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A Small Voice from Far Away
O. P. Kretzmann

I hardly know where to begin… This month and next my hic et nuncson and I are to discuss Education with a capital E and all due reverence… After all, Education is the way man lives from decade to decade and from century to century… It participates in the beleaguered hope that there is wisdom in the human race, that this wisdom is cumulative, and that it can, in part, be passed on in books, classrooms, graffiti on back fences, whispers over dying fires, or swift punches in the nose…

There is doubtlessly such a thing as Education, my hic et nunc son, even if we do not always know exactly what it is at all times… We do know that in your time and generation it is failing pathetically… It is weighted down with your generations whimpers of irrelevance…. In your time there are cries of a world nearly running out of fresh air, clean water, natural resources and beauty, and enough food… The body is not alone in its distress… Archibald MacLeish, a poet not of your generation, recently said: There is something terrible happening to the human soul

What happened?… You did learn something… You are the first generation in human history to learn that you carry strontium 90 in your bones and DDT in your fat… Almost from birth your generation learned that we can commit collective suicide (we gave you a small taste at Hiroshima)… You know that you have been born into a world in which knowledge, the aim of all education in our time, often leads to catastrophe… In fact, we have already made such progress into this murky land of technique that we can lump the dying fish, the glutted city, the stunted tree, the masses on the campuses, and the starving child under a magnificently evasive and abstract phrase: a maladjusted ecology

Now at this moment in history, amid all the cries echoing up from exhausted wells, you and your generation enter the world and want to set it aright before sunset… And the only equipment for this desperate task which we have given you is your education with a little e… Furthermore, to complete the debacle, as I have said, we do not know what we really want to give you and you do not know what you want…

And so I have been tossing on my bed these many nights trying to find what I would like to say in this exchange of views… Is it possible, as the rising sun comes through the East windows, that I have for forty years tried to do something that I could not understand?…

As I tossed I decided that the ultimate goal of Education must be said in a way so simplified and cleansed that even your recalcitrant generation can understand it… Therefore, I submit to you that the end of Education, all education, can be finally summed up in two abused, misunderstood, vitally important words: Freedom and Obedience… These two realities

— sweeping over earth and heaven, over all you know and all you do not know, over your dreams with only a gossamer of thought — will make sense and order of your life and lead you into light for our dark times…

Freedom and Obedience… My thesis is that with out these paradoxical twins you cannot claim to be truly Educated… You may know many things but their sum will be nothing…

I thought I heard you sigh with relief when I first mentioned the magic word (for you)… Freedom… At last, you thought, the old man has come belatedly to his senses… Freedom,” thats the key to what my contemporaries, the hic et nunccrowd, really wants… Freedom to explore, to fly beyond the morning and evening stars, to reach the border between sense and non-sense with the power to go either way without penalties…

But theres the rub… For the line between sense and non-sense becomes the path of a drunkard at the mid night hour of the world… Your generation (or a large part of it) has drifted into a freedom which is a hollow, mean, and hypocritical thing… It lets you trip off the edge of reality… It has no tie with sanity…

Here is my real hang up… You should — you must — be free… But Freedom is not the freedom your generation sings about — a singing which has now be gun to sound pitifully like screaming…

So — I have again shifted the conversation… 1 am no longer speaking directly to Education but to its goal of Freedom and Obedience… 1 believe what we need to seek first is a reasoned, socially and theologically acceptable meaning of Freedom… And here, I submit, your hic et nunccrowd, with its marching and countermarching, its confrontations, bricks and stones, has failed with a startling unanimity and irrelevance…  My generation must share in that failure, although I really thought we had done better than that…

Perhaps, in closing, I should say quietly and gently: Freedom is the right to discipline yourself so as not to be disciplined by others… Not bad… Finally, Hitler or yourself… Or possibly even God?…

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