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Another weekly posting of old editorials written by my father Bob Wilson, as published in his newspaper the Prairie Post, from 1958 to 1972. It seems a lot of things never change, and many of his editorials could be posted today with new dates on them and still be up to date.

August 21, 1958

EDUCATION Versus INTELLIGENCE

We favor giving young people all the education they can make good use of.
The Russians, in their pursuit of world leadership in the sciences, pick their brightest young people and educate them free.
We educate those who can pay the bill, and let the others fight their own battles.
The procedure sentences many a keen intellect to spend his life on the end of a shovel.
What is perhaps worse, it turns loose on the world each year an assortment of that dreadful phenomenon, the Educated Fool.
Quoting long words that are only half-understood, and applying by rote examples that were intended to stimulate new thought, there is nothing so appalling as a Second-Class Mind with a First-Class Education.
There is a distinction to be made between Education and Intelligence.
Intelligence is the capacity to make use of Education.
If one has Intelligence, Education is a never-ending process, in school or out.
Without Intelligence, neither age nor training can ripen into Wisdom. We are reminded of the Jackass that reached the advanced age of 35 years, and had travelled the country over in a circus. He was still a jackass.
There are men in this area who never finished grade school, but who manage the complex problems of operating a modern farm without a second thought.
This is Native Intelligence at its best, acting on the raw material of daily life to produce wisdom.
Experience is not the best teacher; it is the ONLY teacher. Books, examples, classroom instruction can only lead us to an actual experience of the facts which results in learning.
What schools can do is shorten and focus the learning process; the “School of Hard Knocks” is slow and hit-or-miss.
It is worth noting that the graduates of the last-named institution, who have found their way to an understanding of what is in the world, are generally among the most earnest advocates of good school for the young, so that their children may come to the same levels, or beyond, by an easier path.
We salute our educational institutions, and we salute the taxpayers who pay the bill. May our young people understand this is a precious gift, and use it well.

September 4, 1958

LAND TENURE AND ITS ABUSES

The main thing to remember is that we stole it all from the Indians in the first place.
Your abstract reports with great care that every transaction in it is a legal transfer of ownership. All but the first one; the first one was a theft.
The treaty the Quaker William Penn made with the Indians is the only one the white men did not break; it is also the only one that was never written on paper.
This should keep us from feeling too smug about our “holy” system of land ownership.
In America, if you have money enough, you can buy the best farm in the State and destroy it acre by acre, and nobody will ask you any questions.
In England, during the war, the Labor Government had to institute some pretty strict controls over land tenure. (The Conservative Government has continued them.) A farmer who did a bad job of crop production or of conservation was given close attention and help for a probationary year; if he proved to be hopeless, he was put out of the farming business EVEN THOUGH HE OWNED THE GROUND.
The nobility were treated like everyone else. Many a baronet whose drafty old mansion was surrounded by a 200-acre deerpark, shortly found himself looking out his windows at 200 acres of potatoes and cabbages.
Freedom is more precious than blood: Yet even freedom must be tempered by a regard for the rights of other people.
A second time, would we grant the cotton farmers freedom to PERMANENTLY DESTROY ONE-THIRD OF THE AGRICULTURAL LAND IN THE SOUTH, AS THEY HAVE DONE?
Let no-one tell you this is still the axe-rifle-and-plow wilderness of our great-grandfathers.
A complex system of controls is needed today to decide which airplane lands first at a big airport. Controls are just as necessary in the use of land. No-one wants to see great airliners smash small planes to get them out of the way; should “factory” farms be permitted to destroy the family farm simply because they can? Laws protecting small-landholding can be carried to an extreme, of course. In China, after centuries of subdivision, many a “farmer” tends something we would call a “radish patch.” On Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific, one of the descendents of the “Bounty's” mutineers may own a tree – while another owns the ground it shades!
Sweden has a system of land titles fifteen hundred years old; and they never stole the land from the aborigines, because the stone age savages there just stayed around till they turned into Swedes.
In that time they have discovered that property rights cannot be unlimited. In Sweden today, ONLY FARMERS CAN BUY FARMS! Doctors, dentists, and lawyers cannot come out from town and buy the land, and then rent it back to the farmers.
No-one is bothered who already HAS the land, and no farmer is hindered from retiring and renting his land out.
The Editor's wife was for some years secretary to the head of a large Swedish manufacturing concern. He owned an inherited 80-acre “farm” as a hobby, and reaped handsome tax advantages from his farm “losses.” He had expensive machinery standing hub to hub, and the finest purebred stock, but the government refused him permission to buy the adjoining farms.
He even built a “home” on the 80, and went out on weekends and wore gum boots a little.
No dice, said the Swedes. This is not a farmer!
Those who boast of the efficiency of the factory farms must remember that the little family farm is the most efficient known system for producing the healthy and self-reliant people who are the root of our democratic strength.
As Oliver Goldsmith wrote in “The Deserted Village”:
    Ill fares the land
    To hastening ills a prey
    Where wealth accumulates
    And men decay.
    ...
    A sturdy peasantry, their country's pride
    When once destroyed, can never be supplied.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm not sure that I quite agree. (0+ / 0-)

    It turns out there are various kinds of intelligence and some people, who are really good at memorizing stuff, can't process the information to make sense of it. Letting the cost of an education be paid off later has not been an improvement either because the willingness to take on debts is not necessarily evidence of intelligence or good sense.

    When it comes to working the land, the required talents aren't permanently destroyed. Indeed, we are seeing a resurgence of interest in making the land fruitful on a small scale and the urge to plant and make things grow can even be satisfied on the roof-tops of New York City.

    Let people move around at will and they'll settle themselves in appropriate niches. Segregation and exclusive regulations is what we have to worry about.

    It's not the planters and farmers who promote monopolistic practices. Those are demanded by the middlemen, operating under the umbrella designation of "the market," whose income depends on moving produce and resources around, making them abundant and scarce in turn, to maximize their profit.
    Problems were evident in the sixties, for sure. What perhaps went unnoticed is that they weren't a happenstance. The exploitation that was introduced via the first charters from the crowned heads of Europe continued virtually uninterrupted until the natural resources of the continent were played out.

    Btw, I've put up archived op-eds and letters to the editor from the eighties on Hannah Blog under the heading of the squeaky wheel
    http://hannah.smith-family.com/...

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