The Prevention of Literature (Free Speech essay by Orwell)

“About a year ago I attended a meeting of the P.E.N. Club, the occasion
being the tercentenary of Milton’s AEROPAGITICA–A pamphlet, it may be
remembered, in defense of freedom of the press. Milton’s famous phrase
about the sin of “killing” a book was printed on the leaflets advertising
the meeting which had been circulated beforehand.

There were four speakers on the platform. One of them delivered a speech
which did deal with the freedom of the press, but only in relation to
India; another said, hesitantly, and in very general terms, that liberty
was a good thing; a third delivered an attack on the laws relating to
obscenity in literature. The fourth devoted most of his speech to a
defense of the Russian purges. Of the speeches from the body of the hall,
some reverted to the question of obscenity and the laws that deal with
it, others were simply eulogies of Soviet Russia. Moral liberty–the
liberty to discuss sex questions frankly in print–seemed to be
generally approved, but political liberty was not mentioned. Out of this
concourse of several hundred people, perhaps half of whom were directly
connected with the writing trade, there was not a single one who could
point out that freedom of the press, if it means anything at all, means
the freedom to criticize and oppose. Significantly, no speaker quoted
from the pamphlet which was ostensibly being commemorated…..

…almost nobody in our own day is able to speak out as roundly in
favour of intellectual liberty as Milton could do 300 years ago–and this
in spite of the fact Milton was writing in a period of civil war.

…In the past, at any
rate throughout the Protestant centuries, the idea of rebellion and the
idea of intellectual integrity were mixed up. A heretic–political, moral,
religious, or aesthetic–was one who refused to outrage his own
conscience. His outlook was summed up in the words of the Revivalist hymn:

Dare to be a Daniel
Dare to stand alone
Dare to have a purpose firm
Dare to make it known

To bring this hymn up to date one would have to add a “Don’t” at the
beginning of each line. For it is the peculiarity of our age that the
rebels against the existing order, at any rate the most numerous and
characteristic of them, are also rebelling against the idea of individual
integrity. “Daring to stand alone” is ideologically criminal as well as
practically dangerous. The independence of the writer and the artist is
eaten away by vague economic forces, and at the same time it is
undermined by those who should be its defenders. It is with the second
process that I am concerned here.

Freedom of thought and of the press are usually attacked by arguments
which are not worth bothering about. Anyone who has experience of
lecturing and debating knows them off backwards. Here I am not trying to
deal with the familiar claim that freedom is an illusion, or with the
claim that there is more freedom in totalitarian countries than in
democratic ones, but with the much more tenable and dangerous proposition
that freedom is undesirable and that intellectual honesty is a form of
anti-social selfishness. Although other aspects of the question are
usually in the foreground, the controversy over freedom of speech and of
the press is at bottom a controversy of the desirability, or otherwise,
of telling lies. What is really at issue is the right to report
contemporary events truthfully, or as truthfully as is consistent with
the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every observer
necessarily suffers. …

The enemies of intellectual liberty always try to present their case as a
plea for discipline versus individualism. The issue truth-versus-untruth
is as far as possible kept in the background. Although the point of
emphasis may vary, the writer who refuses to sell his opinions is always
branded as a mere egoist. He is accused, that is, of either wanting to
shut himself up in an ivory tower, or of making an exhibitionist display
of his own personality, or of resisting the inevitable current of history
in an attempt to cling to unjustified privilege. The Catholic and the
Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest
and intelligent. …The familiar tirades
against “escapism” and “individualism”, “romanticism”, and so forth, are
merely a forensic device, the aim of which is to make the perversion of
history seem respectable.

… any writer or
journalist who is fully sympathetic for the U.S.S.R.–sympathetic, that
is, in the way the Russians themselves would want him to be–does have
to acquiesce in deliberate falsification on important issues…..Forgeries almost as gross as this have been
committed in recent years. But the significant thing is not that they
happen, but that, even when they are known about, they provoke no
reaction from the left-wing intelligentsia as a whole. The argument that
to tell the truth would be “inopportune” or would “play into the hands
of” somebody or other is felt to be unanswerable, and few people are
bothered by the prospect of the lies which they condone getting out of
the newspapers and into the history books.

