A Call to Action

I have observed that most people, when asked to talk about politics, exhibit some interesting behaviors.  By far the largest reaction is what could most accurately be described as almost a passion for avoiding the subject entirely.  People don’t want to have their peaceful lives interrupted in order to babysit their elected officials.  It is only when their comfort is disturbed that they seem to want to talk about politics, but only so far as it affects the thing that disrupted their passive apathy.

In my opinion this is a result of the educational culture that predominates most of the world today.  For some strange reason people seem to think that the purpose for education is so that when you “grow up” you will be able to get a better job than if you didn’t have as good of an education.  While providing for one’s needs and not being a drain on the resources of others is an important side benefit of education, it entirely misses the point of learning.  The point of learning something is so that you have a better understanding of truth, thereby being able to make better decisions for your life and be better able to accomplish as many things as you have the desire to do.  Providing for the needs of you and your family is an important part of living in any civilized society, but it is the bare minimum.  This is a weakness in our current public education system.  A publicly funded education system is an essential part of any civilization, because it brings basic education to the most people.  However it has several weaknesses, one of which is that, because it needs to address the needs of as many individuals as possible, by nature it caters and encourages the lowest common denominator – or meeting minimum requirements.

Now please don’t read what I didn’t write.  I am not advocating the abolition of publicly funded education.  I think that public school teachers are some of the most decent and honorable people I know.  It is not public education that is the problem.  It is the educational culture that teaches children to ask (as I did when I was the age of compulsory education), “How long does this paper need to be?”  “How many sources do I need to reference?”  “How many math questions do I need to do to get a passing grade?”  etc. ad nauseum.

Did Thomas Jefferson ask how long the Declaration of Independence needed to be to assert the disappointment the colonists had with the King and Parliament of England?  Did Einstein ask how many math problems he had to complete as he developed his theory of relativity?  Did Gandhi ask how long he had to speak to meet the minimum requirements?

The answer is: No.  Why? Because they were not doing these things to make the minimum qualifications.  The minimum qualifications would not get them what they wanted.  Thomas Jefferson wanted to defend freedom, not as a superficial activist, but because he believed in his soul that “all men are created equal” and that just because someone was born in England to a rich aristocratic or even royal family, did not make him more worthy of “the pursuit of happiness” than anybody born under less fortunate circumstances.

The question is then: “Why do I feel that, because I have a diploma, I have lost all motivation to learn and discover truth?”

As a culture we have abandoned the life-long pursuit of truth for the life-long pursuit of bread and circuses – being sufficiently fed and entertained to the point that we ignore anything else.

This is my call to action:  If you want to seek for truth and enrich your life with what has true value, here are some suggestions:

  1. Start a book discussion group.
    1. Start reading books that are about topics that interest you.
    2. Invite a guest speaker to your colloquium group to teach you all about something you find interesting.
    3. Here are some suggestions of books you could read about political economy:
      1. Essays on Political Economy, by Frederick Bastiat
      2. The Federalist Papers, by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison
      3. The Anti-Federalist Papers, by the Anti-Federalists
      4. The Constitution of the United States – including the Bill of Rights and all the rest of the amendments
    4. If you feel more inclined toward fiction books, and are intimidated by some of the larger “classic literature” books try some of these youth fiction that have amazing lessons:
      1. The Chronicles of Prydain Series by Lloyd Alexander
        (the source of the name “Free Commots”)
      2. Ender’s Game and/or Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card
      3. Choose one of the Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome.
  2. Ask each member of your group to write one of each of the 5 types of questions about the book you are discussing
    1. Knowledge Questions
    2. Understanding Questions
    3. Principles Questions
    4. Application Questions
    5. Interdisciplinary Questions
  3. Start inviting members of your group to write their opinions in essay form, original works of poetry or even fictional writing to be shared with the group.
    1. Benjamin Franklin did this with some friends which they called the Junto.  This group originated the ideas of public libraries, volunteer fire brigades, and many other important aspects of American society.
  4. Tell Free Commots about your colloquium group.
    1. If you’re open to new members, let us know.  We can keep a database of all the colloquium groups for people looking for one to join.
    2. If you can’t find friends to form a book discussion group, send a request to Free Commots and we’ll help you find one in your area or give you pointers on how to find others interested in making a difference.
  5. Step outside your comfort zone, go to the neighbors that you don’t know, ask them to come over for a BBQ.  While you are chatting, ask if they would be interested in a reading group.
  6. Remember: the purpose of this is not to get a degree, or to enhance your income, it is to discover and discuss truth – to become a lifelong learner.  Those other things will come the better you get.

4 thoughts on “A Call to Action

  1. i think your point could apply to more than just education. Anything we do should be for the value inherent in its doing and not just to have done it.

    That said, i see education as an assimilation in fresh minds of previously acquired wisdom so that we don’t have to “re-invent the wheel” as it were. So that we can build on foundations already layed, benefiting from the wisdom and failure of those who are (in many cases) no longer building at all and not having to start with just digging a hole.


  2. As always Russ, I enjoy the interaction. Thank you for your comments.
    You are correct that it could apply to many things, and not just education. However, our national education culture is what I feel is leading our nation to a loss of liberty and freedom. Our national educational culture is one of getting an education to get a better job rather than to understand truth. This results in students being eager to be “done” with their education (i.e. “No more pencils, No more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks …”) rather than seeing education as a life-long process.
    In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell shows that it takes at least 10,000 hours of doing anything to be great, no matter who you are. The trouble is that our children are burned out with education by the time they graduate from college if not earlier and the idea of doing anything for 10,000 hours becomes less important than the latest episode of their favorite sit-com.

    I agree with your view of education being an “assimilation into fresh minds of previously acquired wisdom” and to avoid re-inventing the wheel. The best way to do this is by studying original works. This is how Newton, Einstein, Gandhi, Jefferson, Washington, and so many other people who re-shaped the way we see the world learned.


  3. I love the critique of the lackadaisical education attitudes prevalent in our society. A sincere search for truth is an inherently good part of anyone’s attitude.

    However, I’m not sure I agree with the parallel made between education and political discussion. Is there inherent value in participating in politics? I’m not completely sure. I am confident there is inherent value in discussing and participating in government, but I’m not quite sure about politics. I’m getting quite sick of the hobnobbing, to be completely honest; the social suck-up culture of politics is a little nauseating. I enjoy meeting and discussing public policy and the principles of the proper role of government with candidates and elected officials, but I hate the fact that doing so usually coincides with implications of political favours, and other social niceties. I can see why so many people participate as little as possible. Government participation? Love it. Politics? Bleah!


  4. Thank you so much for your comment and feedback. Your experiences with politics and government are definitely a good insight into the topic.

    I suggest you may want to look deeper into the meanings of the word ‘politics’. The way you are using the word politics is definitely not something everyone should be exposed to, or even desire to participate in. However the etymology of the word does lead me to understand the word to mean superficial pandering as is implied by the popular and vernacular definition that you use.

    What I mean by participation in politics is that you learn to deal with people, to use diplomacy to influence them and to be influenced by their sincere desires to understand truth. This can be perverted into superficial pandering, but being influenced by and influencing other people is definitely something that everyone would benefit from the study of and participation in.


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