George Orwell: Politics and the English Language

And now, passing by many incidents in the working of the great machine, that is so largely indulgent to our fighting and bargaining propensities, I come to what seems to me the very heart of Mr. Spencer's social and political teaching. It is not often given to a man to sum up in three words a great truth, that is fated sooner or later to revolutionize the thought and action of all nations; and yet that is, I think, what Mr. Spencer happily achieved. The three words were, —that is, if you or I are to think more clearly, or to act more efficiently and more rightly than those who have preceded us, it can only be because at some point we leave the path which they followed, and enter a new path of our own; in other words, we must have the temper and courage to differ from accepted standards of thought and perception and action. If we are to improve in any direction, we must not be bound up with each other in inseparable bundles, we must have the power in ourselves to find and to take the new path of our own. Is not every improvement of machinery and method, every gain made in science and art, every choosing of the truer road and turning away from the false road that we have hitherto trodden—does it not all arise from those differences of thought and perception which, so long as freedom exists, even in its present imperfect forms, are from time to time born amongst us? Whenever men become merely copies and echoes of each other, when they act and think according to fixed and sealed patterns, is not all growth arrested, all bettering of the world made difficult, if not impossible? What hope of real progress, when difference has almost ceased to exist; when men think in the same fashion as a regiment marches; and no mind feels the life-giving stimulating impulse which the varying competing thoughts of others brings with it?

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I wish to push still further the question of how much real power the workman possesses over the education of his children. I maintain that, setting aside the interference of ministers, merchants, manufacturers, doctors, lawyers, and squires in his affairs, he has only the shadow and semblance of power, and that he never will possess anything more substantial under a political system. Let us see for what purposes political organization can be usefully applied. It is well adapted to those occasions when some definite reply has to be made to a simple question. Shall there be peace or war? Shall political power be extended to a certain class? Shall certain punishments follow certain crimes? Shall the form of government be republican or monarchical? Shall taxes be levied by direct or indirect taxation? These are all questions which can be fairly answered by yes or no, and on which every man enrolled in a party can fairly express his opinion if he has once decided to affirm or deny. But whenever you call upon part of the nation to administer some great institution the case becomes wholly different. Here all the various and personal views of men cannot be represented by a simple yes or no. A mixed mass of men, like a nation, can only administer by suppressing differences and disregarding convictions. Take some simple instance. Suppose a town of 50,000 electors should elect a representative to assist in administering some large and complicated institution. Let us observe what happens. It is only possible to represent these 50,000 people, who will be of many different mental kinds and conditions, by some principle which readily commands their assent. It will probably be some principle which, from its connection with other matters, is already familiar to their mind–made familiar by preceding controversies. For example, the electors may be well represented on such questions as “Shall the institution be open or closed on Sundays? Shall it be open to women? Shall the people be obliged to support it by rate? and, When rate-supported, to make use of it?” But it will at once be seen that these are principles which do not specially apply to any one institution but to many institutions. They are principles of common political application–they are, in fact, external to the institution itself, and distinct from its own special principles and methods. The effect then will be that the representative will be chosen on principles that are already familiar to the minds of the electors, and not on principles that peculiarly and specially affect the institution in question. Existing controversies will influence the minds of the electors, and the constituency will be divided according to the lines of existing party divisions. Both school boards and municipal government yield an example that popular elections must be fought out on simple and familiar questions. The existing political grooves are cut too deeply to allow of any escape from them.