…This kind of
thing happens everywhere, but is clearly likelier to lead to outright
falsification in societies where only one opinion is permissible at any
given moment. Totalitarianism demands, in fact, the continuous alteration
of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very
existence of objective truth. ”

Read the whole thing.  

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is a Charlotte Mason Education for Everybody?

It is my personal, but very strong opinion (I see no point in writing at length about a weak opinion) that a Charlotte Mason education is for everybody.  From what I can tell, most people who think otherwise have a different understanding of what a CM education is than I do.  Mason’s education approach is a philosophy, a collection of ideas and principles, and those principles apply to the vast majority of the human race.

Her first principle, for instance, is that children are *born* persons. They are not born oysters, or empty sacs and we make human beings out of them. They don’t become people, they are people, individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses, bents and inclinations.  We definitely can help them along to be better informed people, and we can instill in them some helpful habits and knowledge about the world. but they come to us as fully human as you or I.  This is true for all children (and all adults- we, too, are born persons).  Of course, this is for everybody.  All human children are born persons.

Although they are born persons, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say because they are born persons, children are in need of assistance in the development of what used to be called character.  Mason says in her first edition of the Parents’ Review that “the formation of character” is “the essential function of education.” (here).  That goes along with the second principle:

“2. They are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for good and for evil.”

As with all the other principles her meaning is fleshed out further in her books, particularly in the first part of volume VI, but in summary, here Mason is speaking to the idea of hereditary determination, that children inherited, infallibly, the failures, weaknesses, sins, or successes, of their parents.  Children of thieves would be born with a nearly inescapable propensity to theft and children born illegitimate were tainted forever by that stain as it came with the same weak character and lack of moral standards which had resulted in a pregnancy outside of wedlock in the first place.  Mason is pronouncing that theory bankrupt and stresses that children have equal possibilities for good or evil regardless of their birth circumstances.  This is true of all children.

” 3. The principles of authority on the one hand, and of obedience on the other, are natural, necessary and fundamental; but––”

Authority and obedience are surely appropriate concepts for for all of us.

 “4. These principles are limited by the respect due to the personality of children, which must not be encroached upon whether by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire.”

Balanced application, don’t resort to manipulation based on fear or feelings (If you love me, you’ll….”)-  again, concepts appropriate for all.

 “5. Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments––the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas. The P.N.E.U. Motto is: “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.”

Note that limited sphere of the application for this principle- “educational instruments.”  In the course of their education, are there any children who do not benefit from an educational environment, good habits, or living ideas? Are there children who are harmed by a healthy home atmosphere conducive to learning. harmed by learning good habits, harmed by being presented with living ideas? No.

 “6. When we say that “education is an atmosphere,” we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child-environment’ especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child’s’ level.”

Are there children who would *not* benefit from their parents taking into account the educational value of the natural home atmosphere?  Now, this principle definitely parts ways with the Montessori, nursery school/preschool, kindergarten movements, where everything is all about bringing the world down to the child’s level.  Certainly, most children enjoy the artificial world of the small children’s classroom with all the furniture sized small and all the activities centered entirely around their interests and and special little songs and stories and rows and rows of toys and specially created wooden shoes for lacing and towers for stacking and spoons for polishing.  There’s nothing wrong with having childsized tools. It’s quite helpful, in fact.  But there is not really a good reason to spend forty dollars on a lacing tool when he could just practice lacing real shoes at home.

Keep in mind, too, that the kindergarten was a strong, devoted movement in Charlotte’s time, promoted by strong-minded, cheerful, zealous, activists.  Kate Douglas Wiggins was one of its disciples and missionaries in the U.S.  Of the specialized games kindergarteners used in their new classrooms, she said: “Kindergarten games are a systemized sequence of human experiences, in which the child interprets more and more clearly to himself his own life and the life of mankind toward which his is growing. ”  That’s the sort of thing Charlotte Mason thought too stultifying, too precious and cloying.

