bibles_books_01Over a decade passed now, but it was then I made a surprising discovery. Much of what I had been taught in public schools is not true.

How did learn of the deception? I began reading what people call the classics and historic works. When we study history, many of these great works serve as primary source documents for historians. Therefore, I have listed a small number of historic documents in Citizen Library.

What led me to read so many seeming long and sometimes difficult works? My long commute to work was driving me batty; I needed a distraction. So I decided to listen to classic works I would otherwise never read. Because my wife and daughters are Christians, the Bible was at the top of my list.

I have since read the Bible several times by listening to it, and I have read many other far less significant historic works.  I have learned there is a crucial difference between reading about history and reading historic documents.

Consider the Bible. Will what someone else says about the Bible be true to that work? Is reading what someone else has said about the Bible the same as reading it for ourselves? No and no.

Pick your favorite dessert. How could you ever describe the taste? You cannot. That’s why we are always willing to share a small sample of our pleasure with someone we love. We have no other way to share our pleasure except to help them taste it for themselves.

The same that is true of the Bible is true of any other historic work. Unless we study the great historic work of history for ourselves, instead of being informed we risk being propagandized. Instead of learning what historic men and women had to say, politicians will tell us what they want us to believe.

Why is it important to learn the truth? What is wrong with being propagandized? In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith spoke of our desire both to be respectable and to be respected. He spoke of a choosing between two roads.

We desire both to be respectable and to be respected. We dread both to be contemptible and to be contemned. But, upon coming into the world, we soon find that wisdom and virtue are by no means the sole objects of respect; nor vice and folly, of contempt. We frequently see the respectful attentions of the world more strongly directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the wise and the virtuous. We see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent. To deserve, to acquire, and to enjoy the respect and admiration of mankind, are the great objects of ambition and emulation. Two different roads are presented to us, equally leading to the attainment of this so much desired object; the one, by the study of wisdom and the practice of virtue; the other, by the acquisition of wealth and greatness. Two different characters are presented to our emulation; the one, of proud ambition and ostentatious avidity. the other, of humble modesty and equitable justice. Two different models, two different pictures, are held out to us, according to which we may fashion our own character and behaviour; the one more gaudy and glittering in its colouring; the other more correct and more exquisitely beautiful in its outline: the one forcing itself upon the notice of every wandering eye; the other, attracting the attention of scarce any body but the most studious and careful observer. They are the wise and the virtuous chiefly, a select, though, I am afraid, but a small party, who are the real and steady admirers of wisdom and virtue. The great mob of mankind are the admirers and worshippers, and, what may seem more extraordinary, most frequently the disinterested admirers and worshippers, of wealth and greatness. (from here)

If we want our children to be both truly respectable and to truly respected, they must study wisdom and the practice of virtue. Yet the public school system is a secular institution. When proper wisdom is Godly wisdom, we have little reason to hope our children will be taught Godly wisdom in the public school system.

Because the study of wisdom and the practice of virtue must be based upon the Truth, the study of wisdom and the practice of virtue is therefore highly controversial. As Pontius Pilate  said: “What is Truth?” (John 18:38). Then he had the Truth crucified. Thus, to avoid controversy, the public school system focuses our children’s minds on the acquisition of wealth and greatness.


17 thoughts on “TWO DIFFERENT ROADS

  1. @novaDemocrat

    I am perfectly happy to let your comments defend the moniker I have chosen for you.

    Anybody even halfway familiar with the history of this country knows that the public education system we have today is no longer the locally run system this nation had in the 1830’s. Instead of being responsive to the demands of parents, our schools have become the strongholds of teacher’s unions.

    Nothing you said justifies the need for a government-run education system. When a government-run education system is just about antithetical to freedom as anything can be — and not needed — what is the point in having one? You had a happy experience? Get over it. It is not all about you.

    We have a republic. We are supposed to respect each others rights. When we are perfectly capable of creating our happy experiences (educating our own children) without imposing a government-run education system on each other, we should not be doing so.

