C.S. Lewis and the Freedom to Fail   5 comments



Are you afraid of freedom?  Are you so afraid of the possibility that, with freedom to choose, some people choose to fail, that you would remove all freedom, even the freedom to soar?

A few weeks ago, at the Utah County Republican Convention,  I met a man at our Stop Common Core booth.  He was a sweet faced,  caring man.  He liked the common core agenda of national standards and tests because, he said,  he could not stand to see anyone suffer and fail because he’d seen the worst of the worst in Mississippi.  The fact that Massachusetts had dropped its high academic standards to come down to Common Core’s level didn’t bother him, he said, because lowest-performing states like Mississippi had upped their standards to the Common Core level.  He didn’t want to see anybody fail; so he’d rather see everyone mediocre.

This one sided “philanthropy” struck me as misguided, but it is the trendy philosophy of social justice, the philosophy of Arne Duncan-style redistribution.  It is theft– easily justified because it’s done on a large, impersonal, governmental scale.

Where do you stand?

Would you– alone– steal from one, in order to benefit another?  Then why do you let government do it?  What gives “us” the right to redistribute anything at all– money, education standards, teachers, data?  Would you make this a habit: Alone–  you walk outside, knock on the door,  and then forcibly take money or items from your next door neighbor to then hand to another neighbor?  It’s cruel.  That is, on a smaller scale, what our society is doing on a large scale with its increasingly socialistic answers to almost every aspect of life, with the justification that this theft is a kindness, a social justice.   This type of enforced equality is an impossible absurdity (Read Harrison Bergeron) but people believe it will work.  It’s why we are in this ed reform mess.

The freedom to fail and the freedom to soar are two ends of the same stick.  So much freedom has been sacrificed at the fake altar of “no soul left behind”.   Ironically, as these equality enforcements  come, people still fail.  This fake philanthropy (aka “social justice”) takes away the possibility for those who might soar, to ever soar.  In the 1950s, they used to call this equalizing “communism”.  But today, if you use describe the education reforms taking place in America as socialistic/communistic, you get labeled a believer in Unicorns.  (Thanks, Representative Kraig Powell.)

Truth is truth whether people believe it or not.

Long after I’d left the man that day at the booth, I found this perfect answer to his confused philanthropy.  Thank you, C.S. Lewis.


“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t.

If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.

A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.

Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk.

(…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.”

                                                                                                               – C.S. Lewis

5 responses to “C.S. Lewis and the Freedom to Fail

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  1. Why not restore the freedom to teachers to personalize their curriculum to every child? In essence, no one fails. Is anyone interested in learning how to personalize instruction/direction to every child? We must get away from the ever-failing one size fits all.

    • We used different books in the old days, but the teachers were not free to personalize very much. And, we’ve had national standards and tests since the 1930s. The better schools used them. C.S. Lewis was well aware of socialism and the effect it was having on society and wrote about it. Great article.

  2. Thanks so much for this enlightening article. You may not know it, but you three are partly (mostly) responsible for the movers and shakers of the North Georgia area being made aware of the ills of CC. When I uttered the words “Common Core” more than two years ago in meetings and gatherings of conservatives, not a single person had even heard of it. As a result of your spearheading in Utah, more Georgians are now keenly aware and our state is now trending toward zero involvement in CC. Not quickly enough for me, but we are headed on the way out of that education mess.

  3. I am an educational consultant at a very high-performing charter school. More than three years ago, I became aware of something very ominous and oppressive looming over the educational establishment in my state. At the time, I didn’t know what it was, and I thought I was the only one who sensed it. I went around muttering, “That hideous strength. That hideous strength.” This is the title of the third volume of C.S. Lewis’ “science fiction” trilogy, a book that Lewis himself described as a fictionalization of his book, The Abolition of Man. Eventually I learned the specifics of what I was sensing and concluded that Lewis was an absolute prophet. Thank you, C.S. Lewis.

    David, I’m afraid that Common Core is not going away in Georgia; it is simply changing labels and suppressing certain terminology. The roots of the apparatus are deep there, as they are in my state. I strongly recommend that you begin to follow the blog, Invisibleserfscollar.com, written by a North Georgian who is extremely knowledgeable about the subject locally, nationally, and internationally. She, like the ladies who run this website, is a trove of information, which, while not pleasant, is absolutely necessary to understand what is going on.

  4. Wonderful! So simple. Thanks for the info, super helpful. BTW, there is an online service through which you can fill out a CA SS-8572, the fillable blank is here https://goo.gl/iSPjrD.

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