S-T-O-P Means Stop

In 25 years of ministry one of the most profound changes I’ve seen is the growing inability and/or unwillingness of Americans to read texts according to the intent of the author. One of the major reasons for this change was the mutation of the Modernism in North America from rationalism and empiricism to subjectivism. Mind you both forms of Modernism have much in common. In both cases the subject of the verb is always the autonomous “I.” For the rationalist “I get to decide what is reasonable and true on the basis of what I can know comprehensively.’ For the empiricist, “I decide what is true on the basis of sense experience.” The subjectivist says, “Truth is what is true for me.” In that sense, the starting point hasn’t changed but in other respects things have changed.

The argument with rationalists and empiricists was not whether there is such a thing as objective reality (that which is true regardless of my experience of it) but whether it is “reasonable” to believe a truth claim on the basis of an authority or source that transcended my intellect or sense experience. Now the discussion has devolved into the question whether there is anything that isn’t me or my imagination or my experience. Do “you” really exist?

The Late Modern Sea Change
All that to say subjectivism was washing over the American university just as I graduated. I heard rumblings but I didn’t pay attention. At seminary we were still largely fighting with the higher critics and old modernists (mostly rationalists) so I didn’t really see it there even though we had some brief discussions about the subjective turn in hermeneutics to “reader reception” and the like. It seemed like a fad. When I got to the UK in 1993, however, I discovered that it was not a fad and I had to catch up. The language of the university had changed while I wasn’t looking.

In the years since the consequences of this turn have become clearer. It is increasingly difficult to get readers to move beyond their subjective experience of the text to the text itself in its original context, to ask when did the author write it? To whom? Why and what did he intend to communicate? These questions, which my 9th-grade Journalism teacher, Mrs Chafee taught us were basic, are now regarded as quaint and outmoded. Are they really?

Consider this example: when a subjectivist author writes a document attempting to persuade us that the reader’s experience/reception of a text is as important or more important than the author’s intention, that subjectivist author necessarily expects us to read his document according to his intention. If we refuse and receive his words as communicating something about cosmic grasshoppers the entire communication process is frustrated. For the purposes of telling us to do to other authors what he does not want us to do to his words, our subjectivist author must rely on the old-fashioned idea of authorial intent. He must rely on the notion that the author had an intent, that words are signals of that intent, and that the intent can be inferred by understanding the words—that there is perspicuity in language, that it is a vehicle for meaning. Only after reading the subjectivist author are we to begin reading other texts as if the reader’s experience trumps all.

In that case then we’re just playing a game that defies the nature of creation, the nature of the created order and pattern. God gave us language not, first of all, to facilitate my subjective experience, to do with whatever I autonomously will, but in order to facilitate communication between the Creator and his image bearer and secondarily to facilitate communication between image bearers. Of course, the fall corrupted the process. Signs are not as easy to read because our perception is corrupted and because our wills, our affections, and our intellects are corrupted. Nevertheless, God has pledged to restrain the effects of the fall (Gen 9) so that life can continue, albeit brokenly, and communication can continue, albeit haltingly, until the end.

Please do not misunderstand. I understand that readers necessarily receive texts and that, in some way, their experience of the text is distinct from that of the author, that the reader may justifiably perceive messages in the text of which the author was not conscious. This is true in the case of the NT reception of the authors of the typological revelation (the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament in the broad sense of that term). John understood aspects of Isaiah that Isaiah himself probably did not understand. The NT interprets Psalms 110 repeatedly in ways that David probably did not understand fully.

This process occurs even with uninspired texts. Readers do decode messages of which the author was perhaps not aware but recognizing the power of creative reading is not quite the same thing as ignoring the author’s intent or denying that the author had an intent. Again, you might take this post to be a secret message from a cosmic grasshopper but I’m telling you that it is no such thing. In the nature of the created order, words bear a relation to the things they intend to signify. For the purposes of this discussion it doesn’t matter whether that relation is fixed by nature (realism) or fixed by convention (nominalism) so long as the intent of the sign is understood in a substantially similar way by author and reader.

Consider The Stop Sign
Consider the lowly stop sign. S-T-O-P. In English we add those letters to make a word. According to the Oxford English Dictionary it’s an Old English word derived from Saxon and West Germanic words. It may be used as a noun to refer to a bucket or to something that plugs up something. In the case of a stop sign, however, it would not seem to be a noun. That would make the sign an announcement: “Here is something that plugs up something else.” That’s true in a way. A stop sign does momentarily impede cars but is that the intent of the author (in this case the city council) of the sign? Probably not. So, we move on to the the next possibility: a verb. Again, it’s an Old English word with relatives all across Europe. As a verb it may mean “To fill up, plug, close up.” If it’s a verb, what sort of verb it is? In what voice? If we take it as an indicative (what is) does that work? “Things stop.” Well, they do, yes but why would the city council post signs across town announcing that? It seems unlikely. If, however, we take it as an imperative (“do this!”) then it begins to make sense in context.

After all, these signs tend to occur at intersections where autos must negotiate a limited space at the same time but what sort of imperative? If the noun means “a plug” does that mean that the city council wants us all to congest intersections and impede traffic? Probably not. Why would the council want that? To what end? Why would we allow them to tax us in order to post signs to slow our way home from work? Thus, if it is an imperative it must mean something else. In context, it seems most likely that the intent is to require us to cease moving forward long enough to allow others to move or to make sure the way is clear before we continue. Imagine if we chose to ignore the intent of the city council in posting the signs? Chaos!

Most likely someone told us what STOP on a red sign means but this exercise shows that even if no one told us what the signs meant it is possible to decode messages according to original intent by considering the signal in its immediate and broader context. We are able to infer a likely meaning and confirm that inference by experience. In fact, we would probably make all of those decisions very quickly.

Consider The Constitution
In what follows we will consider a more complicated text because it is longer and its original context is farther away from us but I am confident that we can apply the same principles and arrive at a reasonable understanding of its original intent and sense. I understand that what we are about to discuss is a controversial topic but that is why it needs to be discussed because we have before us a living example of the necessity of reading texts in their original context, according to original intent. To be sure: The point I am making here is first of all about hermeneutics (the interpretation of texts). Whether we should decide to agree with the text in question is another matter.

A prime example is the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution was ratified in 1788 and amended with the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791. The second amendment says:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

This amendment is usually analyzed to include two parts: a preface, “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state” and an operative clause, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

There was debate among the framers as to whether a Bill of Rights was needed. The Federalists opposed the Bill of Rights on the grounds that it was superfluous. The Anti-Federalist argument, however, that a statement of specific rights was necessary to keep the government at bay and to protect individual liberties won the day. The original intention of the framers was that ordinary civilians, who composed the state militias (something like the modern state National Guard units), had to be armed in order to form a regulated militia. For some time the preface more or less dominated the operative clause (“shall not be infringed”)  in the interpretation of the amendment.

Interestingly, this leveraging of the operative clause by means of the preface has the appearance of reading the amendment in context while denying the substance of the operative clause. The reasoning has been to the effect that: “We’re not in the 18th century any longer and we don’t have the same sort of state militias any longer and therefore the second amendment can be re-contextualized and re-interpreted to allow civil governments to ban the ownership of weapons.”

Such a reading, however, ignores the intent of the preface and the operative clause. The intent was that the people should be able to defend themselves. If weapons are banned they are no longer able to defend themselves.

In recent case law, however, the situation has changed. There is a helpful, brief summary of the state of the law at FindLaw. Here are two salient paragraphs:

In Heller, the Court held that (1) the District of Columbia’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounted to a prohibition on an entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly chose for the lawful purpose of self-defense, and thus violated the Second Amendment; and (2) the District’s requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock also violated the Second Amendment, because the law made it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense.

The Court reasoned that the Amendment’s prefatory clause, i.e., “[a] well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” announced the Amendment’s purpose, but did not limit or expand the scope of the operative clause, i.e., “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Moreover, the prefatory clause’s history comported with the Court’s interpretation, because the prefatory clause stemmed from the Anti-Federalists’ concern that the federal government would disarm the people in order to disable the citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule.

Private Individuals have a constitutional right to keep and carry firearms in order to prevent tyranny. As the founders looked at the world, according to their intention in framing the second amendment, to infringe upon that right is an act of tyranny. The constitution did not specify which weapons lawful citizens could keep and carry. It did not envision that law-abiding citizens should even have to apply for a permit to own or carry a firearm. The historical fact is that people kept and carried military-style weapons in the 18th century, when this amendment was adopted. Therefore, it cannot be unconstitutional to keep and carry military-style weapons. We know they did so because that’s what it takes to form a well-regulated militia.

One of the challenges we face in interpreting texts is that of de-contexualization. This is the removal of the text in question and setting it down in another context altogether. In university we did this by only discussing the second amendment in terms of whether people should be allowed to own firearms for the purposes of hunting. We never discussed the second amendment in its original context, according to its original intent. The great difficulty with such a procedure is that hunting has nothing to do with the language or original intent or original context of the second amendment. The only purpose stated in the amendment is the purpose of self-defense.

Reading the amendment against the backdrop of the original setting we can understand why this would be. The United States of America was formed out of a rebellion against a colonial power that was believed by the rebels to by tyrannical and contradictory to the nature of civil government. Were the colonialists unarmed there could have been no rebellion.

The other flaw in de-contextualizing the second amendment and re-contextualizing it in terms of hunting is that it creates a misleading picture of the nature of the weapons that were possessed by the colonists. They owned and carried military grade weapons. Their ownership of military grade weapons was essential to their liberation from British tyranny.

If “tyranny” seems like a strong word, consider just some of the complaints we Americans lodged against the British crown in the Declaration of Independence (1776):

  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
  • He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
  • He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
  • He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
  • He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
  • He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
  • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
  • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
  • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
  • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
  • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
  • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
  • He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

“Tyranny” was the word used by the founders in the Declaration:

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

It is against these complaints that we must understand the phrase, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” They were thinking of the instances in which British crown had denied the same to the colonists.

The third argument I used to hear in university was, “Society has changed. We’re a densely populated urban society and the constitution was adopted by an agrarian society.” One is  hard pressed to see how the urbanization of the USA changes the intent or force of the constitution. Could not such an argument be used to obliterate more than just the second amendment? If so, how is this a valid argument? “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is not contingent upon whether we live in urban, suburban, or rural settings. Either we are free or we are not.

The fourth argument: “the founders never envisioned x type of weapon.” Let’s test the validity of this sort of argument by applying it to the first Amendment. When the Bill of Rights was ratified the main forms of mass media were newspapers and pamphlets. We’re now witnessing the extinction of print newspapers and pamphlets. On this argument should we suppose that the first amendment guarantee of the freedom of the press only applies to print newspapers?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

My grandparents couldn’t have envisioned the internet and they were alive for the invention of the airplane and the moon landing. We can be sure that the founders, who rebelled more than 130 years before my grandparents were born never envisioned the internet but they did understand the propensity of government to encroach on the natural liberties granted by God to citizens.

This is why the founders wrote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Is there any reasonable doubt that the rebels who wrote these words thought that the people, in whom they believed to reside original authority to form a government and even to rebel against the existing government, should not be allowed to arm themselves in order to preserve the liberty for which they were about to die?

The point is this: if we read the Bill of Rights in its original context, according to its original intent, neither the creation of the internet nor the development of firearms from muskets to semi-automatic firearms makes any difference. Their intent was that Americans would be free to publish dissent from the government and that they would be sufficiently well-armed to keep the government in check.

The second amendment, read in context, according to original intent, has nothing to do with sport or hunting. The founders never envisioned that the government would restrict hunting since, in the 18th century, that would have meant starvation. Sport shooting was simply a correlate to hunting. They didn’t have to stipulate these things. They were essential to existence and that had been established, for the purposes of the formation of the Republic, in the Declaration.

As a well-known pundit has been known to say, “words mean things.” Indeed they do. They are signals of intent. Readers of words may disagree with the intent and they may want to change the words or persuade others to use different words with different intent but before any of that can happen we must first recognize the intended sense of the words before us.

Education True And False

Americans are busy people who continue to conquer a big place which has, since the 18th century, offered wealth and great influence to those who work hard and who produce a product or service valued by others. Education, per se, has not always been valued for itself. Presently, undergraduate education is highly valued, judging by what the market is willing to pay, as a means to future success. Judging by her graduates, however, what is being sold to the student isn’t always education, at least not as that idea has been traditionally defined. What the culture values is the economic result of having attended an undergraduate school and having obtained a credential. Evangelicals (and too many Reformed folk) are children of this anti-intellectual culture and they often look at the training of pastors in the same way. They like the credential and the license it brings to serve the church but they don’t seem to care for the process or even the substance of education as much as they desire the credential.

This antipathy for genuine education appears in a variety of ways but one way in which it has manifested itself is in the proliferation of ad hoc seminaries where the faculty is unqualified , not residential, or non-existent.  The problem is, since many undergraduates have not received a proper education either in high school or in college as they are considering where to attend seminary they are poorly prepared  to evaluate what constitutes a good seminary education. For starters, they don’t know what are the marks of a true school. Let me propose three: Genuine learning, genuine faculty, and proper recognition.

Genuine Learning
Without genuine learning there can be no true education. By learning I do not mean only or primarily the dissemination and accumulation of information. This is what many students think (or have been taught to think) that education is. This class of student thinks that the teacher is in possession of information that the student must have in order to complete the course and get on to the “real work of ministry.”  The information collector sits in class and busily transcribes (almost always by computer now) every word from the teacher’s mouth without stopping to evaluate the character, significance, or significance of what is being said. Every word is treated as if it were as important as every other word. When the information stops flowing the collector stops typing. Analysis, if it occurs, is delayed to the end of term cram session.

