]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]       GO SELL THE SPARTANS            [[[[[[[[[[[[[[
                       By Richard Mitchell                (11/3/1989)

  From THE UNDERGROUND GRAMMARIAN, Vol. 13, no. 1, February 1989

             [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 29210IVES]

    Somewhere among those clippings that we must have lost in the last
month, there  was a story about an educationist in California who was
reciting the currently  popular pledge of allegiance to Values. He
said, more or less, that he saw  nothing wrong with letting students
know about Horatio at the bridge, and that the poem would show them a
good example of someone who saw how important it was to  defend
democratic values.
    Now, to get Horatio mixed up with Horatius is no big deal. But to
ascribe to Horatius a devotion to democratic values is a big mistake.
He himself, if we remember correctly, asked, How can man die better
than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the
temples of his gods? While George Bush, ditched in the cold Pacific,
may in fact have been revering the separation of church and state,
Horatius was surely not taking up the defense of an independent
judiciary and a system of checks and balances when he asked who would
stand at his right hand.
     In another time, schoolchildren beyond counting knew about
Horatius. They admired him. They were stirred by his deed, in which
they saw, whether they could name it or not, something both important
and good. And they saw the same in Leonidas, and in Roland, and in
Davy Crockett too.
    What they saw, and loved, was not some political conviction, not
party membership, but courage- courage keeping the bridge with the
constant companions  of courage, strength and self-discipline. They
did not see "values," or the  "defense of values." They saw virtue.
They knew it was good.
    That Californian educationist tells us all we really need to know
about the future of all this values business in the schools. He is
afraid to say the name of virtue. He has to demote courage into "the
defense of democratic values." It is as though courage by itself were
not enough, and that it stands in need of official certification.
After all, although we may, grudgingly, have to concede that some Bad
Guys seemed to show courage in the defense of values other than
democratic, we can hardly call them virtuous, or take the chance that
schoochildren might admire them.
   After much hassling about the fake question of "whose values to
teach," our educationists have decided to play it safe yet again and
stick to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which neither praise
the courageous nor despise the cowardly. Those documents do not, as
they should not, address themselves to the virtue of the individual.
They elaborate the limitations of government, which has not what it
takes to be either cowardly or brave, and they  leave the individual
free to be either. They set forth not the lineaments of  virtue and
vice, of which only the will of a person is capable, but of legitimacy
and illegitimacy, the cloudy and ephemeral analogues of "good" and
"bad" in politics.
    It is exactly out of cowardice that the school people have
retreated into the shelter of the perfectly splendid but utterly
inappropriate body of lore. They are afraid of religionists. They are
afraid of immigrants, who seem, to them, to  have come to this land in
order to preserve the very customs and conventions  from which they
barely escaped with their lives. They are afraid of minorities,  now
beyond counting, whom they seem to suspect of harboring weird
"alternative  values," an admiration of sloth, perhaps, or a reverence
for deceit. So they are  playing it safe with the sturdy shield of
official certification.
    The religionists, any brave teacher would ignore utterly. We are
deluded, and ignorant of history, if we accept the proposition that
religious belief is the root of our search for the moral life. And we
are viciously deluded if we think it, as the religionists would
prefer, the ONLY root of the moral life, to that we can then throw
hand grenades into each other's baby carriages in good conscience.
    And, in the search for the moral life, there are no immigrants.
There are no minorities. They are all human people. They have various
customs and conventions, even as every family does, and they have
different "values," no doubt, some thinking time or money better spent
this way than that, but they do not have different virtues. No culture
inculcates the admiration of treachery, or contempt for fidelity.
White, black, and brown children, and all shades in between, will
recognize and admire virtue when they see it, not only in members of
other cultures, but even in bunny rabbits in story books. In this
regard, the only true minority is the company -- is it really growing?
-- of the depraved. To  them there is no speaking.
     Most school children are probably not depraved. That takes time.
And they are not cowards. They can accept the fact that Horatius'
courage is a goodness in itself, and that it does not require the
license of official ideology. They really deserve brave teachers, but
the educationists are not in any position to provide them with brave
teachers. ("People with courage and character," said Hesse, "always
seem sinister to the rest.")
     The educationists are not really depraved. Not yet. But they are
in danger of depravity; they have learned to reinterpret their
cowardice not merely as an enforced concession to their status as
public servants, politically hostage to the multitude, but as an
ideologically correct "fairness." They will say, for instance, that
they cannot just ignore the religionists, or even let one of the
teachers ignore the religionists; they are, after all, in the service
of the whole public, the Nation. Compromise. Conciliation. And they
are what they call "realistic" in the face of fearful odds, and not
about to fight to hold some little bridge. They need the money. "Those
in back cry, Forward; and those in front cry, Back!"
    Too bad. It is actually quite easy to show children goodness and
lead them into  thinking about it. Movies do it all the time, far
better than the schools. It  can be done in any subject matter, but it
probably is easiest in such studies as  literature and history. All it
takes is a brave, and free, teacher. We imagine a history lesson for
little children:
    A brave teacher would have to say something like this: Well, I
would not like to live in a place like Sparta, and I think its form of
government not conducive  to the fullest and best possible development
of every citizen, but I cannot deny  that Leonidas shines, and all his
men. There is some mystery here. For that stern and ferocious city,
good and brave men chose to die. See what is written  on the stone:
Go, stranger. Go tell the Spartans, that here, obedient to her  laws,
we CHOSE to die. What a strange thing virtue is, and what a wondrous
thing  a person is. And what a strange thing war is, too, most hideous
of all human enterprises. A mad monster, in whose service, however, a
man need not go mad.
     A cowardly teacher will lie, and peddle some bull about the
defense of all our swell rights to something or other.

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