29 May 2011

Scott-King's Modern Europe

Anagnostis reminded me of something Evelyn Waugh wrote, "Scott-King's Modern Europe", which contains one of his profound insights, which condenses into a few lines the world view which dominated his thinking after the Second World War.

“You know,” [the headmaster] said, “we are starting this year with fifteen fewer classical specialists than we had last term?”

“I thought that would be about the number.”

“As you know I’m an old Greats man myself. I deplore it as much as you do. But what are we to do? Parents are not interested in producing the ‘complete man’ any more. They want to qualify their boys for jobs in the modern world. You can hardly blame them, can you?”

“Oh yes,” said Scott-King. “I can and do.”

“I always say you are a much more important man here than I am. One couldn’t conceive of Granchester without Scott-King. But has it ever occurred to you that a time may come when there will be no more classical boys at all?”

“Oh yes. Often.”

“What I was going to suggest was—I wonder if you will consider taking some other subject as well as the classics? History, for example, preferably economic history?”

“No, headmaster.”

“But, you know, there may be something of a crisis ahead.”

“Yes, headmaster.”

“Then what do you intend to do?”

“If you approve, headmaster, I will stay as I am here as long as any boy wants to read the classics. I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world.”

“It’s a short-sighted view, Scott-King.”

“There, headmaster, with all respect, I differ from you profoundly. I think it the most long-sighted view it is possible to take.”


Left-footer said...

The curmudgeon in me cries, "Bravo!"

Mike Cliffson said...

Have you ever read D.L.Sayers excellent suggestions for bringing back the trivium? (about1948)
Abt 7 yrs ago , when a certain Yrupeean Govt's Min.Ed asked for online contributions to Education reform ,I sent that in along with a few encyclicals from the 19th century on.
How to make friends...
(Also cf Fr Hunwicke: http://liturgicalnotes.blogspot.com/2011/05/universae-ecclesiae-c-s-lewis-and-bl.html )
(Mindyou, I failed latin 7 yrs running myself, I HATE Julius Ceasar, roman geezer, squashed his nose in a lemon squeezer, his gallic wars, vomitoriums, and the Romans utterly ungreen introduction of nettles into England , and found church latin alone Ok, hence Miss Sayer's remarks are congenial.)

Mike Cliffson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Cliffson said...

1.Yes I know, Greek too.
2.Sorry, D.L.Sayers' NOT Sayer's

Anita Moore said...

Gallia divisa in tres partes est, Mike!

Of course, the best way to have a tyranny is to keep the people ignorant and divorced from tradition. This is true both within and without the Church.

Mike Cliffson said...

I know this thread is kinda musty, still as Anita says here's a rather Stateside and secular take :
" Father Murray’s discussion of the essential nature of barbarism:

The barbarian need not appear in bearskins with a club in hand. He may wear a Brooks Brothers suit and carry a ballpoint pen with which to write his advertising copy. In fact even under the academic gown there may lurk a child of the wilderness, untutored in the high tradition of civility, who goes busily and happily about his work, a domesticated and law-abiding man, engaged in the construction of a philosophy to put an end to all philosophy, and thus put an end to the possibility of a vital consensus and to civility itself. This is perennially the work of the barbarian, to undermine rational standards of judgment, to corrupt the inherited intuitive wisdom by which the people have always lived and to do this not by spreading new beliefs but by creating a climate of doubt and bewilderment in which clarity about the larger aims of life is dimmed and the self-confidence of the people is destroyed so that finally what you have is an impotent nihilism. [italics added]

Substitute “Savile Row” for “Brooks Brothers” and “computer” for “ball-point pen” and we have a portrait of the left-liberal secularist agenda as it exists today in politics, the media, and academia. According to Father Murray:

[The Founders] thought that the life of man in society under government is founded on truths, on a certain body of objective truth, universal in its import, accessible to the reason of man, definable, defensible. If this assertion is denied, the American Proposition is, I think, eviscerated at one stroke . . . today the barbarian is . . . the man who reduces all spiritual and moral questions to the test of practical results or to an analysis of language or to decision on terms of individual subjective feeling.

Stem-cell research involving human embryos? That’s okay, because someday, some way, there just might be practical results, ya gotta believe. Abortion-on-demand? Redefine a child in the womb as a collection of cells or “pre-life,” or claim that the argument is about “when does life begin?” Gay marriage? Simple. Create a climate of doubt, pour on the subjective feeling, redefine marriage so that the word means what you want it to mean, and ignore the question of why plural marriages aren’t given the same treatment. In all cases, ignore what Father Murray called “the inherited intuitive wisdom by which the people have always lived.”
from, National review online, they have more