The Long Fall from Educational Excellence and the Rise of Tyranny

The following is from Dr. Gary North’s article “Way Too Much Taxation with Our Representation: How Americans Surrendered the Legacy of 1776.”

“The common discourse of American politics in 1776 was beyond what most university faculty members are capable of understanding.

“You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. My friend Bertel Sparks used to teach in the Duke University Law School. Every year, he conducted an experiment. He wanted to put his first year law students — among the cream of the crop of American college graduates — in their place.

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He assigned an extract from Blackstone’s [1723-1780] Commentaries on the Laws of England. This was the most important legal document of the American Revolution era. It was written in the 1760s.

William blackstone
William Blackstone (1723-1780)
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“Every American lawyer read all four volumes. It was read by American lawyers for a generation after the Revolution. Sparks would assign a section on the rights of property. He made them take it home, and then return to class, ready to discuss it.

“When they returned, they could not discuss it. The language was too foreign. The concepts were too foreign. The students were utterly confused.

“Then Sparks would hold up the source of the extract from Blackstone. The source was the Sixth McGuffey reader, the most popular American public school textbook series of the second half of the 19th century.

“That put the kiddies in their place.

“If you want to be put in your place, pick up a copy of the Sixth McGuffey [pages 410-415] reader and try to read it. [Here’s how it begins:

‘In the beginning of the world, we are informed by Holy Writ, the all-bountiful Creator gave to man dominion over all the earth, and ‘over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.’ This is the only true and solid foundation of man’s dominion over external things, whatever airy, metaphysical notions may have been started by fanciful writers upon this subject. The earth, therefore, and all things therein, are the general property of all mankind, exclusive of other beings, from the immediate gift of the Creator. And while the earth continued bare of inhabitants, it is reasonable to suppose that all was in common among them, and that everyone took from the public stock, to his own use, such things as his immediate necessities required.’]

“Try to read the ‘Federalist Papers.’ These were newspaper columns written to persuade the voters of New York to elect representatives to ratify the Constitution. These essays were political tracts. They were aimed at the average voter. Few college graduates could get through them today, so students are not asked to read them in their American history course, which isn’t required for graduation anyway.


“The story of America is the story of this nation’s self-imposed abandonment of the Declaration of Independence. This is why the story of the Declaration is rarely taught in school, and is taught badly when it is taught.

“If you want to re-gain your liberty, a good place to begin is with the primary source documents of the world that existed a century before the Declaration was written, before the kings of England meddled very much in colonial affairs. . . .

“That is the world we have lost. Fireworks won’t get it back.

“Home schooling just might.”



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