Nor do I mean, moving to the other end of the spectrum (as I learned from Thomas de Zengotita and I’m being reminded by Jean M. Twenge’s Generation Me) what the Narcissist assumes.  The Narcissist is the sovereign arbiter of what is to be known, what should be learned, and what (if anything) shall be learned in class. If the teacher’s goals match up with the Narcissist, so much the better for the teacher.

By genuine learning I mean memorizing the grammar, understanding the logic, and and mastering the rhetoric of a discipline. The grammar is the basic stuff of any intellectual enterprise. In my discipline (church history) the grammar is composed of the facts of the biography, circumstances, and intellectual history of a given person, episode, or movement. For example, it is impossible to study the council of Nicea without understanding when the Council met, why it met, and under what circumstances. These things must be mastered before one can analyze the significance of the Council and its product (the Nicene Creed). Genuine learning takes into account the  internal structure of a discipline both in general and in particular. Thus the student of history must understand how history itself works and how and why things unfolded in any particular case. Third, a student must learn the language of a discipline, i.e., how to talk about it intelligently and even how to explain it to others. If you can’t explain something to someone else, how well do you understand it yourself? Yes, there is intuitive knowledge but schools cannot major in intuition!

Finally, a genuine education requires a student to think well and clearly, to be stretched, to develop critical faculties.  More than once I’ve heard from prospective and students in various schools that they chose this or that school because, in effect, they were sure that school would not challenge them to re-think or even think through their convictions. In other words, such students choose a school because they are confident that it will reinforce their existing convictions or even validate their prejudices. Let me illustrate. I recall, some years back, receiving a paper from a student (in order to be excused from a preliminary course) which proposed to show that a view propounded by a certain (then) faculty member was wrong. It doesn’t matter exactly what the issue was except it was one on which there are a variety of reasonable, well-grounded, views and about which there is no clear unanimity among orthodox scholars. Now this student may have been correct in his conclusion but what troubled me was that the student knew the correctness of his conclusion before he had ever engaged in a thorough or careful study of the matter. The student had not learned a syllable of Greek or Hebrew (or any other ancient languages or any modern European languages for that matter). He had not engaged with any higher-level critical study of the issue in any way nor was he capable yet of doing so, but he was undeterred in his confidence. It never occurred to this student that he might be wrong or that he could be wrong or that there might be things which he needed to learn before coming to iron-clad conclusions. A year or two later, the student transferred to a school where he was confident that his certainty would not be disturbed and I suppose his confidence was well placed. I submit that such an approach does not constitute genuine learning.

Real learning is often painful because it requires a genuine student to put to death familiar and cherished notions and to confront new and unfamiliar ones. It causes self-examination and that is usually painful. It requires the acquisition not only of new skills, which can be difficult, but it also requires the formation of new ways of thinking which is never easy. True education is a counter-cultural undertaking. One must break from the prevailing culture of “busy-ness” and enterprise (whether commercial or religious) in order to become educated because real learning takes time, patience, and sacrifice.

A Proper Faculty
Next we must distinguish between those schools that have a proper faculty and those that do not.

One of the difficulties that prospective students face in evaluating possible seminaries is that of determining the quality of the faculty. My own experience is not atypical. When I came to seminary in 1984 I knew virtually nothing about the seminary except that Jay Adams taught there and that my good friend and fellow member of St John’s RCUS (Lincoln, Neb) a friend loved the school and that it was in San Diego and it had a famous name. To be sure, I expected that it would adhere to rigorous academic standards and I knew (and know) Chuck to be a very good and thoughtful student and a reliable guide. I suppose they sent me a catalogue but I don’t remember reading it very closely.

Today, of course, with the advent of web it is much easier to learn about a faculty. Even with the arrival of easily found information, one still must make sense of it all. One reasonably objective way to evaluate whether a seminary faculty is qualified to provide a true education is to look at their credentials.

A century or more ago it was relatively common for teachers at the seminary level to lack a PhD or to have an honorary doctorate (e.g. D. D.) as in the case of the founder of Westminster Seminary, J. Gresham Machen. None could doubt Machen’s scholarship or learning and few in his day did. Today, however, because of changes in the academy, because of professionalization and specialization of academics, most college and seminary teachers have some sort of doctoral degree and it’s become expected that anyone who teaches at the undergraduate (BA/BS) or graduate (e.g. seminary or MA/MDiv) level will have a doctorate; but are all doctoral degrees the same? Do they all reflect the same quality of of research and scholarship? This is a sensitive area but one that needs to be probed. With the rising expectation that seminary teachers will have a PhD combined with American ingenuity, there has developed classes of doctoral degrees that are are not all the same.

The standard academic doctoral degree is a PhD (or in one case, D.Phil). A PhD is not necessarily a degree in the field of philosophy per se but it is an earned degree awarded to students who (typically in the USA in some branch of the liberal arts) have completed an MA (or two), passed two years of coursework in preparation for comprehensive exams, and successfully completed and defended a sustained, detailed, piece of original academic research grounded in original sources and accounting for the relevant secondary literature. This research is conducted under the supervision of an experienced faculty member and sometimes under the supervision of an entire committee and is presented to a committee and defended orally. Such a program usually takes not less than five years and frequently as many as seven years to complete. In the UK and Europe doctoral research presupposes a more rigorous secondary and post-secondary education and thus not always as lengthy but usually no less rigorous. Typically this work is undertaken in an accredited (to be addressed below) university setting and under the supervision of a recognized (e.g., properly credentialed and academically published) scholar in a given field. A select few seminary PhD programs have, in certain instances, outstanding scholars which help to compensate for their relative lack of resources as compared to those available to state schools with public funding or to prestigious private schools with large endowment funds.

Not all PhDs are the same. There are schools that do not meet the criteria laid out above, which regularly bestow PhDs upon graduates on the basis of research that would not merit such recognition in university or even in an accredited seminary. A real PhD thesis will be accessioned in a library in an accredited school and shall have been subject to genuine peer review. These second-class PhDs, however, lack the substance of an actual PhD. In medieval terms, such a PhD is a mere nomen. It is a name only, a fiction, and not a reality. I am aware of schools that award such PhDs that are not available for review by the academic community and that are not subject to peer review.

In some cases, however, even accredited schools are capable of awarding second-class PhDs. A few years back I was asked to serve as an outsider reader or referee of a PhD thesis being done at a large, well-known evangelical seminary. I read the thesis and found it interesting and suggestive but lacking in several ways. The student had made a good start but it was evident that he was not expert in his field. The thesis demonstrated ignorance of basic works and skills in the field. It could have been an MDiv honors thesis or perhaps an MA thesis but it was not yet ready for prime time. I sent my evaluation to this effect and suggested that the student needed about 2 more years of study before submitting the project for final approval. Imagine my astonishment when, two weeks later, I saw a notice that this fellow was now the Rev Dr So and So, PhD. Normally, in a university setting, a recommendation like that by an external reader would be decisive. I guess this school will not be sending me any more PhD theses to evaluate.

Before a prospective student invests thousands of dollars and thousands of hours into a school, he ought to determine whether the faculty of a given school is properly educated (which is a matter of substance) and properly credentialed (a matter of form). Do most of the faculty have real, credible PhDs from real, credible (e.g. accredited) schools with a track record of outstanding scholarship? Here’s one clue that something may be amiss: Does the seminary faculty hold their PhD degrees from the same school in which they teach? This is not a fatal problem but it raises questions. Here is a second clue: is the seminary run by a single family? Here is a third question: Could this faculty hypothetically teach elsewhere, at a real, well-recognized school?

There is also a class of so-called “professional” doctoral degrees, e.g. DMin which are aimed at busy professionals who do not have time to leave their profession to return to school for a traditional academic course of study. The professional doctoral degree does not usually meet the tests set out above for an academic degree. In the interests of full disclosure, my employer had a DMin program for several years but we closed our program at the same time many seminaries in North America began theirs. Typically these programs do not require knowledge of original or foreign languages nor do they require original academic research. This is not to say that there are no good DMin projects, there are but they are the exception rather than the rule. The nature and proliferation of this degree is such that David Wells complained, in print, some years back about the “DMin-ization” of the church. He was getting at the problem which lies beneath the need for pastors to augment their credibility by becoming “Rev Dr So and So, DMin.” There are schools who have faculty members whose credential is a DMin. Again, this is not fatal but, caveat emptor. It is fair to ask why a faculty member has a professional and not academic degree and whether that degree is sufficient preparation for the course of study in which instructor teaches. I’m not thinking here of visiting or adjunct faculty but rather about full-time, residential faculty.

A second objective mark of the quality of a faculty is the number of credible academic and popular publications by that faculty. Again, I’m not suggesting that if a faculty has not written much that it is necessarily a poor faculty. The original faculty at WSC was busying founding an institution in what was then still something of an ecclesiastical wilderness for Reformed confessional theology, piety, and practice. In the nature of things they had not time in the early 80s to do a lot of research and writing. We’re all conscious here of standing on the shoulders of those of our predecessors and teachers who carried heavy teaching loads and who traveled and made it possible for us to write more than they. Still, it is fair to ask whether a faculty has produced notable, academically responsible, peer-reviewed, and recognized doctoral research and publications. Has the faculty published in peer-reviewed journals? Has their work been of service to the churches? These are fair questions.

There is a third mark that should be mentioned briefly. The first two marks have focused on the substantial and formal academic qualification of a seminary faculty. This is reasonable since we are discussing those whose vocation it is to teach in and conduct research in schools. Nevertheless, since we’re also talking about a seminary faculty it’s also important to recognize that the school exists to serve the visible, institutional church. Thus, it is fair to ask whether and to what degree a seminary faculty is involved with and serving the visible church. In my school our faculty are ministers or elders in NAPARC churches. We serve on consistories and sessions (the assembly of elders and ministers of local congregations) and are delegates to classis and presbytery (the regional assemblies of pastors and elders) and to synods and general assemblies (the national assemblies of pastors and elders). We preach, we administer the sacraments, we do house visitation, we counsel, and we visit the sick. Balancing all this with a commitment to academic excellence is demanding but it is our calling.

The quality of a faculty is at the heart of the seminary experience and judging by the correspondence I’ve received and conversations I’ve had with prospective students many of them are unaware of what it is that makes a seminary faculty properly prepared to offer an education. It will be well for the prospective student to investigate the quality of a given faculty before committing time and funds toward an education that a faculty may not be prepared to offer.

The third mark of a true school is quite controversial in some circles. By proper recognition I mean accreditation. This is not something that every prospective student considers and it may be something about which consistories/sessions are unaware. In case you think accreditation is unimportant you should know that a school’s accreditation status (or lack thereof) affects the ability of students to receive student loans, enter the military chaplaincy, and to attend graduate school among other things. Accreditation has more to do with the quality of a school than one might think. If a seminary is not accredited by one or more such agencies (i.e. a regional accrediting agency and/or ATS) that fact should cause the wise student to pause and consider why that might be.

Accreditation is a corollary to the academic peer-review process mentioned in above. Just as journal articles, chapters, and books are reviewed by other scholars before being accepted for publication so schools are also reviewed to see that they meet basic standards,  to see whether a school is fulfilling its promises made to students and to prospective students. Accreditation evaluates whether a school is meeting certain basic academic and administrative standards (e.g. sufficient faculty, library, staff, and other resources). My school is accredited by two agencies recognized by the Department of Education: WASC (Western States) which accredits colleges and graduate schools and ATS (Association of Theological Schools). Beware that there are other bodies that offer accreditation that may or may not be recognized by the Department of Education.

In some, usually hyper-conservative/fundamentalist circles, the lack of proper accreditation is regarded a badge of courage. The rhetoric, at least in some instances, is “we’ve resisted ‘the man,’ those allegedly oppressive leftist bureaucratic types in the interest of biblical/confessional/cultural (fill-in-the-blank) fidelity.” Certainly there may be instances where accreditation is genuinely problematic on the basis of principle. For example, it wasn’t long ago that the Middle States (regional) accrediting agency threatened to remove the accreditation of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia over a matter of conscience. The courts intervened and the school’s liberty was preserved. In such a case ideologues were willing to use the accreditation process to force conformity. No one with conservative religious convictions should be naive about potential challenges in the accreditation process. Nevertheless, I’ve had conversations with visiting accreditation teams about such issues and, however much they have disagreed with our conclusions, they have always been respectful of our convictions and the intellectual rigor with which they are supported and the grace with which they are explained.

The proliferation of unaccredited schools presents a challenge to prospective students, to donors, and to churches who send students to school as part of their preparation for ministry. For one thing it means that they lack an external, objective measure of the health of the school. Imagine sending a child to a physician whose degree was not recognized by the American Medical Association. Does this mean that the prospective physician is necessarily a quack? No, but it does increase the probability. Just as most of us are not qualified to work on today’s high-tech cars, most prospective students (and their consistories/sessions) probably are not expert in educational administration. They may not be aware of all the moving parts that help a school to function. The accreditation process is designed to check all those moving parts (while they are moving!) to make sure that everything is in place. For that process a school produces an extensive series of reports. The visiting teams meet with the administration, the board, the faculty, and others to evaluate comprehensively whether a school is operating well and serving its students faithfully. In turn, the visiting teams produce their own reports. Accrediting agencies also produce annually a volume that records what is really happening in a seminary, how many students are actually enrolled and other relevant facts. The variance between what some schools report to the accreditation agencies and what they say in their publicity can be interesting to note.

