Very interesting read today by David Gordon in “Minding the Campus” (via Insty). In his piece he talks about the subject of history being at present in the best of times and in the worst of times, to mangle Dickens.
What am I talking about? Well, the blog in which Gordon’s article appears subs its title with “Reforming our Universities”.
Why is that important? We’ve talked about it in the past. It is where liberal America has set up shop for decades. And the effect is never been stronger than now. In fact, a lot of what you see as the changing attitudes in America can, I think – at least in part – be traced to academia.
Gordon notes its beginning:
This extraordinary bias began in the late 1960s with the anti-Vietnam war protests. Many participants, at least those who subsequently went into academia, have never gotten over it. Their fossilized views have made their own disciplines largely museums of dead ideologies. Another of the remarkable changes within the historical profession has been the growth of women’s history. With only a negligible representation in 1975, almost 10% of all historians today identify themselves as historians of gender and women’s affairs.
What bias is Gordon talking about? Well it’s a bias that he sees as “mangling history” to our detriment:
The evolution of the historical profession in the United States in the last fifty years provides much reason for celebration. It provides even more reason for unhappiness and dread. Never before has the profession seemed so intellectually vibrant. An unprecedented amount of scholarship and teaching is being devoted to regions outside of the traditional American concentration on itself and Europe. New subjects of enquiry — gender, race and ethnicity — have developed. Never have historians been so influenced by the methodology and contributions of other disciplines, from anthropology to sociology.
At the same time, never has the historical profession been so threatened. Political correctness has both narrowed and distorted enquiry. Traditional fields demanding intellectual rigor, such as economic and intellectual history, are in decline. Even worse, education about Western civilization and the Enlightenment, that font of American liberties, and the foundation of modern industrial, scientific and liberal world civilization, has come to be treated with increasing disdain at colleges and universities.
Now call me crazy, but you can see easily the effect of what Gordon is talking about today in the last election. Increasingly students (and that includes further down the academic chain in high schools) know less and less about our history and traditions and more and more about, well, women’s studies, gender studies, things which have little bearing on economic and intellectual history – for instance:
The problem with this is that it has helped force out many other kinds of historical enquiry. It is important to emphasize women’s role in society and in history. However, it is difficult to see how a feminist perspective could contribute very much to a purely economic history of the English industrial revolution (as opposed to its social consequences), or to a diplomatic history of Europe between the Napoleonic and the First World War. As a result, these kinds of studies are receiving ever less attention.
We all understand that women and minorities were mistreated. Got it. And we all know that was wrong, with 21st Century hindsight. But what happened back when all that bad stuff was going on, in terms of economic and intellectual history, is still critically important today.
Instead history’s “new focus” has helped bolster both the “victimization” and “entitlement” mentality:
Worst of all, women’s history has contributed to the current holy trinity of race, gender and class that dominates the historical profession. Under normal circumstances, the tight focus on victimization would soon fade. Since oppression studies explain so little, they soon become boring. But, as a part of a political chorus demanding ever-more extravagant entitlements for key voting groups, an essential part of the identity politics that is so destructive of national unity, the trinity is ensured a long life. Historians can grow tired of an intellectual movement. Politicians of a useful political tool, never.
There is also something else beyond the fanciful and fraudulent political and academic rhetoric of “equal opportunity – affirmative action.” That is jobs. Key voting groups designated as oppressed have been hired preferentially in the academy, most especially in the social sciences, including history. To justify these preferences, historians of gender and race must keep emphasizing oppression. How otherwise can their privileges be justified? Hence, the refiguring history to justify their positions in the professoriate.
We used to hear people laugh derisively when someone mentioned “political correctness”. But what you’re reading here is an example of political correctness run amok.
And it’s effect? Read James Taranto’s piece in the WSJ today. It’s an incredible example of political correctness gone nuts. I’m talking about Emily Yoffe’s answer to an obviously absurdly insensitive question addressed to her. However, her answer, among much of the left, is both appropriate and “correct”. It’s what they believe. It’s what they’ve been taught.
Will it get worse? Well, Gordon seems to think it will:
A remarkable generational change is also coming. Most of the historians in the declining fields, economic, intellectual and diplomatic history, earned their degrees more than 30 years ago. At the same time, more than 50% of the new PhDs are now trained in women and gender history, in cultural history (a watered-down version of social history), in world and African-American history. This is going to make an extraordinary difference in what kind of scholarship will continue to be undertaken, and how the past will be taught. The history profession, seemingly innovative and robust, is in fact intellectually debilitated, and sadly reduced in scope.
