Taking a deep dive into the Declaration of Independence

This is a rush transcript from "Life, Liberty & Levin," March 18, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARK LEVIN, HOST: Hello, America. Welcome to "Life, Liberty & Levin." And I'm here with Dr. Larry Arnn. How are you, sir?

LARRY ARNN, PRESIDENT, HILLSDALE COLLEGE: I am very well, great to be with you.

LEVIN: Renowned president of Hillsdale College, expert on matters related to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Churchill and today's show we're going to dive deeply into these issues.

Let's start with the Declaration of Independence. Everybody knows we celebrate July 4th as Independence Day, but let's read part of the Declaration of Independence and maybe can you help explain some of these words to us, because we read it, goes really in our mouths, out our ears but these words have meaning.

First of all, before I read, they were very, very meticulous, weren't they, about what they put in the Declaration?

ARNN: Yes, well they -- mostly on the motion of John Adams, they picked Thomas Jefferson who had proved to be a beautiful writer of pamphlets leading up to the American Revolution, and they wanted somebody who could write in an elevated way and a moving way.

LEVIN: And they had various iterations of the Declaration until they finalized it, isn't that right?

ARNN: That's right, that's right. He sat and wrote it in a room by himself, July 1st and 2nd and then they debated it and then they voted and they altered it in some ways.

LEVIN: Let's start at beginning. "When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

Now, here are the words I want to focus on with you, "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." Are those important? What does that mean?

ARNN: Well, the document is unprecedented, and it is unprecedented for two reasons. One is, it's a law. It's a political act of a people, a people formed by this act. And yet it starts out in the way you said, right, so the opening sentence is, "When in the course." that means any time, "One people," that means any people. So, it is eternal and universal.

Now the legal act that they undertake is to separate themselves from the strongest man on earth -- the King of England. And that's an act of war or treason, depending on who wins the war, and they need some standard to do that by.

And so, for the first time in human history, in this particular political act, they appeal to laws that are eternal and divine. That is to say, above what any -- no one can ever change them, right?

These are things that are set in nature. And so they go up that high in part because they simply have to, as you see in the very last sentence, it probably talked about that, it becomes -- it starts with this grand, sweeping universal and it ends with a particular pledge unto death of the people in the room, and they feel like they need some justification for this, and so they don't say "we want to," they say, "This is an act done in light of the great laws that always prevail.

LEVIN: So, "Laws of Nature, Nature's God," they're saying these are laws that are not man made. These are laws that don't come from government. These are laws of nature from God, you are born with these laws.

So, for instance, there's a moral order. There's truth. There are lies. There's good. There's evil. And are they saying that applies to all human beings, wherever they are, you know right from wrong in the United States, you know right from wrong in France.

ARNN: That's right.

LEVIN: And these aren't things that you get from government. These are innate.

Aristotle, Cicero -- now, we're going deep. We are going to Athenians, Romans and so forth. They were read by the founders of this country. They knew who Aristotle was, they knew who Cicero was, why is that important?

ARNN: Well, what the Greeks did and then the Romans followed them, was they were the first ones to ask questions that would lead to some comprehension of the Laws of Nature and Nature's God.

The questions that Socrates asked the Greek is " a ti este," what is a thing? What is a thing in its essence? What is a human being. You see, you can't understand the Declaration of Independence until you understand this conception of human equality that we'll talk about.

But that just means that everything that is a human being is a human being and not another kind of being and has to be treated like a human being.

And so -- and that starts with Greek philosophy.

LEVIN: Human beings are different than every other being.

ARNN: Of course. So, you know, a very famous letter, the last important letter he wrote in his life a few days before he died, which of course, he died on the 50th birthday of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, he writes to a man named Whiteman and he says, "What does it mean?"

He says, it means it's someone not born with saddles on their backs, nor others booted and spurred to ride them by the grace of God. Men cannot be ruled the way horses can be ruled, because they're not the same thing, and those laws of nature -- the word nature is a very rich word, and it means that each kind of thing has an essence of its own, and it is entitled to protection and the rights that go with that essence.

