American society is in trouble, and not only because ourntraditional values and institutions are under siege. Thennuclear family is crumbling as a result of governmentnpolicies that are ruthless when they are not mindless. Ournonce great cities have reverted to a state of nature, in whichnthe innocent are terrorized by hordes of savages who are notnand cannot become civilized. Our public schools have lostnthe capacity to educate, and our colleges and universities arencaptives of thought police who hate themselves and hate thenculture that nourishes them. The government in Washingtonnhas metastasized, weakening if not destroying everythingnit invades, and the federal system is moribund. Theneconomy is sick; public and private morality in an advancednstate of decay.nI could try to tell you how all this came about, but thennarrative would be a dreary one; and besides, you probablynalready know. So, instead, I propose to address the question,nhow does one survive (and I mean survive as something) inna world that may not? How does one remain sane in a woddnthat is insane; how does one live without fear in a world innwhich the only certainty is that nothing is certain; how doesnone remain civilized even as the Visigoths and the Vandalsnmaraud the streets of the City?nI have four suggestions. Three of them lie within thenprovince of a lifetime commitment to study of the liberalnarts. I stress the word lifetime, for though education maynbegin in college (if one is lucky), it must not end there. Mynfourth suggestion is more personal, and I shall save it untilnForrest McDonald’s most recent book is Requiem:nVariations on Eighteenth-Century Themes, which henco-authored with his wife, Ellen. In November he receivednThe Ingersoll Foundation’s 1990 Richard M. WeavernAward for Scholarly Letters, for which this was hisnacceptance speech.n14/CHRONICLESnVIEWSnOn the Study of Historynby Forrest McDonaldnnnthe last.nLet me introduce my first suggestion by attempting tondefine what education is. Education is not the merenaccumulation of knowledge. One can listen to endlessnlearned lectures and read all the books the New York Timesntouts as “new and noteworthy,” and possibly therebynbecome informed, but one does not thereby becomeneducated. Nor is education merely training: one can learnnhow to solve problems in economic theory or build skyscrapersnor smash atoms or hone countless other skills, and still bena long way from being educated. Education includes thesenthings, and more, having to do with experience andnmaturity, but these are not all. An educated person, quitensimply, is a person who thinks, and thinks in a fashion that isnat once informed, disciplined, and free. The first two ofnthese qualifiers to thought, information and discipline, arenrelatively easy to acquire, though the second is harder thannthe first. The third, freedom, is much more difficult,nprecisely because we in the talking professions are by nonmeans all — or always — free ourselves.nHence my first suggestion: open your mind and keep itnopen. I hasten to add that I am not advocating any kind ofnrelativism; as Flannery O’Connor said, some people havensuch open minds that their brains fall out. Rather, I amnsaying that we need to distinguish between what is absoluten— God alone — and what is relative. To believe that one isnpossessed of absolute truth, secular or sectarian, ideologicalnor philosophical, or to regard anything but God as annabsolute — be it gold, the state, human rights, even humannlife — is a form of idolatry, a violation of the First Commandmentnand the deadliest of the sins. Doing so utterlynprecludes the expansion of knowledge or understanding;nand what is more, it prohibits civilized social intercourse. Itsninevitable progeny are bigotry and hatred, causes andncrusades, gulags and gas ovens.n