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Society and culture

Quid sit America II

Back in the ’60s people used to go off to look for America. The idea was that you’d drive your car across the country or hitch a ride on a freight train with your guitar or something and then you’d meet the people and find out how wonderful and democratic America is or whatever.

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Some histories are bunk

I’ve been reading some intellectual and cultural history lately, James H.

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You will be assimilated

I’ve always thought that surveys showing that more formal education means more liberal social views and less religion are chiefly a sign that formal education is a system for inculcating the outlook of formal public institutions, and thus for disrupting informal traditions and ordinary conclusions from daily experience.

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Youth wants to know

A reader writes:

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Hate crime comes to America!

Which will win: the American tendency to make free speech absolute, or the globalization of human rights and the tendency to make tolerance and inclusiveness greater absolutes? I’ve thought the latter will win, and we’ll end up with the anti-“hate” censorship you find in Canada and Europe. A recent case seems to point that way.

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Whither news and culture?

It’s hard not to be pleased by reports that weekday newspaper circulation is falling around 5% a year, and music CD sales plunged more than 20% in the last year alone. Broadband net access is killing the established media, with no end in sight. Who needs the newspaper or music industries when better and cheaper content is available elsewhere? Who will miss what they have become?

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Human rights and special measures

A recent development in Britain suggests one side of “human rights” in today’s world: Home Secretary threatens to suspend human rights laws after terror suspects go missing.

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Remembrance of things past

A reader sends in a link to a collection of recollections of the ’50s by ordinary British people, put together (of all things) by the BBC. The recollections are mostly extremely favorable. The reader speculates

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Pomo promo

Frequent commenter MD has posted an interesting account of the views of Jacques Lyotard, a prominent postmodernist, on knowledge in postindustrial society. It’s an interesting situation Lyotard describes, one that seems to me more hyper- than post- modern and industrial. The basic idea, I suppose, is that man is rational and social. It follows that society operates in accordance with the way knowledge is formed and conversely.

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Frozen revolution

Why is so much of pop culture so stable? Young people have listened to Bob Dylan and the Beatles since around 1963 and still find them up-to-date. “Hip” and “cool” are still hip and cool, and they’ve been mass-market for 50 years. On slightly more substantive matters, we’re still stuck at bottom with ’60s political and social attitudes as the public standard for what all good people believe or at least want to believe.

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School daze

Kathy Shaidle has been grousing that none of the young guys killed in the West Virginia Tech shooting did anything to resist getting blown away and young conservative guys are defending them.

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Survivals and threats thereto

Anthony Esolen visits one of the few surviving men’s colleges and finds it a hotbed of benign timocracies. Fine upstanding young men, sense of honor, all that sort of thing. From his account it seems that education really can make a difference, and people can bounce back and start acting normal again if given a chance. (The comments to Dr. Esolen’s post, which range from skeptical, to unhinged, to you-changed-my-life, are worth a read.)

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A different Bloomsday

Here’s some more moaning about These Young People Today, where “today” means recent decades going back God knows how long: The Closing of the American Mind Revisited. The piece is prompted by the 20th anniversary of Allan Bloom’s book.

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Everyone's now special

The 70s were called the “me” decade, but it appears that we’ve built on the foundation they laid. College students’ scores on a test called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory have been rising steadily since testing began in 1982, with the proportion of high scorers rising from half to two-thirds.

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Shards from the smashup

Several items that touch on the current effort to turn the whole world into a unitary rationalized industrial scheme:

  • John Taylor Gatto says schools are psychopathic. He’s a former award-winning teacher who’s spent the last 15 years denouncing the schools from a more-or-less libertarian perspective. The basic function of the public schools, he says, is to take children out of any natural, family and community setting and turn them into manufactured products useful as cogs in a machine.
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A rant against human rights

Some may harbor half-articulate doubts, but Catholics who want to be relevant have jumped on the bandwagon like everybody else. “Human rights” are now the sole moral basis of public discussion in the Western world. Rights rule, at least in theory. The bumper sticker says “question authority,” but that doesn’t apply to the authority of human rights.

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Fargo farrago

I just saw a video of the Coen brothers movie Fargo, which I hadn’t seen before. For those as far out of the loop as I am, it’s an odd sort of comedy about a wormy car salesman in Minneapolis who has money problems and decides to hire a couple of thugs to kidnap his wife in exchange for a new car and half the ransom. He tells the thugs the ransom is $80,000 but tells his moneybags father-in-law/employer it’s $1,000,000, planning to pocket the difference.

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Faust, zweiter Teil

Steve Sailer has a good piece on how the college prestige racket works. Basically, he says, no one cares what kind of education top colleges offer. Whatever Dr. Faust may do, a Harvard degree will still prove that its holder was able to get into Harvard and that’s all that really matters.

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The New Age marches on

So far as I can tell, the “rising tide of religious fundamentalism,” at least in the West, is really the “rapid dissolution of religion as a social presence.” That dissolution leads to occasional complaints from people who aren’t totally on board with the new program, as well as horrified outbursts from radical secularists who are shocked when they find that the new program has not yet gone to completion. Hence the stories about religion in the news.

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Crimson but unembarrassed

It appears that the result of Larry Summers’ rather unadventurous but still non-PC comments on women’s tendency to avoid the hard sciences is that Harvard will have feminist victimologist Drew Gilpin Faust as president. Some thoughts:

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