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Society and culture

What is it to accept tradition?

In an age of checklists, decision trees, and zero tolerance, it’s a puzzling notion.

People think it means giving up on reason. Or doing what’s been done no matter what. Or accepting an external authority that has nothing to do with the situation we’re actually dealing with.

What else could it mean, when each of us has his own thoughts and goals, reason is a matter of studies and statistics, and social authority is either following rules we’ve agreed to for our own purposes, or getting someone else’s demands shoved down our throat?


Hipster Liberalism: Evolved or Designed?

Paul Gottfried has some comments on my post on shrinks and hipster liberalism that raise several interesting points: is the social outlook found among the modish half-educated young an organic development or an intentional construction? Can we can do something about it and the broader stream of advanced liberalism of which it is part? And if something can be done, what’s the key?


Liberal identity and hipsterdom

Inclusiveness tells us that characteristics that traditionally define personal identity have no legitimate social role. If my specific identity as a man or member of a particular people is connected to my position in the world, that’s intolerable and something has to be done about it.

That can’t be the end of the story. We are social beings, and we identify ourselves by our social position. We need to know who we are so we can know how to act. For that reason suppressing traditional identities by enforced equality only brings in new forms of identity that are allowed to be functional and unequal.

From an egalitarian standpoint, it’s all a pointless exercise.


Is Gifted and Talented Education Anti-American?

An old friend asked me to contribute something to an issue of the Mensa Research Journal he was guest-editing on the topic of “Barriers to Educating the Gifted” (vol. 40, No. 2; summer 2009). Here’s the result, plus or minus a few footnotes and editorial fiddles:

“Our children are our future.” 
“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
“Human ingenuity is our greatest resource.”
“In America we believe in education.”


Having it all

More ravings about art, morality, religion, and what not else

I suppose the Puritan’s (and maybe Plato’s) hesitation about something like Delacroix’s Basket of Flowers is that its excellence and this-worldly self-sufficiency seem to divert beauty from a better function. (I’m no doubt making too much of this, but the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom and all that so I’ll pursue it a bit.)


Do pretty flowers mean the French are totally immoral?

While visiting the Metropolitan Museum this past weekend we wandered through one of the galleries devoted to French painters of the post-Revolutionary period. It looks like they mostly wanted a return to normalcy. Hence Ingres’ portraits of extremely self-possessed and incredibly well-tended notables and their wives. All the storms in the world couldn’t affect their secure enjoyment of life, or so we are given to believe.


O tempora

I found the to-do over the New York Post “chimp” cartoon unbelievably depressing.

The idea that there are all those racists out there is extremely useful to some people. It explains why black people have problems and our rulers have the right to rule us. They are, after all, morally superior, and the rest of us have to be restrained from the horrible things we’re itching to do.


Same rant, continued ...

What we see around us, and my last entry points to, is a perfect storm of compulsory unreason:


Think tanks tank

At a friend’s suggestion I watched a bit of the Lehrer News Hour last night. He had a couple of think-tank types on, a guy from the Rand Corporation and a lady from somewhere or other, who were saying we had to show everyone we had a commitment to stay in Afghanistan for the long haul, until a strong central government could become established.


The academic tyranny of religious liberalism

My excellent American adventure continues with George M. Marsden’s The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief—not the whole book, but enough to get the picture.


Has "ain't" become archaic?

I just finished (more or less) another book on my Americana reading list, Bill Kauffman’s Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism. It’s a straightforward book that uses lots of examples to make the obvious points that conservative locally-minded people mostly don’t like foreign adventures, and that war and empire aren’t good for the conservative locally-minded way of life.


Hitting the books

To follow up on recent discussions of America and Americanism I’ve been reading a couple of books: Tom Woods’ The Church Confronts Modernity: Catholic Intellectuals and the Progressive Era and T. J. Jackson Lears’ No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 . Both are well-written, well-informed, and well worth a look.


America, America: Part III

I’ve left something out of the first two pieces. When people speak of love, loyalty or hatred for America they don’t just mean America as land and people, together with whatever human connections happen to join them. They mean America as a substantive moral unity, as a sort of personality. Otherwise they wouldn’t talk so readily about being “for” or “against” America.


America, America: Part II

I’ve said what I like about America. But what do I dislike?

Here again it’s hard to avoid cliche and attitudinizing. People have been hating America for a long time. It hasn’t done them much good or shown them to advantage.

On the whole, my dislikes are the flip side of my likes.


America, America: Part I

What do I like and dislike about America?

It’s hard to comment. It’s like asking what I think about life, or the world. What do I like and dislike about 300,000,000 people from every conceivable background spread out over the better part of a continent?

And compared to what? Most of what’s good and bad in America can be found elsewhere as well.


Is Social Conservatism Necessary?

Takimag has published a piece I wrote on social conservatism. Unfortunately, they no longer allow comments, which was always half the fun of publishing there.


Reading the tea leaves

The merest straw in the wind, but interesting nonetheless: Religious people have superior visual perception. It seems that Dutch Calvinist university students recognize embedded visual patterns faster than their atheist classmates.


Paideia and that kind of stuff

A friend is guest-editing a special issue of some publication that will deal with problems of gifted and talented education. For some reason he asked me to contribute an article, and here’s an initial sketch that I plan to expand a great deal. Any comments at this point would be nonetheless welcome.

Gifted and Talented for What?

The most basic problem in gifted and talented education is what it’s for. That depends on the point of education in general. But what is that?


Remembrance of things past

“Nostalgia” is frequently associated today with “racism”, “sexism”, and “homophobia”.



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