Not all that long ago, a not wholly inarticulate gentleman wrote a book in which he declared that All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Mind you, this was not a tongue-in-cheek expose on the shallowness of thought in the modern liberal era; it was a proud declaration of the fact that the author knew that had he been morally and intellectually retarded at the age of five, he’d be exactly as smart and “accomplished” as he is today.
Rather than being laughed off of the planet for his admission that he is no wiser than a six year old — only more “articulate,” now able to “extrapolate” the lessons taught in the kindergarten classroom into “more adult, sophisticated terms” (his phrase) — so many others agreed with his assessment that they turned this nonsense into one of the biggest-selling books of all time.
Note that the author, Robert Fulghum, does not say that everything he knows he learned before he’d turned six. Instead, he’s merely speaking the truth for so many others in what I call the Modern Liberal era (post-World War II through today), that life has been so without need for intelligence that there’s nothing he’s learned after he was a small child that he needed to know.
In the past, people may not have been as articulate as is the Modern Liberal today, but “verbal nimbleness” (to use Thomas Sowell’s description of these “so-called thinking people”) was not the coin-of-the-realm prior to the Modern Liberal era; tangible results were. One was proved smart by his accomplishments, not his oratorical and literary canniness. Prior to the Modern Liberal era, stupid was as stupid did, and because the world was such that people had to do things, the stupid either learned a few things after kindergarten or suffered the consequences of their ignorance and naiveté.
All that changed in the wake of World War II. As I write in my new book The KinderGarden of Eden: How The Modern Liberal Thinks:
It’s easy to forget — or just to have never thought about it at all — but America after the Second World War was not only unlike anything man had ever known, it was, in fact, the culmination of a “five-thousand year leap” forward in time. It was eons ahead of the technologies and medicines from not just earlier millennia or earlier centuries but, in many important ways, from just years and even months before. And every new dawn brought the promise — if not yet the achievement — of still another miraculous stride.
With these advances, the things that people had had to think about — at its most basic, how to avoid disease, hunger, poverty, and physical pain — were all but eradicated. Since, for the overwhelming majority of Americans, the dire consequences of being stupid were simply never a part of their lives (and certainly not so long as they remained in the infantile world of the school yard — something they now often do, like Sandra Fluke, well into their fourth decade), they really didn’t need to know anything more than they’d learned in kindergarten.
What the Modern Liberal learned in kindergarten — and what he continues to believe until he either matures and becomes a Right Thinker or goes to his grave an articulate but permanent child — are the rules of what I call the “Cult of Indiscriminateness.” The lessons taught in kindergarten, the ones Fulghum and his followers believe are the only things they ever need to know, are things like “don’t hit anyone,” “everyone must be invited to your birthday party,” “every child is good and special (but none better or more special than any other,” and “every child must get a cookie (and no child may ever get two).” They are rules meant for small children who do not have the moral or intellectual wherewithal to engage in discriminating thought.
To see how this translates into policy, consider the very different attitudes a Modern Liberal and a Right-Thinking person hold towards the United Nations. Both start out, as small children, adoring the UN. The difference comes after kindergarten as both the Modern Liberal and the Right Thinker learn more things about the institution. Both come to know about how the “peace keepers” turned their backs so the Rwandans could be massacred. This leads the Right Thinker to lessen the esteem in which he holds the UN. This, however, only bolsters the Modern Liberal’s affection for the institution since massacres are things people learn about only after they’ve left kindergarten; what the modern liberal appreciates is that the “peace keepers” followed the rules of The Cult and didn’t hit anyone.
Similarly, both groups come to know about the United Nations’ tacit endorsement of Palestinian terrorism. The difference is that, while the Right Thinker sees these acts as abhorrent because terrorism is something the child learns about some time after he turns six, the Modern Liberal doesn’t really need to know about it (for he won’t factor it into his “thinking”). What he knows — and what increases the esteem in which he holds that organization — is that the rules in the kindergarten classroom include “everyone must be invited to the party.” When he see the father of modern terrorism, Yasser Arafat, being given a platform to spread his hateful ideology, it bolsters his adoration of the UN.
And when a Right-Thinking person learns that the UN has made the Sudanese the head of the “Human Rights Committee” while they’re committing genocide, he recognizes it as an outrage that will only lead to more human rights violations around the globe. The Modern Liberal sees the same thing and is thrilled by it. This is because genocide is something he learned about after his sixth birthday and therefore something he doesn’t really need to know. What he does need to know is that the UN was following the rules of the Cult of Indiscriminateness — one of the lessons taught in the kindergarten classroom: that “everyone must get a turn.” The Modern Liberal doesn’t care about genocide; he cares that it was Sudan’s turn.
Those born into the Modern Liberal era can truly believe that everything they ever really need to know they’ve known for longer than they can remember because, in the modern liberal era, there is simply no cost or consequence to them in being wrong. And, so long as there are grown-ups — the teachers and parents in their youth, the government in their latter years — this remains true throughout the entirety of their lives.
Related: Evan Sayet recently discussed The KinderGarden of Eden: How The Modern Liberal Thinks with PJM’s Ed Driscoll. Click here to listen.