The Liberal Arts During Bondage: Part Two; How Do the Liberal Arts Help Us During Bondage?

Bring You Up To Speed

If you will recall from part one, for the past twenty years, we have taught that America was somewhere on the “pre-bondage” side of the cycle, between Selfishness and Dependence.

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As we enter 2013, we have clearly entered the Bondage phase.  Just consider the events of the past 12 months:

  • NDAA 2012
  • Congress passed Obamacare and it was sanctioned by the Supreme Court
  • The national plunge over the Fiscal Cliff on January 1, 2013
  • The likely lifting of the “Debt Ceiling”– spearheaded by the president
  • 23 Executive Orders restricting the Second Amendment out of existence (in addition to hundreds of others the president has issues during his first term in office)

If this doesn’t spell BONDAGE then nothing does.

So now that we are in bondage, how do we get out?  The normal pattern of this cycle indicates that you don’t –you stay in bondage for about 200 years, then an event of significant magnitude catapults you out of bondage momentarily.  While you stand bewildered and blinking at the sun like prisoners from Plato’s allegoric cave, the power you just overthrew regroups and brings you back into bondage as you quickly circumnavigate the cycle to your original position.

However, all is not lost.  There have been a couple of times in history that men did not follow their worst nature and did secure a position in Abundance rather than Bondage and changed the course of history.  The 200 years of abundance of the Roman Republic is one of those times, and the 200 years following the creation the United States is another.

America, thanks to founders, has been very slow in working its way back into Bondage, but make no mistake, we are here. And now that we are in bondage, we do not know how long we will be here and that can be scary.  But we do know that the only way out of Bondage, the way both the Romans and the people of the American founding era got out was by becoming a people of high humility, high integrity, high literacy, and devotion to Deity—developing Spiritual Faith.

The natural consequence of a people in Bondage developing Spiritual Faith is the advancement of Courage.

Acting on that Courage leads to Liberty.  Liberty with such a people always leads to great Abundance.

This is precisely what the pre-American founding era did.  They left the religious and tyrannical bondage of England and Europe and removed themselves to the wilderness of America. That removal and subsequent hardship moved them to rely on God and develop Spiritual Faith, Courage, and Liberty in a way they may not have otherwise.

So our path is clear—to get out of bondage we must as a society develop spiritual faith or become a people of high humility, high integrity, high literacy, and devotion to Deity. How do we do that?  Let’s tackle these one at a time.

Humility and Integrity

The annals of history are full of accounts of people suffering and turning to Deity for relief.  The old adage, “there are no atheists in foxholes” is alive and well (a foxhole is a hole or indentation that a solider creates to avoid being shot on the battle field).  Humility is not a state of abject poverty or groveling. It is a deep and abiding acknowledgement that we are dependent on a Higher Power. While it may take sometime for the general populace to realize the predicament we are in, we as individuals and families, even communities can become humble, turn to Providence now and aknowledge His ever-protective embrace.

Integrity is a choice.  We do not have to go along with the prevailing culture of “take care of me first” or “it’s not personal, it’s just business” or “if they are dumb enough to fall for trickery, they deserve it.” Integrity is a decision to be honest 24/7.  This does not mean gullible or foolhardy, it just means being honest and fair, in all situations.

Deity

In a phrase – live your religion.  I don’t care what that is, just stand for something, declare your principles and live by them so that all can see your good works and praise God.

Literacy

Literacy is always the beginning of liberty. From the 1845 Narrative of Fredrick Douglass we get the essence of the value of literacy. Falling into a rage of anger over the discovery that his young wife was teaching 10-year old Fredrick to read, Douglass’s master declared, (Douglass uses his master’s own words):

If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell (Old English  – 45 inches). A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master—to do as his is told.  Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now,” said he, “if you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master.  As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy.

These words [said Fredrick] sank deep into my heart, stirring up sentiments within, that lay slumbering, and called into existence an entirely new train of thought. . . I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty—to wit, the white man’s power to enslave the black man.

Masters and slaves come in all colors, sizes, and shapes.

This leads us to an in-depth look at literacy and the liberal arts.

