On Liberal Education

My definition of liberal education as the education of liberals no longer sounds provocative. Liberalism, having failed and failed disastrously in all its political experiments from church disestablishment to women's suffrage to food stamps, still reigns triumphant, with hardly a rival, in the empty corridors of the Western mind. How failed? The church is disestablished, after all; women do vote; and the urban poor still clip the coupons that enable them to lead the life of the idle poor. But the announced intent of these policies was not to change a law or set up a program. Liberal projects always aim at the reformation of society and the amelioration of the human condition, and when the results turn out to be the opposite of the announced intentions, some group of dissident liberals on the make can always be found to criticize the "unintended consequences" of schemes they once favored.

Food stamps, most people will grant me: a program supposed to wean the poor from dependency and teach them the value of money has only succeeded in creating the class of welfare slaves who well might envy life on the old plantation. But the same conclusion can and ought to be applied to every other liberal policy of the past two centuries. Church disestablishment was to give us freedom of conscience and enable a more spiritual religious sense to grow. In fact, we have replaced the grave and beautiful superstitions of our ancestors with...

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