What do we mean by ‘the best that’s been thought and known’?

Education Forum organiser Harley Richardson has written a follow-up essay to his Letter on Liberty, The Liberating Power of Education, responding to objections to his claim we should teach ‘the best that’s been thought and known’…

“…During the century preceding the publication of Culture of Anarchy, a mass education system of sorts had been established in Britain, in the form of thousands of charity schools funded by a combination of church and commerce. These provided a deliberately restricted moral and religious education for poor children, designed to make them appreciate their allotted place in society so that they would cause no trouble for their ‘betters’.

Yet poor people in large numbers were not satisfied with their allotted place, and did cause trouble, demanding to be taken seriously, as voters and as rational, intelligent, moral beings. Understandably, during an era when revolutions were a fact of life, those in power were worried where this might lead. If knowledge was put in the hands of working men, it was feared this would mean the ruination of civilised society.

In this context, to argue, as Arnold did, that everyone should have access to the ‘best that’s been thought and known’ was a radical idea…” 

Read the whole essay on Learning through the ages.

The Liberating Power of Education is available for £2 via Letters on Liberty.