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The reason why the nation should administer a system of law, or should provide for external defense, and yet abstain from interference in religion and education, will not be recognized until men study with more care the foundations on which the principle of liberty rests. Many persons talk as if the mere fact of men acting together as a nation gave them unlimited rights over each other; and that they might concede as much or as little liberty as they liked one to the other. The instinct of worship is still so strong upon us that, having nearly worn out our capacity for treating kings and such kind of persons as sacred, we are ready to invest a majority of our own selves with the same kind of reverence. Without perceiving how absurd is the contradiction in which we are involved, we are ready to assign to a mass of human being unlimited rights, while we acknowledge none for the individuals of whom the mass is made up. We owe to Mr. Herbert Spencer–the truth of those writings the world will one day be more prepared to acknowledge, after it has traveled a certain number of times from Bismarckism to communism, and back from communism to Bismarckism–the one complete and defensible view as to the relations of the state and the individual. He holds that the great condition regulating human intercourse is the widest possible liberty for all. Happiness is the aim that we must suppose attached to human existence; and therefore each man must be free–within those limits which the like freedom of others imposes on him–to judge for himself in what consists his happiness. As soon as this view is once clearly seen, we then see what the state has to do and from what it has to abstain. It has to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure the enjoyment of this liberty by all, and to restrain aggressions upon it. Wherever it undertakes duties outside this special trust belonging to it, it is simply exaggerating the rights of some who make up the nation and diminishing the rights of others. Being itself the creature of liberty, that is to say, called into existence for the purposes of liberty, it becomes organized against its own end whenever it deprives men of the rights of free judgment and free action for the sake of other objects, however useful or desirable they may be.

Index of politics articles - Wikipedia
Some of the respondents stated that teaching about politics is not the teacher's ..

Radical Scholarship: Politics and Education Don't Mix …

that Mill experienced after his mental crisis helped to shape the mould of his political thought in that turbulent and confused era of the 1830s. However much he strayed from the strict path of his father’s thought, he remained in agreement with the main legal and political reforms sought by James Mill and the Philosophic Radicals. In his journalism he still advocated extensive changes in the laws, the parliamentary system, and the whole system of government to reduce what, in his opinion, was the baneful influence of the aristocracy on the major aspects of British society. He endeavoured to arouse the Radicals in and out of parliament to form a powerful party that either alone or allied with progressive Whigs could shape public policies on reformist lines. In a letter to Edward Lytton Bulwer in March 1838 he summarized his political ambitions in the preceding years:

The Bully Politics of Education Reform ..

Introduction: Radical Teaching About Human Rights Part …

But with regard to the merely contingent, or, as it may be called, constructive injury which a person causes to society, by conduct which neither violates any specific duty to the public, nor occasions perceptible hurt to any assignable individual except himself; the inconvenience is one which society can afford to bear, for the sake of the greater good of human freedom. If grown persons are to be punished for not taking proper care of themselves, I would rather it were for their own sake, than under pretence of preventing them from impairing their capacity of rendering to society benefits which society does not pretend it has a right to exact. But I cannot consent to argue the point as if society had no means of bringing its weaker members up to its ordinary standard of rational conduct, except waiting till they do something irrational, and then punishing them, legally or morally, for it. Society has had absolute power over them during all the early portion of their existence: it has had the whole period of childhood and nonage in which to try whether it could make them capable of rational conduct in life. The existing generation is master both of the training and the entire circumstances of the generation to come; it cannot indeed make them perfectly wise and good, because it is itself so lamentably deficient in goodness and wisdom; and its best efforts are not always, in individual cases, its most successful ones; but it is perfectly well able to make the rising generation, as a whole, as good as, and a little better than, itself. If society lets any considerable number of its members grow up mere children, incapable of being acted on by rational consideration of distant motives, society has itself to blame for the consequences. Armed not only with all the powers of education, but with the ascendancy which the authority of a received opinion always exercises over the minds who are least fitted to judge for themselves; and aided by the penalties which cannot be prevented from falling on those who incur the distaste or the contempt of those who know them; let not society pretend that it needs, besides all this, the power to issue commands and enforce obedience in the personal concerns of individuals, in which, on all principles of justice and policy, the decision ought to rest with those who are to abide the consequences. Nor is there anything which tends more to discredit and frustrate the better means of influencing conduct, than a resort to the worse. If there be among those whom it is attempted to coerce into prudence or temperance, any of the material of which vigorous and independent characters are made, they will infallibly rebel against the yoke. No such person will ever feel that others have a right to control him in his concerns, such as they have to prevent him from injuring them in theirs; and it easily comes to be considered a mark of spirit and courage to fly in the face of such usurped authority, and do with ostentation the exact opposite of what it enjoins; as in the fashion of grossness which succeeded, in the time of Charles II, to the fanatical moral intolerance of the Puritans. With respect to what is said of the necessity of protecting society from the bad example set to others by the vicious or the self-indulgent; it is true that bad example may have a pernicious effect, especially the example of doing wrong to others with impunity to the wrong-doer. But we are now speaking of conduct which, while it does no wrong to others, is supposed to do great harm to the agent himself: and I do not see how those who believe this, can think otherwise than that the example, on the whole, must be more salutary than hurtful, since, if it displays the misconduct, it displays also the painful or degrading consequences which, if the conduct is justly censured, must be supposed to be in all or most cases attendant on it.

