Monday, May 29, 2017

Haircut for a new semester

As my barber told me yesterday (barbers are a little known but highly reliable source of wisdom), the founding fathers were remarkable men, far from perfect to be sure, of course, but impressive in their knowledge and perception. And they left us with an incredible legacy, in the Declaration of independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, ... - not only as political documents, but as triggers to activate our thinking and our education, and, crucially, the education of all the generations of our children - education about the fundamental principles of liberty and the proper role of government. For the founders' generation and those immediately following, these were the key issues of the day.
Sadly this component of our general and formal education has been diminished, dumbed down, marginalized as irrelevant to current concerns. The common folk of today, intelligent and otherwise, are strangers to the contemplation of the dangers of big intrusive government, and complacent about its perpetual expansion.
This then is what defines my professional mission - to stimulate a willingness among the unaware to question what seems to be normal, to awaken that spirit of independence and curiosity that led our founders to the conviction that individual autonomy is precious but fragile - that, indeed, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. There is never a shortage of those who would promise the earth in exchange for individual rights - they are not the problem. The real problem is the lack of understanding about the cost of delivering those promises and the determination to resist them.
This I have to remember when, at the start of each semester, I am confronted by a pathetically small number of my students who even recognize the phrase "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" never mind know where it comes from - college students, and graduate students! One of the reasons we repeat the mistakes of history is that we don't know the history.
One person, student, friend, associate, ... at a time.

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