Save the Foundations of (the) University

People, people! I don’t care what the politicians say: college is not about money.

And America, being a very large country, simply cannot support a population made up of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher, a population that pursues ever-higher degrees of attainment and ever-lower standards. Not the way it works. It just isn’t. High schools need to do more work than simply working to get their schools into college. Otherwise, college will be about getting students into quaternary education. And then what? Enough already.

Education, especially liberal education, is not about money, social mobility or any such things. Yes, there are benefits. Yes, there is a degree of social mobility. But it is backwards to pursue the schooling without the aim of education that teaches people to function in liberty, and only those most eager to learn these things should attend a university.

Yes, I will be the first to admit high schools don’t do nearly enough. That’s not an excuse for pushing people into universities who never would have belonged there under the goals of the university.

Now inevitably there is the issue of power, power that comes into the hands of those who are seen with a high degree of learning.

Only those who pursue truth and beauty as ends rather than money and power themselves can be let into the universities. Obviously this will not happen all the time, and obviously some people are good liars, but let him who studies do it not for what the Greeks called the body: wealth, power and status, though those are all advantageous things. This is also what is called 身, the body, or the self, in Mengzi’s philosophy.

For those who pursue these as the supreme purposes are bound to only incidental good, not intentional good. About them Mengzi said,

王曰:「何以利吾國?」大夫曰:「何以利吾家?」士庶人曰:「何以利吾身?」上下交征利,而國危矣!萬乘之國弒其君者,必千乘之家;千乘之國,弒其君者,必百乘之家。萬取千焉,千取百焉,不為不多矣;茍為後義而先利,不奪不饜。

Thus I can entrust these things only to those who do not pursue them primarily but only knowledge for the higher ends of wisdom and understanding and freedom in the truth. Maybe I half-like the idea of philosopher kings. People of baser ambitions than pleasing God and learning the truth and living the truth are myriad, but though their worth as humans must be affirmed it is better that they not rule.

For it is far better that the rulers be people who pursue righteousness than that they be subject to the swelling tides of passions that lie and so turn to wickedness to “get things done”. Unless there are goals shown to be worthwhile and morally tenable, I can give no care for efficiency. It is contemptible to want to be efficient in doing evil.

But I also fear the rule of alleged intellectuals who cut themselves off from the Logos and try to create their own truths in the idolatries of the heart. I know it happens. I see it, and I know as surely as anyone that I am not in the least immune to such temptations.

The will of the people is for accountability, for re-awakening dead hearts of stone, for keeping the chosen rulers from being disembodied spirits that fancy themselves gods of enlightenment. The government being the res publica, the thing of the people, is not for mob rule, but woe to the state that tramples on it.

But a people that fails once in its rulers and once again in its public is sick and needs to change before it is judged and dies, not in any direction but in one direction only, toward the truth and the light of God’s goodness. May there always be people to speak truth and not suffer the people to be led astray but persist for what is right, before we all perish in a cloud of the abolition of man.

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