Education and the Future of Freedom

Jun 05, 2015 | Posted by Andrew Pudewa

I like small books. They make me think the author has said what he wanted to say, concisely and without padding. The Coming Aristocracy by Oliver DeMille is such a book—short and to the point.

Most people I know are aware—sometimes painfully so—that our society and culture are rapidly moving away from our founding ideals, as seen in the untenable debt held by both governments and people, the decreasing literacy of the population of the country, the surprising and sometimes sudden changes in law through judicial activism, or the pop culture media crossing one more line of indecency. It’s easy to become pessimistic about the future of America.

The future, and therefore the solutions we need, will be found in education, and we all know it. However, what type of systemic changes will help us accomplish a genuine improvement and a restoration of sanity to economics and law? DeMille posits some powerful ideas in this short treatise, starting with the observation that we are quickly gaining a new aristocracy, not in the sense of nobility, but in the sense that concentration of wealth and power is shrinking the freedom and rights of a once widespread class of those called yeomen, entrepreneurs, leaders, owners.

At the time when the war for independence was won and the constitution was established, ninety-some percent of free Americans were farmers, merchants, owners—independents. They were educated citizen-leaders who treasured life and liberty but were willing to sacrifice the former for the latter.

Now, the numbers are reversed; ninety-some percent of Americans are employees or dependents of the state. DeMille’s thesis is simple: “If [America] is to become great again, two things must happen: 1) The owners must again lead, and 2) a significant number of the citizens must become owners.” And he sounds the warning that this must happen through education, or “we will pass on to our children an aristocracy, where no one—not even the rulers—is free.”

When the aristocrats of the industrial revolution demanded that education provide a workforce of predictable and controllable factory workers, voters, and consumers who would work, vote, and buy exactly as they were told, the educationists provided just that, empowered by laws and lawmakers also under the influence of the wealthy elite.

However, we are no longer living in an industrial economy where legions of unthinking factory workers are a great asset. Businesses today need people with communication and cognitive skills, initiative, character, and problem-solving abilities, but the schools were never designed to produce such and are failing to do so today despite the cries of “No child left behind!” and “Race to the top!” and “College and career readiness!”

In clear but captivating prose, DeMille not only exposes the causes and dangers of the coming aristocracy, he outlines alternatives and solutions: “mini-factories,” entrepreneurial mentoring, and a return to the meaningful liberal arts education of our forefathers—one that teaches how to think, not just what to think—an education that has the potential to restore our greatness and independence, a “freedom education.” Read it, and your hope will be restored, your path clearer.

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