Skip to comments.Victor Davis Hanson On The Fate Of The West[colleges]
Posted on 06/25/2018 6:35:04 PM PDT by DeweyCA
Victor Davis Hanson discussed the decline of the American academy, threats to Western civilization from within and without, The Resistance and its assault on the Trump presidency, and a great deal more with Encounter Books Ben Weingarten. Watch their interview here or read the full transcript of their discussion below, slightly modified for clarity.
Ben Weingarten: As a classicist, youve lamented both the corruption of the academy within your own discipline and on the modern campus more broadly in particular on its repudiation of the Western canon, its lack of adherence to principles of free inquiry and the overall triumph of progressivism. Is there any way to take back this institution, in the sense of restoring classical liberal arts education and the conditions it needs to flourish?
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, my criticism in the last 30 years of the institution, obviously a lot of us who voiced those concerns, it fell on deaf ears. So progressive thinkers and institutional administrators within the university got their way. And now were sort of at the end of that experiment, and the question we have to ask is what did they give us? Well, they gave us $1 trillion in student debt. They created a very bizarre system in which the federal government subsidized through student loans, constantly increasing tuition beyond the rate of inflation the result of which is that weve had about a 200 percent growth in administrative costs, and administrators and non-teaching staff within the university. Weve politicized the education.
So when I started there were I think I looked in the catalog in 1984. There were things, maybe like the Recreation Departments Leisure Studies course. Maybe one environmental class, Environmental Studies. But you take the word studies with a hyphen, and now that can represent about 25 percent of the curriculum. And thats usually a rough, not always a reliable guide, to show that that class is not its not disinterested. Its aim is to be deductive. We start with this premise that men are sexist, or capitalism destroys the environment, or Americas racist. Then you find the examples to fit that preconceived idea.
And the result of it is that weve turned out students that are highly partisan and highly mobilized, and even sort of arrogant, but theyre also ignorant that came at a cost. They did not learn to write well. If you ask them whos General Sherman, or whats a Corinthian column, or who was Dante, all of the building blocks that they could refer to later in life to enrich their experience, they have no reference. And then they dont know how to think inductively. So if you point out the contradictions in free speech the way they shout down some speakers and not others, or the way that they hate capitalism, but they love Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, theyre not able they havent been trained philosophically to account for that, because theyre indoctrinated. And its quite sad to see the combination of ignorance and arrogance in young people, but thats what weve turned out. A lot of people who are indebted and theyre arrogant, and theyre ignorant and theyre not up to the task of moving the United States forward as a leading country in the world.
And you can see the reaction to it. We have tech schools now that grow up around these campuses, where they just say to people, If theyre gonna cut out Western civ and theyre gonna cut out the core and politicize it, then lets be honest. Just pay us a cheaper tuition and well train you to be a nurse, or well train you to be a computer encoder, or whatever. And so, we have alternates, for-profit online alternatives, podcasts.
And so, the university failed in its mission. And it will be replaced by open free society. People are trying to find alternatives to it. And they kind of committed suicide. And theyre in decline. And the alumni the final shoe to fall is whether the alumni of these prestigious universities will still engage in unrestricted gifting. I want my name on this particular department or this particular plaza, heres $10 million, I trust you to further my shared view, and they dont do it. And so then they read in the paper that a professor said Barbara Bush should die, or was glad that shes dead, or another professor said Trump should be hanged. Or another professor jumped out and hit a reporter. And they think, what is all this about? Its not liberal. Its not tolerant. And so, I think theres a reckoning going on as we speak.
Ben Weingarten: Lincoln talked about the greatest threat to America coming from within, not without. And perhaps we could point to the academy and the erosion of the academy as being one of the challenges from within. In your view, what is the greatest threat to Western civilization today?
Victor Davis Hanson: Its not original. Its what, I guess youd call them the pessimists, starting with people like Thucydides or Tacitus, and then the extreme pessimists, people like Suetonius or Petronius, have said about the West. And I guess Id sum it up as: In a free society thats consensual and capitalist, the combination of enormous material bounty and personal freedom can take away a sense of strife, a sense of challenge, a sense of sacrifice. And that we all, sort of, end up like lotus-eaters, because the economy is so [strong] especially in the post-industrial society.
So I think right now, weve got this situation where we have large numbers of our youth who graduate. They have debt. They go back and live at home. But their material appurtenances are very cell phones, iPads, internet. Culturally they get anything they want. They dont have to date. They dont have to get married. They can hook up and enjoy sex in any manner they want. And we dont ask anything of that individual, and that individual is basically a slave to his appetites. He gets up in the morning and he says, I want more electronics. I want more appurtenances. I want more physical pleasure. And we never say to them, Well, what was the status of your community? Are we better educated this year than last year? Are we making buildings that are beautiful, functional buildings? Do we have good roads? Are we leaving our children a dam and an aqueduct system better than what we inherited? We never ask those questions.
And so the world looks at us and they sort of think, Wow, this generation was given a great inheritance. And I think this may be the one that doesnt pass on something as well to its children. And its not rare in history that that happened.
Victor Davis Hanson bump for later....
I like best the writing he does based on his Fresno-area bike rides:
Discarded diapers, the long, endless ribbon of FAT dumped on the highway from the Taco Truck driver eager to dispose of the garbage of his trade, the wrecked old refrigerator dumped off the road-shoulder...
He is a FANTASTIC describer.
Essentially, Evergreen turned into a little Rhodesia, a little South Africa. Great lesson for the students there at the time — on both sides — as well as for millions who watched on YouTube.
We are people who are born to struggle and overcome. If we have nothing to struggle with or overcome we invent things.
Check out John McNaughton’s painting, Teach A Man To Fish.
It’s President Trump, on a park bench holding a baited rod while a young man examines the tackle box, at his feet a backpack with lefty textbooks visibly stacked next to it.
It’s going to be his greatest legacy, beyond the wall. This is how he’s going to Make America Great Again, by making it OK to find joy in patriotism, work, family and religious belief. He is going to teach the lost generation to fish.
The empty vessels that the propaganda mills churn out are looking for a leader, like young people have since dirt was new. That man in the White House is leading, and mark my words they’ll follow, or a large percentage will.
That’s what has the keepers of the swamp unhinged. They see the threat to their voting blocs and the plans for a perpetual nanny state, and they know how quickly the culture wars can turn.
According to the events of the past few days, yes. And now, as then, the revolution is likely to eat its children.
“In a free society thats consensual and capitalist, the combination of enormous material bounty and personal freedom can take away a sense of strife, a sense of challenge, a sense of sacrifice. And that we all, sort of, end up like lotus-eaters, because the economy is so [strong] especially in the post-industrial society.”
The poorest are the most likely to obese and have smart phones. We havent had even 65% eligible voter turnout for even presidential elections for 100+ years, most of the time it has been way less. There was no organized violence or even substantial non-violent civil disruption when legal murder of unborn people was imposed on all 50 states in 1973 and the WWII generation was still fairly active. All I see is a country being far, far down a cultural slope and not realizing it until it was probably too late to do anything about.
How nice. Another book. That’ll stop our cultural destruction. (snicker)
Your sarcasm is well-put. These pieces always lack a solution, because theres not an easy one.
There needs to be SJW funding conditions placed on 50 state public university systems and on hundreds of private colleges. No one seems willing to do this, at all.
and many no need of real jobs.
Are you now, or have you ever been, a student at a communist college?
Ayn Rand was saying this 44 years ago in her essay "Philosophy: Who Needs It?"
Shhh... the first rule of Fight Club is that you don't talk about Fight Club.
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