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Education and Democracy

The representative democracy that we enjoy in the United States requires two things from the voting population. First, it requires morality. The people who vote must have a code of ethics which informs their sense of right and wrong. This isn’t really about having a particular religious affiliation, though I believe that helps, as much as having solid world view that influences the way you live. If you ask me this is something that is lacking from our society as a whole. People do what they want to do, not because they have reasoned things out, but because it seems to be the best idea at the moment. The world view of many people in culture is contradictory and ill-thought out. This is a topic for another day.

The second thing our Republic requires from the voting populace is education. People must be knowledgeable about the foundation of our government (the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution), informed about how government is supposed to operate, and have an understanding of the present day issues.

Not only does our voting populace lack the fundamental morality needed for our government to be successful (we are moved too easily by emotion), we also lack the proper education that is required to properly maintain our Republic. Am I ripping the American public? You bet I am, just as I rip the American church for not valuing holiness. You see the fatal flaw in our government is not in the Constitution, rather it is in the reality that government depends on the people, and the people have ignored their responsibility. The responsibility we have ignored is the need for us to be educated about the government. The result is that we have a government that doesn’t pay attention to the Constitution (The Patriot Act and the Bailout are just two examples), and we have a public which is clamoring for more government aid and intervention.

We are poorly educated in this country. That doesn’t mean we are not schooled. The percentage of people who have finished high school and hold college degrees shows us that we are a nation that has gone to school. In the process of all this schooling we have learned very little that is of any value. It should be amazing to all of us that with our technology, our sophisticated teaching styles, and the billions of dollars given to schools that we are so poorly educated. Yet, we don’t even give it a second thought. The result of all of this is the loss of our liberty and ultimately our country.

Screwtape Proposes a Toast is an essay by C. S. Lewis in which he uses the demon Screwtape, made famous by The Screwtape Letters, to comment on the strategies Hell uses to keep people from repentance. The setting of the essay is the annual banquet for young devils as they graduate from Tempter’s College. Screwtape is the the guest of honor and is speaking to the young devils. The senior devil, Screwtape, has just finished explaining that they must confuse the word democracy so people come to believe that it means “I am as good as you” regardless of people's behavior or achievements. Screwtape goes on to say:
“For ‘democracy’ or the ‘democratic spirit’ (diabolical sense) leads to a nation without great men, a nation of subliterates, full of the cocksurreness which flattery breeds on ignorance, and quick to snarl or whimper at the first hint of criticism. And that is what Hell wishes every democratic people to be.” (The World’s Last Night, p. 67)

When I read that paragraph I couldn’t help but see it as a fitting description of the United States. We are a nation of subliterates. Sure we can read, but we don’t read. We are a nation that is cocky and sure, and so we don’t take the time educate ourselves they way we should. We think we are informed because we listen to talk radio or watch CNN at night! We are ignorant because we have ignored history, not only the study of history, but also reading the writings of the great individuals from history (this also applies to the church). Think about the reaction people have when their ideas or beliefs are questioned. Often times they are quick to reply with a vicious attack or they go off to find a sympathetic ear to explain how people are being mean to them.

I still find reasons to have hope. One reason there is hope is because of home schooling and private schools. In the essay Lewis, talking through Screwtape, explains that this lack of education is due to state run schools. Parents, challenge your children, help them to be disciplined in their study, and make them readers. I think this is so vitally important.

Another reason for hope is because we can choose to become educated. Throughout history many of the great men and women were self-educated. We don’t have to waste thousands of dollars on a college degree. If we have the discipline we can read and study on our own and gain the knowledge that we need. This will also provide a wonderful example for our children to follow.

A third reason for hope is because the American Church is waking up to the reality her members aren’t growing. I am hopeful that the Church will encourage Christians to be disciplined in reading and studying, so they will have a solid foundation upon which to build their faith. It is this discipline which teaches us to think and how to apply our world view to our lives. What matters most is not what we read and study, but that we are reading and studying. If the Church can encourage her members to read and study Christian material that will ultimately benefit society as a whole.

The preservation of our Republic depends, not on a nation that has been to school, but on men and women who have been disciplined enough to become educated. Education, unlike school, is not something we are forced to do, but something we choose to do. In the end education will make us a benefit, rather than a drain, on society.


Rebecca said…
I think that this is a great post. I am going to post it in a note on my facebook page.

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