What are the Liberal Arts?Ancient

In ancient Greece and Rome, the population experienced a natural segregation into two distinct classes; the slave class (those who were slaves or plebes who lived at the level of slaves limited by a slavish mentality) and a class we call, the Liber.

Liber is the Latin word used today for botanical purposes meaning the inner layers of tree bark.

In times gone by, when men had command of written language they would record their histories, laws, businesses transactions etc. on clay tablets, animal hides, papyrus, or even thin layers of tree bark. The creation of these records required a person to possess the skills of thinking, reading, writing, engaging in commerce, contract, and politics. We associate the word Liber with those freemen who possessed and used these skills.

There were varying levels and types of slaves and peasants, and likewise different types of Liber: from citizens to merchants to the aristocracy and royalty.  But the fundamental difference between slaves and Liber was the exercise of freedom.  It was not enough to be born into a free class, if a person did not exercise that freedom (through daily use of the above mentioned skills) there were plenty of political and ecclesiastical powers ready to snatch it up and exercise it for the free citizen, thus transforming him into a slave.

What is Liberty?

Liber is the root word for liberty.  It is also the root word for libro (book) and library.  Liberty is the state of being Liber.  There is a distinct and deep relationship between the holding and use of a library (especially a private library) and the state of liberty. Liberty is not just the absence of bondage, but the fitness of an individual to exercise the liber skills to be a free citizen (we distinguish freedom from liberty thusly, freedom is individual and liberty is a social or collective action).

The concept of liberty is all but lost in America today.  Being a society in bondage, the ability to see our way without government involvement and oversight has vanished.  The conception of having a voice and standing completely on our own is nothing but a shadow, eradicated from the modern role of citizenship.

Liber is also the root word for the phrase “Liberal Arts”, such as in liberal arts colleges; the arts in a Bachelor of Arts or B.A. degree comes from the term “liberal arts.”

imagesThe term Liberal Arts or better known as Artes Liberales during the middle ages (10th through 14th centuries) does not mean arts as we understand the word at this present day, but those branches of knowledge which were taught in the schools of that time.

They are called liberal, because they serve the purpose of training the free man, in contrast with artes illiberales, which are pursued for economic purposes.

Artes illiberales or illiberal arts where important but almost exclusively acquired via internships and residencies for good reason as modern employers are finding, regardless the degree a new hire possesses, they still need to engage in OJT to be worth their salt.

The aim of the classical liberal arts was to prepare the student not for gaining a livelihood, but for the pursuit of science in the strict sense of the term, i.e. the combination of philosophy and theology known as scholasticism.  This was a preparation for one’s philosophy of life, one’s moral perspective, a way to see the world and interact in it.

There are seven original or classical liberal arts arranged in two groups, the first comprising grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic, or in other words, the sciences of language, of oratory, and of logic, better known as the artes sermocinales, or language studies; the second group comprises arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, known as the artes reales.

The classical liberal arts possess a special interest for historians, for in spite of modern pedagogical practices, here stands a two thousand year-old system, still active today, that challenges modern notions of education, surpassing them in both duration and in local ramifications.

But it is equally instructive for the philosopher because thinkers like Pythagoras, Plato, and St. Augustine shared in the framing of the system, and because in general much thought and pedagogical wisdom have been embodied in it.

Further, it is of importance to the practical teacher, because among the comments of so many schoolmen on this subject may be found many suggestions  that are of the greatest utility.  Aside from the ancients, there are authors such as Locke, Shaftsbury, and Turnbull who have commented greatly on these arts or skills for the development not of a career but of one’s personal moral philosophy, which of course dictates so much of what we do in the rest of our lives.

In our day, there are still two types of people—the Liber or liberal arts educated and the not Liber or not liberal arts educated.  A liberal arts education does not guarantee moral judgement or moral action, that must still be instilled from youth. But in general, those who are Liber (moral or not) are those who lead society because they know how to think. Those without this type of education, have no choice but to follow.

