Thursday, January 2, 2014

Li'l Miss Education

I daresay many a Russian or Mongol or Chinese today feels that it is
more adult to recognise the sheer immensity of the great events
that shake the world, and play a part in history worthy of men by
abandoning themselves to them, than by praising or damning and
indulging in bourgeois moralisings: the notion that history must be
applauded as such is the horrible German way out of the burden of
moral choice.

If pushed to the extreme, this doctrine would, of course, do away
with all education, since when we send children to school or
influence them in other ways without obtaining their approval for
what we are doing, are we not "tampering" with them, "moulding"
them like pieces of clay with no purpose of their own? Our answer
has to be that certainly all "moulding" is evil, and that if human
beings at birth had the power of choice and the means of
understanding the world, it would be criminal; since they have not,
we temporarily enslave them, for fear that, otherwise, they will
suffer worse misfortunes from nature and from men, and this
"temporary enslavement" is a necessary evil until such time as they
are able to choose for themselves--the "enslavement" having as its
purpose not an inculcation of obedience but its contrary, the
development of power of free judgement and choice; still, evil it
remains, even if necessary.
- Isaiah Berlin, "Letter to George Kennan of 13 February, 1951"

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