Stability, Education, and the Wealth of Nations

In a recent letter exchange with a friend who has taken a vow of stability I complained about the loss in our society of the virtue of stability. All those things that tethered us to a place—the inability to communicate quickly over long distances, the inability to travel quickly over long distances—not only protected us from unexpected and still unappreciated psychological dangers, as well as economical dangers for local centers, which would subsequently (as has happened) lose their wealth to fewer and fewer centers, but—more importantly—they also led to the making of better stories.

This is from a letter of Pliny the Younger, who disappeared some time around A.D. 107.

Pliny Epistulae 4.13.9:

educentur hic qui hic nascuntur, statimque ab infantia natale solum amare frequentare consuescant.

Let him who is born here, be educated here, and immediately from his infancy grow accustomed to love his native soil and to cultivate it.


Here “cultivate” (frequentare) does not bear the image of farming as it does in English—that would have been colere, whence the English word is derived—but rather that of causing the humane culture of a localized society to grow.

Pliny, an aristocrat at the time of the peak of the expansion of the Roman Empire, expended extraordinary efforts to improve the opportunities for education of children in his hometown.

Can we please start asking the question again: What is education for?

Can we really expect to follow, rootless, the money, like the soft ticks of the Jersey Pines that eat until they explode, without ever spending ourselves to make a place better?

Once upon a time, not so long ago actually, politicians couldn’t get away with taking for granted that everyone needs to go to college and accumulate $20,000–$40,000 of debt before even getting started.

Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for being my gadfly.


About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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