Students considering an unaccredited school should think carefully about whether there is a legitimate reason for a school not being accredited or whether a school lacks a real accreditation (i.e. one recognized by the Department of Education) because it is simply a poor school and thus, likely, a waste of money. There are more than a few home-made seminaries, which are unable to provide the necessary education, which lack a qualified faculty, which lack the necessary library (and other) resources, that are all too ready to take your money and give you a degree. Would you attend medical school in someone’s basement? Would you trust your health to a physician trained at such a school? Why we should entrust the care of our congregations to pastors trained at home-made seminary? Consistories/sessions, classes/presbyteries and other bodies should consider why should we are sometimes willing to accept lower standards in our seminaries than we would for medical schools.

UPDATE 18 February 2015
This post was written six years ago. Since that time some things have changed. Gordon College’s regional accreditation agency appears to be threatening to remove their accreditation because the college president signed on to a letter regarding homosexuality.  If the agency removes Gordon’s accreditation for articulating the historic Christian position on human sexuality and if that move is not overturned by the courts, then Christian educational institutions shall have to organize another, credible accreditation process.

Dorothy Sayers On The Lost Tools Of Learning

By Dorothy Sayers (1947)

That I, whose experience of teaching is extremely limited, should presume to discuss education is a matter, surely, that calls for no apology. It is a kind of behavior to which the present climate of opinion is wholly favorable. Bishops air their opinions about economics; biologists, about metaphysics; inorganic chemists, about theology; the most irrelevant people are appointed to highly technical ministries; and plain, blunt men write to the papers to say that Epstein and Picasso do not know how to draw. Up to a certain point, and provided the the criticisms are made with a reasonable modesty, these activities are commendable. Too much specialization is not a good thing. There is also one excellent reason why the veriest amateur may feel entitled to have an opinion about education. For if we are not all professional teachers, we have all, at some time or another, been taught. Even if we learnt nothing—perhaps in particular if we learnt nothing—our contribution to the discussion may have a potential value.

However, it is in the highest degree improbable that the reforms I propose will ever be carried into effect. Neither the parents, nor the training colleges, nor the examination boards, nor the boards of governors, nor the ministries of education, would countenance them for a moment. For they amount to this: that if we are to produce a society of educated people, fitted to preserve their intellectual freedom amid the complex pressures of our modern society, we must turn back the wheel of progress some four or five hundred years, to the point at which education began to lose sight of its true object, towards the end of the Middle Ages.

Before you dismiss me with the appropriate phrase—reactionary, romantic, mediaevalist, laudator temporis acti (praiser of times past), or whatever tag comes first to hand—I will ask you to consider one or two miscellaneous questions that hang about at the back, perhaps, of all our minds, and occasionally pop out to worry us.

When we think about the remarkably early age at which the young men went up to university in, let us say, Tudor times, and thereafter were held fit to assume responsibility for the conduct of their own affairs, are we altogether comfortable about that artificial prolongation of intellectual childhood and adolescence into the years of physical maturity which is so marked in our own day? To postpone the acceptance of responsibility to a late date brings with it a number of psychological complications which, while they may interest the psychiatrist, are scarcely beneficial either to the individual or to society. The stock argument in favor of postponing the school-leaving age and prolonging the period of education generally is there there is now so much more to learn than there was in the Middle Ages. This is partly true, but not wholly. The modern boy and girl are certainly taught more subjects—but does that always mean that they actually know more?

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?

Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side? Or have you ever pondered upon the extremely high incidence of irrelevant matter which crops up at committee meetings, and upon the very great rarity of persons capable of acting as chairmen of committees? And when you think of this, and think that most of our public affairs are settled by debates and committees, have you ever felt a certain sinking of the heart?

Have you ever followed a discussion in the newspapers or elsewhere and noticed how frequently writers fail to define the terms they use? Or how often, if one man does define his terms, another will assume in his reply that he was using the terms in precisely the opposite sense to that in which he has already defined them? Have you ever been faintly troubled by the amount of slipshod syntax going about? And, if so, are you troubled because it is inelegant or because it may lead to dangerous misunderstanding?

Do you ever find that young people, when they have left school, not only forget most of what they have learnt (that is only to be expected), but forget also, or betray that they have never really known, how to tackle a new subject for themselves? Are you often bothered by coming across grown-up men and women who seem unable to distinguish between a book that is sound, scholarly, and properly documented, and one that is, to any trained eye, very conspicuously none of these things? Or who cannot handle a library catalogue? Or who, when faced with a book of reference, betray a curious inability to extract from it the passages relevant to the particular question which interests them?

Do you often come across people for whom, all their lives, a “subject” remains a “subject,” divided by watertight bulkheads from all other “subjects,” so that they experience very great difficulty in making an immediate mental connection between let us say, algebra and detective fiction, sewage disposal and the price of salmon—or, more generally, between such spheres of knowledge as philosophy and economics, or chemistry and art?

Are you occasionally perturbed by the things written by adult men and women for adult men and women to read? We find a well-known biologist writing in a weekly paper to the effect that: “It is an argument against the existence of a Creator” (I think he put it more strongly; but since I have, most unfortunately, mislaid the reference, I will put his claim at its lowest)—”an argument against the existence of a Creator that the same kind of variations which are produced by natural selection can be produced at will by stock breeders.” One might feel tempted to say that it is rather an argument for the existence of a Creator. Actually, of course, it is neither; all it proves is that the same material causes (recombination of the chromosomes, by crossbreeding, and so forth) are sufficient to account for all observed variations—just as the various combinations of the same dozen tones are materially sufficient to account for Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and the noise the cat makes by walking on the keys. But the cat’s performance neither proves nor disproves the existence of Beethoven; and all that is proved by the biologist’s argument is that he was unable to distinguish between a material and a final cause.

Here is a sentence from no less academic a source than a front- page article in the Times Literary Supplement: “The Frenchman, Alfred Epinas, pointed out that certain species e.g., ants and wasps) can only face the horrors of life and death in association.” I do not know what the Frenchman actually did say; what the Englishman says he said is patently meaningless. We cannot know whether life holds any horror for the ant, nor in what sense the isolated wasp which you kill upon the window-pane can be said to “face” or not to “face” the horrors of death. The subject of the article is mass behavior in man; and the human motives have been unobtrusively transferred from the main proposition to the supporting instance. Thus the argument, in effect, assumes what it set out to prove—a fact which would become immediately apparent if it were presented in a formal syllogism. This is only a small and haphazard example of a vice which pervades whole books—particularly books written by men of science on metaphysical subjects.

Another quotation from the same issue of the TLS comes in fittingly here to wind up this random collection of disquieting thoughts—this time from a review of Sir Richard Livingstone’s “Some Tasks for Education”: “More than once the reader is reminded of the value of an intensive study of at least one subject, so as to learn the meaning of knowledge’ and what precision and persistence is needed to attain it. Yet there is elsewhere full recognition of the distressing fact that a man may be master in one field and show no better judgement than his neighbor anywhere else; he remembers what he has learnt, but forgets altogether how he learned it.”

I would draw your attention particularly to that last sentence, which offers an explanation of what the writer rightly calls the “distressing fact” that the intellectual skills bestowed upon us by our education are not readily transferable to subjects other than those in which we acquired them: “he remembers what he has learnt, but forgets altogether how he learned it.”

Is not the great defect of our education today—a defect traceable through all the disquieting symptoms of trouble that I have mentioned—that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils “subjects,” we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning. It is as though we had taught a child, mechanically and by rule of thumb, to play “The Harmonious Blacksmith” upon the piano, but had never taught him the scale or how to read music; so that, having memorized “The Harmonious Blacksmith,” he still had not the faintest notion how to proceed from that to tackle “The Last Rose of Summer.” Why do I say, “as though”? In certain of the arts and crafts, we sometimes do precisely this—requiring a child to “express himself” in paint before we teach him how to handle the colors and the brush. There is a school of thought which believes this to be the right way to set about the job. But observe: it is not the way in which a trained craftsman will go about to teach himself a new medium. He, having learned by experience the best way to economize labor and take the thing by the right end, will start off by doodling about on an odd piece of material, in order to “give himself the feel of the tool.”

The Mediaeval Scheme of Education
Let us now look at the mediaeval scheme of education—the syllabus of the Schools. It does not matter, for the moment, whether it was devised for small children or for older students, or how long people were supposed to take over it. What matters is the light it throws upon what the men of the Middle Ages supposed to be the object and the right order of the educative process.

The syllabus was divided into two parts: theTrivium and
Quadrivium. The second part—the Quadrivium—consisted of “subjects,” and need not for the moment concern us. The interesting thing for us is the composition of theTrivium, which preceded the Quadrivium and was the preliminary discipline for it. It consisted of three parts: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric, in that order.

Now the first thing we notice is that two at any rate of these “subjects” are not what we should call “subjects” at all: they are only methods of dealing with subjects. Grammar, indeed, is a “subject” in the sense that it does mean definitely learning a language—at that period it meant learning Latin. But language itself is simply the medium in which thought is expressed. The whole of the Trivium was, in fact, intended to teach the pupil the proper use of the tools of learning, before he began to apply them to “subjects” at all. First, he learned a language; not just how to order a meal in a foreign language, but the structure of a language, and hence of language itself—what it was, how it was put together, and how it worked. Secondly, he learned how to use language; how to define his terms and make accurate statements; how to construct an argument and how to detect fallacies in argument. Dialectic, that is to say, embraced Logic and Disputation. Thirdly, he learned to express himself in language—how to say what he had to say elegantly and persuasively.

At the end of his course, he was required to compose a thesis upon some theme set by his masters or chosen by himself, and afterwards to defend his thesis against the criticism of the faculty. By this time, he would have learned—or woe betide him—not merely to write an essay on paper, but to speak audibly and intelligibly from a platform, and to use his wits quickly when heckled. There would also be questions, cogent and shrewd, from those who had already run the gauntlet of debate.

It is, of course, quite true that bits and pieces of the mediaeval tradition still linger, or have been revived, in the ordinary school syllabus of today. Some knowledge of grammar is still required when learning a foreign language—perhaps I should say, “is again required,” for during my own lifetime, we passed through a phase when the teaching of declensions and conjugations was considered rather reprehensible, and it was considered better to pick these things up as we went along. School debating societies flourish; essays are written; thenecessity for “self- expression” is stressed, and perhaps even over-stressed. But these activities are cultivated more or less in detachment, as belonging to the special subjects in which they are pigeon-holed rather than as forming one coherent scheme of mental training to which all “subjects”stand in a subordinate relation. “Grammar” belongs especially to the “subject” of foreign languages, and essay-writing to the “subject” called “English”; while Dialectic has become almost entirely divorced from the rest of the curriculum, and is frequently practiced unsystematically and out of school hours as a separate exercise, only very loosely related to the main business of learning.

Taken by and large, the great difference of emphasis between the two conceptions holds good: modern education concentrates on “teaching subjects,” leaving the method of thinking, arguing, and expressing one’s conclusions to be picked up by the scholar as he goes along’ mediaeval education concentrated on first forging and learning to handle the tools of learning, using whatever subject came handy as a piece of material on which to doodle until the use of the tool became second nature.

“Subjects” of some kind there must be, of course. One cannot learn the theory of grammar without learning an actual language, or learn to argue and orate without speaking about something in particular. The debating subjects of the Middle Ages were drawn largely from theology, or from the ethics and history of antiquity. Often, indeed, they became stereotyped, especially towards the end of the period, and the far-fetched and wire-drawn absurdities of Scholastic argument fretted Milton and provide food for merriment even to this day. Whether they were in themselves any more hackneyed and trivial then the usual subjects set nowadays for “essay writing” I should not like to say: we may ourselves grow a little weary of “A Day in My Holidays” and all the rest of it. But most of the merriment is misplaced, because the aim and object of the debating thesis has by now been lost sight of.

A glib speaker in the Brains Trust once entertained his audience (and reduced the late Charles Williams to helpless rage by asserting that in the Middle Ages it was a matter of faith to know how many archangels could dance on the point of a needle. I need not say, I hope, that it never was a “matter of faith”; it was simply a debating exercise, whose set subject was the nature of angelic substance: were angels material, and if so, did they occupy space? The answer usually adjudged correct is, I believe, that angels are pure intelligences; not material, but limited, so that they may have location in space but not extension. An analogy might be drawn from human thought, which is similarly non-material and similarly limited. Thus, if your thought is concentrated upon one thing—say, the point of a needle—it is located there in the sense that it is not elsewhere; but although it is “there,” it occupies no space there, and there is nothing to prevent an infinite number of different people’s thoughts being concentrated upon the same needle-point at the same time. The proper subject of the argument is thus seen to be the distinction between location and extension in space; the matter on which the argument is exercised happens to be the nature of angels (although, as we have seen, it might equally well have been something else; the practical lesson to be drawn from the argument is not to use words like “there” in a loose and unscientific way, without specifying whether you mean “located there” or “occupying space there.”

Scorn in plenty has been poured out upon the mediaeval passion for hair-splitting; but when we look at the shameless abuse made, in print and on the platform, of controversial expressions with shifting and ambiguous connotations, we may feel it in our hearts to wish that every reader and hearer had been so defensively armored by his education as to be able to cry: “Distinguo.”

For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects. We who were scandalized in 1940 when men were sent to fight armored tanks with rifles, are not scandalized when young men and women are sent into the world to fight massed propaganda with a smattering of “subjects”; and when whole classes and whole nations become hypnotized by the arts of the spell binder, we have the impudence to be astonished. We dole out lip-service to the importance of education—lip- service and, just occasionally, a little grant of money; we postpone the school-leaving age, and plan to build bigger and better schools; the teachers slave conscientiously in and out of school hours; and yet, as I believe, all this devoted effort is largely frustrated, because we have lost the tools of learning, and in their absence can only make a botched and piecemeal job of it.

What Then?
What, then, are we to do? We cannot go back to the Middle Ages. That is a cry to which we have become accustomed. We cannot go back—or can we? Distinguo. I should like every term in that proposition defined. Does “go back” mean a retrogression in time, or the revision of an error? The first is clearly impossible per se; the second is a thing which wise men do every day. “Cannot”— does this mean that our behavior is determined irreversibly, or merely that such an action would be very difficult in view of the opposition it would provoke? Obviously the twentieth century is not and cannot be the fourteenth; but if “the Middle Ages” is, in this context, simply a picturesque phrase denoting a particular educational theory, there seems to be no a priori reason why we should not “go back” to it—with—as we have already “gone back” with modifications, to, let us say, the idea of playing Shakespeare’s plays as he wrote them, and not in the “modernized” versions of Cibber and Garrick, which once seemed to be the latest thing in theatrical progress.

Let us amuse ourselves by imagining that such progressive retrogression is possible. Let us make a clean sweep of all educational authorities, and furnish ourselves with a nice little school of boys and girls whom we may experimentally equip for the intellectual conflict along lines chosen by ourselves. We will endow them with exceptionally docile parents; we will staff our school with teachers who are themselves perfectly familiar with the aims and methods of the Trivium; we will have our building and staff large enough to allow our classes to be small enough for adequate handling; and we will postulate a Board of Examiners willing and qualified to test the products we turn out. Thus prepared, we will attempt to sketch out a syllabus—a modern Trivium “with modifications” and we will see where we get to.

But first: what age shall the children be? Well, if one is to educate them on novel lines, it will be better that they should have nothing to unlearn; besides, one cannot begin a good thing too early, and the Trivium is by its nature not learning, but a preparation for learning. We will, therefore, “catch ’em young,” requiring of our pupils only that they shall be able to read, write, and cipher.

My views about child psychology are, I admit, neither orthodox nor enlightened. Looking back upon myself (since I am the child I know best and the only child I can pretend to know from inside) I recognize three states of development. These, in a rough-and- ready fashion, I will call the Poll-Parrot, the Pert, and the Poetic—the latter coinciding, approximately, with the onset of puberty. The Poll-Parrot stage is the one in which learning by heart is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable; whereas reasoning is difficult and, on the whole, little relished. At this age, one readily memorizes the shapes and appearances of things; one likes to recite the number-plates of cars; one rejoices in the chanting of rhymes and the rumble and thunder of unintelligible polysyllables; one enjoys the mere accumulation of things. The Pert age, which follows upon this and, naturally, overlaps it to some extent), is characterized by contradicting, answering back, liking to “catch people out” especially one’s elders); and by the propounding of conundrums. Its nuisance-value is extremely high. It usually sets in about the Fourth Form. The Poetic age is popularly known as the “difficult” age. It is self-centered; it yearns to express itself; it rather specializes in being misunderstood; it is restless and tries to achieve independence; and, with good luck and good guidance, it should show the beginnings of creativeness; a reaching out towards a synthesis of what it already knows, and a deliberate eagerness to know and do some one thing in preference to all others. Now it seems to me that the layout of the Trivium adapts itself with a singular appropriateness to these three ages: Grammar to the Poll-Parrot, Dialectic to the Pert, and Rhetoric to the Poetic age.

The Grammar Stage
Let us begin, then, with Grammar. This, in practice, means the grammar of some language in particular; and it must be an inflected language. The grammatical structure of an uninflected language is far too analytical to be tackled by any one without previous practice in Dialectic. Moreover, the inflected languages interpret the uninflected, whereas the uninflected are of little use in interpreting the inflected. I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this, not because Latin is traditional and mediaeval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least fifty percent. It is the key to the vocabulary and structure of all the Teutonic languages, as well as to the technical vocabulary of all the sciences and to the literature of the entire Mediterranean civilization, together with all its historical documents.

Those whose pedantic preference for a living language persuades them to deprive their pupils of all these advantages might substitute Russian, whose grammar is still more primitive. Russian is, of course, helpful with the other Slav dialects. There is something also to be said for Classical Greek. But my own choice is Latin. Having thus pleased the Classicists among you, I will proceed to horrify them by adding that I do not think it either wise or necessary to cramp the ordinary pupil upon the Procrustean bed of the Augustan Age, with its highly elaborate and artificial verse forms and oratory. Post-classical and mediaeval Latin, which was a living language right down to the end of the Renaissance, is easier and in some ways livelier; a study of it helps to dispel the widespread notion that learning and literature came to a full stop when Christ was born and only woke up again at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Latin should be begun as early as possible‐at a time when inflected speech seems no more astonishing than any other phenomenon in an astonishing world; and when the chanting of “Amo, amas, amat” is as ritually agreeable to the feelings as the chanting of “eeny, meeny, miney, moe.”

During this age we must, of course, exercise the mind on other things besides Latin grammar. Observation and memory are the faculties most lively at this period; and if we are to learn a contemporary foreign language we should begin now, before the facial and mental muscles become rebellious to strange intonations. Spoken French or German can be practiced alongside the grammatical discipline of the Latin.

In English, meanwhile, verse and prose can be learned by heart, and the pupil’s memory should be stored with stories of every kind—classical myth, European legend, and so forth. I do not think that the classical stories and masterpieces of ancient literature should be made the vile bodies on which to practice the techniques of Grammar—that was a fault of mediaeval education which we need not perpetuate. The stories can be enjoyed and remembered in English, and related to their origin at a subsequent stage. Recitation aloud should be practiced, individually or in chorus; for we must not forget that we are laying the groundwork for Disputation and Rhetoric.

The grammar of History should consist, I think, of dates, events, anecdotes, and personalities. A set of dates to which one can peg all later historical knowledge is of enormous help later on in establishing the perspective of history. It does not greatly matter which dates: those of the Kings of England will do very nicely, provided that they are accompanied by pictures of costumes, architecture, and other everyday things, so that the mere mention of a date calls up a very strong visual presentment of the whole period.

Geography will similarly be presented in its factual aspect, with maps, natural features, and visual presentment of customs, costumes, flora, fauna, and so on; and I believe myself that the discredited and old-fashioned memorizing of a few capitol cities, rivers, mountain ranges, etc., does no harm. Stamp collecting may be encouraged.

Science, in the Poll-Parrot period, arranges itself naturally and easily around collections—the identifying and naming of specimens and, in general, the kind of thing that used to be called “natural philosophy.” To know the name and properties of things is, at this age, a satisfaction in itself; to recognize a devil’s coach-horse at sight, and assure one’s foolish elders, that, in spite of its appearance, it does not sting; to be able to pick out Cassiopeia and the Pleiades, and perhaps even to know who Cassiopeia and the Pleiades were; to be aware that a whale is not a fish, and a bat not a bird—all these things give a pleasant sensation of superiority; while to know a ring snake from an adder or a poisonous from an edible toadstool is a kind of knowledge that also has practical value.

The grammar of Mathematics begins, of course, with the multiplication table, which, if not learnt now, will never be learnt with pleasure; and with the recognition of geometrical shapes and the grouping of numbers. These exercises lead naturally to the doing of simple sums in arithmetic. More complicated mathematical processes may, and perhaps should, be postponed, for the reasons which will presently appear.

So far (except, of course, for the Latin), our curriculum contains nothing that departs very far from common practice. The difference will be felt rather in the attitude of the teachers, who must look upon all these activities less as “subjects” in themselves than as a gathering-together of material for use in next part of the Trivium. What that material is, is only of secondary importance; but it is as well that anything and everything which can be usefully committed to memory should be memorized at this period, whether it is immediately intelligible or not. The modern tendency is to try and force rational explanations on a child’s mind at too early an age. Intelligent questions, spontaneously asked, should, of course, receive an immediate and rational answer; but it is a great mistake to suppose that a child cannot readily enjoy and remember things that are beyond his power to analyze—particularly if those things have a strong imaginative appeal (as, for example, “Kubla Kahn”), an attractive jingle (like some of the memory-rhymes for Latin genders), or an abundance of rich, resounding polysyllables (like the Quicunque vult).

This reminds me of the grammar of Theology. I shall add it to the curriculum, because theology is the mistress-science without which the whole educational structure will necessarily lack its final synthesis. Those who disagree about this will remain content to leave their pupil’s education still full of loose ends. This will matter rather less than it might, since by the time that the tools of learning have been forged the student will be able to tackle theology for himself, and will probably insist upon doing so and making sense of it. Still, it is as well to have this matter also handy and ready for the reason to work upon. At the grammatical age, therefore, we should become with the story of God and Man in outline—i.e., the Old and New Testaments presented as parts of a single narrative of Creation, Rebellion, and Redemption—and also with the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. At this early stage, it does not matter nearly so much that these things should be fully understood as that they should be known and remembered.

The Logic Stage
It is difficult to say at what age, precisely, we should pass from the first to the second part of the Trivium. Generally speaking, the answer is: so soon as the pupil shows himself disposed to pertness and interminable argument. For as, in the first part, the master faculties are Observation and Memory, so, in the second, the master faculty is the Discursive Reason. In the first, the exercise to which the rest of the material was, as it were, keyed, was the Latin grammar; in the second, the key- exercise will be Formal Logic. It is here that our curriculum shows its first sharp divergence from modern standards. The disrepute into which Formal Logic has fallen is entirely unjustified; and its neglect is the root cause of nearly all those disquieting symptoms which we have noted in the modern intellectual constitution. Logic has been discredited, partly because we have come to suppose that we are conditioned almost entirely by the intuitive and the unconscious. There is no time to argue whether this is true; I will simply observe that to neglect the proper training of the reason is the best possible way to make it true. Another cause for the disfavor into which Logic has fallen is the belief that it is entirely based upon universal assumptions that are either unprovable or tautological. This is not true. Not all universal propositions are of this kind. But even if they were, it would make no difference, since every syllogism whose major premise is in the form “All A is B” can be recast in hypothetical form. Logic is the art of arguing correctly: “If A, then B.” The method is not invalidated by the hypothetical nature of A. Indeed, the practical utility of Formal Logic today lies not so much in the establishment of positive conclusions as in the prompt detection and exposure of invalid inference.

Let us now quickly review our material and see how it is to be related to Dialectic. On the Language side, we shall now have our vocabulary and morphology at our fingertips; henceforward we can concentrate on syntax and analysis (i.e., the logical construction of speech) and the history of language (i.e., how we came to arrange our speech as we do in order to convey our thoughts).

Our Reading will proceed from narrative and lyric to essays, argument and criticism, and the pupil will learn to try his own hand at writing this kind of thing. Many lessons—on whatever subject—will take the form of debates; and the place of individual or choral recitation will be taken by dramatic performances, with special attention to plays in which an argument is stated in dramatic form.

Mathematics—algebra, geometry, and the more advanced kinds of arithmetic—will now enter into the syllabus and take its place as what it really is: not a separate “subject” but a sub-department of Logic. It is neither more nor less than the rule of the syllogism in its particular application to number and measurement, and should be taught as such, instead of being, for some, a dark mystery, and, for others, a special revelation, neither illuminating nor illuminated by any other part of knowledge.

History, aided by a simple system of ethics derived from the grammar of theology, will provide much suitable material for discussion: Was the behavior of this statesman justified? What was the effect of such an enactment? What are the arguments for and against this or that form of government? We shall thus get an introduction to constitutional history—a subject meaningless to the young child, but of absorbing interest to those who are prepared to argue and debate. Theology itself will furnish material for argument about conduct and morals; and should have its scope extended by a simplified course of dogmatic theology (i.e., the rational structure of Christian thought), clarifying the relations between the dogma and the ethics, and lending itself to that application of ethical principles in particular instances which is properly called casuistry. Geography and the Sciences will likewise provide material for Dialectic. But above all, we must not neglect the material which is so abundant in the pupils’ own daily life.

There is a delightful passage in Leslie Paul’s “The Living Hedge” which tells how a number of small boys enjoyed themselves for days arguing about an extraordinary shower of rain which had fallen in their town—a shower so localized that it left one half of the main street wet and the other dry. Could one, they argued, properly say that it had rained that day on or over the town or only in the town? How many drops of water were required to constitute rain? And so on. Argument about this led on to a host of similar problems about rest and motion, sleep and waking, est and non est, and the infinitesimal division of time.The whole passage is an admirable example of the spontaneous development of the ratiocinative faculty and the natural and proper thirst of the awakening reason for the definition of terms and exactness of statement. All events are food for such an appetite.

An umpire’s decision; the degree to which one may transgress the spirit of a regulation without being trapped by the letter: on such questions as these, children are born casuists, and their natural propensity only needs to be developed and trained—and especially, brought into an intelligible relationship with the events in the grown-up world. The newspapers are full of good material for such exercises: legal decisions, on the one hand, in cases where the cause at issue is not too abstruse; on the other, fallacious reasoning and muddleheaded arguments, with which the correspondence columns of certain papers one could name are abundantly stocked.

Wherever the matter for Dialectic is found, it is, of course, highly important that attention should be focused upon the beauty and economy of a fine demonstration or a well-turned argument, lest veneration should wholly die. Criticism must not be merely destructive; though at the same time both teacher and pupils must be ready to detect fallacy, slipshod reasoning, ambiguity, irrelevance, and redundancy, and to pounce upon them like rats. This is the moment when precis-writing may be usefully undertaken; together with such exercises as the writing of an essay, and the reduction of it, when written, by 25 or 50 percent.

It will, doubtless, be objected that to encourage young persons at the Pert age to browbeat, correct, and argue with their elders will render them perfectly intolerable. My answer is that children of that age are intolerable anyhow; and that their natural argumentativeness may just as well be canalized to good purpose as allowed to run away into the sands. It may, indeed, be rather less obtrusive at home if it is disciplined in school; and anyhow, elders who have abandoned the wholesome principle that children should be seen and not heard have no one to blame but themselves.