If you think it is bad in the history department, you’ve seen what is going on in the science department (
global warming climate change “science”).
Many have been hinting for years that the culture battle – the battle between individualism and freedom v. collectivism and entitlement- is being lost in academia. Gordon manages to put an exclamation point to the claim. One of the reasons our population knows less and less about economic and our intellectual history is because it has been waylaid and replaced with “disciplines” which stress entitlement and victimization.
Is it then a surprise when more and more of the population view themselves and this country through those lenses? And is it then any more surprising when they perceive government – more and more government – as the answer? Again, it’s what they’ve been taught.
One of the smoke-and-mirrors aspect of this debt deal that experienced observers noticed immediately was the “super-committee” that would negotiate the cuts before the December 23 deadline. If that committee doesn’t agree upon suitable cuts, then the meat-axe of across-the board cuts, mostly focused in the defense area, will take effect.
Everyone with any sense understands that part of the process of making meaningful cuts in spending and thus the debt must address entitlement spending. But apparently the liberal left is fine with gutting defense instead. Nancy Pelosi has basically declared that any committee members she appoints will oppose all entitlement benefits cuts.
The debt limit fight is over, but the fight over entitlement programs will continue for months. In the weeks ahead, the leaders of both parties in both the House and Senate will name three members each to a new committee tasked with reducing the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion.
The ultimate makeup of that committee is key. It will determine whether this Congress will pass further fiscal legislation, and, thus, what the major themes of the 2012 election will be.
At a pre-recess press conference Tuesday afternoon, TPM asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) whether the people she appoints to the committee will make the same stand she made during the debt limit fight — that entitlement benefits — as opposed to provider payments, waste and other Medicare spending — should be off limits.
In short, yes.
"That is a priority for us," Pelosi said. "But let me say it is more than a priority – it is a value… it’s an ethic for the American people. It is one that all of the members of our caucus share. So that I know that whoever’s at that table will be someone who will fight to protect those benefits."
Right. “Benefits” make up their “value” and “ethic”, meaning they’ll decide what you owe others and what you’ll pay for it and you just shut up, sit back and be quiet. That’s their “ethic”. Their “values” lie in redistributing wealth they don’t earn but they certainly find no problem in dividing yours out to those who they favor and/or who will vote for more “benefits” from your pocket book (or in this case, out of borrowed money).
Obviously Ms. Pelosi hasn’t yet quite figured out that the “benefits” that are key to her political agenda and provide her political power are no longer affordable. Claiming she’s clueless is an insult to the really clueless of the world. The welfare state has run out of money and all that is has promised is no longer affordable.
Until these people are replaced with people who actually understand the concept of limited government, property rights and the fact that they don’t have the right to anyone else’s earnings, nothing will change in DC or for us.
I do get tired of these sorts of articles – this one in the New York Times. It is entitled "Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65". The word I object too is "self-absorbed" as a description for an entire generation. It’s nonsense. My generation is no more self-absorbed than any other. Are there factions of it which fit the bill? Yeah, but they exist in every other generation as well.
The Times notes that today marks the first of my generation turning 65. Whoop freakin’ wee. The only one absorbed by that are the authors of the article.
Though other generations, from the Greatest to the Millennial, may mutter that it’s time to get over yourselves, this birthday actually matters. According to the Pew Research Center, for the next 19 years, about 10,000 people “will cross that threshold” every day — and many of them, whether through exercise or Botox, have no intention of ceding to others what they consider rightfully theirs: youth.
This means that the 79 million baby boomers, about 26 percent of this country’s population, will be redefining what it means to be older, and placing greater demands on the social safety net. They are living longer, working longer and, researchers say, nursing some disappointment about how their lives have turned out. The self-aware, or self-absorbed, feel less self-fulfilled, and thus are racked with self-pity.
Really? So "some researchers say" we’re "nursing disappointment about how their lives have turned out?"
That certainly doesn’t include me. Heck, I’m in the middle of starting a new venture and I’m excited about life. And self-pity is for losers. Life is life – you deal with it as it comes along. But do I feel less "self-fulfilled”? Uh, no. Have I had some set backs in life. Hasn’t everyone? I’ve also had some wonderful and unexpected successes as well. But I’m damn sure not to the point where I’m assessing my life – I’ll probably be working at something until I die.
And by the way, folks, I don’t chase “youth”. I chase “health”. Youth is fleeting and can’t be recaptured and I don’t see more of an “absorption” by baby boomers with “youth” than I saw with the so-called “Greatest generation” or with those now in middle age.
