken, reaction to the dismal failures of the government school systems. (Can that Heath, for example, actually believe that the public schools incite godlessness by "appealing to higher standards of academics," whatever that weird locution might mean?) To some it obviously seems that such a movement is at least a return to the "basics," including deportment and posture. And it is true that many shoestring academies teach elementary reading, writing, and ciphering far better than the public schools.

If they do, however, it is not because they are Christian, but because they are shoestring. Most of the teachers are amateurs, utterly uncertified. They just don't know, poor dears, that before you can presume to teach, you need some courses in how to relate, both to self and others, as individuals and groups; that you must be able to perceive and diagnose each and every child's unique combination of cognitive style and learning disability; and that you must be proficient in utilization of audio-visual devices and implementation of remediation via packets of nifty learning materials. Serenely ignorant of all that, and then some, the earnest ladies of the kitchen table curriculum just go right ahead and teach. Some of them can probably even make lemonade, right in their own homes, from actual lemons!

So the Christian schools--or any small schools that can exclude from their faculties the graduates, saved or not, of schools of education--can provide in a relatively short time that "basic minimum competence" that, in the public schools, is still the misty and ultramundane El Dorado of our highest aspirations. But what then? Is there a life after basic minimum competence? What will be the point of reading and writing, themselves only the barest beginnings of thoughtful literacy, at the Mother Lode Christian School, where the vigilant Heath, supported, you'd better believe, by exactly like-minded colleagues, sleepeth not, neither slumbereth, keeping guard against diabolical appeals to higher standards of academics?

No school governed by ideology--any ideology whatsoever--can afford to educate its students; it can only indoctrinate and train them. In this respect there is no important difference between the "Christian" schools and the government schools, although the ruling ideology of the former is more completely codified and publicly proclaimed. In the same respect, for that matter, those schools are not unlike those of the Soviet Union, which also claim to have on their side THE TRUTH, although the latter do seem to be the more devoted to excellence in training.

Having made such assertions, we are led to wonder what hope there might be of discussing them with Rex Heath, and how such a discussion might go. Would both parties be willing simply to admit that such a discussion might at least be instructive, and might, at best, provide new understanding on both sides? Would both be willing to do the homework, read and consider the thoughts of many different minds, seek and organize what can be known, separating it scrupulously from what can only be inferred or postulated? Could they so much as agree that knowing, inferring, and postulating, as well as the expectably parlous believing, are in fact different from each other? Would both be willing and able to discern and reject even their own non sequiturs and false analogies? Could there even be agreement that such a discussion should be governed by logical principles?

Lacking such conditions, and the skills and propensities that impose them, there can be no thoughtfulness, no weighing of conflicting assertions, no search for understanding, no inquiry into meaning or worth, and thus, no judgment. There remain only such things as beliefs, whims, fancies, notions, and wishes. And bunk.

Those skills and propensities that impose the conditions in which we can think are the substance of education, fortuitous side-effects, sometimes, of training, and absolute impediments to indoctrination. The skills are the skills of language, the power of clear and accurate statement, and of coherent, rational discourse. The propensities are the habits of a mind accustomed both to practicing the work of thought in language and to pondering it as done by others. Among those propensities are the certainty that rational discourse will lead to new understandings, since the possibilities of language have no limits, and, for the same reason, the doubt that any understanding can ever be final and perfect. "For us," said Eliot, himself a Christian resolute to the point of relentlessness, and whose works do not appear very often on lists of approved reading in the "Christian" academies, "there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."

And an "educator's" business--if that word, now routinely usurped by the likes of professors of audio-visual methodology and assistant superintendents for supplies and Rex Heath, can ever be rescued from facetiousness--an educator's business is trying, and leading students into all the ways of trying: testing, refining, probing, weighing, inquiring, essaying, doubting, wondering, searching. A trainer is properly excused from such concerns; an indoctrinator must anathematize them. Thus it is that the "Christian" academies, out of the very principles on which they are founded, can never educate anyone.

