Leadership program in Hamilton schools tips over no moneychanger carts

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Adam Smith's classic appeared in 1776.

Adam Smith’s classic appeared in 1776.

By David Tulis

The growth of liberty in the hearts of hometown folk grows here, and shrivels there. On the Lord’s Day, when we hear the story of Naboth, who refused sale of his vineyard to the wicked king of Israel, Ahab, we are enlarged in our liberty. We have in Naboth an example of a virtuous man resisting an evil demand from his betters, and removed as an obstacle to the king’s coveting only by a conspiracy against him. Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, destroys him by a false accusation of blasphemy.

Other times, we are reduced in our liberty, and the narrative to which we attach ourselves shrinks the power of the marketplace and the riches that develop when liberty is liberally allotted or fiercely claimed.

Here I think of leadership and the latest crop of leaders who have graduated from Chattanooga seminars. The Chamber of Commerce sponsors Leadership Chattanooga, “which provides leadership training through interaction with top community leaders,” Nooga.com reports. Leadership is taught in the context of public school — in the context of the scientifically managed state factory school in Hamilton County, which represents everything that leadership of past generations created to bring the city to its current lockdown.

Adam Smith and the wealth of cities

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce is a pro-business organization. But that’s all. It’s not a lobby for the free market, but a defender of the cultural and economic status quo. It is about working within the system as it exists, that national system of factory schooling that pares away the genius and imagination of individuals in a grand tradeoff. The tradeoff is to deprive the free market of its brightest and most innovative individuals by giving them a 12-year sentence and creating overall a manageable, malleable workforce, subject to commercial government and not to principled or ferocious about anything. Chattanooga loses its brilliant individuals (in many cases) but obtains stability. Stability is necessary for the nation’s big businesses and industry, which churn out consumer goods and are most prosperous when individuality is is made conformable and supple.

Government schooling is a cartel serving the interest of the state (that of the U.S. and of Tennessee incorporated). It is a trust serving the interests of national economy and its managers, says John Taylor Gatto in Underground History of American Education and other works.

Leadership, then, in Chattanooga is not defying its claims and building a workaround. Leadership is maintaining the cartel, despite the observation by Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations that one individual is likely to be as intelligent as the next, with differences among men in their stations attributed largely to their education.

The author of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations posits “the invisible hand” of the marketplace as being the source of wealth, a hand that Christianity ascribes to the relationship between God and man, a hand that more liberally distributes blessings, population and wealth as God’s laws are more widely obeyed. Christianity is pre-eminent in fostering capitalism, industry, technological innovation. ‡

Smith tells how by trade and barter men in the simplest and most primitive societies develop callings and specialties that comprise the division of labor. The distinctions among men, the greater wealth that some obtain, do not arise because of fundamental differences among men, but within the marketplace and on the basis of opportunity. Every man, he suggests, more or less enters the world with the same level of gifts.

The difference of natural talents in different men, is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause, as the effect of the division of labour. The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom, and education. When they came in to the world, and for the first six or eight years of their existence, they were, perhaps, very much alike, and neither their parents nor play-fellows could perceive any remarkable difference. About that age, or soon after, they come to be employed in very different occupations. The difference of talents comes then to be taken notice of, and widens by degrees, till at last the vanity of the philosopher is willing to acknowledge scarce any resemblance. But without the disposition to truck, barter, and exchange, every man must have procured to himself every necessary and conveniency of life which he wanted. All must have had the same duties to perform, and the same work to do, and there could have been no such difference of employment as could alone give occasion to any great difference of talents. [Italics added]

In the preface of 1809 edition of Wealth of Nations, the editor (ironically named William Playfair) scolded Smith for asserting men are born more or less of equal capacity, Mr. Gatto says in a 5½-hour recorded interview. The government school looks at men not as bearing any sort of special gift, but as subjects of scientific management, as needing behavioral techniques to herd them toward a prescribed end serviceable to civil government and its background operators.

Our progressive statist quo

In Chattanooga, leadership is best exhibited as working within the progressive status quo known popularly and euphemistically as public education. Leadership doesn’t question paradigms that operate against genius, the free market and a more organic division of labor. It operates within it.

At East Lake elementary school, participants introduce leadership ideas to fourth-graders “to prepare them for an already-existing fifth-grade leadership course.” Leadership Chattanooga participants “conducted two sessions per month from October through April during students’ related arts time” to discuss perseverance, philanthropy, entrepreneurship and decision-making. At Orchard Knob middle school members of the chamber leadership team generously donate time and energy to renovating a room in which equipment is placed to serve a growing host of neurologically damaged children. Says Stratton Tingle, a team member and an employee of the Chattanooga chamber, “I think our team members built long-term relationships with our school that will extend beyond this project. Schools want to utilize local professionals as volunteers, and the business community wants to help out, but the two groups often aren’t sure how to engage each other. Leadership Chattanooga makes that connection for them.”

These individuals are to be commended for endeavors helping the inmates of local public schools. Possibly their work is better characterized as service to others, charity and works of mercy among young people trapped in a social and government structure not amenable to reform and offering little hope of improvement for any one individual.

Service, I suspect, is much more needed in the factory school than leadership. Leadership breaks static things. Leadership, like that of Moses, frees a people. Leadership has a capacity for vision that understands failure and seeks to bypass it rather than simply working within it to ameliorate the damage. Adam Smith is right, the differences among men great and small do not inhere in their persons necessarily, but are stewarded by education. In the state-run factory school, leadership makes little difference if it does not challenge its assumptions that suppress common genius for the preservation of the elites and their industrial economy.

David Tulis is married, the father of four home educated children, and a deacon at Brainerd Hills Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga.

‡ See, among many examples, Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book that Made Your World; How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Nashville: Thomas Nelson), 2011

Sources: Ashley Hopkins, Local businesspeople complete Leadership Chattanooga, Protégé courses, Nooga.com, May 16, 2014

Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776. See Chapter 2, the second half

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