Free Society

Direct Democracy

(c) Earl L. Haehl  Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given.  Book rights are reserved.

“Blue laws” are a product, not of the tyrannical monarchy or the state church, but of the Puritan opposition and the dissenters in England as well as the direct democracy of New England Town Meetings. And the town meeting came from the dissenters and the Mayflower Compact.

The dissenters we think of as so noble in their quest were the Separatists of Scrooby who were generally left alone in England—Anglicans of the time did not care if the scruffy dissenters did not show up and drag mud into the Church—but were taxed anyway. They did object to the ostentation of the Establishment in dress and manners which might lead their children astray. We see similar traits in the German Anabaptist groups in this country who worry about their youth “marrying English.” They were equally or possibly more upset in Holland because of the idle games the Dutch (Nederlander) children played. So in 1620 they headed to the new world to find “religious freedom.” That last statement was a T/F question—the answer is F. They came to Plymouth to establish their own religion as the authority. The colony was divided into “saints and strangers.” No one referred to the as Pilgrims before the 19th Century—though I can imagine John Wayne as Miles Standish talking to Jimmy Stewart as John Alden. The strangers comprised about two thirds of the Plymouth “plantation” but were subject to the rules of the saints. (And some of their descendents get upset over the concept of Sharia.)

About ten years later the Puritans came to Boston and founded the Massachusetts Bay colony. My ancestors came with that group—hard, disciplined Puritans made their stern imprint on New England. They were technically Anglicans but eventually split into Congregationalists, Unitarians and some decided to return to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London.

The Separatists sort of merged into the more dominant population. And the proponents of “religious freedom” banished Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams to Rhode Island to die—they did not have electroshock or mental hospitals. The good folk (John Alden for example) also executed Baptists and Quakers.

The unique governmental structure coming out of this is the Town Meeting. In many towns, the Meeting House was also the Congregational Church early on before disestablishment. The Blue Laws came from local ordinances in New England’s small towns—some were transferred to the new states by New Englanders who traveled west and took their attitudes and customs along. (The same problem exists today when some of the California refugees want to bring along the social legislation and the initiative that caused their tax problems where they came from.) My son has told me there is no greater tyranny than the New England Town Meeting.

Here is how it works. Majority vote at the meeting determines ordinances, budgets etc. The town meeting participatory democracy. And it has lasted as long as it has because it is part of the culture. The Congregational churches operated the same way. Prior to the American Revolution at least two Congregational ministers, Solomon Palmer and Samuel Seabury, lost their congregations and decided to take Anglican orders. Some found other jobs. Today a United Church of Christ minister has other options, but the congregation still has power to choose.


Social Security Commentary

(c) Earl L. Haehl  Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given.  Book rights are reserved.

I suppose every blogger has some opinion of the Social Security issue. And while every politician who can move his or her lips has spoken out, the question remains as to whether a permanent fix is appropriat for what in 1935 was a quick fix to lower the unemployment rate in time for the 1936 election.

Disclaimer: I am a Social Security recipient.  That was optional but I calculated out that any way I go I will be 82 1/2 when I will have gotten back the funds confiscated from my employers and myself in my name.  Added to this is the fact that the dollars confiscated in 1975 are paid back in 2010 dollars.  And with all due respect to those who have said this is an insurance plan I say, “No!”  Social Security was designed to supplement pensions so employees would have an incentive to leave the workforce.  A true insurance plan would have fiduciary responsibilities unknown in government programs.

I began working when Dwight David Eisenhower was President and was paid under the table.  I can say this because all of the employers who so paid me have long ago passed into the realm that is beyond the jurisdiction of the Internal Revenue Service.  The culture back then was to avoid this.  Lyndon Baines Johnson was President when I first had the deduction.

Every so often a politician announces that something has to be done about Social Security and it has to be a permanent solution not a quick fix.  The resulting solution is a bipartisan plan that buys a few more years so “we” will have time to work out a permanent solution.  It is interesting that politicians use the the term “we” to mean someone who will have to deal with the problem somewhere down the line.  But the root of the problem is never addressed.

It’s easy (and often accurate) to blame the Prussians.  John Taylor Gatto points out that Horace Mann was heavily influenced by the Prussian system of public education.  Bean counters admire Prussian record keeping,  The use of statistics in government program development comes from the formation of Germany in 1870.  The hours of close order drill to which I was subjected from age 16 to 19 was the result of Benjamin Franklin recruiting an out of work Prussian staff officer to devise a method of drill for the Continental Army.  And from use of statistics Bismarck determined that 65 was an optimum age for members of the German Army to retire.