In that, of course, they are not worse than the government schools. They are only just as bad . What is anathematized in the "Christian" academies is, in the government schools, derided as "uncreative" by the practitioners of self-esteem enhancement; scorned as "authoritarian" by the rap-sessionists of values clarification; condemned as "elitist" by the basic minimum competence drudges as well as the smug egalitarians who rejoice that a few of the impoverished children who, if lucky, will spend their lives in dull and brutish labor, can nevertheless balance their checkbooks; and, by most others, whose training in the teacher academy never suggested the possibility of thinking about thinking, simply neglected.

It's no wonder that the Peanut MM thought it good to rise up and smite those troublers of the land hip and thigh. But it's no comfort either. We are not watching a struggle between the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness, but the benighted clash of ignorant armies, in which we, and millions of children who might have grown up to be thoughtful and productive citizens, are caught in the open between the lines.

However, here at The Underground Grammarian, we're not going to let ourselves be slain as noncombatants. For all that we've been saying for so long about the government schools, and without the slightest intention of refraining in the future, we're going to take their side. And we urge our readers (or at least those who are not at this very moment writing in to cancel their subscriptions) to do likewise and not to remain silent.

For us, the decision was not difficult. We asked some questions: Of the parties to this conflict, which is the more likely to forbid its students certain books and to make it harder for anyone to find them? Which would, if it could, close down pestiferous publications like this one? Which one, when sufficiently pressed, and we do intend to press, will eventually accuse its enemies of warring against God?

Furthermore, the government schools have one supreme, if unintended, virtue. They are such chaotic and Byzantine bureaucracies, ruled over by herds of inept and dull-witted functionaries, that some good teachers, genuinely devoted to the life of the mind, can often go undetected for years. For some few students, those dissidents make all the difference. But in the "Christian" academies, much smaller and tightly controlled, the dissidents are all too likely to be sniffed out quickly by the Unsaved Individuals Committee.

The issue is not curriculum or methodology or family life or even the private enterprise system. The issue is freedom. The mind simply cannot be free without the power of thoughtful inquiry. If the mind is not free to gather knowledge, to form understanding, to judge of worth, and then, out of the best that it can do in knowing, understanding, and judging, will what it deems good, then there can be no such thing as morality, a system intended to judge the worth of individual choices. The "Moral Majority" must be, in fact, some other kind of organization. Its avowed dedication to ignorance and thoughtlessness--Heath is not alone--belies its very name.

Lacking the informed, willing assent of thoughtfulness, obedience to even some presumably unexceptionable precept is just another passion, tepid though it well may be. And who can be led by unexamined precept into one passion can as easily be led into another. And still another. He can be neither free nor moral, only impassioned. Should there be enough of his kind noisily applauding themselves for the "sincerity" and "correctness" of their shared passions, they will show us what Yeats meant by the "worst," who are "filled with passionate intensity."

And what of the "best"? Are they out there? Is there a Mental Minority? Was Yeats right about them too? Have they "lost all conviction"?

It must be so. There is mostly silence, a silence that seemed at first disdainful, then tactful, then wary, and that by now has turned simple cowardice. Those educationists, who have so long trumpeted their love of excellence, have fled as usual into the mighty fortress of Low Profile Poltroonery. Maybe this storm, too, will blow over, or maybe a savior will come, bearing some really neat innovations.

Prudent publishers, busily gathering into barns and ever mindful of textbook adoptions in Texas, are eager to be oh so open-minded. Albert Shanker, hoping the ninety and nine can fend for themselves while he takes care not to lose a dues-paying one, tuts a tiny tut from time to time.

"Know ye not," wrote Saint Paul, who may have momentarily forgotten about the laborers who came late to the vineyard, "that they which run a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?" History, as H. G. Wells said, and that was way back then, "becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." And by "education" he didn't mean basic minimum competence or an indoctrination impervious to thoughtfulness. However, by "catastrophe" he meant catastrophe.

Just now, there seems to be only one runner on the track, and, unhampered by concerns with quality, undeterred by appeals to higher standards of academics, he isn't even looking over his shoulder.

