Yes, I’m waxing historical this week. No, I’m not talking about Rush Limbaugh or the band. I’d like to share another quote from Benjamin Rush. This one is far more frightening (I think), and I want to get your thoughts about it. Rush prophesied what would become of American culture in his address to the guests of the Young Ladies Academy of Philadelphia in 1787. Was he right? Was he wrong? How do we measure up today? Keep reading and you tell me what you think.
Let me set the stage for this quote by summarizing Rush’s address. While not using the phrase, his basic approach in the essay was that women needed to be educated in post-Revolution America because “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” The whole society would prosper if mothers and wives were educated. The whole society would fail if they weren’t. Therefore, he saw the neglect of female education as the beginning step in a crumbling culture.
That being said, we followed his advice. We educated women and men. But have Rush’s fears come true anyway? Check it out.
I am not enthusiastic upon the subject of education. In the ordinary course of human affairs we shall probably too soon follow the footsteps of the nations of Europe in manners and vices. The first marks we shall perceive of our declension will appear among our women. Their idleness, ignorance, and profligacy will be the harbingers of our ruin. Then will the character and performance of a buffoon on the theater be the subject of more conversation and praise than the patriot or the minister of the gospel; then will our language and pronunciation be enfeebled and corrupted by a flood of French and Italian words; then will the history of romantic amours be preferred to the immortal writings of Addison, Hawkesworth, and Johnson; then will our churches be neglected and the name of the Supreme Being never be called upon but in profane exclamations; then will our Sundays be appropriated only to feasts and concerts; and then will begin all that train of domestic and political calamities.
—Benjamin Rush, Address to the guests of the Young Ladies’ Academy of Philadelphia, 1787
What do you think?
Has it happened as he predicted?
How does our American culture compare?
Is it getting better or worse? Why?
How can we be counter-cultural and not fall in line with this warning?
P.S. Make sure you check out what Benjamin Rush said about the praise of modern women vs. the praise of the Proverbs 31 Woman.