Robert Freeman, you rightly sing the praises of the great creative power of the classroom, a power to transform us for the better, through the amazing experiment of minds and whole people–children and adults–encountering each other, learning from and with each other, for the sake of true understanding. This is so precious, and praises to this universe that something as transformative as this endures, and still might expand.
I find quite thought-provoking your presentation of ancient Greece and Rome as defining two poles of possibility for our American civic world. My first reaction to this was to cry out for an alternative tradition that transcends enslavement, for, as you surely know, not only ancient Rome but also the most “democracy”- and “freedom”-loving citizens of ancient Greece yet planted their proud sandaled male feet squarely on the institution of slavery, keeping a majority of their people enslaved (yes, “their people,” in their everyday midst, even if the enslaved were very often of foreign provenance). A little familiar with the ancient Indian history of King Ashoka, the first (and only?) Buddhist emperor, my mind raced there to see if this figure and the society he nurtured then might stand a little taller than the Greeks in some significant ways–by not also standing on the ethically crippling platform of the “peculiar institution.” Ashoka’s famous Buddhist edicts of 2200 years ago, after all, have been described as “one of the first documents in history trying to… list the fundamental rights of all humans, which, throughout the years has evolved into a similar document created by the UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).” (https://worldwidewalkers.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/ashokas-edicts/)
Alas, I learn Ashoka, too, presided over this special peculiarity of non-freedom, the institution of slavery, even though he did so in the midst of promoting equality of all humans, specifically including such advances as equality before the law and fairness in all relationships (he called for fair and just treatment of the enslaved, while not abolishing slavery: a mind-bending combination, if you ask me, yet certainly not without making some sense)–and even the sanctity of animal life, too. But there are and have been other societies and traditions, including Indigenous peoples on all continents and, for example, the peaceful agrarian societies that flourished in ancient eastern Europe, described by Riane Eisler as “gylanic” and “partnership societies,” documented so inspiringly by Marija Gimbutas, who have not countenanced, did not countenance anything like slavery and instead developed more profoundly egalitarian, often non-male-dominant, non-warlike, and richly creative ways of life. These, too, are exemplary; when it comes to exemplifying ways of life free of enslavement and war, they are most exemplary.