LEVIN: Now, this is crucially important, isn't it? Because we're really the only country that was founded on these ideas, on these principles, on these truisms.

As a matter of fact, John Locke, was really the most important philosopher during the Revolutionary Period, correct? And people said to him as he wrote his second treatise on government. Well, this is all well and good, but where does this exist?

ARNN: That's right.

LEVIN: What did he say?

ARNN: That's right.

LEVIN: America.

ARNN: That's the place.

LEVIN: Why is John Locke so important?

ARNN: Well, there is revolution and John Locke -- that is terribly important that goes along actually with the birth of universal monotheism.

LEVIN: What is universal monotheism?

ARNN: Well, it starts with the Jews and the Christians. So, if you just think of Abraham's -- God's covenant with Abraham, "I will be your God, and you will be my people, and this will be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth."

You know, the Jews have a hard deal, as you know, right? Because they're the chosen people. Its turns out that's hard duty, you know?

A lot goes wrong when you're the chosen people and much is expected of you, right? But once you've got that kind of idea that there is One God for every human being and Christianity is very radical about this, because Jesus, you know, everybody's God, the path to salvation is through me, and my kingdom is not of this world.

That means, Judaism is a universal religion, and it's a political religion, it gives a law, but it only gives the laws to the Jews, see? They're the ones who have to bear to burden, right?

Whereas, in Christianity, it doesn't give a law. There are no judges. There are no courts. There are no legislatures appointed, right, and that means, you're going to have -- still have government, you have to have government, people are made in their nature to live under law, but now there has to be a limit on the law.

The law can't mess with your religion or your conscience more generally. You have a right to exercise your religion as you wish, and John Locke more than anybody else, and along with others, laid out the ground of how government would work like that now, which is not the way it worked in the ancient world.

So, they are aware of all this in the revolution, and they take that idea, and see, the first place on earth that achieved, the first chief executive outside Israel to write a letter to some Jews addressing them as equal citizens was George Washington.

We put a passage from that. His letter as President to the Hebrew congregation in Newport, Rhode Island. We put a passage on that on our Christmas card at Hillsdale College every year, and it's very beautiful, right?

And so, we get freedom of religion established not -- he says -- Washington says to these Jews, he says, "It is now no more that we speak of religious toleration as if it were about the indulgence of some that others enjoy their inherent natural rights. See? So, you are going to have to have a nation like that if you're going to have freedom of religion.

LEVIN: So, you have a nation that is founded on the notion of really individual sovereignty in many respects. Respect for the individual.

At birth, certain rights at birth, that are recognized in the Declaration of Independence. Natural Law -- a given eternal moral order like the Golden Rule or what have you. It is because it is.

And we have this Declaration of Independence where these men come together, and really for the first time in mankind, proclaim this.

Now, they also say in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights."

They are repeatedly talking about the Creator.

ARNN: That's right.

LEVIN: And God and the Divine, these unalienable rights, self-evident. Isn't that what you are talking about when you talk about Natural Law? What are these inalienable rights and what do they mean by "created equal?"

ARNN: So, it's a precept of the Natural Law that all men are created equal. And in one way that's a tautology, saying the same thing twice. And all it means is this, because obviously by the way, if you just look at a bunch of human beings, they're all different, right? Some of them are tall, and some of them are short, some of them are moderate people, and some people are like you and me, right.


ARNN: Yes, but they're different, right? But they're equal in this respect. I like to say sit in a room with a bunch of people, and somebody really big walks in, and somebody really small walks, in you might know the difference.

If somebody leads a pig in on a leash, that's a different kind of thing that just came in. It's not the same thing anymore, right?

And so, it just means that -- and just think of the subtext, right, they're writing this to George III as the representative of sovereign of the British nation. You're just like us. You may not rule us, except by our consent.

In 1774, Jefferson wrote the very beautiful summary view of the rights of British North America, and in the final paragraph he begins by addressing the king, "Let those flatter, who fear, it is not an American art."

