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Klavan On The Culture

The Left’s Cultural Jenga

January 5th, 2014 - 12:36 pm

City Journal’s Heather Mac Donald is one of the best reporters in the country, one of our most courageous writers and a consistently moral voice. Last year, she gave the Manhattan Institute’s prestigious Wriston Lecture and last Saturday, the Wall Street Journal published an adaptation of that lecture under the headline “The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity.” A fuller version of this brilliant piece will be in CJ’s Winter number. Get your hands on it. Read it.

Heather Mac begins by noting that the leftist academic buffoons at UCLA no longer require that the university’s English majors read Shakespeare, Chaucer or Milton. They do, however, require these students take courses in leftist theories on gender, race, ethnicity and other meaningless subjects whose names I slept through.

In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.”

In still other words, the people tasked with teaching our young about the past have drowned out the voices of the past with their own voices. Their own whiny, unwise, small-minded and bitter voices.

Heather’s article goes on to defend the study of humanities against these Philistines — or, to use the modern term, Palestinians — with a beautiful description of how the recovery of the works of the past sparked the Renaissance and more.

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Top Rated Comments   
In order to keep a secondary credential active, although I worked in private adult education, I taught at a California public high school in the same district from which I graduated thirty years earlier. First, the schools are de-facto bilingual. Second, the behavior of even the better students is infantile rather than juvenile (I could tell stories...). Third, the Social Studies teachers are fanatical anti-white and global warmists. One teacher made it a point to include global warming in every lesson: "The Homestead Act opened the west to the destruction of the Native American, and the replacement of the buffalo with cattle was an early foundation for global warming..." A week did not go by that 15-year-old girls cried in class, panicked after he would tell them of the destruction of the world to come, and how their neighborhoods will be underwater. I loathe these people.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
It just abets my own theory that the Republican party has become little more than a Democratic party shill- out there to create an illusion of a second party... otherwise such appointments wouldn't reflect an overt intent to indoctrinate an entire generation of future voters to be lefties.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
If we paid half as much attention to who got elected to school boards and elected or appointed to state boards of education and boards of regents as we do to who wins a state house race, it wouldn't be this way, at least not in the Red States.

It drives me nuts that my state has had a Republican Legislature for over 30 years and a Republican Governor for the last 12 years, our State boards of education and regents are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the legislature and education in my state is a vipers' nest of lefties. We're not talking about just professors and instructors, we're talking the whole administration of the K-12 system and the university just being a sinecure for former or future Democrat apparatchiks, candidates, and former officeholders. Why wasn't somebody paying attention?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (46)
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I echo Klavan's comments on MacDonald -- City Journal is the class of today's magazine field and MacDonald repeatedly does some stellar, yeoman, doubleplusgood reportage.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
One of the things that gives me hope is none of my college age kids, or their friends appear to believe these lefty academics whatsoever.

They quickly figure out what these people are about and if they need the humanities credit, simply parrot back the dogma to get a grade.

One of the things I delight in telling them is that they should read about the Russian and French revolutions. And maybe about China or Vietnam for good measure.

In each, it's these lefty academics that are the first lined up against the wall when the revolution they desire happens.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
"....Behold, I show you the last man.
'What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?' thus asks the last man, and blinks.
The earth has become small, and on it hops the last man, who makes everything small. His race is as ineradicable as the flea; the last man lives longest.
'We have invented happiness,' say the last men, and they blink. They have left the regions where it was hard to live, for one needs warmth. One still loves one's neighbor and rubs against him, for one needs warmth...
One still works, for work is a form of entertainment. But one is careful lest the entertainment be too harrowing. One no longer becomes poor or rich: both require too much exertion. Who still wants to rule? Who obey? Both require too much exertion.
No shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.
'Formerly, all the world was mad,' say the most refined, and they blink.
One has one's little pleasure for the day and one's little pleasure for the night: but one has a regard for health.
'We have invented happiness,' say the last men, and they blink...."
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
From my perch at a decaying-downtown public library, I get to watch high-school kids and college freshmen do their research. For some years now, most of them seem to have had almost no historical and cultural frame of reference outside of contemporary pop culture. Many have no knowledge of anything beyond their own immediate environment at all. The really sad cases are the ones who don't even want to learn anything else - ever. There are some adults who come asking what to read in order to learn about history, science, art, ANYTHING - all that the schools should have and didn't teach them - and our job is to start them from zero.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, I've been told that the radical leftists are not lying. That it is not a systemic issue, just isolated "rogue" outliers...can't they "just be wrong"...goes the plaintive cry?!?!

And when I debate the point, my comments disappear.

How can we plea to study Milton...when censorship denies the conversation?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
At least two comments disappeared in this thread. One was by a guy who wrote reasonably about how Persia compared with the west, and another was my reply to him, in which I agreed with his conclusions. Neither of us said anything racist.

What's going on here at PJMedia?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
A decent, humane, and wise culture favors Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, and the highest and noblest of its ancestors.

Our culture wants none of these thing. Our culture—as exemplified by our best universities—is hate incarnate. Leftist culture, wants only that which would be approved by the soviet writers’ union, wants only that which serves its power and interests.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
I would offer that we are seeing too many POP-UP's among higher education faculty: Pompously Over-educated, Perpetually Useless Parasites.

What alarms me is the sheer number of people who cannot handle things like percentages! Yet they are well-acquainted with such concepts of white privilege!
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Philistines originated in Crete and were therefore European. They were not
Arab. An article concerned with teaching history should respect it.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
The word Palestine is a Greek derivation of the semitic word Philistine. It's a good joke. Try laughing.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Riffing just a bit more on the Palestinians, and their tendency to just make stuff up, I'm reminded of an Egyptian blogger (hey, Sandmonkey!). He pointed out once that, in some Arab social circles, it is not uncommon to hear someone say --
1. The Nazi Holocaust never happened.
2. Hitler should have finished the job.
3. The Israelis are just as bad as the Nazis.
Sometimes, he said, you can hear all three in a single sentence.

Now, I ask you -- is that sort of philosophical hat-trick worthy of the Philistines?
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's also a lie the Palestinians have told about themselves -- that they are descended from the Biblical Philistines, and, therefore, have a better claim to Israeli land than the Israelis do.

(The statement itself is laughably absurd. I'm reminded of Heinlein's comment -- "This sad little lizard told me he was a brontosaurus on his mother's side.")

For anyone who values actual scholarship, the comparison of the supposedly boorish Philistines with the modern say-anything-as-long-as-it-hurts-Israel Palestinians is arguably an apt one. (Going back to Mr. Klavan's thesis, you need some benefits of a classical education to understand the Philistine reference in the first place, don't you?)
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I taught in CA for years. Actually, I think that Russian students in the 1930s got a FAR better education than they did. Ah, the glories of Stalin! Students there can't think, read, write or do math. Ignorance is rewarded. I'd send my kid to school in Zimbabwe rather than in CA. The high school is full of bitter liberals that viciously attack conservative students & train their kids to be good little radical left wingers. Thinking in schools is WAY over in CA.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Our tests have shown that every single supporting brick can individually be removed without noticeable adverse effects. Our extrapolations show that the entire base is unnecessary, and a little racist - somehow.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
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