Skip to comments.Who is John Locke?
Posted on 07/12/2010 11:59:39 AM PDT by Kaslin
I am willing to wager my house that not one of my sons seventh-grade classmates could identify John Locke in a photo. I am then willing to let that wager ride on another gamble that less than one percent of the seventh or eighth-graders in the Los Angeles Unified School District would be able to identify Locke in a photo array of historical figures. Double or nothing that not only would they not know who he is, but they would also have no idea of why he is important. I would then bet my entire stack of chips that a substantially higher number of middle-school students could identify Karl Marx. I anticipate being a very wealthy man.
This venture came to my mind following an end of the year visit to my sons middle-school.
My wife and I attended a parents night at our sons school. As we entered his English classroom, I noticed that the walls of the classroom were covered with photos of Karl Marx, Joseph Stalin, and Vladimir Lenin. The eighth-grade students had been studying George Orwells Animal Farm. On every wall was a hand-made poster featuring a photo of Karl Marx, some biographical information, along with some pithy bit of wisdom attributed to him. As we left the room, I whispered to my son, Tell your teacher that your father wants to know when she will teach the work of John Locke. My son responded, Who is John Locke?
Written by George Orwell in 1945, Animal Farm is the allegorical tale of the wickedness and terror of Stalinist Russia. Significantly, the book is not a condemnation of Marxism. Rather it is a cautionary tale about Stalinism. Animal Farm is really a commentary on how Russian apathy and political corruption derailed the Marxist utopia. Its also a rather cynical tale of the inevitability of totalitarianism.
Orwells novel also happens to be a fine piece of literature and one that I believe has a proper place in our childrens literary curriculum.
But was the problem with Stalinism only that it corrupted the Marxist ideal? Is totalitarianism the natural end of all forms of government, or are men capable of ruling themselves? Without the foundation of Locke, do American children have the philosophical foundation necessary to understand what is truly evil about Stalin and Marx and conversely, what is good and unique about America? I am concerned when young students cant identify the source of the ideas upon which their nation was founded, but can easily identify men whose political beliefs are in direct opposition to those ideas.
Locke was a 17th century physician and philosopher and is also known as the father of empiricismthe theory that knowledge is gained through evidence acquired through experience. Locke developed his ideas in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. However, it is the publication of two books--The First Treatise on Government, and The Second Treatise on Government,--that makes Locke important to the study of political philosophy in general and the American founding in particular. In these great works, Locke refutes the divine right of kings and sets forth the nature of legitimate civil government, based on (what was at the time) the radical idea of natural rights and the social compact. It was the revolutionary ideas of natural rights and government limited to the occupation of securing those rights that influenced Americas founding fathers. Locke is quoted and paraphrased throughout much of Americas founding documents.
Over the years, there has been increasing pressure on Americas public schools to increase the level of math and English education. There has also been a corresponding decrease in the emphasis on teaching American history and civics. For instance, here in California, entrance requirements into the public university system call for only two years of history and government, as opposed to four in English and math.
But civic education is at least as important.
According to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, civic knowledge not only exerts a broader and more diverse influence on the American mind, but it also increases a persons regard for Americas ideals and free institutions. In other words, the health of our republic depends on a citizenry educated in the history and source of its political ideals and the institutions those ideals produced. Certainly, that is as important as geometry. And if students must study literature, which they certainly should, why not read works that also have the benefit of teaching the source of the ideas of the American Revolution?
Between Karl Marx and John Locke, who is more important to our national political identity? So why are our children hanging posters of Marx on their classroom walls instead of Locke? I am not claiming that there is a Marxist conspiracy to indoctrinate our children. However, I do know that if we continue to neglect educating our children about the men on whose ideas this nation was built, this nation will not stand. The borders may remain the same, but the character of this nation will be lost forever.
I would bet that more than one would identify this:
I would bet that more than one would identify this:
I’m willing to wager that you wouldn’t be able to show _anybody_ a photo of John Locke ;-)
Recognizing an historical figure’s picture is important... why? In case I run into them the street?
I could recognize John Locke by his philosophy... that seems appropriate to me.
” The borders may remain the same, but the character of this nation will be lost forever. “
I’m afraid that ship may have already sailed - and the Bon Voyage party was held in November, 2008...
This criterion is ridiculous, anyway.
I would not be able to pick Locke out of a lineup of bewigged, hawknosed Restoration personages. But I have read his Essay and his Treatises.
Well you have it right there...this is why civics isn't taught in schools run by liberals.
I have no idea what Locke or Orwell look like, but I am intimately acquainted with their work. Marx I wouldn’t know (but would shoot at)on sight, but Lenin, Stalin, etc., are well photographed figures of the last century. Of the latter two, I’d wager more people know what they look like than know what they did or said.
You talking about the guy on Lost?
Yes, our Declaration posited that governments exist to secure our Natural Rights. The Constitution put Locke and his philosophical predecessors into practice.
Increasing ignorance of the fact that there is higher law than government is the primary cause of our rapid descent into tyranny.
Unfortunately, he also owned an English slaver company and also used a definition of property that was later used to justify native american expulsions. That is why I bet he is not quoted more. Have to take the good with the bad, like with Jefferson, etc.
btw there was suppose to be a ~g~ in arrows after that statement hinting that I was teasing. It didn’t show up though lol
Even though I knew the author wanted the 17th century philospher, my first thought was to the John Locke of your post.
"Locke and Keyes"????
Ooooo, I kill me!
The entire notion of putting Marx on the same moral level with mass murderers like Stalin and Mao is absurd. It’s in the same vein as people who group Nietzche and Hitler.
The Educational Establishment needs a healthy Stalinesque purge of all left-wing idiots.
He’s the guy Thomas Jefferson “borrowed” from.
You gotta be kidding me! How could anybody miss that shaznolla on Locke. But I agree with you. I’d bet that 90 percent of American adults wouldn’t recognize him or even know that part of our own founding documents were based on what John Locke had to say. And one of my favorites....All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. It may be getting to that time.
A guy grossly misunderstood even by a lot of conservatives and libertarians.
ISI studies have shown for decades now that civic knowledge decreases with the ‘quality’ of the school. IE, Harvard, Yale, score the worst. Poduk State U, score highest.
Seriously. My g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-grandmother was Edith Locke, cousin to John Locke. Yes, THE John Locke. She married John Macomber of Bridport, Dorset in 1607.
Interesting essay, but why did the father whisper?
And why in the world did he leave it up to his son to ask the question?
Marx definitely endorsed political violence, though nothing in his writings advocates Mao-scale slaughter.
Marx did countenance killing people who disagreed with him, though he would have explained this as an undesirable but unavoidable historical inevitability.
It's not the same thing, but Marx was no innocent either.
*Yes I know Burke was born on Dublin, but he considered himself to be an Englishmen, as did most Anglo-Irishmen of his generation...
Yes, he said that violence was inevitable and was going to happen anyway. The dirty little secret about Marx is that he never described how an actual state would function. That was filled in by Soviet functionaries. He merely analyzed socio-economic history and drew the conclusion that a labor/capitalist conflagration was unavoidable. He underestimated just how big a piece of the pie there would be for labor in an advanced capitalist soceity.
That’s a painting, not a photo! ;-)
The teacher had pictures of the “enlightened” few but did not have anything associated with John Locke. If John Locke was a taught subject, then one would imagine a picture/drawing/painting of him would be hung in the classroom.
The point being, no picture, no student recognition, no instruction as to who he was and what he gave to history/this nation.
John Knox too!
Yep, you're right. You got me on that one.
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