  2. A pretty wooly and rambling answer, Tom, as usual.

    As for the nomenclature, I have used the same handle for all the time I have been on this blog. When I abbreviated “NovaScout” to “Scout” a few years ago, every site I comment on accepted the change other than yours, but I haven’t been able to winkle out the original input in your system (and I have tried). I have been very transparent about the fact that Scout and NovaScout are one and the same. More to the point, I have never used the term “NovaDemocrat”. That’s just your inner 8-year old trying to make fun of an old-line conservative Republican. When you grow up, you may begin to understand that the fact that I have a different view of some issues than you no more entitles you to classify me, against all fact, as a “Democrat” than the fact that you do not agree with my conservative Republican traditional views entitles me to classify you as a Mongolian yak-milker. It makes just about as much sense.

    As for education, we have had a public system in place from the very early days of the Republic, and it has generally been a source of great strength and growth for our democracy. Because of it, many children born into dire circumstances of poverty and illiteracy, have risen to positions of great contribution and responsibility within the society. I’m not ready to jettison public education, although I acknowledge that it has many problems, many of which are caused by highly variable standards, expectations, and financing between the multiple states and localities throughout the country. Through all the time we have had public education, we have also had a parallel system of private education at all levels. Unfortunately, many folks do not have the means to avail themselves of private schools, be they religious or non-religious. We also have the option of home-schooling. However, all of us, as a democratic society, have a keen interest in ensuring that every child can meet at least minimum standards of educational achievement before they are certified to have reached certain levels of educational attainment (e.g., high school, bachelors degrees, masters degrees etc. etc.). Once we get to the certification side of things, we almost necessarily have a government function. You seem to acknowledge that in your previous comment.

    I suspect that, if you examine what is taught in public schools, for all the defects that these institutions have, you would not find it to be propagandistic (I’m quite sure that my daughter who went to public school was taught that “Baby killing” was OK, anymore than did the sibling who went to Roman Catholic schools, to use one example to which you allude). I never saw or heard of a politician teaching at my child’s public school, and, by and large, I think the kid got a good education. Of course it could be done better. But the problems are not political indoctrination or the absence of government instruction in religion, as you seem to think.


  3. Tom: I can’t object to being called “old”, given that, as an empirical fact, I was born in the late 1940s. So that’s not a problem.

    On the other hand, I have been popping in here from time to time for more than a couple of years, and you know from my comments that my family members were abolitionists who participated in the founding of the Republican Party (a history of which I am proud as I am of my ancestors’ from that period service in the Union Army and their personal relations with Generals Grant, Sherman and Sheridan), that I served in the Reagan Administration, that I have never voted for a Democratic Party candidate for federal or state office, that I have contributed to Republican candidates, but never to Democrat candidates, that I identify as a constitutional conservative/Republican in my political views, and that I embrace conservative positions re religious freedom, international trade, foreign affairs.

    With that information, you started a few weeks ago addressing me as “novaDemocrat”, a handle I have never used and that has no particular relationship to any of my views. That is the juvenile aspect of your reactions to people whose opinions you find inconvenient. You are very quick to attack people on counter-factual, personal bases as opposed to simply engaging on the level of ideas. It is that that I hope you will, as did my elementary school classmates, shed as your mind gains maturity.

    But back to the post and your inscrutable more recent comment: If your point is that public education has its problems, you’ll get no quarrel from me. We have a lot of catching up to do to pull even with the more advanced countries in the world. If, however, your point is that we should not have public education for the citizens, I disagree and have been, as long as I have visited this site, been completely uncertain of what it is that you propose for an educational system that protects the economy and security of our Republic. We all benefit from a certain minimum standard of educational achievement throughout the population. Are you proposing that everyone be home-schooled? Are you proposing that we have madrassas and other religious schools to the exclusion of secular educational facilities? If that is your position, how do you ensure that we do not encourage a lack of assimilation and common purpose throughout the population? If your complaint is that religious instruction is lacking in public schools and that you see this as a defect, how do you propose to remedy that defect given the religious diversity of our citizens?

    Granted that my educational experience may be fading in the mists of time, my children are more recent exemplars. One went to a religious school, the other to public school. I have taken a very active role in both of their educations, and am unaware of any politician coming into the public school that my younger child attended to try to shape her opinions on any particular political subject. Hence my question (which you did not answer responsively), what are you referring to when you talk about political leaders “imposing their beliefs and values”, whether in a school setting or in the marketplace of ideas?


    1. @novaDemocrat

      Since you cannot decide what your handle should be, I thought I would provide my readers some help. Given your past comments, ….