Once again, the contents of the syllabus at this stage may be anything you like. The “subjects” supply material; but they are all to be regarded as mere grist for the mental mill to work upon. The pupils should be encouraged to go and forage for their own information, and so guided towards the proper use of libraries and books for reference, and shown how to tell which sources are authoritative and which are not.

The Rhetoric Stage
Towards the close of this stage, the pupils will probably be beginning to discover for themselves that their knowledge and experience are insufficient, and that their trained intelligences need a great deal more material to chew upon. The imagination— usually dormant during the Pert age—will reawaken, and prompt them to suspect the limitations of logic and reason. This means that they are passing into the Poetic age and are ready to embark on the study of Rhetoric. The doors of the storehouse of knowledge should now be thrown open for them to browse about as they will. The things once learned by rote will be seen in new contexts; the things once coldly analyzed can now be brought together to form a new synthesis; here and there a sudden insight will bring about that most exciting of all discoveries: the realization that truism is true.

It is difficult to map out any general syllabus for the study of Rhetoric: a certain freedom is demanded. In literature, appreciation should be again allowed to take the lead over destructive criticism; and self-expression in writing can go forward, with its tools now sharpened to cut clean and observe proportion. Any child who already shows a disposition to specialize should be given his head: for, when the use of the tools has been well and truly learned, it is available for any study whatever. It would be well, I think, that each pupil should learn to do one, or two, subjects really well, while taking a few classes in subsidiary subjects so as to keep his mind open to the inter-relations of all knowledge. Indeed, at this stage, our difficulty will be to keep “subjects” apart; for Dialectic will have shown all branches of learning to be inter-related, so Rhetoric will tend to show that all knowledge is one. To show this, and show why it is so, is pre-eminently the task of the mistress science. But whether theology is studied or not, we should at least insist that children who seem inclined to specialize on the mathematical and scientific side should be obliged to attend some lessons in the humanities and vice versa. At this stage, also, the Latin grammar, having done its work, may be dropped for those who prefer to carry on their language studies on the modern side; while those who are likely never to have any great use or aptitude for mathematics might also be allowed to rest, more or less, upon their oars. Generally speaking, whatsoever is mere apparatus may now be allowed to fall into the background, while the trained mind is gradually prepared for specialization in the “subjects” which, when the Trivium is completed, it should be perfectly will equipped to tackle on its own. The final synthesis of the Trivium—the presentation and public defense of the thesis—should be restored in some form; perhaps as a kind of “leaving examination” during the last term at school.

The scope of Rhetoric depends also on whether the pupil is to be turned out into the world at the age of 16 or whether he is to proceed to the university. Since, really, Rhetoric should be taken at about 14, the first category of pupil should study Grammar from about 9 to 11, and Dialectic from 12 to 14; his last two school years would then be devoted to Rhetoric, which, in this case, would be of a fairly specialized and vocational kind, suiting him to enter immediately upon some practical career. A pupil of the second category would finish his Dialectical course in his preparatory school, and take Rhetoric during his first two years at his public school. At 16, he would be ready to start upon those “subjects” which are proposed for his later study at the university: and this part of his education will correspond to the mediaeval Quadrivium. What this amounts to is that the ordinary pupil, whose formal education ends at 16, will take the Trivium only; whereas scholars will take both the Trivium and the Quadrivium.

The Trivium Defended
Is the Trivium, then, a sufficient education for life? Properly taught, I believe that it should be. At the end of the Dialectic, the children will probably seem to be far behind their coevals brought up on old-fashioned “modern” methods, so far as detailed knowledge of specific subjects is concerned. But after the age of 14 they should be able to overhaul the others hand over fist. Indeed, I am not at all sure that a pupil thoroughly proficient in the Trivium would not be fit to proceed immediately to the university at the age of 16, thus proving himself the equal of his mediaeval counterpart, whose precocity astonished us at the beginning of this discussion. This, to be sure, would make hay of the English public-school system, and disconcert the universities very much. It would, for example, make quite a different thing of the Oxford and Cambridge boat race.

But I am not here to consider the feelings of academic bodies: I am concerned only with the proper training of the mind to encounter and deal with the formidable mass of undigested problems presented to it by the modern world. For the tools of learning are the same, in any and every subject; and the person who knows how to use them will, at any age, get the mastery of a new subject in half the time and with a quarter of the effort expended by the person who has not the tools at his command. To learn six subjects without remembering how they were learnt does nothing to ease the approach to a seventh; to have learnt and remembered the art of learning makes the approach to every subject an open door.

Before concluding these necessarily very sketchy suggestions, I ought to say why I think it necessary, in these days, to go back to a discipline which we had discarded. The truth is that for the last three hundred years or so we have been living upon educational capital. The post-Renaissance world, bewildered and excited by the profusion of new “subjects” offered to it, broke away from the old discipline (which had, indeed, become sadly dull and stereotyped in its practical application) and imagined that henceforward it could, as it were, disport itself happily in its new and extended Quadrivium without passing through the Trivium. But the Scholastic tradition, though broken and maimed, still lingered in the public schools and universities: Milton, however much he protested against it, was formed by it—the debate of the Fallen Angels and the disputation of Abdiel with Satan have the tool-marks of the Schools upon them, and might, incidentally, profitably figure as set passages for our Dialectical studies. Right down to the nineteenth century, our public affairs were mostly managed, and our books and journals were for the most part written, by people brought up in homes, and trained in places, where that tradition was still alive in the memory and almost in the blood. Just so, many people today who are atheist or agnostic in religion, are governed in their conduct by a code of Christian ethics which is so rooted that it never occurs to them to question it.

But one cannot live on capital forever. However firmly a tradition is rooted, if it is never watered, though it dieshard, yet in the end it dies. And today a great number—perhaps the majority—of the men and women who handle our affairs, write our books and our newspapers, carry out our research, present our plays and our films, speak from our platforms and pulpits—yes, and who educate our young people—have never, even in a lingering traditional memory, undergone the Scholastic discipline. Less and less do the children who come to be educated bring any of that tradition with them. We have lost the tools of learning—the axe and the wedge, the hammer and the saw, the chisel and the plane— that were so adaptable to all tasks. Instead of them, we have merely a set of complicated jigs, each of which will do but one task and no more, and in using which eye and hand receive no training, so that no man ever sees the work as a whole or “looks to the end of the work.”

What use is it to pile task on task and prolong the days of labor, if at the close the chief object is left unattained? It is not the fault of the teachers—they work only too hard already. The combined folly of a civilization that has forgotten its own roots is forcing them to shore up the tottering weight of an educational structure that is built upon sand. They are doing for their pupils the work which the pupils themselves ought to do. For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain.

Orwell on Freedom of the Press

[Orwell’s original 1945 preface to Animal Farm. It was discovered by Ian Angus and published by Bernard Crick in the TLS in 1972].

This book was first thought of, so far as the central idea goes, in 1937, but was not written down until about the end of 1943. By the time when it came to be written it was obvious that there would be great difficulty in getting it published (in spite of the present book shortage which ensures that anything describable as a book will ‘sell’), and in the event it was refused by four publishers. Only one of these had any ideological motive. Two had been publishing anti-Russian books for years, and the other had no noticeable political colour. One publisher actually started by accepting the book, but after making the preliminary arrangements he decided to consult the Ministry of Information, who appear to have warned him, or at any rate strongly advised him, against publishing it. Here is an extract from his letter:

I mentioned the reaction I had had from an important official in the Ministry of Information with regard to Animal Farm. I must confess that this expression of opinion has given me seriously to think… I can see now that it might be regarded as something which it was highly ill-advised to publish at the present time. If the fable were addressed generally to dictators and dictatorships at large then publication would be all right, but the fable does follow, as I see now, so completely the progress of the Russian Soviets and their two dictators, that it can apply only to Russia, to the exclusion of the other dictatorships. Another thing: it would be less offensive if the predominant caste in the fable were not pigs[*]. I think the choice of pigs as the ruling caste will no doubt give offence to many people, and particularly to anyone who is a bit touchy, as undoubtedly the Russians are.

* It is not quite clear whether this suggested modification is Mr… ’s own idea, or originated with the Ministry of Information; but it seems to have the official ring about it. [Orwell’s Note]

This kind of thing is not a good symptom. Obviously it is not desirable that a government department should have any power of censorship (except security censorship, which no one objects to in war time) over books which are not officially sponsored. But the chief danger to freedom of thought and speech at this moment is not the direct interference of the MOI or any official body. If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves.

Any fairminded person with journalistic experience will admit that during this war official censorship has not been particularly irksome. We have not been subjected to the kind of totalitarian ‘co-ordination’ that it might have been reasonable to expect. The press has some justified grievances, but on the whole the Government has behaved well and has been surprisingly tolerant of minority opinions. The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary.

Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news — things which on their own merits would get the big headlines-being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralised, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

At this moment what is demanded by the prevailing orthodoxy is an uncritical admiration of Soviet Russia. Everyone knows this, nearly everyone acts on it. Any serious criticism of the Soviet régime, any disclosure of facts which the Soviet government would prefer to keep hidden, is next door to unprintable. And this nation-wide conspiracy to flatter our ally takes place, curiously enough, against a background of genuine intellectual tolerance. For though you arc not allowed to criticise the Soviet government, at least you are reasonably free to criticise our own. Hardly anyone will print an attack on Stalin, but it is quite safe to attack Churchill, at any rate in books and periodicals. And throughout five years of war, during two or three of which we were fighting for national survival, countless books, pamphlets and articles advocating a compromise peace have been published without interference. More, they have been published without exciting much disapproval. So long as the prestige of the USSR is not involved, the principle of free speech has been reasonably well upheld. There are other forbidden topics, and I shall mention some of them presently, but the prevailing attitude towards the USSR is much the most serious symptom. It is, as it were, spontaneous, and is not due to the action of any pressure group.

The servility with which the greater part of the English intelligentsia have swallowed and repeated Russian propaganda from 1941 onwards would be quite astounding if it were not that they have behaved similarly on several earlier occasions. On one controversial issue after another the Russian viewpoint has been accepted without examination and then publicised with complete disregard to historical truth or intellectual decency. To name only one instance, the BBC celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Red Army without mentioning Trotsky. This was about as accurate as commemorating the battle of Trafalgar without mentioning Nelson, but it evoked no protest from the English intelligentsia. In the internal struggles in the various occupied countries, the British press has in almost all cases sided with the faction favoured by the Russians and libelled the opposing faction, sometimes suppressing material evidence in order to do so. A particularly glaring case was that of Colonel Mihailovich, the Jugoslav Chetnik leader. The Russians, who had their own Jugoslav protege in Marshal Tito, accused Mihailovich of collaborating with the Germans. This accusation was promptly taken up by the British press: Mihailovich’s supporters were given no chance of answering it, and facts contradicting it were simply kept out of print. In July of 1943 the Germans offered a reward of 100,000 gold crowns for the capture of Tito, and a similar reward for the capture of Mihailovich. The British press ‘splashed’ the reward for Tito, but only one paper mentioned (in small print) the reward for Mihailovich: and the charges of collaborating with the Germans continued. Very similar things happened during the Spanish civil war. Then, too, the factions on the Republican side which the Russians were determined to crush were recklessly libelled in the English leftwing [sic] press, and any statement in their defence even in letter form, was refused publication. At present, not only is serious criticism of the USSR considered reprehensible, but even the fact of the existence of such criticism is kept secret in some cases. For example, shortly before his death Trotsky had written a biography of Stalin. One may assume that it was not an altogether unbiased book, but obviously it was saleable. An American publisher had arranged to issue it and the book was in print — 1 believe the review copies had been sent out — when the USSR entered the war. The book was immediately withdrawn. Not a word about this has ever appeared in the British press, though clearly the existence of such a book, and its suppression, was a news item worth a few paragraphs.

It is important to distinguish between the kind of censorship that the English literary intelligentsia voluntarily impose upon themselves, and the censorship that can sometimes be enforced by pressure groups. Notoriously, certain topics cannot be discussed because of ‘vested interests’. The best-known case is the patent medicine racket. Again, the Catholic Church has considerable influence in the press and can silence criticism of itself to some extent. A scandal involving a Catholic priest is almost never given publicity, whereas an Anglican priest who gets into trouble (e.g. the Rector of Stiffkey) is headline news. It is very rare for anything of an anti-Catholic tendency to appear on the stage or in a film. Any actor can tell you that a play or film which attacks or makes fun of the Catholic Church is liable to be boycotted in the press and will probably be a failure. But this kind of thing is harmless, or at least it is understandable. Any large organisation will look after its own interests as best it can, and overt propaganda is not a thing to object to. One would no more expect the Daily Worker to publicise unfavourable facts about the USSR than one would expect the Catholic Herald to denounce the Pope. But then every thinking person knows the Daily Worker and the Catholic Herald for what they are. What is disquieting is that where the USSR and its policies are concerned one cannot expect intelligent criticism or even, in many cases, plain honesty from Liberal [sic — and throughout as typescript] writers and journalists who are under no direct pressure to falsify their opinions. Stalin is sacrosanct and certain aspects of his policy must not be seriously discussed. This rule has been almost universally observed since 1941, but it had operated, to a greater extent than is sometimes realised, for ten years earlier than that. Throughout that time, criticism of the Soviet régime from the left could only obtain a hearing with difficulty. There was a huge output of anti-Russian literature, but nearly all of it was from the Conservative angle and manifestly dishonest, out of date and actuated by sordid motives. On the other side there was an equally huge and almost equally dishonest stream of pro-Russian propaganda, and what amounted to a boycott on anyone who tried to discuss all-important questions in a grown-up manner. You could, indeed, publish anti-Russian books, but to do so was to make sure of being ignored or misrepresented by nearly me whole of the highbrow press. Both publicly and privately you were warned that it was ‘not done’. What you said might possibly be true, but it was ‘inopportune’ and played into the hands of this or that reactionary interest. This attitude was usually defended on the ground that the international situation, and me urgent need for an Anglo-Russian alliance, demanded it; but it was clear that this was a rationalisation. The English intelligentsia, or a great part of it, had developed a nationalistic loyalty towards me USSR, and in their hearts they felt that to cast any doubt on me wisdom of Stalin was a kind of blasphemy. Events in Russia and events elsewhere were to be judged by different standards. The endless executions in me purges of 1936-8 were applauded by life-long opponents of capital punishment, and it was considered equally proper to publicise famines when they happened in India and to conceal them when they happened in me Ukraine. And if this was true before the war, the intellectual atmosphere is certainly no better now.

