Welcome to my first post on Trying Liberty! I am excited to share with you a bit more on the ideals of liberty and how that has played out to our society. We often hear the word “liberty”: it’s been used in conjunction with the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell. The Pledge of Allegiance has it (“one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty…”). Patrick Henry most eloquently stated, “Give me liberty, or give me death.” The Declaration of Independence states it: “…that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Yet what does it mean, and what place does it have in today’s society?
My posts throughout this summer will focus on this discussion of the definition of liberty. Specifically, through #MoyMondays, I hope to talk about specific policies and other important topics that all come back to the important question: “What is liberty?”
This week, I’m discussing education policy and why education is vital to a society that values liberty as the first #MoyMonday. I love Petrus Paulus Vergerius’ treatment of this question in his work “The New Education,” in which Vergerius addresses the growing problems of students wishing to drop out of school. Vergerius was a Renaissance-era teacher who lived in Italy and wrote much on the importance of education. In “The New Education,” he records how a general ignorance towards learning had arisen, especially among the next generation. He wrote how “studies [were] accounted irksome,” and the youth disregarded advice as they began “to claim their own way” instead of focusing on the “grave studies.” He lamented how his society refused to espouse an education and chose their own way instead of a time-honed standard of developing human capital and talent. Rather than developing intellectual activity and cultivating the desire of learning, the next generation of students turned their backs to instruction, wisdom, virtue, and understanding. Through this, the liberty of learning and developing as a young individual is displayed.
Vergerius argues that the aspiring student who strives towards greater knowledge will hear the metaphorical call of education. Specifically, education “calls forth, trains, and develops those highest gifts of body and of mind which ennoble men.” In essence, Vergerius phases out education and demonstrates how it attracts and cultivates the active student. Other figures in Western history also appeal to this, such as King Solomon of Israel, who personified Wisdom as a woman who calls the passersby (Proverbs 1:20). Likewise, Socrates, in the “Allegory of the Cave,” analogizes the aspiring student as the person who leaves a cave in pursuit of the light. These three works all preach the same message: once the student chooses, through the liberty of self-government, to incline his mind towards learning, education points him towards wisdom.
Contrary to many popular ideas in today’s society, Vergerius argues that education is not worth obtaining solely for acquiring an occupation. Rather, the principles of morality, ethics, arts, and sciences are crucial for an individual. The specific solution, according to Vergerius? Check back on Wednesday!