As an old history teacher this particular story really got to me. I read it and wonder about the future survival of our nation with young persons who have such stultified, shallow attitudes concerning education and entitlement. I teach my African-American students the sacred value of an education, and how enslaved blacks (such as Frederick Douglass) heroically risked their lives to become literate. The repressive antebellum governments in the deep South believed educating a slave was a threat to the established order and would lead to slave rebellions. Teaching a slave to read and write was a capital offense.
Governments have always known that perpetual ignorance is the worst form of bondage and is necessary to the continuation of statism. Liberty and freedom demand a well-educated citizenry! Defeating today’s statists is like defeating the slave masters of old. The powerful elite who continue to wield the power of the state for their nefarious activities know that ignorance is their ally. For generations libertarians such as Jefferson, Thoreau, Spooner, Garrison, Douglass, Sumner, Nock, Chodorov, Rothbard, and Paul courageously spoke “truth to power.” They knew such “truth to power” brings the liberating enlightenment and critical reflection necessary for radical change. Ron Paul constantly praises the value of reading and education in bringing about substantive reform of our political and economic institutions. He consistently states that he educated himself before getting involved politically.
Here is what the Wikipedia entry says about the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass and his battle for self-education and literacy:
8:55 am on September 11, 2011 Email Charles Burris
When Douglass was about twelve years old, Hugh Auld’s wife Sophia started teaching him the alphabet despite the fact that it was against the law to teach slaves to read. Douglass described her as a kind and tender-hearted woman, who treated Douglass like one human being ought to treat another. When Hugh Auld discovered her activity, he strongly disapproved, saying that if a slave learned to read, he would become dissatisfied with his condition and desire freedom. Douglass later referred to this statement as the “first decidedly antislavery lecture” he had ever heard. As told in his autobiography, Douglass succeeded in learning to read from white children in the neighborhood and by observing the writings of men with whom he worked. Mrs. Auld one day saw Douglass reading a newspaper; she ran over to him and snatched it from him, with a face that said education and slavery were incompatible with each other.
He continued, secretly, to teach himself how to read and write. Douglass is noted as saying that “knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom.” As Douglass began to read newspapers, political materials, and books of every description, he was exposed to a new realm of thought that led him to question and condemn the institution of slavery. In later years, Douglass credited The Columbian Orator, which he discovered at about age twelve, with clarifying and defining his views on freedom and human rights.
When Douglass was hired out to William Freeland, he taught other slaves on the plantation to read the New Testament at a weekly Sunday school. As word spread, the interest among slaves in learning to read was so great that in any week, more than 40 slaves would attend lessons. For about six months, their study went relatively unnoticed. While Freeland was complacent about their activities, other plantation owners became incensed that their slaves were being educated. One Sunday they burst in on the gathering, armed with clubs and stones, to disperse the congregation permanently.
In 1833, Thomas Auld took Douglass back from Hugh after a dispute (“[A]s a means of punishing Hugh,” Douglass wrote). Dissatisfied with Douglass, Thomas Auld sent him to work for Edward Covey, a poor farmer who had a reputation as a “slave-breaker.” He whipped Douglass regularly. The sixteen-year-old Douglass was nearly broken psychologically by his ordeal under Covey, but he finally rebelled against the beatings and fought back. After losing a physical confrontation with Douglass, Covey never tried to beat him again.