Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Ideas Have Consequences Chapter 2
It was an exciting day for little Tommy. The younger children in the family watched with a tinge of jealousy as he strapped on his new backpack and skipped off to Kindergarten for the very first time. His conscientious Mother had filled that backpack with all the supplies the teacher had requested: scissors, number 2 pencils, a ruler, pack of felt markers, a box of kleenex. On each item, she had placed a little name tag so that Tommy's "stuff" wouldn't get mixed up with anyone else's.
Upon his return home, Tommy's backpack contained something else; a note from the Kindergarten teacher which read:
Dear Mrs. G.,
Thank you for sending the appropriate school supplies with Tommy. I have returned them to you with a request to remove his name from all of the items. Once the items come into class, they become the collective property of all the students. We want each child to start Kindergarten on equal footing. Thank you. signed Mrs. R.
Tommy had just received his initial lesson in social studies, a first hand look at "socialist equalitarianism". His Mother made sure he didn't receive any follow-up teaching from this teacher~~she pulled him out of school and homeschooled him.
This true little vignette (which happened to a friend of mine) illustrates accurately, I think, the ideas encapsulated in the 2nd chapter of Richard Weaver's book, entitled "Distinction and Hierarchy". In it, we are challenged to apply logic to the increasingly common societal plea for "equality". We are hearing that word often in this presidential election year, aren't we? Equality in healthcare, equality in education, equality in employment, even equality in kindergarten! It all sounds so virtuous, so right.
But is it? Weaver contends that the call for equality is insidiously destructive to a healthy society because it instills a hatred for superiority. To level the playing field, to bring everyone onto equal footing would mean removing the rewards for those who engage in the self-sacrifice and risk taking that is required to climb the ladder of success. A healthy society needs these people; it is virtually impossible to operate on a uni-level system. Weaver is even so bold as to say that (gasp) all labor is not equally useful.
It is not within the realm of possibility to erase distinctions; to do so would require a tyrant with an iron fist. But supposing we COULD become a uni-level society, how would that change us?
It would change us profoundly. We would cease to be a society and would instead become a "mass". I find that concept frightening. The mass focuses only on "having what you have". It is a materialistic mindset, devoid of the higher virtues.
Without the structure of a hierarchy, a democratic society ceases to exist; an aristocracy is an absolutely essential element of a democracy. Amongst the aristocracy there must be leaders who strive for non-material virtues, who are able to measure policies and actions for the spiritual good of the people.
In place of equality, Weaver promotes the concept of fraternity. Those who are of the upper crust, who have climbed the ladder, have a duty to care for others who have not attained. Fraternity looks outward, to others. In contrast, equality seeks benefits for self only.
Education is one of the keys to developing fraternalistic virtues. Well, let me correct that and say education SHOULD be developing virtue. Today's prevailing mindset seems to be that education is merely to prepare students for lucrative employment.
That is why I have classical leanings in my educational philosophy. The classicist always had virtue in view. Education without virtue creates a mass of fools.
Interesting stuff here. I am a little surprised that equality was an issue when Weaver wrote this (in the 1940's). I thought it to be a more modern concept. It goes to show that ideas take a while to hatch before they come to full fruition.