Back in the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt was trying to redesign the mode of production in the United States to combat an economic “crisis” resulting from government and government authorized actions.  In 1929, the Federal Reserve tightened the money supply because the economy was a little too “hot.”  This resulted in the Stock Market crash of 1929.  The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 was vetoed by President Hoover–I give him credit for this–but it was passed over his veto.  US Industry was at full production until April of 1931 according to Merrill Rukeyser.  He viewed Smoot-Hawley as the proximate cause of the recession that began in 1931 and was nursed along by FDR until it was handed to Harry Truman.

Which brings us to the New Deal.  What FDR promised was a set of temporary laws that would restore the country.  Frances Perkins, graduate of Mt Holyoke College and Columbia University was the Secretary of Labor.  In 1935 she chaired the group that brought forth the Social Security Act.  Remember back in 1870 that Bismarck’s plan for retirement arrived by statistics at age 65.  It was a rare retired soldier that would live beyond 67 or 68 (a significant portion did not make it to 65) which made the retirement age sustainable (well, statistically sustainable).  Age 65 retirement made sense in the new deal because it had a precedent–it did not have the statistical analysis that said that workers were not as effective at that age or that their longevity was ideal to this.  The other factor that was probably more important was that this would give the older worker an incentive to leave the workplace so that “family men” could have jobs.

Like the other alphabet programs the SSA would disappear at the end of the emergency, which in this case, turned out to be 1946.  However, all of the New Deal legislation remained in effect and was enlarged upon.  In 1965, Medicare was added to the Social Security entitlement.  There have been various adjustments in retirement age.  Only individuals ages 16 through 64 are considered to be in the Civilian Workforce.  This is comparable to the withering of the state after the dictatorship of the proletariat.  While Social Security did not demand retirement at any age, social pressure was applied to those who kept “family men” out of the workforce–this is the way authoritarian regimes keep power by demonizing those who do not get with the program,

Unintended consequences:  Every piece of social legislation has unintended consequences which keep lawyers and activists in business.  While taking social security is not necessary, in a society where there were “family men” out of work, there was a certain opprobrium attached to older workers staying on jobs.  In a manufacturing setting it used to be the older skilled workers would train the newbies–65 retirement eliminated that.  AVTS and junior college are not a substitute.  When I worked at the ladder company I was taught by the foreman even though I had shop training in school and knew everything.

And the “jobs are for family men” meme sort of evolved into a bias against older workers. That had to be rectified by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.  And it is still a perception that when you’re 60 or so it is over.  Except that there is an expectation that “older workers” make excellent greeters but not necessarily sales associates in the sporting goods section.  You will find retirees in small hardware stores, but not the big box outfits.

Meanwhile, if you are between age  40 through 70 and so inclined, you may tie an employer up with an EEOC investigation to determine whether or not there are reasonable grounds for you to sue that employer–no worries; the taxpayers pick up your tab whether or not EEOC finds anything and you have achieved a terrific inconvenience for your employer. The costs of the inconvenience will be passed on to the employer’s customers who pay the taxes to fund federal regulatory agencies.  And if that employer is a manufacturer, the cost of mounting regulatory inconveniences can help make product less competitive in the marketplace.

Education, Free Society

Flag of Defiance

(c) Earl L. Haehl  Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given.  Book rights are reserved.

I just made an order for a new flag—I like to fly two on my front porch on important holidays. We celebrate Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Defenders’ Day, Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving. I suppose I could get some foreign flags and also celebrate the Battle of Puebla, Bastille Day and Guy Fawkes Day, but it’s safer in my neighborhood to stick with US flags. Especially on 5 May when the Mexican flag would attract neighbors wanting beer.

I also ran across a video urging the replacement of the National Anthem with America the Beautiful for the following reasons. America the Beautiful is recommended because it is easier to sing, has several stanzas, was written in Colorado and is less jingoistic. I first heard these arguments from Miz Kirk which is what we called our fourth grade teacher at a time when Miz was short for Mrs and Kirkpatrick was difficult to pronounce. And I may have at the time signed the schoolchildren’s petition, but now I look on it from close to sixty more years of experience.