 “7. By “education is a discipline,” we mean the discipline of habits, formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists tell us of the adaptation of brain structures to habitual lines of thought, i.e., to our habits.”

Are there any of us who would be better off without good habits?  I know in my own life quite a number of daily frustrations would be smoothed over if I exercised the discipline of good habits.

” 8. In saying that “education is a life,” the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.”

Do we really want to claim that children do not need ideas, and they should *not* have a generous curriculum?

I think where people tend to stick at the idea that this educational philosophy really is suitable for all children begins about here:

 “9. We hold that the child’s mind is no mere sac to hold ideas; but is rather, if the figure may be allowed, a spiritual organism, with an appetite for all knowledge. This is its proper diet, with which it is prepared to deal; and which it can digest and assimilate as the body does foodstuffs.”

Children are born wanting to know, providing they are born in a more or less ‘normal’ condition- and it takes a considerable distance from ‘normal’ range to flatten that hunger for knowledge.  Our Cherub measures somewhere between severe and profound retardation. and there is very little interest in exploring her environment. But most children are born curious, and very few children have ever had to be taught to ask “Why?” because that mind hunger is the typical state of the majority of children. For some of them, too many, that appetite for knowledge can be squelched by too much candy (screens, the substitution of boring lists of facts for real knowledge of the world around them, worksheets, lectures, and sadly, dysfunctional homes or schools).  But the come with an appetite for knowledge, and if that appetite is not injured they are able to deal with knowledge when given to them. We don’t have to turn it into games and paperwork, and we really need to beware that doing so doesn’t become a replacement for real knowledge, real work in the mind.

10. Such a doctrine as e.g. the Herbartian, that the mind is a receptacle, lays the stress of education (the preparation of knowledge in enticing morsels duly ordered) upon the teacher. Children taught on this principle are in danger of receiving much teaching with little knowledge; and the teacher’s axiom is,’ what a child learns matters less than how he learns it.”

The person doing the most work is the person doing the most learning.  Do not deprive your children of the profitable labour of doing the work of the mind themselves.  For further understanding of this principle, you will find no better explanation than Lynn Bruce’s excellent study on it here)

11. But we, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care only that all knowledge offered him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas. ––

In order to determine if it’s true that this method is not for the majority of children, once more, consider the opposite- should children *not* be given a full, generous curriculum?  hould it be narrow, limited, and materialistic, lacking vitality, dead, facts only and no ideas?  Surely not.

By the time she finished her six volumes, Miss Mason had arranged her principles into a group of 20.  I will write more about the remaining principles as they apply to all in a later post.  This is already so long that I wanted to give my dear readers time to finish reading it before I go on.\


Part II

Posted in Charlotte Mason | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

President Trump’s Speech in Davos

President Trump’s Davos speech-
Newsweek predicted he’d be speaking to an empty room, but it was so full  they had to open up 3 spill-over rooms where audiences watched on screens.
“Regulation is stealth taxation” implemented by unelected bureacrats with no accountability.
“As president of the United States I will always put America first, just like the leaders of other countries should put their country first, also. But America first does not mean America alone. When the US grows, so does the world. American prosperity has created countless jobs all over the globe…”

I’ve read reports from American alphabet media claiming he was booed when, after his speech during a lowkey interview, he talked about the fake press.  That happens around 25:15 mark.  I don’t hear the President being booed by the crowd.  I hear mostly chuckles at the joke he makes toward the press, and I hear a few boos (I read elsewhere those boos came from the press he was teasing, which is fair enough).  But you decide what you hear for yourself.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Building construction

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More riverfront

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Response

  • The Common Room on Facebook

  • Amazon: Buy our Kindle Books

  • Search Amazon

    Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

  • Brainy Fridays Recommends: