Skip to comments.Blissfully Uneducated(VICTOR DAVIS HANSON)
Posted on 07/10/2007 6:31:26 AM PDT by kellynla
Is hothe rapper slang for the slur whorea 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 nations 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 1960sperhaps due to frustration over the Vietnam War, perhaps as a manifestation of the cultural transformations of the agethe 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: Womens 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 culturespecifically, race, class, gender, and environmental oppression.
Such courses are by design deductive. The student is expected to arrive at the instructors own preconceived conclusions. The courses are also captives of the presenthostages 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 ones 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 agesthe 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 opinionsthe ideology of which was largely irrelevant to professors and the university.
Sometime in the 1960sperhaps due to frustration over the Vietnam War, perhaps as a manifestation of the cultural transformations of the agethe 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: todays Asian victims of racism are tomorrows Silicon Valley engineers of privilege. Last years 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 wouldnt Iraq really be the worst mistake in our history?
If there are no intrinsic differencesonly relative degrees of power that construct our realitybetween 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 prismsno absolutes, no eternals, no truths, no ages pastthen the present will appear only as nonsense.
“Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat them.” - Santayana
In other words, “The dumbing down of America via government schools is completing itself.”
ping to an article worth reading
These are more like welcomed diversions from serious study... societal pastimes... cataracts... clouding ones ability to observe and analyze reality.
“But if there are no prismsno absolutes, no eternals, no truths, no ages pastthen 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.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among US young adults. There is a reason for that.
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.
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.
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.
Here's something I found:
Colleges of CharacterIt's not a concise list, but it's something.
"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."
>>>Sometime in the 1960sperhaps due to frustration over the Vietnam War, perhaps as a manifestation of the cultural transformations of the agethe 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.
They are also, however, major leftist indoctrination camps.
Hillsdale College (Michigan) comes to mind.
Good article. Thanks for posting.
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.