Not kidding. Here’s what we know of Sam’s education:
– knows all the stories and songs of the Shire;
– knows how to cook;
– knows how to carefully work his way through difficult tactical and moral decisions.
The results of Sam’s education:
– not easily led astray. From all those stories and songs, Sam knows what heroes and heroines do. He knows what is honorable and dishonorable. He measures his own actions by those standards.
– Further, he knows how villains lie and mislead and justify their actions to themselves, and how people fail to do the right thing sometimes out of weakness and fear.
– Life isn’t fair. You find yourself in a story not of your choosing. You just have to play your part as well as you can.
– How to be gracious. Sam is deceptively sophisticated – he is humble, but always knows the proper thing to do, whether it’s playing his own minor role at a court or cooking up a brace of conies.
Now, with this education, Sam would make an excellent subject for a good king – or a excellent citizen in a democracy. And he would see that neither of these things – being subject or being a citizen – mean diddly if you are not a loyal friend, faithful son, and solid neighbor.
Compare and contrast: the modern product of what we call education knows none of the stories and songs of his own culture. (Always thought the concept of multiculturalism was amusing – Where do you get the skills and sympathy to absorb a second culture if you have failed to absorb your own?) They judge without any context, especially without a moral context within which any judgement might be considered ‘good’. Thus the characteristic poor judgement of your typical academic and academic sycophant.
The modern graduate knows nothing of how to think his way through difficult moral questions, even ones putatively ‘scholarly’ – like how to assess source materials and the credibility of speakers. Examples abound. Reading about Hypatia, there are those who cite contemporary source documents describing what happened and evidencing an actual understanding of the contemporary society, and there is Gibbon’s unsourced account. It’s flabbergasting that anyone claiming to be educated could side with Gibbons. To put it bluntly: it is irresponsible and dishonest for an educated person to hold Gibbon’s position.
And Hypatia’s story is a trivial example, with clear sources a simple review of which gives the lie to Gibbon’s account. What about slightly more complex situations? Sam would have no trouble assessing Islam – he’d know all the stories and songs about the conquest of North Africa and Spain, the battle of Tours, the sieges of Constantinople and Vienna, the battle of Laponto, and the Crusades. Even though a more sublime scholar than Sam would be able to point out inconsistencies and out and out falsehoods in some of the stories (Roland was picked off by Basque highwaymen, for example) that same scholar would confirm the grand sweep of what Sam knew from songs: that Islam had ridden out from the Arabian peninsula in the 7th century and conquered half of the land area of Christendom within a hundred years, slaughtering and enslaving thousands upon thousands of Christians in the process, and that Christendom’s efforts to recapture these lost lands had largely met with defeat.
And so on. Sam wouldn’t fall for Marx or Freud. Sam wouldn’t vote for people advocating intrinsic evil. Sam would invite anyone civil enough to behave themselves over for dinner.
Sam Gamgee: Education for the Modern Man.