Isn't that great?

LEVIN: And these men who do this, who are well-read, enormously articulate, spreading the word, and they meet in Philadelphia at the Independence Hall, and there were disputes. They come up with this document. This was a death sentence for every one of them, wasn't it?

ARNN: That's right. At the time of the Declaration of Independence, there was a writ issued by the King for the arrest of most of the people who signed it and all the others were added, and it wasn't given to a policeman or a prosecutor, it was given to a general.

And he used the Army to find them and kill them or put them on ships and take them to England, and so they know that. There's one of the founders who is from Pennsylvania and he said to his wife -- it's in these wonderful records of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

He said, "You know, we're going to vote for independence," and she said "Yes." And he said, "I'm going to vote for it." And she said, "Yes."

And he said, "Our farm is near the sea. They're going to take our farm." And she said, "You will find us somewhere to go." And that's why you know, in the last sentence, you know, as the first sentence is universal, eternal, and divine, the last sentence says, "In support of this declaration, we mutually pledge to each other." The ones in the room to all the others in the room, our lives, our fortunes and sacred honor.

And that was a practical fact in their mind.

LEVIN: When we come back, I want to talk about the relationship of the Declaration of the Constitution and then the attack on both by the progressives.

And don't forget, ladies and gentlemen, you can watch LevinTV every week night on crtv.com, Conservative Review TV.com. Give us a call and join us, 844-LEVIN-TV. that's 844-LEVIN-TV.

LEVIN: Welcome back. I'm here with Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College.

Now, the Declaration, Abraham Lincoln, when he was running for the Senate, and he was debating Douglass, often referred to the Declaration of Independence. This is the lead-up to the Civil War.

During the Civil War, he often read from it and quoted the Declaration of Independence. Why did he do that?

ARNN: Well, Lincoln was poetic and profound, so you can never go wrong reading Abe Lincoln. He had a practical problem that's like the problem that the founders faced with the King of England.

The problem was most people didn't think back then, they didn't want black people marrying their kids and most of them didn't really want a lot of them around, and Douglass exploited that.

In the Charleston debate he says, "Did you know." he says to the people, ". that Lincoln's friend Fred Douglass." who spoke on our campus twice, you know, and there's a statue of him there now, ".rode through this town last week in a carriage driven by a white man."

LEVIN: And this is the great Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave, brilliant man.

ARNN: Brilliant.

LEVIN: Who helped lead the Abolition Movement.

ARNN: That's right, and in the Lincoln-Douglass debates, only Lincoln rises to great heights.

Douglass's health was actually destroyed by this experience, but Lincoln says, "You know, maybe the black woman is not my equal. You think, why don't you let her alone? Because isn't she the equal of every one of us and the right to eat the bread that she earns with the sweat of her own face? "You see, Douglass says, "I can take a hog or a buck board or a buck board into the federal territories and the federal government will protect my property. Why not my slave?"

And Lincoln says, "Good point if there's no difference. But you know, they don't hang pigs for murder down in the south, and they don't pass laws making it illegal to teach them to read. They know the difference."

So, in other words, this equality principle, just depends on us recognizing what kind of thing things are. That a cup and that's a shoe and that's a man and that's a man, and each of those things are different from everyone else that fits in the category, but fundamentally and essentially, they're the same.

LEVIN: Didn't Lincoln also, as I recall in 1858, referred to the Declaration, you know, and as talked about the founders of the country, those who signed the declaration, many of them had slaves, and he pointed out, "But these are the men that wrote the Declaration of Independence, and they left it to their progeny, the declaration to try and right things because they couldn't right it at that time?"

ARNN: And they righted a lot of them at the time. You know, slavery was abolished in more than half of the union within 20 years, and you know, a very important date in 1787 not only because the Constitution was written in that year, but also because the Northwest Ordinance was passed in that year and it's the first time a free government ever grew, and they added five new states, on condition that was imposed by Virginia that there be a clause in it.

