The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
10.3 (Summer 2010)
courtesy of artrenewal.org
New Resources–But All Revolving Around Literature
As we labor to revivify our organization at the same time as an act of vandalism has forced us literally to reconstruct the website, we continue at The Center to think hard about the possibilities of serving the home-education movement. It is all too apparent (though those concerned often struggle to conceal it) that our public policy-makers aspire to have ever more control over a vast citizenry. No doubt, they truly believe that people will be better off when a great central authority quickly snuffs out pockets of infection, dissent, and crime all around the planet before anything like a world war or a pandemic can result. And this ambition is not devoid of worthy moral impulse–but only a liar or a fool could suppose that it would not entail a great deal of suppression of individual rights. (Is this not why progressives are so evasive about their real agenda, as our short story in this issue humorously?)
Home-educators, at any rate, stand in the vanguard of those who insist on continuing to think for themselves and on passing along that right and obligation to their children. The single most obvious institution to control in furtherance of a desire to control an entire society (or an entire planet) would be that which teaches the young how to view the world. Pol Pot had boys carrying rifles and gunning down “enemies” at the ripe age of nine. Even if our enlightened leaders wish to take guns out of young hands rather than distribute them (and we are willing to believe them on this score), how many children processed by this new system will look on passively as their elders are shipped out to “re-education” gulags after challenging government orthodoxy about the reality of God or the immorality of free sex? And in the gulags, we may be sure–far away from young eyes and intrusive cameras–will be plenty of loaded guns.
Home-education is a complex mix of lofty idealism and tough practical choices. Those who engage in it should possess an overall vision or sense of mission as they go about their work; but on any given day, their energy is taxed to the maximum just in covering another chapter of biology or in explaining maps. The Center, of course, has been to this point much more of a “cheerleader” for idealism than a practical resource, and the supply of practical aid may be long in coming. There is a text in the works which introduces several languages at once through the study of elementary Greek and Latin, and we hope to offer it on our “free downlaods” page by this time next summer; yet we will not deny that most of our material is pitched at the level of an advanced adolescent, at the very least, and more often at that of the parent searching to restore a flagging sense of mission.
Important lessons may be strained from each issue of Praesidium, however, if not offered directly to a young mind. In this issue, for instance, Mark Wegierski’s discussion of science fiction classics might be especially useful to the home-educator in its opening section, where authors and titles appear that not only model excellent style and polished vocabulary, but also provide a gateway into the consideration of various political ideas. Thomas Bertonneau, similarly, noted in a recent piece about H. G. Wells that several of the very imaginative settings found in that author’s works have come to have a stunning reality as our current political scene veers where few of us ever expected to see it go.
John Harris’s discussion at this issue’s beginning about the link between literary character and moral belief is another invitation to join two very important kinds of instruction. In fact, one of our contributors–a college English professor–recently shared with us that he was mulling over a type of opening-day speech which he had never before delivered in his long career. “I should probably tell them,” he wrote, “that their degrees may very likely mean nothing in the end–or not a well-paying job, at any rate. So if they intend to blow off literature as being irrelevant to all the rest of their lives, they had better think again. Manipulated, hoodwinked, underemployed, alternately stroked and kicked aside, they are going to find themselves early on having to figure out human nature as their sheepskin gathers dust. Over and over again, they will have to question the true meaning of life–what has lasting worth and what does not–as well as the motives and honor of the people who interview them, woo them, cozen them, and threaten them. Nothing teaches these lessons as well as literature. The great stories they read may be the most worthwhile thing they ever do in college.”
This is not at all a bad insight to have in mind as you introduce your much younger charges to literature. Reading is not just a preparation for scoring well on the SAT: it is the foundation of that human knowledge which no one dare ignore who intends to negotiate life successfully. ~ Staff