Back in February, Campus Reform published an interesting article titled ‘How A Generation Lost Its Common Culture‘. In the light of the current election campaign, it seems more and more accurate. Here’s an excerpt.
We have fallen into the bad and unquestioned habit of thinking that our educational system is broken, but it is working on all cylinders. What our educational system aims to produce is cultural amnesia, a wholesale lack of curiosity, history-less free agents, and educational goals composed of content-free processes and unexamined buzz-words like “critical thinking,” “diversity,” “ways of knowing,” “social justice,” and “cultural competence”.
Our students are the achievement of a systemic commitment to producing individuals without a past for whom the future is a foreign country, cultureless ciphers who can live anywhere and perform any kind of work without inquiring about its purposes or ends, perfected tools for an economic system that prizes “flexibility” (geographic, interpersonal, ethical).
In such a world, possessing a culture, a history, an inheritance, a commitment to a place and particular people, specific forms of gratitude and indebtedness (rather than a generalized and deracinated commitment to “social justice”), a strong set of ethical and moral norms that assert definite limits to what one ought and ought not to do (aside from being “judgmental”) are hindrances and handicaps.
Regardless of major or course of study, the main object of modern education is to sand off remnants of any cultural or historical specificity and identity that might still stick to our students, to make them perfect company men and women for a modern polity and economy that penalizes deep commitments. Efforts first to foster appreciation for “multi-culturalism” signaled a dedication to eviscerate any particular cultural inheritance, while the current fad of “diversity” signals thoroughgoing commitment to de-cultured and relentless homogenization.
. . .
Ancient philosophy and practice praised as an excellent form of government a res publica – a devotion to public things, things we share together. We have instead created the world’s first Res Idiotica – from the Greek word idiotes, meaning “private individual.” Our education system produces solipsistic, self-contained selves whose only public commitment is an absence of commitment to a public, a common culture, a shared history. They are perfectly hollowed vessels, receptive and obedient, without any real obligations or devotions.
There’s more at the link. Sobering reading, and highly recommended.
I hate to think that the author is right . . . but it’s hard to deny the evidence of one’s own eyes and ears. There doesn’t seem to be any commitment to an overall vision of ‘American-ness’ anymore. There’s a huge divide between Left and Right, between conservative and progressive, between rich and poor, between employed and unemployed, and so on. Increasingly, the sides involved (whoever and whatever they may be or represent) seem to think that politics involves forcing one’s own views onto others who may not share them, but will be forced to put up with them, fund them through taxation, and willy-nilly see them imposed on their society. The Obama administration has certainly done this (Obamacare being a prime example). However, any future Republican administration is likely to do the same thing with its own policies.
Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.
On another occasion, he said:
My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
Sadly, if he (or someone like him) said the same things today, he’d be accused of bias, partisanship, and cultural insensitivity!