But now to come back to this book of mine. The reaction towards it of most English intellectuals will be quite simple: ‘It oughtn’t to have been published.’ Naturally, those reviewers who understand the art of denigration will not attack it on political grounds but on literary ones. They will say that it is a dull, silly book and a disgraceful waste of paper. This may well be true, but it is obviously not me whole of the story. One does not say that a book ‘ought not to have been published’ merely because it is a bad book. After all, acres of rubbish are printed daily and no one bothers. The English intelligentsia, or most of them, will object to this book because it traduces their Leader and (as they see it) does harm to the cause of progress. If it did me opposite they would have nothing to say against it, even if its literary faults were ten times as glaring as they are. The success of, for instance, the Left Book Club over a period of four or five years shows how willing they are to tolerate both scurrility and slipshod writing, provided that it tells them what they want to hear.

The issue involved here is quite a simple one: Is every opinion, however unpopular — however foolish, even — entitled to a hearing? Put it in that form and nearly any English intellectual will feel that he ought to say ‘Yes’. But give it a concrete shape, and ask, ‘How about an attack on Stalin? Is that entitled to a hearing?’, and the answer more often than not will be ‘No’, In that case the current orthodoxy happens to be challenged, and so the principle of free speech lapses. Now, when one demands liberty of speech and of the press, one is not demanding absolute liberty. There always must be, or at any rate there always will be, some degree of censorship, so long as organised societies endure. But freedom, as Rosa Luxembourg [sic] said, is ‘freedom for the other fellow’. The same principle is contained in the famous words of Voltaire: ‘I detest what you say; I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ If the intellectual liberty which without a doubt has been one of the distinguishing marks of western civilisation means anything at all, it means that everyone shall have the right to say and to print what he believes to be the truth, provided only that it does not harm the rest of the community in some quite unmistakable way. Both capitalist democracy and the western versions of Socialism have till recently taken that principle for granted. Our Government, as I have already pointed out, still makes some show of respecting it. The ordinary people in the street-partly, perhaps, because they are not sufficiently interested in ideas to be intolerant about them-still vaguely hold that ‘I suppose everyone’s got a right to their own opinion.’ It is only, or at any rate it is chiefly, the literary and scientific intelligentsia, the very people who ought to be the guardians of liberty, who are beginning to despise it, in theory as well as in practice.

One of the peculiar phenomena of our time is the renegade Liberal. Over and above the familiar Marxist claim that ‘bourgeois liberty’ is an illusion, there is now a widespread tendency to argue that one can only defend democracy by totalitarian methods. If one loves democracy, the argument runs, one must crush its enemies by no matter what means. And who are its enemies? It always appears that they are not only those who attack it openly and consciously, but those who ‘objectively’ endanger it by spreading mistaken doctrines. In other words, defending democracy involves destroying all independence of thought. This argument was used, for instance, to justify the Russian purges. The most ardent Russophile hardly believed that all of the victims were guilty of all the things they were accused of: but by holding heretical opinions they ‘objectively’ harmed the régime, and therefore it was quite right not only to massacre them but to discredit them by false accusations. The same argument was used to justify the quite conscious lying that went on in the leftwing press about the Trotskyists and other Republican minorities in the Spanish civil war. And it was used again as a reason for yelping against habeas corpus when Mosley was released in 1943.

These people don’t see that if you encourage totalitarian methods, the time may come when they will be used against you instead of for you. Make a habit of imprisoning Fascists without trial, and perhaps the process won’t stop at Fascists. Soon after the suppressed Daily Worker had been reinstated, I was lecturing to a workingmen’s college in South London. The audience were working-class and lower-middle class intellectuals — the same sort of audience that one used to meet at Left Book Club branches. The lecture had touched on the freedom of the press, and at the end, to my astonishment, several questioners stood up and asked me: Did I not think that the lifting of the ban on the Daily Worker was a great mistake? When asked why, they said that it was a paper of doubtful loyalty and ought not to be tolerated in war time. I found myself defending the Daily Worker, which has gone out of its way to libel me more than once. But where had these people learned this essentially totalitarian outlook? Pretty certainly they had learned it from the Communists themselves! Tolerance and decency are deeply rooted in England, but they are not indestructible, and they have to be kept alive partly by conscious effort. The result of preaching totalitarian doctrines is to weaken the instinct by means of which free peoples know what is or is not dangerous. The case of Mosley illustrates this. In 1940 it was perfectly right to intern Mosley, whether or not he had committed any technical crime. We were fighting for our lives and could not allow a possible quisling to go free. To keep him shut up, without trial, in 1943 was an outrage. The general failure to see this was a bad symptom, though it is true that the agitation against Mosley’s release was partly factitious and partly a rationalisation of other discontents. But how much of the present slide towards Fascist ways of thought is traceable to the ‘anti-Fascism’ of the past ten years and the unscrupulousness it has entailed?

It is important to realise that the current Russomania is only a symptom of the general weakening of the western liberal tradition. Had the MOI chipped in and definitely vetoed the publication of this book, the bulk of the English intelligentsia would have seen nothing disquieting in this. Uncritical loyalty to the USSR happens to be the current orthodoxy, and where the supposed interests of the USSR are involved they are willing to tolerate not only censorship but the deliberate falsification of history. To name one instance. At the death of John Reed, the author of Ten Days that Shook the World — first-hand account of the early days of the Russian Revolution — the copyright of the book passed into the hands of the British Communist Party, to whom I believe Reed had bequeathed it. Some years later the British Communists, having destroyed the original edition of the book as completely as they could, issued a garbled version from which they had eliminated mentions of Trotsky and also omitted the introduction written by Lenin. If a radical intelligentsia had still existed in Britain, this act of forgery would have been exposed and denounced in every literary paper in the country. As it was there was little or no protest. To many English intellectuals it seemed quite a natural thing to do. And this tolerance or [sic = of?] plain dishonesty means much more than that admiration for Russia happens to be fashionable at this moment. Quite possibly that particular fashion will not last. For all I know, by the time this book is published my view of the Soviet régime may be the generally-accepted one. But what use would that be in itself? To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment.

I am well acquainted with all the arguments against freedom of thought and speech — the arguments which claim that it cannot exist, and the arguments which claim that it ought not to. I answer simply that they don’t convince me and that our civilisation over a period of four hundred years has been founded on the opposite notice. For quite a decade past I have believed that the existing Russian régime is a mainly evil thing, and I claim the right to say so, in spite of the fact that we are allies with the USSR in a war which I want to see won. If I had to choose a text to justify myself, I should choose the line from Milton:

By the known rules of ancient liberty.

The word ancient emphasises the fact that intellectual freedom is a deep-rooted tradition without which our characteristic western culture could only doubtfully exist. From that tradition many of our intellectuals arc visibly turning away. They have accepted the principle that a book should be published or suppressed, praised or damned, not on its merits but according to political expediency. And others who do not actually hold this view assent to it from sheer cowardice. An example of this is the failure of the numerous and vocal English pacifists to raise their voices against the prevalent worship of Russian militarism. According to those pacifists, all violence is evil, and they have urged us at every stage of the war to give in or at least to make a compromise peace. But how many of them have ever suggested that war is also evil when it is waged by the Red Army? Apparently the Russians have a right to defend themselves, whereas for us to do [so] is a deadly sin. One can only explain this contradiction in one way: that is, by a cowardly desire to keep in with the bulk of the intelligentsia, whose patriotism is directed towards the USSR rather than towards Britain. I know that the English intelligentsia have plenty of reason for their timidity and dishonesty, indeed I know by heart the arguments by which they justify themselves. But at least let us have no more nonsense about defending liberty against Fascism. If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. The common people still vaguely subscribe to that doctrine and act on it. In our country — it is not the same in all countries: it was not so in republican France, and it is not so in the USA today — it is the liberals who fear liberty and the intellectuals who want to do dirt on the intellect: it is to draw attention to that fact that I have written this preface.

[Credit: Machine-readable version: O. Dag]

Machen’s Testimony before the House and Senate Committees on the Proposed Department of Education (1926)

The following is a transcript of the proceedings of the Senate Committee on Education and Labor, and the House Committee on Education, February 25, 1926, Congress of the United States, Washington D.C.

The committee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10 o’clock am, Senator Lawrence C. Phipps presiding. Name of those present: Senators Phipps (chairman), Ferris, Copeland, and Brookhart, of the Senate Committee, and Messrs. Reed of New York, Robison, Holaday Lowrey Black of New York, and Fletcher, of the House Committee.

SENATOR PHIPPS: The committee will be in order. We will hear first from Dr. J. Gresham Machen, of Princeton Theological Seminary.

DR. MACHEN: Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the Committee, there are two reasons why a man may be opposed to a bill which is introduced in Congress. One reason is that he thinks it will not accomplish its purpose. The other reason is that he thinks that the purpose that it is intended to accomplish is an evil purpose.

It is for the latter reason that I am opposed to the bill which forms the subject of this hearing. The purpose of the bill is made explicit in the revised form of it which has been offered by Senator Means, in which it is expressly said that the department of public education, with the assistance of the advisory board to be created, shall attempt to develop a more uniform and efficient system of public common school education. The department of education, according to that bill, is to promote uniformity in education. That uniformity in education under central control it seems to me is the worst fate into which any country can fall. That purpose I think is implicit also in the other form of the bill, and it is because that is the very purpose of the bill that I am opposed to it.

This bill, I think, cannot be understood unless it is taken in connection with certain other measures of similar kind which have been proposed in the last few years; in the first place, of course, the so-called child-labor amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which I think was one of the most cruel and heartless measures that have ever been proposed in the name of philanthropy, which is saying a good deal. Another similar measure, of course, is the bill which has now been introduced, I believe, and which has appeared a number of times during the last few years, establishing in a very radical way a system of Federal aid to the States, with conditions on which this aid is to be received. It is perfectly clear of course, that if any such principle of Federal aid in education is established, the individual liberty of the States is gone, because I think we can lay it down as a general rule, with which everyone who has examined the course of education recently will agree, that money given for education, no matter what people say, always has a string tied to it. That appears in gifts of money by private foundations, and it appears far more, of course, when the gift comes from the Federal Government, which has already been encroaching to such an extent upon the powers of the States. But this bill establishing a Federal department of education, which has in it the principle of Federal aid, is a step and a very decisive step in exactly the same direction, and it is for that reason that we think it is to be opposed.

It is to be opposed, we think, because it represents a tendency which is no new thing, but has been in the world for at least 2,300 years, which seems to be opposed to the whole principle of liberty for which our country stands. It is the notion that education is an affair essentially of the State; that the children of the State must be educated for the benefit of the State; that idiosyncrasies should be avoided, and the State should devise that method of education which will best promote the welfare of the State.

That principle was put in classic form in ancient Greece in the Republic of Plato. It was put into operation, with very disastrous results in some of the Greek States. It has been in the world ever since as the chief enemy of human liberty. It appears in the world today. There are many apostles of it, such as Mr. H.G. Wells, for example. I suppose the root of his popular Outline of History is that with our modem methods of communication we can accomplish what the Roman Empire could not accomplish, because we can place education under the control of the State, and, avoiding such nonsense as literary education and the study of the classics, etc., can produce a strong unified state by having the State take up the business of education.

The same principle, of course, appears in practice in other countries in modem times, at its highest development in Germany, in disastrous form in Soviet Russia. It is the same idea. To that idea our notion has been diametrically opposed, and if you read the history of our race I think you will discover that our notion has been that parents have a right to educate children as they please; that idiosyncrasies should not be avoided; that the State should prevent one group from tyrannizing over another, and that education is essentially not a matter of the State at all.

The principle of this bill, and the principle of all the advocates of it, is that standardization in education is a good thing. I do not think a person can read the literature of advocates of measures of this sort without seeing that that is taken almost without argument as a matter of course, that standardization in education is a good thing. Now, I am perfectly ready to admit that standardization in some spheres is a good thing. It is a good thing in the making of Ford cars; but just because it is a good thing in the making of Ford cars it is a bad thing in the making of human beings, for the reason that a Ford car is a machine and a human being is a person. But a great many educators today deny the distinction between the two, and that is the gist of the whole matter. The persons to whom I refer are those who hold the theory that the human race has now got behind the scenes, that it has got at the secrets of human behavior, that it has pulled off the trappings with which human actors formerly moved upon the scene of life, and has discovered that art and poetry and beauty and morality are delusions, and that mechanism really rules all.

I think it is very interesting to observe how widespread that theory is in the education of the present day.

Sometimes the theory is held consciously. But the theory is much more operative because it is being put into operation by people who have not the slightest notion of what the ultimate source of its introduction into the sphere of education is. In this sphere we find an absolute refutation of the notion that philosophy has no effect upon life. On the contrary, a false philosophy, a false view of what life is, is made operative in the world today in the sphere of education through great hosts of teachers who have not the slightest notion of what the ultimate meaning is of the methods that they are putting into effect all the time.