The Challenge of Maxine Greene’s “Mystification” in Teacher Education;

We have long been encouraged to look to education, ..

Many other points remain; we can only touch here on a few of them. Keep clear of both political parties, until one of them seriously, earnestly, with deep conviction, pledges itself to the cause of personal liberty. At present they are both of them opportunist, seeking power, rejecting fixed principles. It is true that we owe great debts to the Liberal Party in the past, but at present it is deserting its own best traditions, ceasing to guide and inspire the people, fighting the downhill not the uphill battles, and intent on playing the great game. Someday, as we may hope, it may refind its better self and breathe again the spirit of true exalted leadership, and regardless of its own fortunes for the hours place itself openly on the side of Mr. Spencer's “widest possible liberty.” But today both parties mean anything or nothing; they represent only too often mere scrambling, mere lust for power. It is true that one or other of the two parties may mean to you some of the things that you yourselves mean, but it will also mean a great many things that you do not mean. They both believe in subjecting some men to the will of other men, in using the state as the instrument of universal force, and you cannot rightly take your place in their ranks, or fight with them. Have nothing to do with the scramble for power. Hold on your own course and stand “foursquare to all the winds.” Pick out your boldest and most resolute men, and fight every by-election. Don't fight to win, but fight to teach and inspire. The more resolutely you stand on your own ground, the more men of both parties, who begin to see the worthlessness and the mischief of these party conflicts, and the growing danger of using force, will come to you and join your small army. Few as you are today, you are stronger than the huge ill-assorted crowds—representing many conflicting opinions—that stand opposed to you, for no one can measure the strength that a great and true cause, devotedly followed, gives to those who consistently serve it. Fight the battle of liberty at every point. Give your best help to those who are resisting municipal trading, or resisting interference with home work, or resisting the placing of power in the hands of the medical or any other profession. You must not confer any form of authority or monopoly on any profession; you must not give to any of them the power to force their services upon us. Let every profession that will, organize itself and make rules for its own members; but we, the public, must remain free in every respect to take or to leave what they offer to us. The monopolies that they all so dearly love are fatal to their own efficiency, and to their own higher qualities, as well as full of danger to the public. We all lose our best perceptions, we all become intellectually hidebound, we all begin to believe that the public exist for us, exist for our professional purposes, whenever we are protected by a monopoly. In the same way never hand over any question to be decided but those who are called experts. The knowledge of the experts is very useful and valuable, but wisdom and discernment and well-balanced judgment are different things from knowledge, and they do not always keep company. Knowledge is great, someone has written, but prejudice is greater. The experts are excellent as advisers, but never as authoritative judges, allowed to stand between the public and the questions that affect its interest. The real service that the experts can perform for us is to place their knowledge in the clearest and simplest form before us all, and to explain their reasons for advising a certain course. There is no limit to the mistakes that the most learned men may make when they are allowed to deliver judgment behind closed doors, when they are not called upon to submit their reasons to open discussion, and to justify publicly the counsels that they offer.