Why Cicero?


By: Thomas E. Brewton

Progressive education, the liberal-socialist tool of choice for brainwashing young minds, has left recent generations in ignorance of the great Roman statesman’s role in the structure of our own government.

Gary Galles’s post on the Mises blog, “Cicero on Justice, Law and Liberty,” reminds us that today’s students will hardly ever learn what was essential fare in our schools from earliest days until the 1930s.

Underlying the legacy of Cicero is the concept of natural law, which tells us that everything in our world is part of a grand design in which everything and every creature has a highest purpose that reflects its true essence. In humans, that essence is the soul and its quest for truth and justice within the intelligent world design.

To take a near at hand example of natural law, our Declaration of Independence asserts:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Writing to Richard Henry Lee in 1825, Jefferson said of his authorship of the Declaration of Independence, the essential thing was,

“Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject…it was intended to be an expression of the American mind…All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversations, in letters, printed essays, or the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc.”

A classical education – in ancient Greece, Rome, and later in England – always included the study of rhetoric: the ability to think logically and clearly and to express those thoughts with compelling eloquence. Cicero’s orations were among the works most often studied. As late as the 1930s most American high school texts still incorporated Cicero’s works, which formed the minds of students around the loftiest ideals of virtue, expressed with clarity and grace long since lost to American experience.

Why are Cicero’s orations and dialogues no longer known to American students?

John Dewey, the leading liberal intellectual of the first half of the 20th century, was also the degrading transformer of American education. His “Democracy and Education” (1916) expressed the view that education should not teach specific things, but that children should be immersed in experiences that would create an allegiance to the group and prepare them for the collectivized, secular world of socialism. History, Dewey wrote, had no place in a modern school curriculum.

Going whole hog in “Reconstruction in Philosophy” (1920), Dewey argued that society ought to scrap all ideas of religion, morality, and philosophy prior to the atheistic materialism of socialism and Dewey’s own brand of moral relativism, the philosophy of Pragmatism.

The Russian Communist Revolution (1917) was taking place in this same period, and Dewey, along with his Columbia University Teachers’ College confreres, was much taken with the Soviet educational system. The Soviets expressed Dewey’s conceptions somewhat more brutally than did Dewey:

“We must hate — hatred is the basis of Communism. Children must be taught to hate their parents if they are not Communists.” V. I. Lenin — speech to the Commissars of Education, Moscow, 1923.

Obviously, Cicero could not be permitted to remain in the school curriculum. He was a believer in the Stoic system of natural law in human affairs, the same conception of natural law that underlay John Locke’s famous justification for ousting autocratic King James II. Locke in 1689 had argued that, by arbitrarily abrogating the rights of individuals to life, liberty, and property, James II had broken the natural law compact with his people and thereby forfeited the legitimacy of his reign.

This was, in 1776, exactly the same argument employed by the colonists to confront George III’s taxation without representation. Hence Jefferson’s reference to “harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversations, in letters, printed essays, or the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc..”



Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.

His weblog is THE VIEW FROM 1776

http://www.thomasbrewton.com/

Email comments to viewfrom1776@thomasbrewton.com

About The Author Thomas E. Brewton:
Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
Website:http://www.thomasbrewton.com/

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