Editorial: Don’t Tear Down the Fence


Two individuals are moving through a field when they come across a fence.

It’s a rather ordinary-looking fence and, at first glance, it seems to serve no purpose. One of the individuals suggests that since there appears to be no clear reason for the fence, it should be removed immediately. The other person disagrees, stating that it is precisely because the purpose of the fence cannot be discerned that it should be left in place.

It’s the pretty simple premise behind one of the most enduring political philosophies in American history. Chesterton’s Fence, the brainchild of late 19th-early 20th century English writer and philosopher GK Chesterton, is the theory that institutions should not be abandoned or reforms enacted until the purpose is understood of the status quo. The concept may seem simple, but as each new generation seeks to leave its mark on the world, Chesterton’s Fence never loses its relevance.

As a new generation of Cheshire High School graduates seek to take on the world, they will be tempted to seek change for change’s sake. After all, it would be easy to look at the state of affairs – the discourse in America and the growing tensions around the world – and determine that all of the above is of little use, and only something new can be. beneficial.

But we hope these new graduates will take the time to reflect on the lessons of closure. Destroying what already exists before one truly understands why it exists in the first place is a recipe for disaster. Undoubtedly, there are institutions, policies and general concepts that need real modification or should be abandoned altogether. Yet what history teaches us is that most institutions serve an important purpose and most laws were enacted to address real issues that need to be addressed.

Many of the problems plaguing America right now are ones that have suffocated this country for generations. They remain problems because their solutions are difficult, not easy. Those before us have had to do the heavy lifting when it comes to everything from race relations to economic equality. This work was never perfect or complete, but it must be fully understood for the work to continue today.

The teenagers who crossed the stage on Wednesday evening took advantage of the youth. They can bring new perspective to old battles and renewed vigor to fight for a better world. But it’s important for everyone to remember that getting a high school diploma is the first step, not the last. You have to dedicate yourself to being a learner before you can hope to be an effective teacher. It means being open to all the information and opinions that exist. It means engaging, in good faith, with those who disagree with you.

Graduates have already had to adjust and adapt to situations beyond their control. The past two years have almost certainly challenged what they could believe regarding a variety of issues. This is part of the education for life. You can’t really learn without learning to admit you’re wrong.

At this time of year, students hear a lot about how they will “change the world” and how they are “our future”. All is correct. Each generation changes the world. Each generation is our future. The question is, what future will they shape?

The CHS Class of 2022 have taken their first steps toward these answers, but if they want to make a better future, they must fully understand the intricacies of what happened in the past. So when you get to that fence, don’t just tear it down. Understand why it is there and who put it there. Then and only then can you decide what to do with it.


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