[V:6, September 1981]


Tongues of Ice

Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled . . .

JOACHIM of Floris turns out to have been right after all, except for what is probably nothing more than a trivial error in orthography. The Age of the Father gave way to the Age of the Son, which has by now succumbed entirely before the prancing parameters of the Age of the Wholly Gauche. And that creepy sound you hear, that whooping whoosh as of a rushing mighty windbag, signals the escaping gases of the new dispensation. Where once a few spoke a language that everyone could understand, whole multitudes now recite a lingo that no one can understand.

The Conference of Major Superiors of Men is made up of the abbots and provincials of various Roman Catholic religious orders. On February 10, 1981, a day that they might have spent in prayer, the members of its national board met in Milwaukee for an "evaluation of CMSM structures based on the self-studies." Sounds familiar? And that's not all. A certain Sr. Mary Littell--how did she get into the act?--was "engaged as facilitator for the day." Here's how she did it, as reported to the assembled worthies in August. (Yes, even there we have a mole):

To facilitate the process, Sr. Mary utilized the Hoover Grid which begins with the recognition of purpose and values, leading to goals, objectives and finally to implementation. The first and most important step is at the myth level where the renewal of ideals, hopes, dreams and traditions takes place. It is the level of identity and purpose for being.

The advantage of this process is that it puts all the elements of an organization not into a flow chart which is static but into the flow of the organization which is constantly changing and dynamic. In the course of the process the board defined the following elements for evaluation:

The tasks of the board membership and the religious communities through them (the major superiors) is one of (1) animating (through clear identification); (2) facilitating (through acting out the goals and objectives); and (3) impacting (through actions on various levels of CMSM).

So now abideth animating, facilitating, and impacting, these three; but the greatest of these is impacting.

You will probably want to practice these virtues. No problem. To animate, just come up with identifications. Be sure they're clear, of course. (See above for clues on clarity.) In no time at all, you'll be animating all over to beat the band and ready to facilitate through acting out goals and objectives. Cinchy. And then--on to impacting! Just remember the one, simple secret of impacting. Action! Action on levels. Various levels.

And if you run into any trouble, don't come to us. Go and consult the nearest Hoover Grid. We don't exactly know what that is, of course, but we're willing to bet the renewal of ideals, hopes, dreams, and traditions at the myth level against a wrinkled old Values Perception/Assessment Inventory/Questionnaire that you can find one at your local teacher-training academy.

We know Educanto when we see it, and this report is full of it. It bristles with "linkage," "resourcing" (with "input" from "resource persons"), "networking," "sharing," "cross-cultural communications," and even offers its own bold, innovative thrust in "ad hocracy," which is defined as "creation of task forces for proper resourcing." So where is the Inquisition, now that we need it?

Even the punctuation is typical of a writer who just can't be bothered with the meaning of what he writes. There is a difference between "the Hoover Grid which begins with the recognition of purpose" and "the Hoover Grid, which begins with the recognition of purpose." The first, which is what the writer has given us, implies the horrifying existence of other Hoover Grids beginning with other recognitions. The same confused inattentiveness causes "the myth level where renewal takes place," to be distinguished from the other myth levels; "a flow chart which is static"; and "the flow of the organization which is constantly changing." In that one we don't know whether to be confused about the flow or the organization. Or both. Or neither.

But if we are confused, it is because we are paying attention. This kind of language, devised to give the tone of sophisticated substance to the obvious, the empty, and the banal, is always a dreary and disorderly exercise of robot-like inattentiveness. The writer's mind has no stake in it; he just wants to get out a report that sounds like a report. The report is exactly one of those "vain repetitions" of the heathen; it neither provides clear knowledge nor fosters finer understanding, except, of course, in the very few who will actually pay attention. And what they will understand will not be what the writer would have had in mind, if he had had anything in mind. Somewhere in the dark labyrinth of doctrinal elaboration, there must be a technical name for this nasty perversion of language and intellect. It's probably something like Impactio.

