April 12, 2003


More Than a Million Mogadishus, We Need One Good Chicago (Terrence Moore, April 2003, Ashbrook)
This country began with a healthy fear of the damage to life and liberty standing armies can do when employed by cruel dictators. The pages of history are littered with the ravages of such regimes. Saddam Hussein has certainly employed new discoveries in science to oppress the people of Iraq, but nothing about his politics would have surprised the Founding Fathers. To allay the people’s fear of military dictatorship, General Washington assured the fledgling nation at the onset of Revolution, "When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen." Following the noble restraint of Washington, America’s Cincinnatus, he and the other Founders later formed a government in which citizens, or civilians, would give orders to soldiers rather than the reverse. As a continuation of this principle, before being given arms today, young men and women in the armed services must swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

Thus the American Founders solved a political problem as old as Plato: how to control and direct the potentially dangerous energies of the "spirited" men of the political order. Plato, you will recall, urged that the guardians of his imaginary republic be like good watchdogs, able to distinguish between friends and enemies. Accordingly, they must also combine two qualities seemingly opposed in nature, fierceness and gentleness. This ability and this combination Plato called "philosophic." Over the last three weeks, Americans have been viewing from their living rooms the actions of philosophic warriors that would astonish even Plato. Young men and women fighting in the desert heat, going without sleep for days at a time, not knowing whether an artillery round from the enemy might carry deadly chemical or biological agents, knowing very well that the Iraqi civilian waving a white flag from an oncoming car might be delivering explosives, these young warfighters are sparing foreign civilian lives, sometimes at the cost of their own, as they are defeating the enemy in proportions reminiscent of the Persian Wars. These troops matter-of-factly attribute their success to their rigorous training. They have been trained how to shoot and also when not to. They have been trained how to work in large units and small. They have trained for combined-arms and special operations, as that seen in the heart-warming recovery of Pfc. Jessica Lynch.

Were we to put embedded reporters in the classrooms of our most prestigious colleges and universities, would we see a civilian education comparable to this rigorous military training, one that produces such heroic citizens? To what do the nation’s professors owe their allegiance? What rules of engagement do university presidents set for their campuses? Does what is taught and learned contribute in any way to the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the American people for which those in the armed services are willing to risk their lives? [...]

The American Founders feared and properly controlled for the abuse of military power. They took fewer precautions against the abuse of intellectual power. Perhaps they thought higher academe would ever follow in the footsteps of Princeton’s President John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration and teacher to a generation of responsible revolutionaries, whose course in moral and political philosophy prepared his students to act as citizens in the new republic. Up until Vietnam, certainly, Ivy League graduates were not only taught to be good civilian leaders but also were over-represented among the fallen in this nation’s wars. Today, military recruiters cannot even canvass for officers on many of this nation’s leading campuses because of student protests. Today under the protection of "academic freedom," a concept unknown to countries outside the West, a known ideologue can
attain degrees at one of the most reputable universities in the country, land a coveted job at another prestigious university, and thereby preach his own brand of anti-Americanism to students whose parents are paying a small fortune, in a city where three-thousand people were killed only a year and a half ago by dangerous young men who also hated America. The Chicago-Columbia connection, formerly the axis of great-books intellectualism, has become, at least in De Genova’s case, a research partnership in anti-Americanism. The military would never think of training young people to use weapons against fellow Americans or to undermine the Constitution. Yet higher academe trains young people to use their minds, as dangerous as weapons, against the very principles upon which this nation is founded. Certainly, De Genova should be allowed to speak his mind in some forum. But that is a far cry from saying that his intellectual idiosyncrasies should virtually guarantee him a position at an Ivy League institution. We can only wonder when liberal education might again mean not "say anything you like in the name of academic freedom," but rather "teach young men and women to be good and to love and defend the truth." When shall we see some brave academic, perhaps an Ivy League or University of Chicago president, stand up and say, "When we assumed the scholar, we did not lay aside the citizen"?

It's long forgotten now that the Founders supported the idea of public education not because of the three R's but because they thought a democratic republic would have to train its young to be good citizens or else perish. As the hysteria over Secretary of Education Rod Paige's remarks indicates, teaching values is the one thing that's now banished from public schools. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 12, 2003 7:32 AM

No, teaching religion
is the one thing that's now banished from public schools. Religion and values are not one and the same. You want your kid taught religion outside of church, send 'em to a religious school or homeschool them.

Posted by: Ann Northcutt Gray at April 12, 2003 1:40 PM

You cannot teach anything without teaching

values; even shop class has to teach about

the value of measurement.

The issue is not values but which ones. Most

religious values are abhorrent to decent

people, who demonstrate this by sinning more

or less constantly.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 12, 2003 2:25 PM


Would that include murder, rape and theft?

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at April 12, 2003 4:48 PM


Don't bother. Their faith is taught, so like the orthodox everywhere they seek to bar dissent.

Posted by: oj at April 12, 2003 7:23 PM

I was thinking more of fornication, lying,

playing basketball on Sunday, not tithing, things like that.

Other than memorizing the Ten Commandments,

I cannot remember ever being cautioned against

murdering people during my 18 or so years

of religious indoctrination, and certainly no one

ever spoke about rape.

Theft got quite a bit of attention.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 12, 2003 9:14 PM

Harry's got a point. I don't remember being told once in church, "now keep in mind, murder and rape are not very nice things at all! so don't do either of those things today, mmkay? and if you feel a little hungry, cannibalism is right out!"

No, the 'values' taught to me in church were more along the lines of, respect your pastor even when you know he's having an affair with the choir director's wife and how bad it is to masturbate. Such things I believe western civilization can do without, thank you very much.

Posted by: Ann Northcutt Gray at April 12, 2003 10:04 PM

It seems odd that your churches failed to mention "Love one another", but there are bad churches just like anything else. Typically though, just because you get a bad meal at a McDonalds you don't decide eating is a bad idea.

Posted by: oj at April 13, 2003 12:03 AM

Our pastor and the choir director's wife understood "love one another" pretty damned well. But the attitude of the 'flock' was something else. Orrin, I am a religious person. And it is my very religiousity that drove me from Christianity.

Posted by: Ann Northcutt Gray at April 13, 2003 12:22 AM

It sounds like it was your religiousity that drove you from your church, and your overgeneralization that drove you from Christianity.

Posted by: Timothy at April 13, 2003 2:00 AM

that's what you want to think.

Posted by: Ann Northcutt Gray at April 13, 2003 2:22 AM

It still doesn't make sense to me.

Posted by: DLirag at April 15, 2003 12:09 AM
« Brian in MN sends us Main | REBOOT: »