Just re-read, for the hundredth time, The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. If you haven’t read this slim book, do. It’s well worth the effort. Available on-line and in e-reader form.
The term “democracy” probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. The common misconception boils it down to “I’m as good as you”. When it begins to work its way into the educational system, you can predict future developments.
“The basic principle of the “new” education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic”. These differences between the pupils – for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences – must be disguised. This can be done on various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power or wish to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing the things that children used to do in their spare time … But all the time there must be no faintest hint that they are inferior to the children who are at work. … Am even more drastic scheme is not impossible. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma … by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age-group throughout his school career, and a boy would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coeval’s attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON A MAT. … All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will vanish. The few who might want to learn will be prevented: who are they to overtop their fellows [and damage the others’ self-esteem]? … Of course, this would not follow unless all education became state education.”
Long passage, yes, but well worth the read. Very pertinent, and my opinion on No Child Left Behind. Did I write this? No. Is it recent commentary on NCLB? No. This is C. S. Lewis writing in 1959 on the subject of democracy as defined as “I am as good as you”. It comes at the end of “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” and should be required reading.
I may be having a senior moment – if I’ve run this one before, I apologize!
Anyway, if you’ve never seen Henry Fonda’s classic “Twelve Angry Men”, drop everything you are doing and rent it from Netflix or stream it or whatever you have to do, but by all means watch it.
It’s set in the jury room of a courthouse, during the jury deliberations after a murder trial, and I have never, ever, heard a more succinct definition of “reasonable doubt”. This is a classic and a must-see.
Spent a weekend a couple of weeks ago in Indianapolis, visiting my friend Audrey (she’s 93 this year). At her urging, the three of us had a lovely dinner at home and then watched a movie. This one, I strongly recommend. It was “The Cheyenne Social Club”, starring Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda. And it’s uproarious.
Plotline is two very, very naïve cowboys who are suddenly thrust into an inheritance about which neither of them have a clue.
Shirley Jones (I keep wanting to call her Shirley Partridge, which really dates me, doesn’t it) co-stars and is wonderful.
Definitely worth watching.
I know I’m years behind the time, but I just saw the first season, first episode of Downton Abbey. Wow, what a show. I’m impressed.
What’s really interesting is that I got to tour Highclere (the stately home where the show is filmed) years ago while I was living nearby. It’s an incredible place and well worth a tour (if they still allow tours now that the film crew is there at all hours).