to some other nation.”rnThen how do we choose? Montaigne has no difficulty in decidingrnthat other nations and cultures are superior to his own.rnWhile French legal insdtutions “by their lack of rule and formrnencourage disorder and corruption,” China is a “kingdomrnwhose government and arts, without having any intercourse orrnknowledge of our own, surpasses what we have to offer in manyrnbranches of excellence.” In the “Apology for Raimond Sebond,”rnhe takes the final step of equating man with the beasts tornwhich he attributes rational powers: “When I play with my cat,rnwho knows but that she regards me more as a plaything than Irndo her?”rnE.J. Trenchman, a scholar and admirer of Montaigne whosern”authoritative” translation of this passage I have quoted, describesrnthe “Apology” as “the most important and most interestingrnof the Essays,” adding that it is “pretty clear, if we keep inrnmind Montaigne’s hint to the wise to ‘catch his meaning’ andrnread between the lines, that the title was intentionally misleading,rnand that the whole chapter is an attack on Christian beliefsrnin general.”rnFor this, among other reasons, Montaigne was put on the Indexrnin the 17th century, and although less rigorous generationsrnof Catholics have preferred not to understand the purpose ofrnMontaigne’s relentless, Pyrrhonist skepticism—if only becausernhe is one of the masters of French prose and (to give the Devilrnhis due) a writer as engaging as Voltaire. But Diderot was correctrnin admiring Montaigne as his master, and the Jacobinsrnwere also right to want to remove his body to a shrine in Paris.rn(Unfortunately, in a classic Jacobin screwup, they got the wrongrnbody.)rnSo now we know what it was that Montaigne wanted to liberaternus from: from Christendom, from Christianity as a religionrnbinding on our conscience and moral behavior, and fromrnChrist himself This sly little Gascon is at once the foundationrnof Western self-hatred and one of the fathers of modern education.rnHis celebrated “que sais-je?” is both a justification for hisrnown self-abusing introspection and an invitation to the rationalistrnfury that Descartes—another hypocrite —unleashed uponrnthe Christian world. It is the self-inflating irony of the teenagerrnwho asks, with a melodramatic flourish, “What do I know?”rnabout this or that, meaning “I know as much as I need to know,rnwith or without any of your so-called knowledge.”rnMontaigne’s skepticism dissolves all faith, not just Christianrnfaith, but faith in all forms of legitimate authority—that of parents,rntradition, the Church. And not just the Catholic Church:rnMontaigne despised Luther for thinking he knew the truth orrnbelieving there was a truth that could be known. If decentrnAmerican parents wish to set their children upon the properrnpath, whether they are planning a preschool program or arncourse of professional preparation, they had better begin withrnthe recognition that the evils of modern education go back tornthe 16th century and that these evil principles are shot throughrnour failing culture like streaks of gangrene through a rottingrnlimb.rnIt is only fair to hold Montaigne responsible for the toxins hernintroduced into Europe. He is “that man by whom the offencernCometh,” as Jesus told his disciples (Matthew 18:7).rn”Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off,rnand cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life,rnhalt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to berncast into everlasting fire.”rnWhere was the Inquisition when we needed it? crnDICTATIONSrnLiberating Students From the LiberatorsrnThe “liberal arts” have come to mean the arts that turnrnpeople into liberals. Anti-Christians as early as Montaignernhave played on the expression as the “liberating”rnarts. Montaigne must have known that artes liberales,rntranslating directly from the Greek, refers to the skills andrnpractices that distinguish the character of the fi^ee man firomrnthe servile classes of slaves, serfs, and employees.rnFor Greeks and Romans, the free man, however poor,rnowned his own land and maintained his economic independence;rnhe took care of his own wife and children; he hadrnthe means and the willingness to fight in defense of his people.rnBeyond these basic requirements, the free man had thernmeans to defend his religion and culture, which meant thatrnhe had to have some mental and social training. He hadrncommitted large chucks of Homer and other poets to memory;rnhe knew how to conduct himself at a party, to drinkrnmoderately, to sing and dance; when called upon as a witnessrnor defendant in court or to serve his country in somerncivil capacity, he could speak his language correctly, organizernhis thoughts, and persuade his fellow citizens.rnAs time went on, Greek sophists and philosophersrnclaimed to have a monopoly on mental cultivation; practicalrnparents, however, were more inclined to trust the teachers ofrnrhetoric. Although Plato tried to give the rhetoricians a badrnname, Aristotle took their craft seriously enough to devote anrnimportant book to it, his Rhetoric. The model rhetor (or orator),rnin Aristotle’s scheme, is a master of style, but he alsorndisplays a knowledge of logic, ethics, and psychology. Thernobject of this kind of education was to produce not a brilliantrntheoretician in physics or metaphysics but a prudent andrnpractical man, wise and good, who could serve his friendsrnand be of use to his country.rnThis was the ideal that was passed down to Cicero andrnQuintilian, to the teachers of the Middle Ages, to the best ofrnthe Renaissance humanists, and to their heir Samuel Johnson.rnIt was not a technical education in logic or mathematics,rnthough it included both, nor (although the rhetoriciansrndevoted their lives to literature) was it a study of literature forrnliterature’s sake or for the purpose of pursuing hermeneuticrnstudies at the expense of some helpless poet or novelist. Majorrnwriters were studied as models for good prose and soundrncomposition, and the results can be seen in all the Westernrnwriters from Cicero to Petrarch to Shakespeare to Dr. Johnsonrnto A.E. Housman, a fine poet (and finer scholar) who despisedrnliterary criticism. Nothing would so rapidly improvernthe cultural and literary standards of the modern worldrn(apart from the reimposition of Latin) than the recovery ofrnthis great rhetorical tradition of the liberal arts that, far fromrnliberating its students from religion and custom, bind themrnsecurely to the traditions of their ancestors.rn—Humpty Dumptyrn12/CHRONICLESrnrnrn