      What is the purpose of our education system? That is really not for the government to decide. That is something parents decide for their children. That is something adults seeking further education have the right to decide for themselves. In fact, part of the problem with our education system is that we have let government official spend our money trying to coerce the educational decisions of “other people”.

      Whereas you imagine the “horrors of madrasas and other religious schools to the exclusion of secular educational facilities”, I am far more concerned about the horrible job being done by the busybodies running those secular educational facilities.

      You like the educational choice you made for your children? That is fine. You don’t think politicians have any effect on the curriculum taught in the public school system? That’s preposterous!

      What is the government’s role in education? Parents have a responsibility to provide their children at least a minimal education in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and our government should make certain parents do not neglect their children’s instruction. Does that require our government to run a public education system? No. In fact, to solve that problem, the public school system is just overkill.

      What if poor parents need educational assistance? I think private charities would fill in the gap. Nevertheless, I favor educational vouchers over government-run schools. I am happy to take 80 percent of what I want.

      The public education system has displaced an activity the private sector does better and for less money. Now we just have a bunch of people whose favorite word is change opposing change. Similarly, those same people excel at proclaiming the glories of choice so that they can murder babies. Meanwhile, they oppose school choice.

      Their arguments are inconsistent because they are dishonest. Donors want abortion? So we get shouts of CHOICE! Donors want to strengthen teacher’s unions? Then choice becomes extremism and hypocritical worries about diversity.

  4. However, his interest in material things was put them in the service of the study of wisdom and the practice of virtue.

    Ihe world would be a better place if we all have the same interest. However, as Jesus said about the rich, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle head than for a rich man to get into his kingdom. Lots of distractions along their path, and unwillingness to share I guess.
    Reegards and goodwill blogging.

  5. Not too sure I agree with Adams that we must choose one of two paths exclusively.

    A person can be wise and virtuous and achieve wealth on their path in life.

    “The path of wisdom can lead to both wealth and a long life. Wealth gained through righteousness should not create guilt. Wealth derived from righteousness is a blessing we should enjoy and profit without vexation.” It is Yahweh’s blessing which brings wealth, and there is no increase of vexation with it. (Proverb 10:22)

    As for wisdom, there is practical wisdom and spiritual wisdom. A person cannot be truly wise if he or she is not righteous. The problem with secular schools is spiritual wisdom is not taught, only skills to acquire wealth as a means to achieve a livelihood or profession on earth, or minus the path to heaven.

    Rich and poor live side by side, Yahweh makes them all. (Proverb 22:2)

    There is a man who disburses his wealth freely and yet is always getting richer; there is another whose miserliness leads only to want. (Proverb 11:24)

    He who oppressed a poor man insults his maker, but he who is kind to a poor man honors him. (Proverb 14:31)

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    1. @scatterwisdom

      Good comment! Appreciate the relevant scripture. To make certain I do not misrepresent Adam Smith I need to address your observation.

      A person can be wise and virtuous and achieve wealth on their path in life.

      Smith would agree that the study of wisdom and the practice of virtue does not exclude the acquisition of wealth and greatness. Remember. He is the guy who wrote The Wealth of Nations. He was quite interested in economics. He achieved considerable fame. However, his interest in material things was put them in the service of the study of wisdom and the practice of virtue. The other choice is to acquire wealth and greatness for the sake of proud ambition and ostentatious avidity.

  6. Not only do “we have little reason to hope that our children will be taught Godly wisdom in the public school system”, Tom, we have every reason to hope that it will not be taught there. I assume that religious citizens don’t want something as important as the Bible or the Talmud or the Quran taught in the public schools. Why should we have public employees of widely varying beliefs and levels of knowledge about religious subjects teaching religion? Perhaps that’s not what you’re advocating, but you’re perennially unclear about this. Your recurring critique of public education seems always to include some reference to the absence of Christian instruction. As a Christian, that’s the last place I would want to have religion taught to my children or to anyone else. We have churches and families for that.

    As for some of the other works you mentioned, I certainly had the good fortune to read many of them as part of a public school secondary education and I had teachers who made works by Thomas Paine and Adam Smith (as well as Uncle Tom, the L-D debates, and ancient literature from the classical period – e.g., the Iliad and the Odyssey, Cicero, Caesar, Vergil) interesting and rewarding. I suspect my school was blessed, perhaps only by happenstance, with a large number of excellent teachers and it may not have been typical. On the other hand, it wasn’t the only public school in America that turned out knowledgeable, interested, capable students.