The flag I ordered to replace the Gadsden flag is what I call the Flag of Defiance. It is a replica of the flag I saw as I entered the History Museum of the Smithsonian in 1969. As I remember it, the flag was hung on a wall and we saw it behind a seated sculpture of George Washington in a toga with his hands gesturing as if he were saying, “My body lies at Mount Vernon, my clothes are in the Smithsonian.”1 As we got past General Washington, we noticed that it was bigger than the post flag at NTC San Diego and Fort Ord, CA. And the colors were dull and dark, because it had come through the darkest hours of the Republic.

In a sense our flags up to that time had been flags of defiance from the Cromwell flag of the Sons of Liberty right up to the flag sewn by the gentle Quaker upholsterer2 who lived next to what Amos the Mouse calls “the old Church on Second Street.”3

It was in Baltimore, Maryland, in mid-September 1814. While Jefferson had embargoed British trade in retaliation for the Royal Navy using American merchant vessels as a source of impressed seamen, his successor James Madison had made the misstep of getting into war. The New England states had held aloof from this war which had given the King and Regent the excuse needed to subjugate and recolonize the breakaway lands. And General Robert Ross had just changed the game by capturing the Capital. The National Army was dead, captive or in hiding in the hinterlands, the Marines were dead or in British Custody, the legislators had gone home as had the Court Justices, and the President was in flight and hiding. A missive to this effect had been sent home.

This capture of the seat of government was a stunning blow and in any country in Europe it would have meant conquest. But what Ross knew was that the seat of the United States was the seat of a confederation and some of the states would still hold out. In 1814 the term state and nation were roughly synonymous. It was not until after the unpleasantries of the 1860s that states were considered as subordinate units rather than sovereign entities. There he decided on Baltimore as the first target for pacification,

Baltimore was known in London as a “nest of pirates.”  There were small fast sloops  that smuggled goods past the blockade and captured supply ships that were then taken to France where the goods were sold and they were refitted as naval vessels. This would be a piece of cake after taking out the national army. The problem was what George Mason had referred to as a “well regulated” militia. And they were waiting on the morning of 13 September. Ross was killed while on reconnaissance and his second made two attempts to dislodge the defenders before advising the Navy it was their baby.

So Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane advised his luncheon companion, Francis Scott Key, that he would be released upon the conclusion of the imminent bombardment of Fort McHenry. He then moved his squadrons out of the range of the Fort’s guns. About 4 pm the bombardment began—General Smith’s defenders initially returned fire, but ceased when they realized the targets were out of range. So it was a night of hammering the fort with the big guns and a few Congreve rockets which provided a light show, but not much more.

The flag flying over the fort took some damage, About ten minutes before dawn it went down. The protocol for situations like this was to draw down your battle flag and raise the white one. Cochrane, and Key as well, had been watching all night. And then in the first light, the flag came up. I call this the flag of defiance rather than the Star Spangled Banner but I was trained as a soldier before I was trained as a lawyer. (Neither profession came to much.) The colors were brighter then in the breeze of the morning—brighter than the faded banner in the Smithsonian which is in fact the same banner. And there was no mistaking the message, a hand made flag, 30′ x 42′, red and white and dark blue. This was a more genteel version of the Abby Hoffman salute.

Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane made a couple diversionary attempts, but he had few marines and Ross’s force was much diminished. And so he dispatched his message to his superiors—knowing that King and Regent would not be happy. And then, picking up the remnant of the infantry, he proceeded to join Lord Packingham at the Port of New Orleans.

The flag of defiance told Britain and the world we were free. By the time the siege of New Orleans erupted into battle, the parties at Ghent knew about Washington and knew about Baltimore. And this is why on September 14, 2012, the first flag up and the one on the right will have fifteen stars and fifteen stripes.4


1. A guidebook to Washington, DC, I seem to have lost over the years.
2. Elizabeth Griscom Ross Ashburn Claypool. She was read out of Philadelphia Meeting because she married an Anglican but later joined the Free Quaker Meeting founded by Samuel Wetherill and Timothy Matlack (who drafted the Declaration of Independence but probably did not put invisible clues to the treasure on the back).
3. “Ben and Me” Disney, 1953. A cartoon every third grader should see.
4. The next flag had twenty stars and they went back to thirteen stripes. I was just trying to imagine fifty pinstripes.


People’s Rights (?) Amendment

(c) Earl L. Haehl  Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given.  Book rights are reserved.

Imagine waking up and dealing with the fact that your email account has been used as a conduit of really insipid spam. And then you decide to do a run through of the morning’s news. The usual inching toward an unjustified and stupid war on Iran because the current occupant of the White House does not understand history or geopolitics well enough to evaluate what his venal advisers tell him. Either that or he is with the Wilsonian program of military adventurism to spread “democracy” throughout the world. Then, on you pick up Nancy Pelosi nattering about amending the constitution to “undo” the damage the Supreme Court did in Citizens United.

