The old days . . .
The man depicted above in a photo from Center for the American Idea, Josiah Bunting III -- a military historian, novelist, and inspirational speaker -- notes the historian Henry Steele Commager, pictured below in a photo from Amherst College, and makes a point about the way that Americans learned in the old days.
The passage is from Bunting's article "Gen. George C. Marshall and the Development of a Professional Military Ethic," in Footnotes: The Newsletter of FPRI's Wachman Center (June 2011, Vol 16, No 4):
Many of you, if you are historians, know the word "prosopography," an alluring subset of history concerned with the study of groups united in some purpose or by some chronology . . . . The most important prosopography in our history is that of the American founders. Henry Steele Commager talked about periods of extraordinary fluorescence in human leadership and human talent in history. He detailed the Athens of Pericles, Elizabethan England, Renaissance Italy, and particularly the American founders. How was it that at that time in our history we had a number of people born roughly between 1730 and 1750 who grew to be such extraordinary human beings allied in a common purpose -- people of astounding versatility? Where did they come from? Commager makes the point that once you clear away the debris of great challenges bringing forth great leadership, you have to look very seriously at the way people were raised and how they were educated. What did they study? What did they read? What were their parents’ expectations for them? They were not obsessed with SAT scores, there were no Blackberries, no one cared if you went to Princeton or the University of Virginia. You went up to your room at 7:00 at night, and if you were John Adams, you read Plutarch, and you were given no rewards for reading Plutarch. This is essentially Commager's thesis.It seems that in the old days, greatness called for inner-directed men. Thanks to progress, we can now be great through obtaining high SATs and getting into an Ivy League school.
If only I'd have had a Tiger Mother . . .