As for the “social safety net”, who the heck put it in place for the most part? It wasn’t Baby Boomers. And no one has mentioned any of the Greatest Generation turning up their noses at the net or not feeling some sense of “entitlement”. It was they and the previous generation who are mostly responsible for its existence, not Boomers.
The Times seems to realize it is in deep water with its attempt at generalization:
Ascribing personality traits to a bloc of 79 million people is a fool’s endeavor. For one thing, people born in 1964 wouldn’t know the once-ubiquitous television hero Sky King if he landed his trusty Songbird on their front lawns, just as people born in 1946 wouldn’t quite know what to make of one of Sky King’s successors, the big-headed H. R. Pufnstuf.
Yeah, I remember Sky King (and many others). But I also remember Vietnam and a large contingent who fought there because they were trying to live up to what the previous generation had done as a “duty”. And the reason I find these sorts of generalizations of my generation offensive is found in the NYT’s very next paragraph:
For another, the never-ending celebration of the hippie contingent of boomers tends to overshadow the Young Americans for Freedom contingent. After all, while some boomers were trying to “levitate” the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War, other boomers were fighting in that war.
That’s correct. And those same Boomers are responsible in large part for building the finest volunteer military the nation has ever fielded bar none. And some Boomers are still on active duty today. But this single paragraph best explains the problem I have – the Bill Ayers contingent of my generation does not represent me or the huge majority of my peers. What happened is the “never-ending celebration” of the “hippie contingent” – again something the Greatest Generation was responsible for – forever tainted my generation with the stereotype of the “self-absorbed” Baby Boomer (just as it did with any number of cruel myths about Vietnam and Vietnam vets).
Here’s another generalization:
Previous generations were raised to speak only when spoken to, and to endure in self-denying silence. But baby boomers were raised on the more nurturing, child-as-individual teachings of Dr. Benjamin Spock, and then placed under the spell of television, whose advertisers marketed their wares directly to children. Parents were cut out of the sale — except, of course, for the actual purchase of that coonskin cap or Barbie doll.
“It created a sense of entitlement that had not existed before,” Mr. Gillon said. “We became more concerned with our own emotional well-being, whereas to older generations that was considered soft and fluffy.”
Well much of this skipped my household. I was raised in a "speak only when spoken too" home. And while Benjamin Spock’s (another of the Greatest Generation) works were read and applied in some ways, my upbringing wasn’t at all like this generalization would like to pretend it was. And that goes with my peers – of course I was raised in and around the Army, so I can also say my upbringing might have been somewhat more "traditional" than that of others. But I’d never generalize about it.
And I never have had a "sense of entitlement" about much of anything – but to pretend it never “existed before" is to deny the existence of Social Security prior to the Baby Boom generation. It was created in 1935 for heaven sake and it established as much a sense of entitlement as has anything since. My generation had nothing to do with its beginnings nor have they been the first to demand this "entitlement".
But there’s a basis for the "sense of entitlement" as it pertains to Social Security or Medicare – government has been taking my money for both programs for decades. And while other, later generations may believe that neither will be available when they reach the age to benefit from them, don’t you even begin to believe they won’t have a "sense of entitlement" if they do.
As for the “soft and fluffy” nonsense, I’ll again point to the war in Vietnam. Not soft, not fluffy, 246 Medals of Honor awarded primarily to Baby Boomers in a 10 year war.
Every generation that I know of thinks the following generation is softer and more self-absorbed than they were. They all worry about “what will happen to the country” when the next generation takes over, yet somehow, we manage to find the grit, determination, leadership, and ability to see it all through.
And lord save us from the sociologists:
A study by two sociologists, Julie Phillips of Rutgers University and Ellen Idler of Emory University, indicates that the suicide rate for middle-aged people, notably baby boomers without college degrees, rose from 1999 to 2005. And Paul Taylor, the executive vice president of the Pew Center, summed up a recent survey of his generation this way:
“We’re pretty glum.”
This gloominess appears to be linked to the struggling economy, the demands of middle age and a general sense of lofty goals not met by the generation that once sang of teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony, and then buying it a Coke.
Bull squat. A paean to a tiny fraction of a generation that believed in unicorns and moon ponies. Most of the rest of us were and are pretty darn grounded in reality and aren’t’ glum at all. In fact, I’m elated each day when I open my eyes and am still among the living. It’s the start to what I hope will be a good day. Ok, I’m kidding about that, but you know what, I resent the hell out of some academic characterizing me as “glum” because I happen to have been born in a particular time period – like a characterization such as “glum” can be applied because we appeared in a particular span of time. That just a crock of academic crap.