If you want to read their story here is the link.

So the basic idea is that the “founders” intended this to be a democracy and the Supreme Court had thwarted that dream by allowing the “slime” of big money to control our elections.

Let’s get rid of some assumptions.

Let’s talk about how democratic our Constitution really is.

“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, (chosen by the Legislature thereof,)…” The words in parentheses were unfortunately removed by the Seventeenth Amendment, thereby making Senators the least accountable public servants outside TSA. Federal Judges serve during good behavior and Congress has power to impeach. Prior to 1913, a Senator could be removed by a legislative resolution—no signature by the governor needed. This is not Democracy, but rather a shield against democracy.

And as to whether the “Founders” intended a democracy, I will quote one of my two favorite members of the Convention, Benjamin Franklin. A woman approach Dr Franklin and said something to the effect of, “So what have you given us, Dr Franklin, a democracy or a monarchy?” Dr Franklin answered, “a Republic madam, if you can keep it.”

Ms Pelosi wants to convince Americans that this is a democracy subject to the will and tyranny of the majority rather than a constitutional republic where there are restrictions upon governmental powers.  She fails in this.

My other favorite member of the Convention is George Mason who walked out without signing the document because it did not include rights. His actions galvanized the anti-federalist movement to demand a Bill of Rights. No, the first amendment was not the idea of the founders, but of the anti-federalist faction.

Hamilton, Jay, Madison, Washington, John Adams were opposed to the Bill of Rights. The first four believed it to be unnecessary although Madison “came around” after time “in the woodshed” with Jefferson and Mason. Adams was a reluctant Patriot—he believed that the President should have absolute power in emergencies and that the country needed an army rather than a militia (except for the armed thugs he sent out to deal with his enemies in the press). In Massachusetts it fell to others, primarily Sam Adams, Elbridge Gerry and Mercy Otis Warren to fight for ratification of the Bill of Rights.

New York, where Governor George Clinton prevailed over Hamilton, and Virginia, led by Patrick Henry, insisted on the amendments we now call the Bill of Rights as condition precedent to remaining in the compact—these were the days before Daniel Webster claimed the Union was indissoluble. Without New York and Virginia, the United States would have foundered.

Ms Pelosi is a hack politician, who like so many on both ends of that road from the Capitol to the Executive Mansion, lacks a grounding in history and the Constitution. The “Peoples’ Rights Amendment” reads as follows:

Section 1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.

Section 2. People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected state and federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.

Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.

This reads like a high-school debate topic. What this lacks is the prohibitory nature of the First Amendment which reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

To be absolutely honest, the Democrats who are responsible for this do not realize that:

1. Congress will no longer be prohibited from establishing a religion, as long as it permits free exercise. In other words, the establishment of secularism like France with the universal ban on public display becomes possible. Rights provided by the government may also be regulated by the government.
2. The people’s rights presumes a collective, rather than an individual right. Such rights, if spelled out, become rights granted rather than rights recognized. There is difference. This basically allows the regulation of rights in which they become privileges.
3. If a corporate entity is no longer recognized as a legal person, then it can neither sue nor be sued because it does not exist. It could not be held liable in tort nor could it be liable to pay fines or taxes. Nor for that matter could it be outlawed. The non-profits that both sides of the spectrum use to run surveys and disseminate both information and disinformation would have no corporate being to receive funds.

There are probably, among the sponsors, some who understand the consequences fully and would merely assume all corporate powers into agencies of the government—the United States could have as efficient an economy as the Soviet Union.


Having read George Will I see the author of this travesty is Rep Jim McGovern (D-Mass). That the author is from Massachusetts should really surprise no one. Massachusetts is home to John Adams, Second President of the United states and reluctant member of the committee that wrote the Declaration of Independence. It is not that John (unlike his smarter Cousin Sam) was happy with the King but rather that he would have preferred a Cromwell type rebellion. John Adams, while President, ignored the Bill of Rights and sent thugs to punish his enemies in the press. B.F. Bache, publisher of the Philadelphia Aurora and grandson of Benjamin Franklin, was beaten severely and his press significantly damaged. He was unable to return to publishing.

