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Blissfully Uneducated(VICTOR DAVIS HANSON)
american.com ^ | July/August 2007 Issue | Victor Davis Hanson

Posted on 07/10/2007 6:31:26 AM PDT by kellynla

Is “ho”—the rapper slang for the slur “whore”—a bad word? Always, sometimes, or just when an obnoxious white male like Don Imus says it? But not when the equally obnoxious Snoop Dogg serially employs it?

Is the Iraq war, as we are often told, the “greatest mistake” in our nation’s history?

Because Israel and the United States have a bomb, is it then O.K. for theocratic Iran to have one too?

Americans increasingly cannot seem to answer questions like these adequately because they are blissfully uneducated. They have not acquired a broad knowledge of language, literature, philosophy, and history.

Sometime in the 1960s—perhaps due to frustration over the Vietnam War, perhaps as a manifestation of the cultural transformations of the age—the university jettisoned the classical approach [to education] and adopted the therapeutic.Instead, our youth for a generation have been fed a “Studies” curriculum. Fill in the blanks: Women’s Studies, Gay Studies, Environmental Studies, Peace Studies, Chicano Studies, Film Studies, and so on. These courses aim to indoctrinate students about perceived pathologies in contemporary American culture—specifically, race, class, gender, and environmental oppression.

Such courses are by design deductive. The student is expected to arrive at the instructor’s own preconceived conclusions. The courses are also captives of the present—hostages of the contemporary media and popular culture from which they draw their information and earn their relevance.

The theme of all such therapeutic curricula is relativism. There are no eternal truths, only passing assertions that gain credence through power and authority. Once students understand how gender, race, and class distinctions are used to oppress others, they are then free to ignore absolute “truth,” since it is only a reflection of one’s own privilege.

By contrast, the aim of traditional education was to prepare a student in two very different ways. First, classes offered information drawn from the ages—the significance of Gettysburg, the characters in a Shakespeare play, or the nature of the subjunctive mood. Integral to this acquisition were key dates, facts, names, and terms by which students, in a focused manner in conversation and speech, could refer to the broad knowledge that they had gathered.

Second, traditional education taught a method of inductive inquiry. Vocabulary, grammar, syntax, logic, and rhetoric were tools to be used by a student, drawing on an accumulated storehouse of information, to present well-reasoned opinions—the ideology of which was largely irrelevant to professors and the university.

Sometime in the 1960s—perhaps due to frustration over the Vietnam War, perhaps as a manifestation of the cultural transformations of the age—the university jettisoned the classical approach and adopted the therapeutic.

For each course on rap music or black feminism, one on King Lear or Latin is lost.Many educators and students believed that America was hopelessly corrupt and incorrigible. The church, government, military, schools, and family stifled the individual and perpetuated a capitalist, male hierarchy that had warped Western society. So if, for a mere four years, the university could educate students to counter these much larger sinister forces, the nation itself could be changed for the better. Colleges could serve as a counterweight to the insidious prejudices embedded in the core of America.

Unfortunately, education is a zero-sum game in which a student has only 120 units of classroom instruction. Not all classes are equal in the quality of knowledge they impart. For each course on rap music or black feminism, one on King Lear or Latin is lost.

Presentism and relativism are always two-edged swords: today’s Asian victims of racism are tomorrow’s Silicon Valley engineers of privilege. Last year’s “brilliant” movie of meaning now goes unrented at Blockbuster. Hypocrisy runs rampant: many of those assuring students that America is hopelessly oppressive do so on an atoll of guaranteed lifelong employment, summers off, high salaries, and few audits of their own job performance.

Once we understand this tragedy, we can provide prescribed answers to the three questions with which I started. “Ho,” like any element of vocabulary in capitalist society, is a relative term, not an absolute slur against women. “Ho” is racist and sexist when spoken by white men of influence and power, jocular or even meaningful when uttered by victims from the African-American male underclass.

If few Americans know of prior abject disasters during the winter of 1776, the summer of 1864, or January 1942, then why wouldn’t Iraq really be the worst mistake in our history?

If there are no intrinsic differences—only relative degrees of “power” that construct our “reality”—between a Western democracy that is subject to continual audit by a watchdog press, an active political opposition, and a freely voting citizenry, and an Iranian theocracy that bans free speech to rule by religious edict, then it will matter little which entity has nuclear weapons.

In the end, education is the ability to make sense of the chaotic present through the prism of the absolute and eternal truths of the ages. But if there are no prisms—no absolutes, no eternals, no truths, no ages past—then the present will appear only as nonsense.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: education; hanson; vdh; victordavishanson
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1 posted on 07/10/2007 6:31:26 AM PDT by kellynla
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To: kellynla

VDH bump.


2 posted on 07/10/2007 6:41:20 AM PDT by KC Burke (Men of intemperate minds can never be free...their passions forge their fetters.)
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To: kellynla

“Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat them.” - Santayana


3 posted on 07/10/2007 6:41:28 AM PDT by khnyny
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To: Tolik

ping


4 posted on 07/10/2007 6:43:43 AM PDT by kellynla (Freedom of speech makes it easier to spot the idiots! Semper Fi!)
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To: kellynla
For each course on rap music or black feminism, one on King Lear or Latin is lost.

Bump!

5 posted on 07/10/2007 6:44:08 AM PDT by NeoCaveman (take my governor, please)
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To: kellynla

In other words, “The dumbing down of America via government schools is completing itself.”


