Thomas Sowell comments:
A recently reprinted memoir by Frederick Douglass has footnotes explaining what words like “arraigned,” “curried” and “exculpate” meant, and explaining who Job was. In other words, this man who was born a slave and never went to school educated himself to the point where his words now have to be explained to today’s expensively under-educated generation.
Thirty years ago, I worked as a flunkie for a woman who’d been hired to do an American history curriculum for California Youth Authority (juvenile prison) schools. Or maybe it was an ethnic history curriculum. Her committee of bosses never could make up their minds. I read a searing account of the Middle Passage, written by an escaped slave who’d survived the journey from Africa and later escaped and educated himself. My boss told me to rewrite it in simple words and sentences that CYA students could read. “They took us on the boat. They chained us. It was hot and crowded. Many people died.” And so on. I suggested that students would get more from the passage if they struggled to read it in the original, but my boss told me none of the teen-agers, who’d received a free education from the age of five on, could hope to read language written by the self-educated former slave.