Virginia, a slave state, on the motion of Thomas Jefferson, a slave holder, that there be no slavery allowed in the northwest territory. And that was done without controversy, right?

So, in other words, you just go look at records of the founding -- find the person of any prominence at all who said that slavery was a good thing. You won't find it.

LEVIN: What's the relationship between the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States?

ARNN: Well, it's grand but it's also particular. The grand part is if we're human beings and we're all the same in that respect, then we cannot be governed by other human beings as if they were our superiors. So, then you need some form of government to make that possible, right?

The government's got to act, it's got to do things. How do you set it up on this new principle? And in particular, there are 17 clauses in the middle of the Declaration of Independence that says the bad stuff the King did, right?

LEVIN: A list of particulars.

ARNN: Yes, and this is a cause of the Declaration. What did he do? he interfered with legislatures and with judges, which is a violation of separation of powers. He was unrepresentative of himself which is a violation of representation. He was -- what else did he do? Oh, he quartered troops on people, which is using force to rule.

He expanded Canada down into the colonies because he'd given them a Constitution that they didn't have say over and he was taking away their rights that way. In other words, government has to be -- what are the main features of the Constitution?

They are representation and separation of powers. Those are the main things, right? And so, the Constitution is implied and the positive Constitution is just the springing to life of these negative claims against the King in the Declaration.

LEVIN: So, it's the governing manifestation of the declaration. Can we put it that way?

ARNN: That's exactly right.

LEVIN: Okay, and the key as you say is the separation of powers, later they come back with the Bill of Rights, which they had to do, or this Constitution wouldn't have been ratified in the first place.

ARNN: That's right.

LEVIN: And this Bill of Rights are critical. They come out of the First Congress. They go to the states. They're ratified to enshrine individual liberties and state authority, to underscore and put an exclamation mark behind it.

So, federalism, individual liberty, separation of powers, delineated powers of the federal government, and then this force develops called -- they call themselves progressives. This regressive force develops, out of the philosophy of Hegel and Marx.

ARNN: Right.

LEVIN: What is this philosophy of progressivism that develops out of the philosophers?

ARNN: So, classic philosophy and the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence, it looks out at the beings in nature and distinguishes them and sees what their essences are and reaches a hierarchy about what they're like, right? And that's understood to be essential.

Well, historicism is what these -- Hegel and Marx.

LEVIN: And what is historicism? The constant development of the human being so that the past history is lopped off and everything begins that way.

ARNN: Everything, and it even goes beyond the human, right? Everything is changed, and everything is -- not only is everything subject to change, everything is formed by the process of change, and so we, our consciousness, and that's a term of art in historicism, you and I don't know it, but our consciousness is formed by the forces of history working on us.

And that just leads to a second thing and this is the attractive, the seductive part of progressivism, and that is once you know that everything is in the process of change -- first of all, the first thing that happens is, it means that they start writing about this Declaration of Independence, but it was really good for the time, but not relevant anymore.

LEVIN: So, no declaration.

ARNN: Yes, and that won't work, by the way, because if the Declaration is false now, it was false then by its own terms, right, but never mind that.

So, they wipe all that out, but then the second thing is, now you see, "Wow, if everything is changing, maybe we could get control of the process of change? We could become the creators of everything," and we would have this new idea borne in a new way in historicism.

We would have science, we would have -- which now is not understood as knowing.

LEVIN: Let me stop you there. So, progressivism creates this false science, replacing unalienable rights, the Laws of Nature, the entire purpose of the founding of the United States. I want to pick it up from there as soon as we return.

KELLY WRIGHT, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: This is a Fox News alert, I'm Kelly Wright in New York. Here's what's going on.

There are unconfirmed reports tonight just moment ago of possibly two explosions occurring in Austin, Texas. Two people have been taken to the hospital with unknown injuries.

It is not known if these explosions are at all related to the string of explosions that has plagued the city over the last few weeks. At least two people were killed, several others injured in three separate explosions.

Earlier today, Austin police announced a reward being offered for information about those bombings was being increased to $100,000.00, excuse me, Texas, Governor Greg Abbott is offering another $15,000.00 as well.

