assignment, you may write a short paper (500 – 750 words) on the following topic:
One of the key issues in the debate over liberty and equality is education and its role in socioeconomic mobility. In our increasingly complex world, it would seem that the leadership of a republican nation (or a democratic republic) would need to be placed in the hands of the most educated citizens. Generally speaking, many of the top advisers to presidents and prime ministers are highly educated individuals who are graduates of the nation’s elite educational institutions (in the US this would be the Ivy League colleges such as Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cornell, etc., in Britain this would be Oxford and Cambridge, in France, the Sorbonne [the University of Paris], etc.). So important is education as a tool to achieve a more egalitarian society that we are told that “college is for everyone” and live by the mantra of democratization of education. This approach, however, seems to privilege equality over liberty, not to mention the potential pitfalls of such a policy: the lowering of standards in order to accommodate all students, regardless of natural ability or inclination. Here is a passage noting the significant decline of educational standards even among the so-called “elite” schools:[T]he grim truth has to be found in the fact that our modern foreign ministers have not ten percent of the knowledge, the insight, the manners, and the experience of a Metternich, a Castlereagh, a Talleyrand, a Stein, or a Humboldt. Usually their linguistic capacities are so limited that without the help of interpreters they could only bark at each other. We have seen in the immediate past men who had great experience selling champagne, driving buses, or imbibing the knowledge for their tasks from reading H.G. Wells [become] the heads of governments. And the decline from 1815 to the level of 1919 is probably as great as the dégringolade from 1919 to 1945 … A chimney-sweep sitting in council with three medical experts will hardly derive a profit from the exchange of their opinions … Jorge Luis Borges, the great Argentine poet, said that he did not believe in democracy because it was just a curious abuse of statistics. I would add that it is also a dangerous one.
– Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The challenge of our time, (Christendom College Press: Front Royal, VA, United States of America, 1993), 278 – 283.
Given that educational standards are slipping and that many national leaders today, even the better educated ones, are practically amateurs by the standards of the Nineteenth and earlier centuries, is the democratization of education a good thing?
Please argue the issue persuasively, either in favor of further democratization or against it. Feel free to cite the above work or any others that you believe will support your argument. If you choose to supplement your argument with quotations, ideas, or facts drawn from an article, book, essay, journal, website, etc., please use appropriate citations in order to avoid plagiarism (MLA or Chicago style citation rules will be fine; APA is not acceptable).
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