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Education proceeds ultimately from the patterns furnished by institutions, customs, and laws.  Only in a just state will these be such as to give the right education.

(Source: Democracy and Education By John Dewey)

I think the second sentence means that the patterns (=these) will give the right education only in a just state. Did I understand the sentence correctly? Could you please help me clarify it?

  • No, "these" refers to the whole phrase: "patterns furnished by institutions, customs and laws". – Lambie Jan 17 '18 at 17:54
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I agree with your interpretation.

Re-arranging to avoid the inversion of the verb and subject, and replacing the pronoun with its reference, gives

[The patterns furnished by institutions, customs and laws] will be [such as to give the right education] [only in a just state].

Paraphrasing:

If your country is not fair, then the government, culture and laws will not be the right kind to give a good education.

Or more broadly

Bad government makes bad schools.

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[such] [as] [to give]

[of a kind] [that] [gives]

In these synonymous constructions, as, in modern English, takes an infinitival complement (or a modal + infinitive) and that takes a clause with a tensed verb. But such as to is falling out of use. It has a Victorian flavor.

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X is such as to Y = X creates/permits/facilitates/makes the conditions that allow Y'ing.

Only in a just state will these be such as to give the right education.

Only in a just state will these create the conditions that allow giving the right education.

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