Socrates roamed the streets of Athens offending. The youth of Athens, who were intoxicated by his bristling brilliance, and drawn to the spectacles he created as he unmasked his fellow Athenians’ claims to knowledge, trailed behind to watch and later imitate him.
My first child having come with no manual, as evidently no child does, my wife and I arrived home with her somewhat bewildered, which was nothing compared to our confusion upon entry into the teenage years, but I digress. In any event, I blame college. Not a single class in parenting was required at the University of Texas at Austin.
This is, of course, absurd—an instance of what might be called the post collegium ergo propter collegium fallacy: the idea that the purpose of college is to prepare students for anything that comes after college. It is now pervasive. Students need careers; college must train them. Students do not know how to find jobs; college must teach them. The world is diverse and the economy is integrated; college must prepare students for both.
Looming over politics in 2012 was Franklin Roosevelt’s admonition in his Second Bill of Rights speech (his 1944 State of the Union Address) for the creation of security. To revive its founding, the government must guarantee various now-fundamental rights including the “right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;” the right to “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;” and “the right to a good education.” Together, “All of these rights spell security.”
In this view, security is the highest aim of American politics: “Necessitous men are not free,” FDR insisted. He wanted to replace the Declaration’s pursuit of happiness with security. And the rights involving employment and other forms of security are to be realized, he implies, through the final right he lists, the “right to a good education.” This right of all rights is the key to all freedoms.