For my part, I cannot bring myself to think, with these persons, that the lower things in human life are the only things that remain, and that all the higher things are delusions; and so I do not adhere to this theory. And for that reason I do not believe that we ought to adopt this principle of standardization in education, which is writ so large in this bill; because standardization, it seems to me, destroys the personal character of human life.

The aim in the making of Ford cars is to make every one just as much like every other one as possible; but the aim in education is to make human beings just as much unlike one another as possible. I admit that the aim in the case of Ford cars is not always attained very well. The removal of idiosyncrasies in Ford cars is not always perfectly carried out. I can say from my experience with Ford cars before the days of self-starters that sometimes a Ford car will start and sometimes it will not start, and if it will not start there is no use giving it any spiritual advice at all. Sometimes, despite everything that Mr. Ford can do, there is too much individuality in a Ford car; but the purpose is to make every one just as much like every other one as possible. That is the purpose of a great many educators when it comes to education today, and it is the purpose that underlies the tendency in this bill. It is to remove idiosyncrasies, to interfere with people who have peculiar ideas in education, and to try to produce a uniformity of education in this country.

I do not believe that the personal, free, individual character of education can be preserved when you have a Federal department laying down standards of education which become more or less mandatory to the whole country. Of course, there are people who say that a Federal department does not mean anything. They say that when they talk to men of our way of thinking. A good many people seem to have the notion that a Federal department, like the House of Lords during the Napoleonic wars, will “do nothing in particular and do it very well”; but for my part I do not believe, when you get a department with a secretary who has a salary of $15,000 and a great many secretaries under him, and when you get this dignity of a department, that you are going to find that that department is going to be very modest about the funds for which it asks.

I think it is perfectly plain that we are embarking on a policy here which cannot be reversed when it is once embarked upon. It is very much easier to prevent the formation of some agency that may be thought to be unfortunate than it is to destroy it after it is once formed. Now, I think, is the decisive time to settle this question whether we want the principle for which this department will stand.

But at that point, of course, there may be an objection. People will say: “Why, you have been arguing for individual liberty in education, and the right of individual parents to educate their children as they please, and all that; but is not that interfered with already by the States, and is not this bill the same in principle as the control of education by the individual States which we already have?” I am perfectly ready to admit that there have been grievous sins in the sphere of education on the part of individual States. We need only think of the Oregon school law, which actually attempted to take children forcibly from their parents and put them under the despotic control of whatever superintendent of education happened to be inpower in the district where the parents resided. We need think only of the Nebraska language law, which was similar to laws in other States, which actually prevented, even in private schools, the study of languages until the children are at an age when every teacher knows they are too old ever to learn language well. It actually, therefore, made literary education-which most certainly is not overdone in this country — a crime. Finally we need only think of the Lusk laws of the State of New York, one of which actually provided that every teacher in a course of instruction, public or private, formal or informal, should take out a State license and be subject to State visitation and control.

I am perfectly ready to admit that no interference with liberty could possibly be more complete than measures such as those; but the fate of those measures is very instructive for the question with which we are dealing. The Lusk laws were repealed. The Oregon school law and the Nebraska language law fell before that last bulwark of our liberties, the United States Supreme Court, which may God protect; and Justice McReynolds said, in the Oregon school case, that the child is not the mere creature of the State. And in that principle there lies everything for which we are contending today.

Then in the States there is a great safeguard in numbers. There are 48 States at this time, and they are very different. So although it is perfectly conceivable that one State may go very bad, it is not, perhaps, likely that all of them will go utterly bad. There is great safety in numbers; and therefore I hold that the control of education by the Federal Government is very different in principle from the control that is already exercised by the States, because the control by the States can be checked better in a constitutional way than control by the Federal Government, and also because there is a great difference in principle between having control by one central authority and control by a great many different sources of authority.

But it will be said: “Why, do you actually mean that we should have these 48 States, each with its own separate system of education, and a lot of crazy private schools and church schools?” Why, people tell us we shall make a perfect mess of it if we have any such education as that. Well, I say, with respect to that, that I hope with all my might that we may go on making a mess of it. I had a great deal rather have confusion in the sphere of education than intellectual and spiritual death; and out of that “mess,” as they call it — we call it liberty — there has come every fine thing that we have in our race today.

But then people say: “What is going to become of the matter of equal opportunity? Here you have some States providing inferior opportunities to others, and the principle of equal opportunity demands Federal aid.” I may say, Mr. Chairman, with regard to this matter of equal opportunity, that I am dead opposed to it — dead opposed to the principle of equal opportunity. What shall be done with a State that provides opportunity for its children inferior to that provided by other States? Should the people of that State be told that it makes absolutely no difference, that Washington will do it if the State does not do it? I think not. I, think we are encouraging an entirely false attitude of mind on the part of individual parents and on the part of individual States if we say that it makes no difference how responsibilities are met.

I believe that in the sphere of the mind we should have absolutely unlimited competition. There are certain spheres where competition may have to be checked, but not when it comes to the sphere of the mind; and it seems to me that we ought to have this state of affairs: That every State should be faced by the unlimited competition in this sphere of other States; that each one should try to provide the best for its children that it possibly can; and, above all, that all public education should be kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free competition of private schools and church schools.

A public education that is faced by such competition is a beneficent result of modem life; but a public education that is not faced by such competition of private schools is one of the deadliest enemies toliberty that has ever been devised.

Unlimited competition, I think, should be the rule. We already have interchange of ideas in this country. We do not need what George Washington wanted, a national university, because we have both the ends that he desired to accomplish by a national university. You need only to look at the list of students in any of our great institutions in order to see that they come from all over this country. There is that interchange of ideas of which he spoke. And we have also universities in this country that do not make it necessary for anyone to go to Europe to get an education, as he said. If we had no universities, we might want a national agency in education, but we have universities, and we do not want to spoil the agencies that we already have as the erection of a Federal department would check and spoil them in very many ways.

But then people say: “You know that this Federal department of education is in the interest of efficiency.” They are always flinging that word “efficiency” at us as though when that word is spoken all argument at once is checked. Well, of course, “efficiency” just means doing things, and I think the important thing to know is whether the things that are being done are good or bad. If the things that are being done by any agency are good, I am in favor of efficiency; but if the things that are being done by the agency are bad, the less efficiency it has the better it suits me.

I think probably most of us have heard the story of the tramp who got up to the third floor of the department store. The floorwalker on the third floor kicked him down to the second floor, where he fell afoul of the floorwalker on the second floor, who kicked him down to the floorwalker on the first floor, and the floorwalker on the first floor kicked him out on the sidewalk. He landed on his back, and got up and said in a tone of deep admiration, “My! What a system.” [Laughter.] Now, I am unable to develop the complete detachment or objectivity which was developed by that tramp. I am unable to admire efficiency when it is directed to an end which works harm to me; and the end of the efficiency of a Federal department of education would be the worst kind of slavery that could possibly be devised — a slavery in the sphere of the mind.

Of course, too, I might argue that Federal bureaus, when they have become overgrown, as they are now, are hardly very efficient agencies. In fact, I am inclined to think that they are the most inefficient agencies that can be found anywhere on the face of the planet. They are discouraging activities by other agencies which would perform the work a great deal better, even where harm is not done, as it is in this sphere, by the existence of the agency itself.

But even if Federal bureaus were the most efficient agencies that history has even seen, I should still be opposed all the more to this Federal department of education, because the result that it is aiming to accomplish is a thing that I hold to be bad, namely, slavery.

A great many educators, I think, have this notion that it is important to be doing something, to be going somewhere. They are interested in progress, and they do not seem to care very much in what direction the progress is being made. It is like a man who goes into the Union Station here, where all the trains start out the same way, and he gets through the gate somehow and sees a train that looks beautiful; it has a lovely observation car on it, and he gets on. When I do that, my ticket reads to Princeton. I get on this lovely train, and when it gets out of the station after half an hour the conductor comes through the train and looks at my ticket, and says: “Your ticket reads to Princeton, N.J., and we are bound for the West, and our first stop is Cumberland.” I say: “Well, that makes no difference to me. This is a perfectly lovely train, and I am so glad to be on it; and which way is the dining car?”– and I just stay on it, and do not care where I am going.

That is exactly the way, it seems to me, with these people who, in the sphere of education, feel that if you call a thing a department of education, and try to spend money for education as you are spending it for battleships, somehow that is an advantage. It depends on the direction in which you are moving.

So that I find in this bill a decisive step in a direction where the progress, if persisted in, will lead to disaster; and what I am hoping for is not merely that this bill may be defeated, but that this whole tendency, gentlemen, may be checked. I think that is the important thing.

MR. ROBISON: What do you refer to when you say “the whole tendency”?

DR. MACHEN: The whole tendency toward uniformity in the sphere of education, and the whole principle of a central control as over against individual responsibility.

MR. ROBISON: Do you object, then, to the activities of the Federal Government in the way of Federal aid to roads and to agriculture and to commerce and to labor?

DR. MACHEN: I object in general to the principle of Federal aid; yes, sir.

MR. ROBISON: I mean, to the activities of the Federal Government in agriculture and roads and commerce and labor?

DR. MACHEN: I do in general. Of course, a line has to be drawn. The Federal Government has a right to regulate interstate commerce. There are certain powers that are delegated to it definitely by the Constitution, and I do not desire to speak about other subjects; but in general I am opposed, sir, to the principle of Federal aid in the spheres where the States are really in control.

MR. ROBISON: In agriculture the activities of the Federal Government may have no relation to interstate commerce, but be directed to other matters.

DR. MACHEN: I am opposed, sir, to the extension of the operation of the principle of Federal aid. I think that it has clearly gone too far even in other spheres; that it has clearly gone too far, and that it should be checked. But I do not desire to speak about other spheres. I am talking specifically about the sphere of education, and in that sphere the principle of limitation of competition, etc., as I have tried to explain, does not come in. In that sphere, I think, we should absolutely avoid the principle of Federal aid.

SENATOR PHIPPS: Doctor Machen, you are connected with the Princeton Theological Seminary. That is denominational; is it?

DR. MACHEN: Yes, sir.

SENATOR PHIPPS: Which denomination is it?

DR. MACHEN: It belongs to the Presbyterian church.

SENATOR PHIPPS: Reverting to your illustration of the Ford car, what has been the result of the plan adopted by the English schools for boys, such as Eaton and Rugby? Does it turn out boys all of the same type, all of the same mold, or does the system take away from their individuality?

DR. MACHEN: I am not prepared to speak about the English public-school system, sir, because I do not know enough about it. I am not prepared to say how far it is monopolistic. I am prepared to say that I think that any central activities in Great Britain are no precedent whatever for central activities in this country. I believe with all my soul in the principle for this country of the division of power between the States and the Federal Government; and it is a very different matter, I think, when you deal with a country such as Great Britain. I do feel, sir, that it is plain that in Great Britain there is very great danger, because of present economic pressure, of the destruction of all of those principles of individual liberty which have made Great Britain great. They have the terrible evils of the present time; and it seems to me that in this country, where we have not the economic pressure, it is for us for the moment, where necessity is not upon us, to go straight on the road of individual freedom; not to be in a panic or turned aside from it.

SENATOR PHIPPS: Are there any further questions to be put to the witness?

MR. LOWREY: I should like to ask some questions, Mr. Chairman. Doctor, are you a member of the National Education Association that is meeting here?

DR. MACHEN: No, sir.

MR. LOWREY: Were you at the meeting when the resolution was passed in favor of this bill?

DR. MACHEN: No, sir; I was not. I have only read about it in the newspapers.

MR. LOWREY: The question I intended to ask is about a matter that has puzzled me somewhat. It seems that the resolution was passed unanimously, and now I am finding a great many who are saying, “I am opposed to it, but I did not vote against it.” I think not less than 8 or 10 educators have expressed definitely to me their opposition to it and yet say, “I did not vote that way” I do not see why the fight was not made there if there was strength of opposition. I do not see why some of those men who have said that so definitely to me did not make the fight.

DR. MACHEN: It is a very strange thing to me that that is not done. A great many men feel that there is no use in voting against a thing unless you can defeat it. I do not feel that way. I think it is a very important thing to vote exactly in accordance with your conscience, quite irrespective of the immediate success of your vote in your dealing with that measure.

MR. HOLADAY: Doctor, do you feel that at any time in the past the present Bureau of Education has directly or indirectly interfered with the operation of the school with which you are connected?

DR. MACHEN: No, sir; I do not think that there is anything to be said definitely with respect to the theological school with which I am connected.

MR. HOLADAY: Do you know whether or not the Bureau of Education has ever interfered, directly or indirectly, with the operation of any private or church school?

DR. MACHEN: I have not the evidence before me. I myself am inclined to think that the classification of colleges which has been proposed by it is unfortunate, and I believe that the vast enlargement of such activities by a department of education would be dangerous; but I am not in the present hearing at all personally interested with respect to my activities in the institution with which I am connected.

With respect to the future, I do feel, sir, that I am contending for a principle which is absolutely necessary to the principle of religious liberty. There are in the sphere of education tendencies which are directly opposed to religious liberty, such as the effort to produce a system of morality codes, etc., in the public schools; and the whole notion that the function of the public school is to be enlarged it seems to me is inimical to the principle of parental authority, and is very dangerous. The proper tendency, it seems to me, would be to diminish rather than to increase the function of the public school, and to place the responsibility for the moral and religious training of children exactly where it belongs, upon the individual parents. There is a tendency there which I think is dangerous; and the tendency of those who advocate this bill, with their desire that there shall be a dignity given to public education under central control which it does not possess, that its function shall be enlarged, if continued, I think, will be inimical in the most thorough-going way to religious liberty.