Other Liberal Arts

In addition the to seven arts cataloged above, over time other great thinkers and teachers have added to the list. Here are Aristotle’s considerations for a list of arts required to check the abuse of power and maintain the liberty of society:

  • Math
  • Science
  • Health
  • Biology
  • Theology
  • Philosophy
  • Religion
  • Ethics
  • Fine Arts
  • Political Economy
  • History
  • Jurisprudence
  • Literature

To be Liber, according to Aristotle was to have a serious depth of knowledge in all of these areas, not just one or two.  Today we have B.A. or B.S. degrees that focus in just one area, but originally the B.A. degree meant to have depth in all the arts of freedom.  We cover this in depth in another paper – The State of American Education.

images (1)Mortimer Adler the assistant editor of the Great Books of the Western World, a collection published by Britannica and the University of Chicago in 1952, listed the following as skills required to maintain freedom:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Observing
  • Calculating
  • Measuring
  • Thinking

Adler stated that, “Training in the liberal arts is indispensable to making free men out of children. It prepares them for the uses of freedom — the proper employment of free time and the exercise of political power. It prepares them for leisure and for citizenship.

Robert Hutchins, Adler’s partner in the project and president of the University of Chicago at the time declared, “I am afraid we shall have to admit that the educational process in America is either a rather pleasant way of passing the time until we are ready to go to work, or a way of getting ready for some occupation, or a combination of the two. What is missing is education to be human beings, education to make the most of our human powers, education for our responsibilities as members of a democratic society, education for freedom.”

Hutchinson continues, “This is what liberal education is. It is the education that prepares us to be free men. You have to have this education . . . if you are going to be an effective citizen of a democracy; for citizenship requires that you understand the world in which you live and that you do not leave your duties to be performed by others, living vicariously and vacuously on their virtue and intelligence. To be free you have to be educated for freedom. This means that you have to think; for the free man is one who thinks for himself.”

More Liberal Arts

In the late 1990s a number of prominent schools, Harvard and Princeton to mention two, published lists of skills they projected would be necessary to succeed in the 21st century. Some of these fit our criteria for maintaining liberty and so we include them here:

Harvard School of Law

  1. The ability to define problems without a guide
  2. The ability to ask hard questions that challenge prevailing assumptions
  3. The ability to quickly assimilate needed data from masses of irrelevant information
  4. The ability to persuade others that your course is the right one
  5. The ability to discuss ideas with an eye to application
  6. The ability to think inductively, deductively, and dialectically*

Princeton Undergraduate Program

  1. The ability to think, speak, and write clearly
  2. The ability to reason, critically and systematically
  3. The ability to think independently
  4. The ability to take the initiative
  5. The ability to judge what it means to understand something thoroughly
  6. The ability to see connections among disciplines, ideas, and cultures

In the year 2000, Oliver DeMille added his thoughts to those already mentioned and suggested 4 additional skills for the mix:

  1. The ability to understand human nature and lead accordingly
  2. The ability to discern truth from error regardless the source or the delivery
  3. The ability to discern true from right
  4. The ability and discipline to do right

The age we are currently experiencing is not only a bondage period of the Tytler cycle but it is also an alignment of the Tytler Cycle and the Saeculum or the Century Cycle. This only happens once in every 8 generations or turnings/seasons of the Saeculum. What we do during this “fourth turning” which means the next couple of decades, will have a dramatic impact on the next two centuries of American existence.

Next part in this series – The Liberal Arts During Bondage: Part Three; The Fourth Turning: The Opportunity of The Century

*Inductive reasoning or thinking is the method of processing information from detailed facts or observations to broader general principles or theories. Deductively reasoning is basically the opposite process, beginning the process from generalities and distilling them down to specifics.  Inductive reasoning is sometimes called “bottom-up” thinking and deductive reasoning is called “top-down” thinking.  While both methods of reasoning are used in science and elsewhere, induction is used to follow a hunch or dream up a theory, which may of may not be true, while deduction is used to meticulously prove out theories or ideas created by induction.

When thinking dialectically, the thinker will take two or more opposing points of view and pit them against each other, developing each by providing support, raising objections, countering those objections, raising further objections, and so on. Think of opposing attorneys in a court case or debaters.

Dialectical thinking or discussion can be conducted so as to “win” by defeating the positions one disagrees with — using critical insight to support one’s own view and pointing out flaws in other views or, if being fair and honest, by conceding points that don’t stand up to critique, trying to integrate or incorporate strong points found in other views, and using critical insight to develop a fuller and more accurate view.

 

Written by:  Shannon Brooks, Monticello College