This historical Detroit Lakes editorial rings true today more than ever
If the mass of citizens is unenlightened and resourceless, the blind are apt to lead the blind in the direction of unconditional surrender to a force that may furnish leadership but not freedom.
DETROIT LAKES — From the archives: This editorial by longtime editor Jack Benshoof ran in the Becker County Record in the spring of 1958.
There is one permanent thought that high school seniors of Becker County should establish in their minds as they prepare for commencement exercises and as they look to the future beyond this season of graduation.
As Americans they have many rights, secured to them by law and tradition.
But there is one right they do not have. They do not have the right to be ignorant.
In this country it is said that every person has a right to his own opinion. Yet at the same time it is the obligation of each citizen to see to it that his opinion is based on the best available information.
If this were not so, how else could a republic be made to work? How else could it move forward under ever-changing conditions, many of them brought on by technological and scientific factors which themselves are constantly being altered?
In a republic, if the mass of citizens is unenlightened and resourceless, the blind are apt to lead the blind in the direction of unconditional surrender to a force that may furnish leadership but not freedom.
The 1958 high school graduates must be made to realize and to remember that democracy is not unlike a bridge. Supported by pillars of intelligence and knowledge, the bridge will stand through the ages. But if the pillars are those of apathy and ignorance, the bridge must collapse under the slightest strains.
Why is it that the American press is so insistent that it has unrestricted access to information at the seats of our government? The press has been historically aware that only if people are properly informed, can they make intelligent decisions. Sound policies are the result of a breadth of knowledge and not of half-truths or informational fragments.
What our seniors should know and what our adults should understand is that the activity of being informed is not a passive situation in which a person can just sit back and receive a type of curb-service.
Upon each person rests the responsibility of being informed in as many areas as is possible and to the potential of his understanding. For those who would claim the American heritage of individual liberties, there is no escaping their responsibility of maintaining the democratic society from which those liberties emerge.
All these liberties are contingent upon enlightenment among the people and if the light is extinguished can there be anything but darkness?
Of course, talk of government always seems nebulous and vague with a certain unrelatedness for many people. What meaning has starvation to those who have plenty? And what does liberty and human dignity mean to those who have known nothing else?
One is aware of the difficulties encountered in trying to make government meaningful and vital to high school seniors. Their minds are too preoccupied with thoughts that are directed to their immediate personal interests. Government is supposed to be something for older people.
Yet, as stated earlier in this editorial, because of their current learning experience the seniors need now an orientation in the direction of government, an orientation that will take on some degree of permanency.
What does it mean for our graduating boys and girls to say that as citizens of a republic they have no right to be ignorant?
It simply means that their education will not stop with high school or with college. So far in their young lives, they have been compelled to learn. Now their institutional training is about over, and a larger educative process is about to begin.
This process is that of self-education, which will continue until it is arrested in the individual by age, physical disability, or death.
And may our 1958 graduates keep on studying in the years to come, not only for the sake of saving the unique character of the country, but also because they have discovered that reading and learning can be a stimulating and rewarding personal experience.