Mr McGovern would do well to emulate John’s smarter cousin Sam and his anti-federalist colleagues Elbridge Gerry and Mercy Otis Warren who pushed the limitations on government which protect us from the “tyranny of the majority,”


Feral Swine Trois

The state of Michigan has declared war on feral swine. I agree that feral swine are a serious problem unless one gets in my cross hairs in Missouri and I don’t flinch. (Then it becomes a problem of freezer space.) In Kansas they have to be attacking or on your own property. In Michigan, they can also be in Farmer Fred’s hog pens because the DNR has declared all heritage breeds of swine to be invasive species. Evidently there are some hybrids on corporate farms that do not have the “characteristics” of feral swine.

I live in Kansas were the former Secretary of Wildlife and Parks once said that lions do not exist in Kansas and it is illegal to hunt them. The legislature, at the behest of KDWP decided that the feral among the swine can only be hunted by government employees—sort of like humans. If they enter upon your property and present a danger you can add them to the freezer. In Missouri it is incumbent on hunters to take them out. In both of these states, the difference between feral and domestic stock is simple—the domestic stock are penned.

The Michigan solution is to eradicate the breeds which are invasive. So they are going onto farms and ordering the destruction of entire herds. They also have some criminal penalties for harboring invasive species. Exempted from the destruction order are some “hybrid” stock on corporate farms. In my world of behavior rather than appearance as the definition of feral, I would guess that the hybrids, if turned loose, would be as destructive as the members of heritage breeds wandering around there.

My guess is that there are several consequences not thought of:

  • The destruction of livestock in a situation other than a contagious disease is a Fifth Amendment taking. Where is the compensation? This is the destruction of livelihood of small farmers. The state will ultimately pick up the costs of the federal lawsuits against the director.
  • The advantages of lean pork will disappear as the hybrids will suffer the same fate as factory farm turkeys (the legs are white meat) and cattle (more marbling than meat).
  • Barbecue will become expensive. This is my bias from living close to five decades in the Kansas City area.
  • The problem will not be solved.

 Back in my grandfather’s day in Mountain Time Nebraska the Patrons of Husbandry would have objected both vocally and with their double barreled smooth bores. We live in a more civilized world now, but civilization is only a veneer.

The policy can come back to haunt the urban folks. Carried to its logical conclusion a feral canine problem could lead to the destruction of Fluffy because of her resemblance to the feral pack in the next town.


The new Villienage

About a year ago commentary in Alex Jones’ discussed a tax protest in England. A number of Englishmen engaged in effecting a civil arrest of a judge over a “charter tax” which the judge was enforcing. This was in neither Idaho nor Montana, but in the mother country. Commentators are comparing this to a poll tax protest in 1990 and on this side of the pond to the American Revolution.

Such comparisons are often made. However the Peasants’ Revolt or Wat Tyler’s rebellion took place in 1381 as peasants who were unhappy with their lot of being taxed. They rebelled against the boy king, Richard II, who had ascended the throne because his father, Edward the Black Prince, had the bad form to predecease his grandfather Edward III. As a minor Richard was controlled by John of Gaunt and Simon Sudbury, a pair of tyrants who would exist gloriously in the pages of a Sir Waltet Scott novel. The tax was not as important as the fact that these peasants were held in a state of villeinage or perpetual debt by their lords.

Added to this was that a theologian named Wycliffe had recently been dismissed from Oxford for his deviation from church doctrine regarding the Eucharist. His followers were called Lollards and were mostly from the class of villeins.

This is just a little background. In the great twentieth century we began some programs to have the government guarantee and regulate loans for various purposes such as small business (really big businesses do not need these loans because they have subsidies in the form of contracts), farming, home ownership and education. This was to protect these from the rigors of the market and to protect farmers from the villainous bankers who appear in melodrama to take the farm until Dandy Dick shows up, having hit the Power Ball to save the day. Note that the term villain is used for a creditor whereas the term villein means debtor. The term villain was early on used as a class distinction as in “these rough villains” to refer to the debtor class who were outside polite society. In American usage the term villain became the loathsome creditor.

In the late seventies and early eighties there was a mortgage crisis in the midwest—it is not considered as serious because the people losing their stuff were farmers. So were they the victims of predatory banks? In the words of Walter Williams if you said no go to the head of the class. The banks had been working with the farmers, adjusting rates—they had been through the tough times together and come out of it before. The Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) was the successor of a new deal agency that guaranteed agricultural assistance loans. It was a GS-14 or supergrade administrator who made the decision that the banks had to foreclose.

During the Clinton Administration many of the loan guarantee programs became direct loan programs. During the “recovery,” bailout or takeover of the financial system there were a lot of requirements on private lenders to adjust terms and even write off debt.