Again, unconfirmed reports at this hour of two explosions in Southwest Austin, Texas just moments ago. Stay tuned to Fox News for updates as the story continues to develop.

I'm Kelly Wright, now back to "Life, Liberty & Levin."

LEVIN: Welcome back, with Dr. Larry Arnn. So, you were saying before the break, we have these change agents, these self-appointed change agents because we're unborn now from tradition and custom and our own history, we use it to the extent we need it to create change and then we reject it and we condemn it.

So, progressivism is about as you were pointing, this constant change, change, change, dressed up as science, political science, behavioral science, social sciences.

So, my question to you, Dr. Arnn is this, how does that ideology -- how does that ideology -- how is it combatable with limited constitutional government, separation of powers, it's not, is it?

ARNN: Well, it is explicit in Woodrow Wilson and John Dewey and all those guys. It's explicit that they don't like separation of powers and they don't like checks and balances.

They say Woodrow Wilson says in a famous passage that that's accountable to a time when Newton reigned, which is not where they got it. Now, we know that Darwin and we know that everything is history and development and change, and our business now is to get control of that.

And just remember, it's not just the past, nature itself is discarded here. And so now we can do whatever we want to shape the future, to become the creators of everything, and that means -- and what's appealing about it in politics is the claim, you know, the claim is every problem can be fixed.

LEVIN: So, every person should have this, health care and we'll have a perfect health care system.

ARNN: That's right.

LEVIN: And everybody who wants to come to the United States should be able to come to the United States, or these utopian arguments which are never fulfilled and then the progressives' argument is, "Well, it's not fulfilled because you haven't surrendered enough of your liberty and your individualism?"

ARNN: It is. That's right. It calls itself -- so you know, at the bottom of the claim is you can be happy without being good. You know, you could be a self-governing person without believing in self-government or practicing it, right, that's why the idea is there's nothing special anybody can come here.

You know, well, this is hard to be a self-governing nation with self- governing citizens that demands things of them that are harder. All of those laws have been repealed, and then, you know, and you're right, every failure only summons more intensity in this same kind of attempt.

So, the reason right now that the schools are not very good is because we don't spend enough money on them and we don't have enough uniformity of practice in them.

LEVIN: So, the individual is devoured.

ARNN: That's right.

LEVIN: In this -- and then we get group think, and the individual is devoured and in fact, like Hegel would argue, much later is, now, the individual can realize his or her full self through the state, through the collective.

And so, correct me if I'm wrong, so the more you are actually are independent, and really are an individual, the more you are hostile to the progressive ideology?

ARNN: If you read all the texts in this brave new world, the happy of the totalitarian novels of the 20th century. In there, the great thing is, if you say anything different, there are tools of enforcement, hazing and demotion and restriction because you're not to be different, and that's part of the thing, right?

Compliance is -- just think of that word, right? Compliance is one of the biggest activities in America today. You know, the federal government, the state and the local governments all together, control more than half of the economy, and you know, that number was always 10 percent to 15 percent for most of American history, you get more during wars and subside after them.

Well, that's a difference in kind. There's difference in amount -- amounts to a difference in kind. Now we have a different purpose of the government. We have new forms of government. We don't even make our laws the way we used to make them. We make so many more now because of that, and that means it's got a different purpose, too.

You know, final in the formal causes are altered.

LEVIN: So, we see the breakdown of separation of powers. We see this fourth branch of government, this massive administrative state with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of bureaucrats pushing out regulations, and I said to Walter Williams a few weeks ago, I said, "We don't appear to be a federal republic anymore. We don't appear to be a representative republic in many respects given this fourth branch of government, and in many cases the courts running off and doing what they're doing, and the Constitution is constantly under attack. What kind of republic are we?"

Are we transitioning to something else?