6 posted on 07/10/2007 6:44:32 AM PDT by Banjoguy (Eventually, all television programming, without exception, resolves to pure bullcrap.)
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To: eyespysomething

ping to an article worth reading


7 posted on 07/10/2007 6:45:13 AM PDT by SittinYonder (Ic ■Št gehate, ■Št ic heonon nelle fleon fotes trym, ac wille fur­or gan)
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To: kellynla
“Women’s Studies, Gay Studies, Environmental Studies, Peace Studies, Chicano Studies, Film Studies... ”

These are more like welcomed diversions from serious study... societal pastimes... cataracts... clouding ones ability to observe and analyze reality.

8 posted on 07/10/2007 6:47:50 AM PDT by johnny7 ("But that one on the far left... he had crazy eyes")
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To: khnyny

“But if there are no prisms—no absolutes, no eternals, no truths, no ages past—then the present will appear only as nonsense.” And that is how the ruthless get ahead. Now they seek only to consolidate their power like parvenues in every age have.


9 posted on 07/10/2007 6:51:22 AM PDT by ClaireSolt (Have you have gotten mixed up in a mish-masher?)
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To: kellynla

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among US young adults. There is a reason for that.


10 posted on 07/10/2007 6:51:56 AM PDT by kittymyrib
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To: kellynla

Bookmarked.


11 posted on 07/10/2007 6:53:32 AM PDT by the anti-liberal (OUR schools are damaging OUR children)
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To: kellynla

As a second career college teacher (now retired), I periodically reentered college as a matter of personal enligtenment and professional development. Hansen nails this one. The difference in the education that I received as an undergraduate in the early 1960’s was as different from my later soujourns into higher education in the 70s, 80s and 90s as King Lear is from Big Momma’s House. What passes for education today —with some exceptions—is nothing more than a reiteration of the popular culture wrapped up in post-modernist language. And many younger faculty are truly dumber than wooden watches. They have no understanding of historical context of philosophical underpinning to the world of ideas. Be very careful where your son or daughter matriculates. If someone has not already done so, it would be a very good idea to establish a list of higher education institutions whose core curricula reflect the value and content that Hansen describes as worthwhile.


12 posted on 07/10/2007 7:01:15 AM PDT by yetidog
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To: kellynla
What else would anybody expect when irresponsible, shallow, hypocritical, anti-American hippies, who believe that America is hopelessly corrupt and incorrigible, take over American universities--or government?
13 posted on 07/10/2007 7:02:39 AM PDT by Savage Beast (Ignore the will of the people at your peril, Political "Aristocrats"!)
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To: kellynla
“Once students understand how gender, race, and class distinctions are used to oppress others, they are then free to ignore absolute ‘truth’ since it is only a reflection of one’s own privilege.”

Yup... that was their mantra in college, when I was a student. “Damn the absolute, the truth is relative.”

However, I had a for-real upbringing (read: right and wrong exist and we depart from that fact at out own peril. I am living proof that you will not only survive serious a^%-kickings for infractions on that rule, but you will become a responsible and mature adult just the same and I think, a whole lot sooner). ALSO I read books lots of them, NOT just the ones on the syllabus.

14 posted on 07/10/2007 7:07:57 AM PDT by SMARTY ("Stay together, pay the soldiers and forget everything else." Lucius Septimus Severus)
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To: kellynla
The theme of all such therapeutic curricula is relativism. There are no eternal truths, only passing assertions that gain credence through power and authority.

I study mathematics and engineering. Unfortunately for the liberals, it is nearly impossible to make relativist such coursework as Linear Algebra, Data Structures, and Algorithms.

15 posted on 07/10/2007 7:13:36 AM PDT by rabscuttle385 (Sic Semper Tyrannis * U.Va. Engineering '09 * Friends Don't Let Friends Vote Democrat * Fred in 2008)
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To: yetidog
"If someone has not already done so, it would be a very good idea to establish a list of higher education institutions whose core curricula reflect the value and content that Hansen describes as worthwhile."

Here's something I found:

Colleges of Character

"Each month, this section features a college or university that is making a sustained and comprehensive effort to promote the moral and civic education of its students."

It's not a concise list, but it's something.
16 posted on 07/10/2007 7:16:30 AM PDT by the anti-liberal (OUR schools are damaging OUR children)
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To: kellynla

>>>Sometime in the 1960s—perhaps due to frustration over the Vietnam War, perhaps as a manifestation of the cultural transformations of the age—the university jettisoned the classical approach and adopted the therapeutic. <<<

A glut of draft-dodging PHD’s who majored in the social sciences — those who were pumping gas near the end of the war, and afterward — were able to infiltrate our education system, and our government. Don’t forget that our government (federal and state) has created a myriad of social programs since 1970.


17 posted on 07/10/2007 7:19:24 AM PDT by PhilipFreneau
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To: the anti-liberal
Uhhhhh, two of the college listed as having "character" are Haverford and Brown. Both are highly selective, hard to get into and -- therefore -- "very good schools".

They are also, however, major leftist indoctrination camps.

18 posted on 07/10/2007 7:24:45 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy (Progressives like to keep doing the things that didn't work in the past.)
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To: yetidog; kellynla
If someone has not already done so, it would be a very good idea to establish a list of higher education institutions whose core curricula reflect the value and content that Hansen describes as worthwhile.

Hillsdale College (Michigan) comes to mind.

Good article. Thanks for posting.

19 posted on 07/10/2007 7:27:46 AM PDT by PGalt
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To: rabscuttle385

A large percentage of the worthwhile undergraduate majors left in most universities, are in majors with a quantitative emphasis.

Engineering, the real sciences (typically ones that don’t have “science” in the name), accounting, finance, etc.


20 posted on 07/10/2007 7:29:00 AM PDT by FreedomPoster (Guns themselves are fairly robust; their chief enemies are rust and politicians) (NRA)
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