Well, we know in part, and we prophesy in part, and in part we babble, with the tongues neither of men nor of angels, reciting what we have often heard, as blind mouths speak to stopped ears, as no one speaks to no one.

[V:8, November 1981]


Over the Rainbow Way up High

WE are definitely not in Kansas anymore. We noticed this weird fact only recently, when an itinerant nostrum peddler was accused of some pretty sharp practice and wound up defending himself before a federal grand jury. He testified that what he had done was strictly A-OK, and that he knew this because he had discussed it all in a face-to-face meeting with Jesus. When asked how he knew that it was Jesus, he replied that he had recognized him from his picture.

We can't tell you what happened then, but we can sure tell you what didn't happen, because if it had the papers would have been full of it for a week. So here's what didn't happen: The jurors did not fall down on the floor gasping and choking with laughter. The lawyers did not rush whooping from the room, holding their pocket handkerchiefs before their streaming eyes. In fact, the only normal human thing that happened there was that some nut said something stupendously funny. But everything else was weird.

And only a few weeks later, the same mountebank, still at large, staged a nuptial extravaganza in which a thousand or so of his female followers were more or less married up with a like number of his male ditto. All agog to discover more evidence toward an Over the Rainbow Hypothesis, we tuned it in on the TV. Sure enough. They were all Munchkins.

Then along came Phyllis Schlafly. She has not yet admitted to being Glenda the Good, but who else would go floating around the country in such a big bubble? And she does admit that she intends to do a whole lot of Good.

We read about all the Good she plans to bestow on us in a New York Times account of a big "Over the Rainbow Celebration" she threw in Washington (Thirty-five bucks a head, and no Tupperware selling!) She took the occasion to announce that she was even going to do Good in the schools, which was kind of a thrill for us, because we do need all the help we can get, even if it comes in a bubble.

Phyllis--gosh, we hope she won't mind if we call her that; it's just that we feel we know her, oh so well--Phyllis kicked off a campaign to stock all the schools and libraries with pro-family books, presumably to replace the anti-family books, by "such writers as Hemingway, Steinbeck, Hawthorne, and Twain," which are being rooted out of schools and libraries by her "Eagle Forum" squads. (We don't know what that is; we're guessing that it must be something like the Lullaby League.)

Now we've actually read those writers, and even lots of others "such as" them, but we never have been able to figure which ones, and in which books, and exactly to what degree, are pro-, or anti-, family, or neither, or both. Those writers are slippery rascals, who portray lovely families and rotten families, and people who do well, or ill, because of the one, or in spite of the other, or both, or neither, or vice versa, if you know what we mean by that. And what's a Mother to do?

So it seemed just peachy that Glenda the Good was willing to take on the hard task of making judgments about books. But then we started to notice something fishy about her powers of judgment.

She said that sex education, which we have ridiculed for reasons that still seem cogent, was "a principal cause of teenage pregnancy." If we had to rely on that line of argument, even educationists would be able to laugh at us.

She said that her "greatest contribution" was "making sure that eighteen-year-old girls won't be drafted," and that she just couldn't imagine "a greater gift." Well, we had no trouble at all imagining not just one but lots of greater gifts for eighteen-year-old girls, starting with the power of reason. But just as we began to suspect that Phyllis might be a bit below her grade level in creative fantasy as an alternative mode of cognition, she proved us wrong. It turned out that she could imagine a greater gift, and not just for the girls, but for all of us. "The atomic bomb," she proclaimed, "is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God."

We can't tell you what happened next, but we can tell you what didn't happen next. The party-goers did not fall down on the floor gasping and choking with laughter. Jerry Falwell (a reverend) and Jesse Helms (an honorable) did not rush whooping from the room, holding their pocket handkerchiefs before their streaming eyes. In fact, the only normal human thing that happened there was that some nut said something stupendously funny. But everything else was weird.

