Our Founding Fathers Didn’t Go to Trade School


Like Reagan, the GOP is increasingly going after liberal education as superfluous and artsy. They want to make education all about preparation for work, and this is precisely the short-term, profit-oriented thinking that has the United States in its current position.

Let me state this plainly: Education without the liberal arts is called trade school. Trade schools are fine, but they create workers, not citizens.

Citizens know the dangers of tyranny. Citizens know the signs of manipulation by those in power. Citizens are empowered to participate in their government when they don’t like how it’s being managed.

We need citizens.

Workers, on the other side of the spectrum, go to work and come home. They watch TV and get ready for the next work day. They may be unhappy, but they rarely turn it into action because they lack the time and/or think that it’s not their place.

That’s what workers think:

… it’s someone else’s job to fix things. I’ll grumble and moan occasionally, but I’ll leave that to my betters.

And that’s precisely what the GOP likes. Turn the universities into worker farms. Teach them to be good soldiers in the corporate ranks. But don’t fill their heads with ideas about how things could be better, or—worst of all—different.

History. Language. Philosophy. Art. These are not superfluous. They are not nice to haves. They are the scaffolding on which to build a solid population.

They are vaccines against totalitarianism. They are immunizations against oligarchy. Without them the powerful will further subjugate the quiet and loyal worker class and keep the harvest for themselves.

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Liberal arts education is the infrastructure of a thriving democracy. It imbues students and future citizens with the essential attributes of thoughtfulness, willingness to question, and historical perspective.

Our founding fathers didn’t go to trade school. They didn’t reject an inferior form of government and create their own by learning how to be good workers.

They did so by learning about life, passion, thought, and the history of civilization’s struggle for happiness. Only with this background could they have both the perspective and the tools to build what we now risk squandering.

Being a great citizen requires much more than learning how to turn a wrench or build a bridge. Our tangible workforce is essential, but without the mindset of our founders we will become a population of the silent and apathetic.

Those persons whom nature has endowed with genius and virtue should be rendered by liberal education worthy to receive and able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens. ~ Thomas Jefferson

Apathy is the poison that most threatens this American experiment, and the antidote is to become informed and active citizens as our founders were.

Defend the liberal arts.

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