This excerpt is from The Political Testament of Cardinal Richelieu, chapter II (1642); numbers and paragraphifications have been added to aid readability.
(1) Because a knowledge of letters is entirely indispensable to a country, it is certain that they should not be indiscriminately taught to everyone. A body which had eyes all over it would be monstrous, and in like fashion so would a state if all its subjects were learned; one would find little obedience and an excess of pride and presumption.
(2) The commerce of letters would drive out that of goods, from which the wealth of the state is derived. It would ruin agriculture, the true nourishment of the people, and in time would dry up the source of soldiery, whose ranks flow more from the crudities of ignorance than from refinements of knowledge.
(3) It would, indeed, fill France with quibblers more suited to the ruination of good families and the upsetting of public order than to doing any good for the country.
(4) If learning were profaned by extending it to all kinds of people one would see far more men capable of raising doubts than of resolving them, and many would be better able to oppose truth than to defend it.
(5) It is for this reason that statesmen in a well-run country would wish to have as teachers more masters of mechanic arts than of liberal arts.
(1) Giving an average man a “degree” is more often than not apt to make him run about spouting nonsense like Scarecrow. And not only spouting nonsense, but demanding to be respected for his credentialed opinions.
The closer we get to a democracy, the more everybody is required to have an opinion on every subject, and must vote on every matter. It is absurd to think everybody can know enough about everything to make wise or even good decisions. Yet everybody with “degrees” believes himself capable of just that.
The other assumption is that everything taught in educational institutions (to use a neutral term) is worthwhile. This is by now obviously false. And when material is worthwhile the age-old aphorism is apt: A little learning is a dangerous thing.
The prediction is that the greater education, at all levels, expands, the more divided, roiled, contentious, and inefficient government becomes. Contrast this all to subsidiarity, where every decision that can be made at a lower level is made at the lower level, where men are equipped and actually knowledgeable about matters that arise. Instead the drive is for absolute strict uniformity everywhere—which they call “diversity”.
(2) Education is now big business, sucking in greater resources at rates faster than most industries. True, the budgets of ideology factories swell because of the addition of innumerable offices of Diversity and Inclusion. But what’s forgotten is these offices are product. Education is less and less about things, but about experience, about “being educated”, and that can only mean indoctrination into an ideology.
Soldier as noble profession is now almost absent. It is no surprise to learn the military is increasingly interested in upping its Diversity statistics, a direct consequence of the officer corps receiving their education from ideology factories and not battlefields.
The same thing happened to the priesthood when it was decided to model seminaries as modern universities. As universities became debased, so too did seminaries.
Somehow, for both soldier and priests, the idea of the secular credential, the stamp of worldly approval, became more important than knowing their business. It is always assumed, and assumed everywhere, that the “degree” or credential grants a sort of power to its holder such that they can learn their profession without effort later, but that he could not learn it without the “degree”. That is, it is acknowledge the “degree” itself confers little to no actual learning, but that it changes the soul like an initiation used to.
(3) Is there anything to say about this prediction by Richelieu other than his ghost announcing “I told you so!”? Quibbler, quibblers everywhere, and not a sage to speak!
(4) Not only is our good Cardinal right about raising doubts, he didn’t see that the act of doubt-raising is far better rewarded is for certainties lowered. It’s easy to cast barbs, the problem being the thrower is convinced of the sting because of his “degree”. All are too sure of and think too well of themselves.
(5) The plain difference in teaching somebody to build and repair and engine and modern education, is that it is trivial to test whether the training has worked in the first case, and difficult in the second. Plus, people with “degrees” think themselves superior—again the initiation!—to the mechanic. Somehow the very little learning they have in mostly useless subjects elevates them about the men who know how the world works.
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