ARNN: Well, the government increasingly looks at us as subject of an engineering project. You know, I once asked an attorney, "You're a very distinguished attorney, I am not." I said, "I want you to send me Title IV of the Higher Education Act." And he said, "You won't be able to read it." And I said, "Well, you know, I'm not stupid." He said, "Yes, I can't read it either." He said, "We have an expert in our firm. She knows what's in it."

LEVIN: And what's Title IV?

ARNN: Title IV is the -- last time I checked, about 500 pages of rules. Hillsdale College, we run the whole college with about 100 pages of rules, something like that and those are like faculty handbook and stuff like that, you know.

LEVIN: So, to get federal money, you've got to do all these?

ARNN: And the rules change all the time. Once you take the federal money, it includes loans that take a long time to pay back, and you can't get out from under them once you do it until the loans are all paid.

LEVIN: This is a very important point. When we come back, I want to address with you this issue of progressivism in the classroom.

ARNN: Yes, yes.

LEVIN: Because over the decades, that's exactly what's occurred.

Don't forget, ladies and gentlemen, you can watch LevinTV on crtv.com. Give us a call, 844-LEVIN-TV and hope you'll join us there every week night. We'll be right back.

LEVIN: We're back with my friend, Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, a magnificent institution. We've been associated with Hillsdale on radio for a long time.

But anyway, let's get into the classroom here. You know, progressivism is ubiquitous, but one of the things that one of the so-called great progressives of 100 years ago focused on was education, John Dewey. What happened there?

ARNN: Well, this new principle works itself out and it changes everything about what you learn because if the past is by definition obsolete, then you read it in a different way, not as seriously. It means literature and philosophy from the past, right, so you know, the long human quest for knowledge is altered in character.

Now, the second thing is in school, you just need to learn two things. You need to learn the human skills which are reasoning skills -- reading, writing, arithmetic -- but and then you need to learn knowledge, the structure of knowledge of the physical world and of the story of mankind, right?

Well, that's all altered now, and even the skills part, right, we're always trying to invent a new way to teach reading, and you know, in any good school, every kindergartner learns to read, which is you know, we have a bunch of charter schools in Hillsdale College, that's the rule, right?

But it's a national goal. Bill Clinton announced it in his State of the Union in '95 that every kid should learn to read by the end of the fourth grade for goodness' sake. And the thing is they can already read, it's natural. They learn to talk without anybody teaching them, and reading is just taking these sounds they know. "Cup," you know, "balance," right, "fire."

And they relate that to real things. All you've got to do is take those sounds and relate them to marks on the page. That's why phonics works for teaching.

LEVIN: So, what did Dewey and the progressives do?

ARNN: Well, they thought that all of that could be transformed. Human reason itself is not any more a given, not any more inherent or inalienable, and so we should experiment.

Now, we should invent new methods all the time, and we should get faster and faster, and we should transform ourselves into something else, not into a good one of these kinds of things, but into a different kind of thing.

Whatever we want to make, see? And so that's why in the schools, did you know, more than half the people who work in the public schools are not schoolteachers? And that's a thing of recent development since 1950 -- the Friedman Foundation did this.

Students have grown 200 percent, teachers have grown 250 percent. Nonteachers have grown 700 percent.

LEVIN: So, they've built this, like industrial, educational complex.

ARNN: That's right.

LEVIN: And you really -- you really can't break into it. They have the NEA and the AFT. There is this ancestral relationship among administrators, and what goes on in the classroom, parents and communities, they pay for all this, and so their kids after all, have less and less say.

ARNN: That's right. And so, the legal licensing part of it because progressivism comes into America from Germany through a few universities, spreads to others and then spreads throughout the society, right?

And so today, in most states, if you want to be a schoolteacher, you've got to get a certification that basically requires that you go to some Department of Education in a university and they lay out, you know -- and they don't teach you algebra.

LEVIN: You are indoctrinated?

ARNN: They teach you algebra for teachers, which means, you might not know all that much algebra, but you know processes of teaching, so they're deliverers now, right? And the great thinkers at the top of the administrative state can pour in ideas and they go along with teachers who are like conveyor belts who get to the students.

