Mandeville, LA – All societies, in all times, have lived by dogmas. When dogmas are abandoned, the social bonds dissolve—swiftly or slowly; and the “open” society ceases to be a society at all, giving way to a new order.
The need is not for emancipating the young from fixed convictions, but rather for reminding them that there are some convictions worth cherishing.
The successor-society may be imposed upon a people from without, or it may arise from within the decadent civil social order which has lost its principles of coherence. But the succeeding domination, whether it be harsh or gentle, supplants the old order precisely because the people of the new order believe in some body of truths, and the people of the failing order do not.
it is not foolish to accept on authority, or dogmatic statement, certain theological and moral and political dogmas. Life is short, personal experience is limited, and learning through demonstration may be both difficult and dangerous. We cannot all be prophets or philosophers. The theological dogma that God exists cannot be “demonstrated” in the sense that a simple experiment in chemistry may be demonstrated; and while that dogma conceivably may be reinforced by personal experience, the experience without the dogma ordinarily brings only wonder at best.
Platitudes are expressions of dogmatic belief. If teachers cannot live with platitudes, they ought to take up some other line of work. For, as Plato tells us, the ends of education are wisdom and virtue. An apprehension of wisdom and virtue must commence with the acceptance of certain dogmata, often platitudinously expressed. Even if one aspires to challenge “conventional wisdom,” one first must master that conventional wisdom; otherwise, the skeptic’s challenge is ignorant bluster.
In our time, there is no danger that the mass of young people will be paralyzed by dull submission to ancient custom, convention, and deference. The motion of our age has been centrifugal, not centripetal; the tendency has been eccentric, not centric. Violence and fraud increase at every level of society: half the marriages end in divorce, and we slaughter myriads of unborn infants; the alienist is busier than a bee, and the cement of society disintegrates. The need is not for emancipating the young from fixed convictions, but rather for reminding them that there are some convictions worth cherishing. – Russell Kirk, The Necessity of Dogma In Schooling