Thursday, 23 March 2006

An Old Charge

The shrewder of our politicians know that they can get away with almost anything, because they know only too well what they make it a point to deny—indeed what it is their democratic obligation to deny: that on the whole the electorate has little conception of good governance.
Against the old charge that democracy – if not already a tyranny – would become a tyranny because the broad mass of people would be either unable to understand or unwilling to bother themselves with the hard choices and ideas necessary for the preservation of good governance, the democrats held out the prospect of an educated electorate by whose enlightenment this charge would be impugned; and so the dream of universal education was born—in part as a rebuttal.
We do not hear this charge much nowadays, for, as befits a triumphant ideology, democracy is simply assumed to be right; and yet the dream of universal education is still as unrealistic as ever; for the education that the broad electorate receives is largely a parody of such — an arrogation of rectitude and learnedness alongside an incuriosity and broad ignorance of such matters that might bring them some genuine cultivation; and thus the meaning of education — where everyone is “educated” — has fallen to a level below that of its former days, and is at such a level that it does not answer the old charge against democracy. To say such a thing in a democracy, however, where one ought to keep the faith despite all the signs, is a breach of etiquette bordering on the criminal.

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