And that means that these progressive ideas are now legally tied in huge ways with more than half of the budget of every state in the union into a system that guarantees that it's uniform up and down, and increasingly tries.

LEVIN: And the consequence is, the sort of thing we saw the other day, where kids were leaving the schools to join in a march related to the Second Amendment or against the Second Amendment, and it develops group think. It develops the sort of situations we have on college campuses where certain people with certain point was views aren't able to speak, so again, group think and we get conformity, as you brought up earlier.

When we come back, I want to explore this a little bit more with Dr. Arnn.

LEVIN: S Dr. Arnn, what have our classrooms become?

ARNN: Well, for example, in states with strict common core standards, now often, in many schools, teachers are required to submit weekly lesson plans, and every point they cover has got to be related to something, specific passage in the bureaucratic standards.

And so, they're controlled tightly from above, and that takes what out of it? That means that the students, they are just doing what they're told all day long, and just you talking about those demonstrations.

A third grader in a demonstration, that's an amazing thing to happen. And just think of that word "demonstration." There's a beautiful thing from Lincoln that says -- a guy said to him, "How did you learn to speak so well?" And he said, "Well, you know, I kept running across the word demonstrate, and I looked and looked and discovered what it meant, and I decided it was some high standard of proof, and so I left my situation in Springfield, and I went home and I did not come back until I could repeat all of the propositions of Euclid from memory."

Now, that's what made Abraham Lincoln what he was.

And being the third grader being told to go out and wave signs, that doesn't advance towards that real independence of mind and character that an excellent education will give you.

LEVIN: The word "independence." We've used the word "individualism." So, this kind of devours again independent thinking and yet here, these institutions exist we think, for academic freedom, for free speech, in order to learn, to gain knowledge, and what appears to happen is it's to advance a social agenda -- climate change, or whatever the agenda is -- and it is always of the progressive agenda, pretty much, is it not?

ARNN: Yes, and you know, climate change, whatever you think about it, is complex, but climate, what does that word mean? What does change mean? What does demonstrate mean?

The substance of education, I said it earlier, you know, Socrates, he is always "ti este." What is a thing? Education is getting a strong grasp of what things mean, and these conclusions that are drawn later that become public policy issues, school is not the place to do that.

You are preparing to participate in that in school, and you know, these -- just remember, half the people take -- shave off more than half the budget of education, more than half of it goes to people who do not teach, and they have interests to protect, and they organize the schools increasingly to protect those interests.

LEVIN: And so, there's not as much actual education that goes on in these schools anymore. There's much more social policy and that sort of thing.

ARNN: Education, Mark, is like this. Like you and me. We've known each other 30 years. We didn't plan this conversation out very well. It's not for us to judge whether it's any good or not, but neither one of us could have predicted exactly what was going to happen because we're both talking and we react to each other. We always like to do that.

A classroom should be like that. The kids help, but there's a common task in front of all of them. And if you identify that right, the classrooms are magical places.

LEVIN: We'll be right back.

LEVIN: Dr. Arnn, in the minute we have left, what do you see is the future of America?

ARNN: Well, we are in a condition like the one that Lincoln described. It's a house divided. There are two ways of thinking and there are two ways of governing and it has to resolve itself, and it is going to do that through some crisis and because I'm an admirer of Winston Churchill, I believe it is necessary in truth to think that that crisis is going to be resolved beautifully and in favor of freedom.

LEVIN: But it could go the other way.

ARNN: It could. Better get ready.

LEVIN: Better get ready. And I want to thank you. I want thank you for not only coming on today, but for teaching thousands and thousands of young people who I come across all the time, to your wonderful college, Hillsdale College, who think of themselves. They are among the smartest people I deal with at any time.

ARNN: My privilege. Thank you.

LEVIN: My pleasure. Ladies and gentlemen, it is very, very important that we understand why our country exists and why we are a free people. That is the point of educating ourselves about the Declaration and the Constitution.

Thanks for joining us on "Life, Liberty and Levin" and I will see you next time.

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