My guess, given the “struggling economy” and how it has impacted lives all over the nation, we’d find parts of many generations “glum”.
So on this first day of the new year, let me start it out right – stick up you fundament, New York Times. Your article is BS and you know it – not that I’m particularly surprised. You’re in the middle of trying to perpetuate another myth. That three layers of editors sure are earning their pay, aren’t they?
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It seems that college students have entirely different expectations than do college professors. Or at least some college professors. Apparently the students see it like this:
“I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”
“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”
Sarah Kinn, a junior English major at the University of Vermont, agreed, saying, “I feel that if I do all of the readings and attend class regularly that I should be able to achieve a grade of at least a B.”
Essentially the argument is, show up, do the minimum (i.e. all you are asked to do) and you should get an “A”, or at least a “B”.
Merit? Above and beyond the “average” or the “expected”? They don’t seem to enter into their thinking at all.
Yes, as the professors properly identified the problem, it is a false sense of entitlement.
So, now that the problem has been identified, can you pinpoint the source? Well the profs have various views about that.
Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety.
Uh, no, but nice try, professor.
Aaron M. Brower, the vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offered another theory.
“I think that it stems from their K-12 experiences,” Professor Brower said. “They have become ultra-efficient in test preparation. And this hyper-efficiency has led them to look for a magic formula to get high scores.”
James Hogge, associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’ “
Oh, oh, oh … so damn close. Where do they get that screwy idea that “level of effort equals quality work”, Dean Hogge? I mean it has to come from somewhere, and apparently it is widespread enough that it is a fairly pervasive phenomenon? Any guesses?
Well, in a nut shell, false entitlement often flows from false self-esteem. Yes, friends, I’m back on that. When little Johnny gets a trophy and a party for being on a 12th place Pee-Wee Baseball team – the very same reward the first place team gets – why in the world wouldn’t he correlate “effort” with “result”? In his case his effort landed him the same rewards as the first place team. So 12th is just as much an “A” as 1st to him, isn’t it? And he gave his all to end up in 12th, so that just has to be good enough, right? Multiply that over a 18 year life time and it isn’t difficult to understand where this sense of entitlement comes from, is it?
When you’re rewarded at the same level as the real achievers throughout life – so you won’t feel like the loser you are and learn from that – two things happen: One, you don’t try to do better because there’s no incentive to do so and two, you feel entitled to the same results as those who actually did achieve something. So it certainly isn’t far fetched for someone to then believe that effort equals achievement and thus entitlement to the best rewards.
Heh … then you finally leave “soft America” and meet “hard America” as Michael Barone calls it. Suddenly reality slaps you in the face, calls you a loser and gives you the “C” you deserve for just doing the expected. The “average”. The same thing you’ve always done and been rewarded with more.
Your world is shattered. You either figure out how big a disservice those who cheered your stunningly average performance up till then have done you and do something positive about it or you wail and whine about how “unfair” you’re being treated and eventually drop out.
In reality, just like our economic remedy, it’s just another example of pain avoidance – something it seems the American public is addicted too these days. The pain avoidance that characterizes the building of false self-esteem can be crippling to a child because the child is given the wrong signals about their abilities and what reality and life expect of them throughout their early formative years. It’s a loser’s way of avoiding reality, except it isn’t the kid doing it to themselves – it’s usually the parents and other enablers who too are in the pain avoidance business.
But the one inescapable truth in this whole process , however, is the fact that reality always finds a way to get through the puny defenses that have been erected and eventually has its way. It’s a pity that many students first discover that in college and many don’t survive the discovery. Had their parents just done their job as parents instead of trying to manage and avoid pain, the kids might be prepared to confront the reality of “hard America” and give it their best instead of being blindsided by it and crushed.
But of course, that smacks of common sense and as our experts are constantly telling us they know much more how our children should be raised than we do. And trust me, given the results, that claim has little to do with common sense.
UPDATE: If you don’t believe this translates into a real world problem all you have to do is listen to Bill Press – or not, as, apparently, most people choose. Here he is in an interview describing why he wants government to ensure his reward via the Fairness Doctrine:
‘I know why I’m interested in it because I get up every morning at 3:45, I do three hours of talk radio every day from six to nine, that’s my life, it’s my business, I want to make money at it, and I want to be heard.
Translation: I make the effort and thus I should have the same rewards (listenership, influence and monetary) as Rush Limbaugh.