    1. @novaDemocrat

      Well, we know you are an oooooooold fellow.

      As a military brat, I went to schools run by the defense department (out of the country). I also went to schools in Mississippi, Connecticut, and Maryland. There was experimental program in the school I attended in Connecticut that emphasized primary source literature over text books. I don’t know what happened to the program, but it is obvious the idea did not catch on.

      Before I entered junior high school, school prayer ended. My brothers and sisters somehow grew up believing religion starts wars. I was taught as much myself, but I eventually realized that is not true. So do I want the public school system to teach religion? No. I think it would be much better if our leaders stopped imposing their beliefs and their values on us.

      1. I see you still haven’t outgrown your penchant for name-calling, Tom. A lot of my schoolyard acquaintances when I was 8 years old had the same problem. Most of them got over it by high school. Perhaps you’ll gain some maturity, also. I suspect that once you figure out how to engage substantively and civilly in an exchange of ideas, you’ll find that your reflexive tendency to resort to personal insults will begin to diminish.

        When you speak of “our leaders” imposing beliefs and values on us, to what are you referring? Isn’t it the case that some of our leaders (I don’t see a whole lot of leadership out there these days, but that’s another topic) state ideas that some of us either accept or reject through a process of examination and testing against our own knowledge and experience? I’m not aware of amy mechanism by which they force or impose their beliefs against our will.


        1. @novaDemocrat

          Calling you o0000000ld bothered you? We are both sort of old, but I guess your skin is thin. Perhaps that stems from too much maturity.

          When you speak of “our leaders” imposing beliefs and values on us, to what are you referring?

          It is rather disingenuous to ask questions to which you already know the answer and pretend you do not.

          Nevertheless, I may as well make my words as plain and simple as I can. We have put the state in charge of the education of our children. First we did that at the local level. Then state government officials, with grand promises, stepped in, and, they have flopped. They spent more money, but without better results. Now we have Federal Officials making grander promises with an even bigger pile of dough (all they have to do is print it).

          The Nazi and the Communists and various regimes around the world have used government-run education to indoctrinate the youth of their societies. Given the opportunity, our government officials can do, will do, and have done the same. When the risk of putting our government in charge of education is obvious and a need does not exist, why do it?

  7. Really well said, Tom. I was really blessed to have access to some good literature and to read dozens of classics. It is really helpful to get a feel for human nature and what they were dealing with at time. That way when you hear something crazy, you’re armed against it.

    The bible can be used that way too, get to understand the context and the culture at the time and suddenly things you don’t understand begin to make sense.

  8. I enjoy reading the classics and treasure them as you do. I also try to present what I have learned from them when I teach. Earlier this week I stunned a group of college students by describing how Hellenistic scientists perceived that the earth is a sphere and how they measured its size reasonably accurately. Just wait until we get to Columbus… J.

    1. The Greek philosophers will really quite amazing.

      If I recall correctly, Columbus underestimated the size of the globe. Anyway, he thought he had reached India. Hilarious how the name stuck. Still waiting for the politically correct to try to change that.

      1. Columbus had some interesting logic. He reasoned that Asia was bigger than it is, and that the curvature of the Earth might be different east-west than it is north-south (giving the Earth the shape of an egg). But the main reason he considered those two possibilities was his conviction that God would not waste so much of the planet’s surface on a big ocean.
        The PC group tried “Native Americans,” but many tribes rejected that label because of the way the British used “native” to mean “inferior.” Next they tried “Amerindians,” but nobody ever liked that label. Best practice is to use tribal names such as Iroquois or Hopi whenever possible, but the collective for the tribes remains Indians (or American Indians). J.

        1. @Salvageable

          I doubt the Indians had a collective name for each other that would have excluded the rest of the human race. Why would they?

          It might have made more sense to call the first people to populate the continents of N. and S. America “Americans”, but that label got stuck on the people of the United States of America. Therefore, every time we call the Indians “Indians” we are reminded that Columbus did not know where he was. Nonetheless, he was not exactly lost. He did know how to get back to Spain. Such is the true nature of exploration and the bumbling of man.

          History is full of such oddities. I suppose that is a good indication that God never intended us to take ourselves too seriously.

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