MR. REED of NEW YORK: Doctor, may I ask you a question? Carrying out your principle, if it were left to you, would you abolish the present Bureau of Education entirely?

DR. MACHEN: I could not say that definitely until I examine in detail, sir, all of the functions of the present Bureau of Education. It is perfectly obvious that the Federal Government has some functions in the sphere of education, for instance in the District of Columbia; and I should have to inform myself more particularly before I could answer that question. But I do advocate the abolition of certain functions of the present Bureau of Education, its activities as a general agency in the guidance of the States in their own individual affairs. I think that there are activities which would far better be avoided; but I cannot make so sweeping an assertion as that I should advocate the abolition of the Bureau of Education without examining all of its functions.

MR. REED of NEW YORK: I know that you are sincere in opposing it on principle, not only in education, but in other activities. For instance, we will take the Department of Agriculture. Carrying out your principle, if you had the right to do it, would you be in favor of eliminating Federal aid in the Agricultural Department.

DR. MACHEN: I think this is to be said — that when you eliminate an agency which has long been in operation you are doing something more serious than the avoidance of an entrance upon those activities; and I should have to examine the dangers which might result from the sudden elimination of such activities in the sphere of agriculture. I do feel, however, that there is a difference between the sphere of education and those other spheres. As I say, I think that when it comes to the training of human beings, you have to be a great deal more careful than you do in other spheres about preservation of the right of individual liberty and the principle of individual responsibility; and I think we ought to be plain about this — that unless we preserve the principles of liberty in this department there is no use in trying to preserve them anywhere else. If you give the bureaucrats the children, you might as well give them everything else as well. [Applause.]

So that it does seem to me we are dealing with the most important part of human life when we are dealing with education, and we are dealing with a sphere where analogies drawn from mechanical spheres are very dangerous; and yet I am opposed in general to the notion that even in other spheres we should develop the principle that if someone else does not do it, Washington will always step in and do it. I think that is opposed to an economical conduct of life; it is working great moral harm to our people in many other spheres; but the exact limits of the activities of the Federal Government constitute a question with which I am not now attempting to deal.

I have tried to observe, in the sphere of education, the results of the present tendency towardstandardization, and I think those results are lamentable. I think we are having to- day a very marked intellectual as well as moral decline through the gradual extension of this principle of standardization in education. People are ready to admit to some extent that there is a sort of moral decline, but what is not always observed is that there is a terrible intellectual decline, and that intellectual decline comes through the development of this principle of unification and standardization to which I object; for I think that in the sphere of education uniformity always means not something uniformly high but something uniformly low.

MR. HOLADAY: Doctor, I understood you to say that in your opinion the public schools have already gone too far in moral teaching. I should like a little further information about your ideas on that question.

DR. MACHEN: I am not sufficiently familiar with the actual working out of these proposals in detail; but I am opposed in general to the morality codes which have been proposed here in Washington, for example, which represent morality as the result of human experience, and so seem to me to undermine the very basis of morality and to be producing moral decline. My position with regard to moral and religious training in its connection with the State is rather simple. I think it is a very good thing if the public schools release children at convenient hours during the week for religious training, but I am absolutely opposed to any granting of school credit for work done in those hours, to the slightest scrutiny of attendance or of the standards of instruction, or anything of the kind; and I hold that the solution of our difficulties is in the restriction in general of the public schools to their function of imparting knowledge, and the gradual production in the minds of our people of the notion that moral and religious training is a responsibility of the parents and not of the State.

I do not know, sir, whether that answers your question.

MR. HOLADAY: I think so.

MR. ROBISON: Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask the witness a few questions. What is the nature of your work at Princeton?

DR. MACHEN: I am a professor in Princeton Theological Seminary, which is an institution for the training of ministers.

MR. ROBISON: I understand that, but what is your particular work in that institution?

DR. MACHEN: I am a teacher in the New Testament department.

MR. ROBISON: Have you ever had any experience in teaching in the public schools?

DR. MACHEN: No, sir. I have had an experience of the result of such activities — a rather wide experience.

MR. ROBISON: Have you ever had any experience in directing the public-school work of any community or State?

DR. MACHEN: No, sir.

MR. ROBISON: Your fear is that this department of education would have a tendency to federalize or centralize and enslave the public-school system of the Nation?

DR. MACHEN: Yes, sir.

MR. ROBISON: And then I take it, as a logical result or sequence, that you are opposed to the present Bureau of Education in so far as it acts as a fact-finding organization, or gives leadership and stimulation, or undertakes to do so, to the public-school work of the Nation?

DR. MACHEN: I am not entirely prepared to answer that question categorically

MR. ROBISON: I mean, outside the District of Columbia.

DR. MACHEN: There are a good many functions in the sphere of education which legitimately belong to the Federal Government; but I am opposed to the extension of an agency which assists the States and assists private individuals, or a Federal agency even in the spheres about which you are speaking.

MR. ROBISON: So that we may understand each other and so that we may understand your testimony, what spheres do you think are properly occupied by the Federal Government, or could be, so far as its relations to the public schools in the States, outside of the District of Columbia, are concerned?

DR. MACHEN: I am inclined to think that it would have been better if it had not entered on that field at all.

MR. ROBISON: No; you said you were in favor of some things. I want to know what those things are.

DR. MACHEN: I mentioned one — the District of Columbia.

MR. ROBISON: Outside of the District make laws here for the District of Columbia, and make the laws of the Federal Government.

DR. MACHEN: I hate to speak about a subject where I have not all of the facts in hand, and I am not speaking in general about detailed activities of the Federal Bureau of Education. Until I am asked about every one of those activities separately I should not like to make general statements about them.

MR. ROBISON: But your statement was, if I understood you, that you thought there were spheres in which the Federal Government could and should properly participate in public education outside of the District of Columbia. My inquiry is, What are those spheres? What should it do properly?

DR. MACHEN: Well, sir, I do not feel that I can undertake the rather difficult duty of mapping a program for a Federal agency. I am speaking only in opposition to something. I am not speaking in favor of other things or mapping out a legitimate program.

MR. ROBISON: But I asked that question because of your statement that the Federal Government had proper spheres in public education outside of the District of Columbia. I am merely inquiring what are those spheres in your mind?

DR. MACHEN: I do not know that I made that assertion, sir — that the Federal Government has proper spheres for education outside of the District of Columbia. I am not saying that it has not, and I am not saying that it has, sir.

MR. ROBISON: Then you have not made sufficient investigation to know whether these activities of the Bureau of Education have been helpful or harmful to the public schools of the Nation? Is not that your position?

DR. MACHEN: I think it is quite possible that some of those activities have been helpful; but I am opposed to the increase of the functions of this Federal agency because that increase is distinctly in the interest of a general aid carried on by the Federal Government in the sphere of the individual States, and I am sorry that such a Federal agency is already in existence. I am sorry that that part of Federal activities has already begun. I think it is perfectly proper for the Federal Government to maintain here in Washington certain museums and certain agencies for education in the National Capital. I think a good many of those activities may be of benefit to the people of the whole country, and I am not attempting to draw the line in any clear way.

MR. ROBISON: Now, if I understand you, if you are sorry that there is a Bureau of Education here in Washington, then it follows that your mind tells you that it ought to be abolished; and then, further, if you do not know the activities of the Bureau of Education here and its relation to the public schools and public education of the country, how can you say that an enlargement of this bureau would be harmful or helpful?

DR. MACHEN: I am opposed to it, as I tried to explain, sir, in principle.

MR. ROBISON: I know you said you are opposed to it.

DR. MACHEN: I am opposed to the principle of Federal aid, and I am opposed to the activities of the Federal bureau where they involve the laying down of standards of education — of certain standards for colleges, for example. I think that is an unfortunate thing. I think it is very much better to have men who are engaged in education examine methods of education, examine standards, rather than to have such agencies of research come before the people with the authority of the Federal Government, with the fear at all times that we shall have an agitation to compel schools to maintain those standards. We have very frequently the principle that the States are to be allowed to do this and that; but if they do not maintain certain standards which have been laid down by Federal agencies of research, they should then be compelled to do it by some sort of an amendment to the Constitution or the like.

MR. ROBISON: I want you to point out what section of this bill in your opinion would give the Federal Government control or direction of any public school or, for that matter, any private school in any State or community.

DR. MACHEN: This provision at the beginning of it-that there is established at the seat of Government an executive department to be known as the department of education. That I think, establishes an extent of Federal activity in principle which will be deleterious, which will lead to a great many activities in the future. If you have a Federal department of education that has a place in the Cabinet, you have a department which is going to extend constantly its activities and is going to ask for more and more funds. We have, of course, an illustration of this in the extremely radical bill which is now in Congress which would extend this principle of Federal aid to the States and which lays down the conditions upon which that Federal aid is to be received. That has always been in connection with this demand for this establishment of a Federal department of education, and I think it is in organic connection with it. The very establishment of a Federal department of education, I think, is dangerous, because it will lead to such measures as those which have been proposed for a great many years, which provide for Federal aid on a large scale.

MR. ROBISON: Do you believe that Congress has the power to pass any law that would give the Federal Government control of the public schools in any State?

DR. MACHEN: I think the powers of the Federal Government in this respect under the Constitution may be doubtful; but I think that there are indirect ways of establishing this unification which are very effective and which are very disastrous.

Now, of course there is another specific portion of this bill which provides for the activities to which I object: “The department of education shall collect such statistics and facts as shall show the condition and progress of education in the several States and in foreign countries — ” And so forth. And then there is assistance in devising methods of operation. In the revised form of this bill, Senate bill 2841, we have, as I say, the purpose of such activity explicitly stated

SENATOR COPELAND: Where is that?

DR. MACHEN: It is section 5 of Senate bill 2841: “The department of education shall * * * with the consent of the advisory board hereafter mentioned, attempt developing a more uniform and efficient system of public common-school education.” I am opposed to a more uniform system of public common-school education. That is explicit in this revised form of the bill, and I think it is clearly implicit in the section to which I have referred.

MR. ROBISON: There is nothing compulsory there, is there?

DR. MACHEN: There is nothing compulsory in form, but I think there is an establishment of uniformity which has already gone to disastrous lengths in this country, and the encouragement of which I think is a very unfortunate thing. The proper way in which suggestions as to educational standards should come before the authorities of schools is without the extraneous authority of the Federal Government, which, because of the tendency which has been operative in recent years, is far more than merely advisory; it contains all the time an implied threat, you see, and for that reason is very unfortunate.

SENATOR FERRIS: I should like to ask one question.

SENATOR PHIPPS: Certainly, Senator.

SENATOR FERRIS: For my own information I wish to ask what you regard as the basic element or elements in moral conduct. Perhaps that is a foolish question.

DR. MACHEN: The basic elements in moral conduct?

SENATOR FERRIS: Yes, sir. What is the basis. I judge from your remarks that experience received minor consideration.

DR. MACHEN: Yes, sir — Well, I am an adherent of a certain religious group. We have our definite notion as to the basis of morality, and it is in my belief altogether a religious one. I intend to proclaim that basis of morality is the will of God as revealed by God, and I am interested in the right of all others to maintain that as the only basis of morality. I belong to what is often called a very strict sect, the Presbyterian Church, but it is a sect which has always been devoted to the principles of liberty; and I am unlike a great many of my fellow citizens — tolerance to me means not only tolerance for that with whichI am agreed, but it means also tolerance for that to which I am most violently opposed.

I was thoroughly opposed, for example, to the Lusk laws in the State of New York which were intended to bring about the closing of the Rand School in the city of New York. I cannot imagine anything more harmful than the Rand School; there is nothing to which I am more opposed, which I think more subversive of morality; and yet I was absolutely opposed to any such law as that. I believe in liberty, and, therefore, when I believe I have a right to proclaim the basis of morality which I think is only in the will of God, I also claim the right for other persons to proclaim whatever else they may hold with regard to it. But to proclaim in our public schools that morality is only the result of human experimentation — “this is the conduct which Uncle Sam has found in the course of American history to be right” — that, I think, is subversive of morality; and I do not believe that anyone can encourage moral conduct in others unless he has first in his own mind the notion of an absolute distinction and not a merely relative distinction between right and wrong.

I do not know whether that at all answers your question.

SENATOR FERRIS: I am just wondering whether there is any such thing as moral conduct in the United States Congress or among the citizens of the United States apart from a distinctively religious basis. I am just wondering whether the public schools have any function in the way of teaching morality which is not distinctively religious in its basic idea.

DR. MACHEN: I think that the solution lies not in a theoretic teaching in the public schools as to the basis of morality, because I do not think you can keep that free from religious questions; but I do hold that a teacher who himself or herself is imbued with the absolute distinction between right and wrong can maintain the moral standing, the moral temper of a public school.

SENATOR FERRIS: Is the ethical culturist ruled out from the consideration of morality in his views and conduct?

DR. MACHEN: I am not ruling out anybody at all, sir — the ethical culturist or anyone else.

SENATOR FERRIS: No; but if religion is the basic element in all morality, then can we have a morality that is not founded on a religious idea?

DR. MACHEN: I myself do not believe that you can have such a morality permanently, and that is exactly what I am interested in trying to get other people to believe; but I am not at all interested in trying to proclaim that view of mine by any measures that involve compulsion, and I am not interested in making the public school an agency for the proclamation of such a view; but I am interested in diminishing rather than increasing the function of the public school, in order to leave room for the opportunity of a propagation of the view that I hold in free conflict with all other views which may be held, in order that in that way the truth finally may prevail.

SENATOR PHIPPS: Thank you, Doctor. [Applause.]