“Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.”

Julius Caesar describes his future opponent Cassius early in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. The discussion of Cassius interests me particularly as I’ve been paying at least a little attention to what is no new debate: the question of what education and especially higher education ought to do.

Shakespeare’s Caesar realizes that to himself, as to any person, government or corporation that hopes to influence men, people that think are dangerous. People that think don’t easily go along with the suggestions of the experts. They want an explanation of the choices that are being suggested for them.

This is of course quite relevant in modern times as we see a great deal of respect ascribed to the experts in our American government. And in Egypt, recent attempts to control the internet reflect forceful attempts to suppress discussion and thinking.

But back to Cassius, Caesar further describes him:

“He reads much,
He is a great observer,  and he looks
Quite through the deeds of men.”

To relate this to the education debate, if we want a nation of thinking people like Cassius, we’re going to fail if we education doesn’t teach them how to read. Reading leads inevitably to thinking, and thinking people don’t let themselves get get passively drawn into things.

Like the noble Brutus, men who think don’t allow themselves to be captured and dragged into things unawares. Like Brutus they have “too great a mind.”

For those of you that know the story and are now wondering, so does education lead to assassination? That’s not the point. Cassius and Brutus were aware of what went on around them so that they could take action to keep their liberties from being taken unawares.

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