Herbert SpencerHerbert Spencer, (1820-1903) British author, economist, philosopher

Herbert Spencer Quote

“For what is meant by saying that a government ought to educate the people? Why should they be educated? What is the education for? Clearly, to fit the people for social life -- to make them good citizens. And who is to say what are good citizens? The government: there is no other judge. And who is to say how these good citizens may be made? The government: there is no other judge. Hence the proposition is convertible into this -- a government ought to mold children into good citizens, using its own discretion in settling what a good citizen is and how the child may be molded into one.”

Herbert SpencerHerbert Spencer
~ Herbert Spencer


Ratings and Comments

Mike, Norwalk

The underlying and unmentioned foundational concept here is that the government is an organic person capable of thought, reason and morals, in toto, aloof from, and superior to 'We The People'. Government in fact and truth, is an abstract incapable of judgement, determining good (citizens or otherwise) how anyone is to be made or molded, or has the lawful ability to coerce anyone. Individuals (individually or in concert) may judge injustices and act accordingly. Government in the de jure U.S. was to be a united extension of the individual sovereign self(s). The individual has no right to compel compliance at an otherwise lawful act SO, that authority or power can not be bestowed on government. Usurpation and tyranny are cloaked under the guise of government to fulfill such acts as the despotic quote suggests.

E Archer, NYC
  • Reply
E Archer, NYC Mike, Norwalk 11/29/18

Good point, Mike.  Groupisms like 'government' and 'we' and 'society' are rarely equated with the individuals that make up them.  These group archetypes are conceptual and treated almost  like deities endowed with a consciousness, will and power of their own.  In this context, the individual is subservient to the group in which he/she empowers. 

'Civilization' is the collective use of force, from temple building to agriculture, industry — and war.  To command armies, to rule, all has been built on the backs of the common people — that is civilization.  It continues to be built every day in collective fashion.  To even question one's place in all this is to invite rebuke from the 'faithful' zealots of the dominant creed.  The worshippers of power are ever tirelessly working 'for the people' and other collective archetypes over which they endeavor to control.  The defenders of 'government' are almost always well connected in the hierarchy with some benefit and influence of the group.  They repeat slogans, perceive people in classes and project their biases upon them accordingly never individually examining oneself, one's motives and one's prejudices.  Identity politics is such the rage these days because an individual cannot be a group and vice versa.  It's a mind-f*ck to identify with something one is not, and even worse is to be enabled in a delusion by a group.

Look what's coming out of government schools these days — yikes!  Social engineering at its worst and in full gear.  What a real waste of 12 years.

jim k, Austin, Tx

Perhaps we need some "good citizens" in the government. looking at the current crop running things, they seem to be in short supply. Obama was in our town a few days ago, and for a thousand bucks you could hear him speak. I took a pass on that as I didn't own a pair of hip boots.

cal, lewisville, tx

Mike and jim.k, Spencer must have been using a little satire here. I read where he concluded his writings by saying, Leave society alone and it will shape and form itself just fine. He felt that the government should stay out of all daily life. He's also called the Father of Socialolgy, although socialolgist today do not follow his principles.

Duncan Campbell, Castleton, NY

It would seem to me that this scheme of "people control" is hard at work in our education system today! It's up to "we the people" to bring the proper change needed to correct this atrocity on our young people. Sex ed. is a classic example. Destroy their morality. It has worked well. Revisionist History. If they are not taught truth, they won't know truth.

Waffler, Smith

By "government" he means the considered values of the people in any society, be a farm village, city, or suburb. That is what these "governmental" or societal subdivisions have school borards. Folk have been educating the offspring of the villagers like this for a millenium or more. In short we the village our the government.

GunnyCee, Durham

No, I don't believe Spencer was using satire. He was dead serious. That is how socialist think. Government has no business interfering in the lives of citizens, at least on in this country. We fought a bloody Revolutionary War to get away from such government mandates by the British Monarchy. If people are to educate themselves, the government could give incentives, such as the right to vote in Federal elections. This would prevent the poor and uneducated from voting their ownselves more and more "benefits" from the feds. If they are too lazy to educate themselves and too lazy to work at the menial work that is inevitably left to the under-educated, then they deserve to live a minimal existence until they get the message to prepare themselves for the real world of the working people. Opportunities should abound for those who show the initiative to succeed. Good-intentioned coddling of the lazy will be the downfall of all of us.

E Archer, NYC

Thumbs down for the proposition itself. Not sure what the context of the quote is or whether Spencer was being satirical or not. Waffler, schools do not run themselves, they are directed by other humans. Over the millennia, there have been numerous schools of thought and specialties, and they were not organized by 'society' but by individuals who were considered 'masters' in their trades. 'Education' has been hijacked by the ruling class to perpetuate the monopolies of the ruling class, to instill an obedience to them, to teach the young that they are beholden to them and should happily serve them and pay tribute to them because we could never have gotten along without them. Government schooling and prisons are managed nearly the same way using the same government contractors and business practices. It is a 'generic' 'education' for making one fit to be a ward of the state forever. Everyone knows this except those in the government schools. Why do you think Obama sends his kids to the best private school in DC? Do you know what a public school classroom in the neighborhood of the White House is like?! If anything, public school helps keep the classes divided -- it definitely brings the brightest down because the standards are so low. But this is not news, this is old hat. Children coming from other countries entering into school in the US are usually far ahead of their American contemporaries.And America is being taken over from within using tried-and-true techniques that the study of history quickly reveal. But for the most part our government spends most of its energy trying to distract us from seeing what is really going on, and they have 12 years to drum into us that they are great and we should sacrifice ourselves to the greater good as good citizens -- all the while the puppeteers are laughing their way to the bank.

Durham, Birmingham, AL

We need a separation of school and state.

E Archer, NYC

What ever happened to Civics class?  One of the only real reasons to 'go to school' is to learn what civics taught  what are your rights, what is due process, what is the difference between American individualism and European authoritarianism?  History is not even a required subject any more  social studies are merely socialism studies.


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