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Reviving the “McGuffy Paradigm”

Have you heard of the McGuffy Readers? Do you know there were 120 million of them sold in the middle part of our nation’s history?

They were the standard educational text for America for a hundred years. So what’s in them?

Well, the first page of the first book talks about cats and rats, the second page shows the cat eating the rat, the third page is about a brother and sister trying out a homemade sail boat, fanning it because there is not enough wind.

Skip down the pages; stories about boys that are fat getting caught in games of tag by skinny and fast boys, old men with makeshift bandages over broken legs, young girls being kind to old and young blind men.

Then we have three different notes on a bird’s nest with five eggs in it.

“Do not rob the nest,” it says. And, “Tom will not rob a bird’s nest, he is too kind to do so.”

Then a few more pages and we have twelve-year old boys chopping wood with the caption, “Ned and John are hard at work. John has a saw, and Ned has an ax. They will try to cut all of the wood which you can in the pile. Do you think they can do this in one day?”

Interesting…animals dying, skinny boys catching fat boys, charity for the downtrodden, protecting a bird’s nest.

Young, unfortunate boys breaking a sweat — not to mention breaking child-labor regulations and facing dismal obituaries someday that may contain the words “hard worker” in them.

These stories are real! In the real world we don’t get anywhere by staying home forever and being entertained by The Cat in the Hat. I want some backbone to my children’s stories!

Life is about toil, hardship, joy, service to others, excitement, challenges surmounted, focus, driving out the imperfections in ourselves, moving the cause of liberty, and making a difference.

This is where we find our happiness. There is so much more to life than most of us realize and experience; we have so much dormant ability.

As Thomas Jefferson put it,

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.”

Love the challenge! Face life with all its wonder, mystery, and difficulty. Take a stand in spite of opposition.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn lived life to the fullest. In a speech at Harvard he said:

“A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days…A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger.

“Six decades for our people and three decades for the people of Eastern Europe; during that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. Life’s complexity and mortal weight have produced stronger, deeper and more interesting characters than those produced by standardized Western well-being.”

Struggle? Isn’t that for foreigners — or at least anybody but “me”?

It is time we all took a step back and asked ourselves some tough questions: Why are we fighting so hard for the stagnant life here in America?

Why are we so intent on outsourcing our window washing, lawn care, weed pulling, the teaching of our children (public education), thinking (the media), policy making (anybody but us), and the good life (our entertainment gods and goddesses) — and all this in the hopes of allowing ourselves the Pastoral boringness of a fake, aristocratic ease and laziness?

Isn’t it our ultimate goal to get out of work, to “retire,” to “arrive” and never have to work again?

No! It’s not — or at least it should not be if we want to call ourselves Americans!

Work is for us, if we have a spine or any real desire for happiness and success in this life! As David O Mackay said, “The love of work is success.”

Virgil also wrote of this in The Georgics:

“No easy road to husbandry assigned,
And first was he by human skill to rouse
The slumbering glebe, whetting the minds of men
With care on care, nor suffering realm of his
In drowsy sloth to stagnate.”

In our affluence, we have forgotten that happiness comes through work, service, love, and faith.

The greatest nation on earth doesn’t know what it stands for anymore. Actually, WE as individuals don’t know what we stand for anymore. After all you and I are America.

Too many of us stagnate in the mire of complacency, afraid to be leaders. Make the change, not excuses.

Start a mini-factory and experience the Georgic Revolution in your life.


  1. Stephen,

    I love the content. I miss the graphics of the cause of liberty. It was really beautiful. Thanks for the link.

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