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.
Like most complaints about These Young People Today it’s really about the consequences of the disintegration of the human connections and hierarchies of value that once gave things and people a meaning and place. Man is social and rational. Rationality requires putting things in a setting that in the end must transcend human thought to avoid ultimate arbitrariness. Weaken social connections and do away with ultimate rationality and you may have clever, well-trained, and socially productive animals but you won’t have men. That’s how young people are brought up now, and since the lesson’s insistently inculcated and nothing else is on offer it mostly sticks. As the piece notes one result is that thought and value become dissociated, so moral passion or “spirituality” is now OK as a fashion statement or personal gesture but reasoned, principled commitments are out.
It’s worth noting that people have been making the same complaint for quite some time now. See Kenneth Kenniston’s The Uncommitted (1965) and for that matter C. S. Lewis’s 1947 discovery of the trousered ape. As my preceding blog entry suggests, though, the situation does seem to be getting worse. The author’s a Catholic and notes that Catholic education ought to be able to speak to the situation but almost never does, basically because those who run it are imitative second-raters.