Locked Out

One of the triumphs of government schooling is that most educated English-speakers nowadays cannot read this sentence from Locke’s Thoughts Concerning Education:

The age is not like to want instances of this kind, which should be made land-marks to him, that by the disgraces, diseases, beggary, and shame of hopeful young men thus brought to ruin, he may be precaution’d, and be made see, how those join in the contempt and neglect of them that are undone, who, by pretences of friendship and respect, lead them to it, and help to prey upon them whilst they were undoing: that he may see, before he buys it by a too dear experience, that those who persuade him not to follow the sober advices he has receiv’d from his governors, and the counsel of his own reason, which they call being govern’d by others, do it only that they may have the government of him themselves; and make him believe, he goes like a man of himself, by his own conduct, and for his own pleasure, when in truth he is wholly as a child led by them into those vices which best serve their purposes.


14 Responses to Locked Out

  1. Kevin Carson August 2, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    Shit, I’ve been grumbling since they came out with a fucking “modern English version” of the Federalist Papers.

    • Roderick August 2, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

      I remember a reporter back in the 90s saying of some militia manifesto, “it’s written in medieval English, like the Constitution.”

  2. Anon73 August 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    I kept expecting to find out what the instances were, but was disappointed.

  3. Black Bloke August 3, 2011 at 3:05 am #

    Speaking of the changing language:

  4. Gene Callahan August 3, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Most people who spoke English when that was written could not read it, either.

    • Roderick August 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

      Yes, that’s why I worded my claim as I did.

      • Gene Callahan August 8, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

        So, then how is public education to blame for this non-drop in how many can read the sentence?

      • Roderick August 8, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

        You could always go back and read what I actually wrote.

  5. Matthew M. Robare August 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    It’s a lot clearer than contemporary academic writing. It’s very direct, but loquacious. Your modern, say, sociologist would tap dance around his point so much that it might be impossible to understand.

  6. Chris Adams August 3, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    Beyond the ability to understand that sentence, my government schooling taught me that this is simply speculation without some actual data supporting this hypothesis is using appropriately paired cohorts to measure quality of education independent of socioeconomic factors.

  7. Bob August 9, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

    In all fairness, it’s a stylistically atrocious sentence. We all have reason to rejoice that no respectable editor today would tolerate such abuse of pronouns.

    On the other hand, it is indeed a sentence that many self-proclaimed libertarians would do well to take to heart.

    • Roderick August 9, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

      In all fairness, it’s a stylistically atrocious sentence.

      Try hearing it in a British accent and it sounds much better.

      Which reminds me of an exchange I heard once between Sheldon Richman and Andrew Melnyk:

      Sheldon was criticising the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition, and as evidence he pointed out that “Now we have something about which to argue” sounds much weaker than “Now we have something to argue about,” whereas Andrew was maintaining, to the contrary, that “Now we have something about which to argue” actually sounds stronger because you can build to, and then emphasise, the word “argue.”

      What struck me was that each side’s case was perfectly convincing, in the accent in which it was delivered. Sheldon is American, Andrew is British. And while “Now we have something about which to argue” does sound weak and awkward when said in an American accent, it sounds just fine in a British accent (especially one toward the posher end of the spectrum).

      • Sheldon Richman August 9, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

        I have an accent? I would contend that the “about which” intrinsically weakens the sentence.

  8. Sheldon Richman August 9, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    As an editor, I’d like to get my hands on that sentence.

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