Democracy and Education

Why the empirical approach to governance and state-building predicated upon the strategy of “ambition checking ambition” and the free and unbridled countervailing of appetites and passions in hopes of fostering compromise and equilibrium ultimately loses out to its idealist or Socratic alternative based on the rule of an “intellectual elite” or a community of “philosopher kings” is because of the issue of education, knowledge, and intellect. As Benjamin Rush said:

“Freedom can exist only in the society of knowledge. Without learning, men are incapable of knowing their rights, and where learning is confined to a few people, liberty can be neither equal nor universal.”

Moreover, education is the end in and of itself in economic, political, and social life. There is no end, goal, or objective beyond education. Human intellect – and thus the human soul and spirit – requires growth lest it perish into hell, and growth stems from education and knowledge. John Dewey argued that “since in reality there is nothing to which growth is relative save more growth, there is nothing to which education is subordinate save more education.”

In turn, class disparities which facilitate the transition from a liberal-democratic state to a despotic and tyrannical state stem primarily from the issue of education, knowledge, and intellect. Dewey wrote: “A separation into a privileged and a subject-class prevents social endosmosis. The evils thereby affecting the superior class are less material and less perceptible, but equally real. Their culture tends to be sterile, to be turned back to feed on itself; their art becomes a showy display and artificial; their wealth luxurious; their knowledge overspecialized; their manners fastidious rather than humane.”

Hence: “The devotion of democracy to education is a familiar fact. The superficial explanation is that a government resting upon popular suffrage cannot be successful unless those who elect and who obey their governors are educated. Since a democratic society repudiates the principle of external authority, it must find a substitute in voluntary disposition and interest; these can be created only by education.”

Also, education “is equivalent to the breaking down of those barriers of class, race, and national territory which kept men from perceiving the full import of their activity.” As a result, “Multidimensional Wealth” – namely, universal education, universal health care, and universal basic income – is to be dispensed to the entire citizenry or populace à la Western Europe and Scandinavia in order to sustain a truly liberal-democratic system. Otherwise, power becomes concentrated into the hands of either a few educated or wealthy individuals and groups.

Thus, turning the focus inward in order to do what is necessary to salvage a domestic liberal-democratic order rather than “slaying monsters abroad” should be the main priority for Washington at this crucial juncture in time. A sick preoccupation with “slaying monsters abroad” in this kind of political and social context amounts to the demonstration and manifestation of nothing more than cognitive dissonance, or “Havana Syndrome.” As René Guénon wrote:

“There are those today who speak of a ‘defense’ of the West, which is odd, to say the least, considering that it is the West…that is threatening to submerge the whole of mankind in the whirlpool of its own confused activity; odd, we say, and completely unjustified if they mean, as they seem to (despite certain reservations), that this defense is to be against the East, for the true East has no thought of attacking or dominating anybody, and asks no more than to be left in independence and tranquility — surely a not unreasonable demand. Actually, the truth is that the West really is in great need of defense, but only against itself and its own tendencies, which, if they are pushed to their conclusion, will lead inevitably to its ruin and destruction; it is therefore ‘reform’ of the West that is called for, and if this reform were what it should be — that is to say, a restoration of tradition — it would entail as a natural consequence an understanding with the East.”

In turn, changes and reforms aimed at fostering a knowledge-based economy and society which in turn sustains a liberal-democratic order requires an overhaul of the prevailing epistemological and ontological status that defines higher education and pedagogy in the United States. But that is an issue which I will save for yet another blog post due shortly after this one.

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