So it is in the merry old land of Oz: no brains, but lots of diplomas. Honor and reverence, schooled in the "appreciation" of everyone's Right to his opinion, which is as good as anyone else's, have learned to "relate to" Unreason. Logic and fantasy are just alternate modes of cognition, although the one is difficult and so "elitist," while the other is immediately possible for all and "democratic"; the one sets limits and encourages "authoritarianism," while the other knows no boundaries and releases "creativity." Feeling, attitude, belief, awareness, are just as much sources of "knowledge" as disciplined study, but disciplined study is far more likely than the others, which are "humanistic," to bring "mere knowledge" for nothing more than "its own sake." Rationality is cold, a sly and clever stunt performed with tricky language; the babbling gush of sincerity is a warm and welcome way of self-expression, which requires not critical scrutiny, but tolerance for other "values" and "points of view."

We don't see any hope of getting back to Kansas. But if, someday, some teacher tells the students that it's time to learn American history by role-playing the constitutional convention while appreciating fife music, and the students all fall down on the floor gasping and choking with laughter, then we'll be heading for home.

[VI:6, September 1982]


The Gingham Dog
and the Calico Cat

FOR some reason, we have not convinced the rapidly multiplying proponents of the back-to-basics-with-the-Bible "education" movement that we are not on their side. What's wrong with us that we haven't figured out how to offend those usually truculent and combative enthusiasts? We have had no trouble in offending their mirror-image counterparts, the silly educationists, who hold exactly the same thematic belief--that knowledge and reason are not enough, and who "educate" by exactly the same method the modification of behavior through persuasion addressed to the sentiments. The details don't matter where the principle is rotten.

One of those "Christian" school newsletters recently reprinted portions of a piece called "The Answering of Kautski," in which we considered similarities in educationism and bolshevism. We quoted Lenin's famous line about "teaching" the children and planting a seed that will never be uprooted. We also quoted (and the reprint did include) a much less familiar Leninism, saying that most people are not capable of thought, and all they need is to "learn the words."

The readers of the newsletter were presumably confirmed in righteousness by an essay linking what schools do to what Lenin said. It did not occur to them, apparently, that Luther, to whom Reason was just "the Devil's whore," also said as much, and, in so saying, echoed whole choirs of orthodox theologians.

There is only one Education, and it has only one goal: the freedom of the mind. Anything that needs an adjective, be it civics education, or socialist education, or Christian education, or whatever-you-like education, is not education, and it has some different goal. The very existence of modified "educations" is testimony to the fact that their proponents cannot bring about what they want in a mind that is free. An "education" that cannot do its work in a free mind, and so must "teach" by homily and precept in the service of these feelings and attitudes and beliefs rather than those, is pure and unmistakable tyranny. And it is exactly the kind of tyranny, "tyranny over the mind of man," to which Thomas Jefferson swore "eternal enmity" on--on what?--on "the altar of God."

Jefferson was not a bolshevik. He wrote to a nephew:

Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.

No bolshevik can say the equivalent in his system of belief: Question boldly even the existence of the dialectical process and the withering away of the state. Jefferson's admonition ought to raise provocative questions for those who like to claim that the Republic was founded on their "religious" principles, but it doesn't. Bolsheviks are not the only ones who never think of asking certain questions.

Reason is not the Devil's whore. It is the whore's Devil. To those who have sold their minds for some comfortable sentiments and comforting beliefs, Reason is The Adversary to be hated and feared, the bringer of doubt and difficult questions, the sly disturber of The Peace. To children who are led into whoredom, it matters not at all which sentiments and beliefs they are given in return for the freedom of their minds. Whatever the fee, they cannot judge its worth.

Sometimes it seems that every illusion that cripples the mind is taught in schools. The silly notion that if one ideological faction is wrong the other must be right is planted in our minds by the belief that true/false tests have something to do with education. We imagine some real difference between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, government educationists and church educationists. They are all alike. Their prosperity depends on our believing that beliefs and sentiments, theirs, of course, are somehow finer, nobler, more virtuous or humane than mere Reason.

Half past twelve is coming on, and neither the church cat nor the dog in the manger has slept a wink. Should we do something, or should we hope that they'll eat each other up? Will burglars steal this pair away? Will the "Christian" newsletter reprint all this?

[VI:6, September 1982]


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