John Livingston

My COPY BOOK Memories and Realities

Growing up I had trouble learning to write. Dyslexia is a gift and a curse. My Quaker grandmother came to the rescue with a discipline that many people today have never heard about. She gave me a “Copy Book” when I was still in kindergarten and insisted that I write in it every day. My articles in the Gem State Patriot are my “ode to my childhood copy book”. I found my old copy book years ago and in a child’s hand the first entry in the book was “Practical jokes are not good form” one hundred times on one hundred separate lines. I have forgotten what 5-year-old prank I had played on my friends, but two lessons were taught in that exercise. A technical lesson in how to write and a moral lesson in how to treat others.

This could be a metaphor for what education should be all about. Curriculum and pedagogy. Pioneers in American education Noah Webster, William McGuffey, and Booker T. Washington understood the need for technical and moral education. A student needs to learn to be a good citizen and know how to think critically, and they need to have technical skills to support a family. Copying maxims repeatedly down a page accomplishes both. Maxims I would learn later that were grounded in NATURAL LAW principles. The idea behind the “copy book” should be a model for what education should be all about.

Over the years and after moving many times in the military I had lost my copy book. But in several hundred entries the formula was the same. A moral lesson was always taught along with the learning of a technical skill. Biblical, Greek Philosophers, words from our Founding Fathers and a portion of the Gettysburg Address were copied diligently and with academic reverence —over and over and over again. Shakespeare—Portia’s “Mercy Speech” from the MERCHANT OF VENICE I still remember. The fundamentals of The Natural Law as defined by philosophers since the beginning of time were reinforced—some would call it indoctrination. Look to Genesis 3:, Paul’s Letters, St. Thomas, or the Enlightenment Fathers. All helped I hope to define a “moral code imprinted in the hearts of all men made known through the faculties of reason—(and for believers’ revelation and conscience). I would come to recognize years later that this was the grounding for my entries and the lessons they taught.

The predicate for morality in our country was handed to us by our founding fathers when they gave us a structure for governance—Our Great Declaration and Our Constitution based on Natural Law Principles that can be embraced by people of all faiths and moral philosophies. Natural Law principles are exactly what parents of all faiths and backgrounds have been using to rally against the education establishment for the past three election cycles. A Muslim mother former campaign adviser to Barak Obama led the charge in Loudin County Virginia against the school board and helped elect Governor Glenn Younkin and Lt. Governor Winsome Sears in Virginia. There is nothing in “woke” “LGBTQ”, or “Green” doxology or political philosophy that is grounded in Natural Law or common sense. Girls are girls and boys are boys. Testosterone and mutilating surgery cannot change a person’s DNA or their soul. God loves everybody because we are ALL made in His image. Maybe we need to all write that sentence repeatedly in the copy book of our hearts.

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem incorporating the metaphor of a copy book in 1919 that is as true today as it was then. Two stanzas say it all:

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: ‘Stick to the Devil you know.’

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbor and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: ‘The Wages of Sin is Death/’.

We need a new “GREAT AWAKENING” in our country—ASAP please. Our leaders in government and industry need to get reconnected to the moral code of their father’s. Common sense and Natural Law principles give us a recipe for “the road back”.

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