America’s central idea

We can see the meaning in the fact that we have a national birthday. Ask yourself, what is the birthday of France? Or China? Or England? One day every summer we celebrate the making of our country. As John Adams predicted, this day is the anniversary of a document that states the purposes of our nation. Abraham Lincoln once spoke of a “central idea” in America, from which all of our “minor thoughts radiate.” The Declaration of Independence called this idea a “self-evident truth.” It is the idea that each of us is equally a child of God, born the same kind of creature, and so equal with respect to our rights.

Larry P. Arnn, “Our Responsibility to America,” in Liberty and Learning, p. 102

Review: Liberty and Learning: The Evolution of American Education

Liberty and Learning: The Evolution of American Education
Liberty and Learning: The Evolution of American Education by Larry P. Arnn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is not quite what I expected as I first approached it. Rather than a history of “the Evolution of American education” as the subtitle seems to promise, we are instead treated primarily to a defense of the conservative stance of Hillsdale College, of which the author is president. Hillsdale College has faced criticism from and even some persecution by various educational institutions and government bureaucracies as well as others because of its refusal to accept government funds and to modify its curriculum in line with the current anti-Western trends in academia. Arnn’s book gives the history of Hillsdale College and its relationship to both government funding of educational institutions and these current trends in academia. The defense he offers is sound and I believe that he makes his point. The most valuable part of the book, by far, is the appendix which contains a number of primary source documents related to education in the United States. All of it makes for fascinating reading, even when you disagree with Arnn’s position on a given issue.

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The multiculturalism trap

This attempt to denigrate Western civilization in the name of multiculturalism reaches very far now. Wherever there are schools of education, programs are regulated by central departments that define curricula and oversee the closest details of the program’s functioning. A young person of eighteen going off to college will be taught things that are commanded in state capitals and in Washington. He will not know that many of the most precious achievements of the human mind are forbidden him under these commandments. Standards in our public schools are embarrassingly low. The longer our students stay in them, the further they fall behind most of the rest of the world. The ultimate explanation for this disaster can be found in the principle that all achievements of culture are equally worthy, which means necessarily that they are also equally unworthy.

Larry P. Arnn, Liberty and Learning, p. 55