So then, the problem with ignorance is that when you don’t know, you frequently don’t know what it is you don’t know.
A common trope among our leaders and pontificators is found in the phrase “the greatest national security threat we face is . . .” followed whatever it is they want us to be whipped up about now — climate change, immigration, the national debt, and so on. Some of these things are just made up crises, as in the weather, but some of them are real enough. But it would be far better for us to consider an underlying national security threat.
That threat is an uneducated public. By “uneducated” I do not mean “unpropagandized,” I mean uneducated. I am not talking about a public that has not yet seen the compelling new ads about the koala bears on ice floes, but rather the public that was never taught to think properly growing up.
This is because whenever we are faced with any threat, real or imagined, our leaders are going to start holding press conferences, and they are going to start talking nonsense to us. Our responsibility as a citizenry is to laugh at the nonsense and turn our attention to that lonely fellow on the end of the stage trying to make an argument. It is our duty to know how to follow an argument, to know how to distinguish fact from fiction, to know what history means, and to be able to resist the lies of the demagogues.
In short, this means the greatest national security threat to our country today is the government school system. The government oversees education with the same levels of competence you have come to expect from any given urban Department of Motor Vehicles.
In her seminal essay on education, The Lost Tools of Learning, Dorothy Sayers said this:
“Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined? Do you put this down to the mere mechanical fact that the press and the radio and so on have made propaganda much easier to distribute over a wide area? Or do you sometimes have an uneasy suspicion that the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible?”
In examining what goes on in government schools, we have to distinguish that which is immoral from that which is simply stupid. For an example of an immoral doctrinal line, consider what is taught in the government school system about sodomy. But that is not my primary interest here. Stupid is also a threat. When you graduate students who simply do not know how to distinguish premises and conclusions, fallacies and valid arguments, or supported from unsupported statements, you will have graduated, within a very short period of time, millions of little worker bees, well-fitted for life in the Hive.
In the words of Pink Floyd, you will have, fresh out of the kilns, another brick for the wall.
Take, for the most recent egregiousness, and they come almost daily now, Obama’s executive action on gun control, followed by his tears. Distinguish the issue of gun control policy, which is one debate, from the outrageous and despotic methods which he uses whenever he wants to get his way. “Congress failed to act,” and so he must act. But the whole point of our system of government is to require all three branches of government to work together before something “is done.” One of the things we elect congressmen to do, one of their most important roles, is that of failing to act. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
But with a stroke of a pen, Obama writes off centuries of constitutional law, and he can do so with the serene confidence that the vast majority of government school alumni will not have the faintest idea what is happening. He can just sign things like that, blow a little sunshine, assure everyone that what he is doing is fully in accord with the 2nd amendment, and we stagger on to the next profanation.
There used to be a bumper sticker, at least in our town, that said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” To which the reply should be made, “We did try ignorance, and now it wants a raise.”