Thursday, November 30, 2006

Jefferson On Education

Jefferson gives advice to a young man. First he starts with matters of character:
And never suppose, that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing, however slightly so it may appear to you. … Encourage all your virtuous dispositions, and exercise them whenever an opportunity arises; being assured that they will gain strength by exercise, as a limb of the body does, and that exercise will make them habitual.
He continues with cognitive concerns:
An honest heart being the first blessing, a knowing head is the second. It is time for you now to begin to be choice in your reading … I advise you to begin a course of ancient history, reading every thing in the original and not in translations.
An educated man was expected to know Greek and Latin. College entrance requirements included proficiency in Latin: reading and translating the great Roman writers and orators. Students were also expected to be able to read the New Testament in the original Greek. Jefferson’s recommendations were standard for his day:
First read Goldsmith's history of Greece. This will give you a digested view of that field. Then take up ancient history in the detail, reading the following books, in the following order: Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophontis Hellenica, Xenophontis Anabasis, Arrian, Quintus Curtius, Diodorus Siculus, Justin. This shall form the first stage of your historical reading, and is all I need mention to you now. The next, will be of Roman history (Livy, Sullust, Caesar, Cicero's epistles, Suetonius, Tacitus, Gibbon). From that, we will come down to modern history. In Greek and Latin poetry, you have read or will read at school, Virgil, Terence, Horace, Anacreon, Theocritus, Homer, Euripides, Sophocles. Read also Milton's Paradise Lost, Shakespeare, Ossian, Pope's and Swift's works, in order to form your style in your own language. In morality, read Epictetus, Xenophontis Memorabilia, Plato's Socratic dialogues, Cicero's philosophies, Antoninus, and Seneca.
How many of these names are recognizable by today’s university graduates? Jefferson continues to the third matter of concern: physical exercise. His suggestions are quite interesting.
Give about two [hours] every day, to exercise; for health must not be sacrificed to learning. A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body, and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks.
I don’t think Mayor Bloomberg would take too kindly of my exercising in this manner. Jefferson is emphatic about walking and continues with this point in his letter in great detail.
Never think of taking a book with you. The object of walking is to relax the mind. You should therefore not permit yourself even to think while you walk; but divert your attention by the objects surrounding you. Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far. … There is no habit you will value so much as that of walking far without fatigue.
The founders were concerned with building character and acquiring the capacities to deal with life’s challenges. From character leads success in life. Character wasn’t something to sacrifice for short term gain or comfort; nor was it “virtue for virtue’s sake.” It was seen as inherently empowering, serving a man well in his life.

The education that Jefferson outlines above is one appropriate to a citizen in a free society – it is a liberal education. It makes one worthy and capable of taking one’s place among other free and civilized men. The strength gained by cultivating the dispositions and skills appropriate to a free man were seen as virtuous in every sense: worthy of the man, creating a sturdy and steady character, providing the potent tools for life, bringing one honor and esteem among civilized and cultivated men and women.

How much we lost! And how much we will have to fight to regain!

Friday, November 17, 2006


Jack Wheeler echoes my thoughts:
If there is anyplace in the world that America has no interest being involved in, this is it. And yet, liberal outfits like SaveDarfur are repeatedly taking out full page ads, … demanding "President Bush, Stop the Genocide Now!" … There are no good guys here - not the government, accused of supporting the Janjaweed, not the tribal crazies. But for liberals, that's the only justification for the death of American soldiers - only when it is not to fight for American security, only when it is purely "altruistic," only when there is no American reason for risking their lives whatever.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Will to Fight

Besides having my computer in the repair shop, I been writing less because others often say it better. Take Thomas Sowell:
Having overwhelming military force on your side, and letting your enemies know you have the guts to use it, is being genuinely antiwar. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement brought on World War II and Ronald Reagan's military buildup ended the Cold War.

The famous Roman peace of ancient times did not come from negotiations, cease-fires or pretty talk. It came from the Roman Empire's crushing defeat and annihilation of Carthage, which served as a warning to anyone else who might have had any bright ideas about messing with Rome.

How can a generation be expected to fight for the survival of a culture or a civilization that has been trashed in its own institutions, taught to tolerate even the intolerance of other cultures brought into its own midst, and conditioned to regard any instinct to fight for its own survival as being a "cowboy"?
Of course, the post-modern anti-American propaganda taught in our universities, during four of the most formative years of our children’s intellectual development, has created a demoralized population that lacks the confidence in our core values and undercuts the certainty that our nation is worthy of support in times of war. It is more felt than thought. But the telltale signs are the absurd condemnations of our lack of perfection in the face of the whitewash of the most savage and barbaric acts of others.

Sowell is one of today’s best writers exposing the double standards and hypocrisy of those who loathe our nation and hate the core values that underwrite our achievements in the face of what is unquestionably worse: socialism, theocracy, oriental despots, self-imposed poverty, and the primitive savagery that still grips many parts of the world.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Articles to Read

An online "reader's digest" has an excellent selection of articles including one by yours truly.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

McCarthy on Rumsfeld plus

Andrew McCarthy, at National Review, is critical of the President's war policy:

"Americans were certain to have limited patience for a mission that appears more about building another nation than securing our own." ... "Perhaps more importantly, it may soon be in the nation’s vital interests to confront Iran. Are we going to have the stomach — the public support — for doing what must be done if the American people think the price tag includes another Iraq-like democracy experiment?"

"On that score, it bears remembering not only that President Bush was initially elected on a no-nation-building platform, but that Rumsfeld’s vision was an actuation of that policy. Indeed, the policy was already set in motion, after eight months of hard work, when Rumsfeld’s Pentagon completed the 2001 quadrennial defense (QDR) review. That was about a week before 9/11 happened."

Read the rest. McCarthy blogs over at New English Review.

Update: Scoblete agrees.