Do we need to be educated to be free? Does a professional degree guarantee our freedom? Do we have to go to school to learn about freedom?
When we know what freedom is, or worse yet, what bondage is, we want to be free. Our prosperous nation has been well preserved over the last two and a half centuries with only two attacks on our home soil, so it may be hard to imagine being without liberty. It also may be hard to imagine that because of a slow and gradual shift over the last of those centuries, the liberties we initially had are rapidly leaving. How can we know what it is like to not be free? How can we realize our freedoms are slipping? We know these things when we have an education. Not your everyday educate-the-masses-so-they’ll-be-good-workers type of education, or multiple-degrees-from-a-fancy-university kind of education. We know these things when we have a Classical Education that teaches principles, an education in the Liberal Arts that teaches us: you and me and our friends and neighbors, to be liber, or free.
Very few civilizations in the world have existed for very long in which everyone was able to enjoy the same freedoms. The Hebrews had it for a while. The Greeks and then the Romans had a society in which their people were fee. In all cases these freedoms were lost and the people no longer ruled themselves. What happened to them? What changed that?
The founding generation of the United States of America studied and knew about these past civilizations. The founders each had a classical, Liberal Arts education and that was what they used as a base for their founding of America’s principles of government. Because they learned these things, they were able to see what worked for other societies and what brought about their downfall. This knowledge guided them to focus on principles to prevent tyranny. Their education brought about the freedoms we enjoy in this country!
So the founders knew a lot, but that was then. Do we really need to have that kind of education now? We’re in the digital age, we know what’s going on around the world every second, right? We’ve seen people in other countries standing up and crying out for freedom, so the world is becoming more free, right?
Is it? Countries that are struggling to have liberty need to have one critical thing. The people in those countries need to know what true freedom is to be able to 1- set up a government to have freedom and 2- be able to keep freedom. Because of our nature as human beings and because we all want different things, there has always been struggle. We can learn what great thinkers in the past have come up with, understand the principles involved, and then apply them to our current situations. In order to do that, we need an education. But what kind?
Are we free simply because we learn what the founders learned? First off, people with degrees from college, doctors, engineers, social workers, even lawyers, don’t necessarily learn what the founders knew. There is a difference between gaining an education and gaining skills. The emphasis in most colleges has shifted from an education in liberal arts to training for a job. Yup, college, with its big degrees and all the letters that come after a name (BS, BA, MS, MA ED, PhD, etc.) doesn’t always educate a person in much of the liberal arts, either. Most of the people in our country who know about freedom learned it in … their homes!
They learned about freedom from their parents or grandparents, or they were led by trusted mentors through some of the more difficult reading. Most didn’t sit in a class and listen to a lecture by a respected professor, they sat down and read a book. Then they talked about what they read with others. They asked questions and wondered.
That’s right, they educated themselves, and you can educate yourself, too! I’ve been to public school, college, had technical training, and I’ve done a bunch of studying on all kinds of subjects since then, too. I’ve been educating myself for the bulk of my adult life and there is still so much to learn. Self education is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Personal Experience also plays an important part of education in a free society. I'm not talking about a battle of Knowledge vs. Skills, either, because they are both important to preserve freedom.
You don’t have to tackle Plutarch or Machiovelli right off the bat. Start with something simpler, like children’s literature. Classic stories, even ones written for children, have so much to teach us. That’s why they are classics. Laddie, by Gene Stratton Porter, is a beautiful example of a classic book that teaches about freedom, as well as the virtues you need to have to keep it. You can check out a book like Laddie from your local library (libraries are a great place to start with books), or find it free or cheap for your Kindle at Amazon, or in your local bookstore. Some communities even have used bookstores which come with a smaller price tag. Ask a neighbor if they have a copy of the book you are looking for. If they do, you might find a wealth of information in them with regards to a classical education! Many classics are in the public domain and free audio recordings are available to listen to while you drive or work.
I challenge you to educate yourself in the classics and especially about Freedom. You need to have an education if you want to keep your freedoms!