War Wreaks No Havoc On Education Or Virtue

“Even war, that sweeps away everything else like a winter torrent, cannot take away education.” – Plutarch. First century Greek Philosopher.

There is much writing among the Greeks about virtue and what that included. Kind of struck me as the actual goal today of some educators is a values free education.

I can’t say as I oppose this in any manner, as if our Canadian government were to teach “Virtue” via our education system today, it would certainly lack any depth compared to the “virtue” that the Greek culture and Philosophers strove for. Trudeau would only use education as some social experiment and indoctrination mechanism.

The depth of human effort undertaken to attain virtue, its right to be the goal of life, permeates much human history and philosophy. The theme is everywhere. Would people sense a striving for virtue within our generations of education, in say 500 years from now? What would they say was our driving pursuit. What was virtue?

Virtue, the word pierces, it judges, it motivates, it challenges, it examines, weights and measures. It gives a lifetime of purpose. And today the word is rarely used. There is too much existential depth in “virtue” for secular humanists and postmodernists to wade into. Discussing “virtue” would develop an angst within students raised under Post-modernity. There is no single thread of truth we could agree on as “Virtue”. The word “Virtue” is a repudiation of everything post-modernity stands for. We have substituted virtue as life’s core pursuit and upheld “adventure” and “happiness” instead. Our bar is pretty low and dull as a society these days, because neither adventure, pleasure nor happiness insist on knowledge, understanding, integrity, nor anything much about character. It is “values free”.

I’d like to talk about virtue with someone for a change.

We have learned from Communism that Marxism can not destroy a peoples religious faith in God, despite a systematic attempt to erase it. Russian citizens were less atheistic at the fall of the Berlin Wall than North America was, both were around 6.5%. Virtue, to the roots of the Soviet block peoples included a faith in Jesus Christ it seemed. It was restrained, not talked about, but it was alive in their hearts despite socialist indoctrination.

Nations with ideologies can force, by grave threat of punishment or torture, a change on the surface of a people. People will comply with a thing they don’t believe in, for a moment (until there are enough of them to say no), but they can be totally convinced otherwise in their hearts and minds. Have we not learned this from Stalin, Mao, and North Korea?

We can force people to comply, but we can’t force people to believe or accept.

In Ancient Greece virtue was everything, today in the west is it anything?

“….. what is a most important point, even the greatest villains have money sometimes. And glory is noble, but insecure. And beauty is highly desirable, but shortlived. And health is highly valuable, but soon impaired. And strength is desirable, but illness or age soon made sad inroads into it. And generally speaking, if anyone prides himself on his bodily strength, let him know that he is deficient in judgment. For how much inferior is the strength of a man to that of animals, as elephants, bulls, and lions! But education is of all our advantages the only one immortal and divine. And two of the most powerful agencies in man’s nature are mind and reason. And mind governs reason, and reason obeys mind; and mind is irremovable by fortune, cannot be taken away by informers, cannot be destroyed by disease, cannot have inroads made into it by old age. For the mind alone flourishes in age; and while time takes away everything else, it adds wisdom to old age. Even war, that sweeps away everything else like a winter torrent, cannot take away education. And Stilpo, the Megarian, seems to me to have made a memorable answer when Demetrius enslaved Megara and rased it to the ground. On his asking whether Stilpo had lost anything, he replied, “Certainly not, for war can make no havoc of virtue. Corresponding and consonant to this is the answer of Socrates, who when asked, I think by Gorgias, if he had any conception as to the happiness of the King of Persia, replied, “I do not know his position in regard to virtue and education: for happiness lies in these, and not in adventitious advantages.””

– Plutarch’s Morals.

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