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    Quotables: What Are People For?

    March 4, 2010 by Brandy Vencel


    What Are People For?: Essays
    by Wendell Berry

    A powerful superstition of modern life is that people and conditions are improved inevitably by education.

    [snip]

    [S]uch a man as Nate Shaw stands outside the notice, much less the aim, of the education system. From the standpoint of our social mainstream, the idea of a well-educated small farmer…has long been a contradiction in terms, and so of course our school systems can hardly be said to tolerate any such possibility. The purpose of education with us, like the purpose of society with us, has been, and is, to get away from the small farm–indeed, from the small everything. The purpose of education has been to prepare people to “take their places” in an industrial society, the assumption being that all small economic units are obsolete.

    [snip]

    Here is a superior man [{Nate Shaw}] who never went to school! What a trial that ought to be for us, whose public falsehoods, betrayals of trust, aggressions, injustices, and imminent catastrophes are now almost exclusively the work of the college bred. What a trial, in fact, that is for us, and how guilty it proves us: we think it ordinary to spend twelve or sixteen or twenty years of a person’s life and many thousands of public dollars on “education”–and not a dime or a thought on character. Of course it is preposterous to suppose that character could be cultivated by any sort of public program. Persons of character are not public products. They are made by local cultures, local responsibilities. That we have so few such persons does not suggest that we ought to start character workshops in the schools. It does suggest that “up” may be the wrong direction.

    -from the essay A Remarkable Man

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Jennifer March 5, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Agreed! We had a pair of traveling 7th-day Adventists over for dinner last night and had a wonderful discussion about their school. It is not exactly “college”, but a two-year program where they learn more about the Bible and their own faith. They start work in the kitchen at 7 and take classes throughout the day. They finish work at 11 pm! A goal of the school is to teach work ethic, and the character of the two young people was evident and exemplary. If only they knew the whole truth of Scripture! We were just impressed that these two gave up a traditional college route, with all of its worldly trappings, to better themselves. So encouraging!

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