However, no government debt was written off and, in fact such debt follows for the rest of people’s lives and is not discharged in bankruptcy. The existence of Federal student loan debt (either direct or guaranteed) may restrict government employment, travel outside the country, educational programs etc. Such controls over individuals is much like the semi-feudal control in England in the fourteenth century.

During various times, especially in rural areas, there have been organizations sprout up to actively protest debt policies. (A joke in early Wyoming was that Republicans were beholden to the big banks in New York or Denver whereas Democrats were beholden to banks in Chicago and Omaha.) In the upper midwest there were “penny auctions” wherein friends and relatives of those farmers foreclosed on would bid trivial amounts on the land while other friends and relatives convinced speculators and bank representatives that they did not want to bid. This could happen again.

The problem with villienage is that it leads to the condition Kristofferson wrote about in Bobby Magee. “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” When too large a portion of the population gets into that situation it is going to be a lot different than the collectivist controlled Occupy movement.


Can Middle Schoolers Learn the Trivium

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

One of the problems of students learning to write clearly is that they do not think clearly. It is more important that students are able to articulate ideas in a manner that is understood than that they be able to “express themselves” in whatever fashion happens to suit them at the moment.

In some ways schools teach their students what to think, but they have trouble teaching them how to think, partially because teachers are themselves conditioned rather than educated. By this I mean they are put through a curriculum that requires study of behavioral sciences and measurements that tell them how approach teaching as if method were somehow separated from and superior to subject matter.

So when you move students from a single classroom to a multi-classroom environment there are changes. For one thing, sixth graders, while they have a range of abilities, are essentially young men and women. There is no reason to treat them as children. They will either meet expectations or they will not. Baden Powell took 22 young men to Brownsea Island and gave minimal direction—relying rather on leadership and his leadership produced leadership in the young men and they formed into patrols and the experiment succeeded.

The question becomes: Can sixth graders handle the Trivium? Can the middle school crowd handle the Quadrivium? What we’re talking about here are the classical liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, dialectic; arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy. It sounds daunting, but if broken down, it is not that difficult. It is simply that “educators” have decided on a curriculum that will stretch out the number of years in secondary education. In my grandparents’ day, eighth grade was a challenge and the eighth grade exams were difficult. These were phased out by the “reformers” because childhood needed to extended.

At the turn of the twentieth century this transformation into the modern school system was taking place. Arithmetic functions were taught from first through eighth grade and algebra did not come until ninth. Curricula were developed to be “age appropriate” per a curriculum which was predetermined. So the arithmetic functions I studied in eighth grade were the same ones I learned in a joint second-third grade classroom in a country school in Wyoming. And the first six weeks of math every year were “review.” The only saving grace we had in eighth was that the teacher decided to do a week on alpha-numeric codes and we had a week on statistics. Actually, we learned that dice when thrown have a one in six chance of landing so the dots on top add up to seven. But other than that it was boring.

The trivium is supposed to be learned first. Grammar is the structure of the language. English, like German, evolved from Norse with migrations from the north. What we often refer to as grammar is really a preferred style of writing and speaking. Diagramming sentences superimposing Latin structures on a language that is structurally different makes sense only to those indoctrated by schools of education—note: I was an expert at diagramming but my father majored in Latin and I took four years in class and another in independent study.

Rhetoric is how we convey ideas through writing and speaking, how we convince people we know what we are talking about.  The charge that writing is “just rhetoric” implies that this is somehow bad.  Those who do not study and learn are handicapped in work and ordinary discourse.  And yes, middle schoolers can learn the art.

Dialectic is on one of the lists–I prefer the term logic.  Those who do not learn logic cannot discern and process what they hear or read.  Because 1+2=3 is meaningful in a base 10 numeric system.  It does not relate the same in base three. Logic teaches how to break  down syllogisms to determine truth or deception.  Politicians, insurance salesmen and even teachers will make assertions that pass as fact.  They may sound reasonable but the key in logic is will they hold up?

The ability of the eleven to fourteen age group is assessed differently in an educational system than it may exist in fact.  I have worked with scouts who have passed the requirements for a badge called Citizenship in the world.  They not only have done the requirements but have explained to me the false premises in the support pamphlet.  And these are thirteen year olds.

Will they master the trivium.  Eventually, maybe.  What I am saying is that it is time to begin and there needs to be exposure to all the classical liberal arts at the point that the young are breaking away from being pupils to becoming students.