“Our universities haven’t taught much political history for decades,” Peter Berkowitz writes in the Wall Street Journal, adding, “No wonder so many progressives have disdain for the principles that animated the Federalist debates:”
For the better part of two generations, the best political science departments have concentrated on equipping students with skills for performing empirical research and teaching mathematical models that purport to describe political affairs. Meanwhile, leading history departments have emphasized social history and issues of race, class and gender at the expense of constitutional history, diplomatic history and military history.
Neither professors of political science nor of history have made a priority of instructing students in the founding principles of American constitutional government. Nor have they taught about the contest between the progressive vision and the conservative vision that has characterized American politics since Woodrow Wilson (then a political scientist at Princeton) helped launch the progressive movement in the late 19th century by arguing that the Constitution had become obsolete and hindered democratic reform.
Then there are the proliferating classes in practical ethics and moral reasoning. These expose students to hypothetical conundrums involving individuals in surreal circumstances suddenly facing life and death decisions, or present contentious public policy questions and explore the range of respectable progressive opinions for resolving them. Such exercises may sharpen students’ ability to argue. They do little to teach about self-government.
Or as the Professor writes:
Well, studying political history is almost as boring as reading that Hayek guy, whoever he was. Or knowing what Herbert Hoover actually did. Squaresville, man.
UPDATE: Yes, the Hayek thing is a reference to this: “He’s so unhip, when you talk about Dylan, he thinks you’re talking about Dylan Thomas. Whoever HE was. The man ain’t got no culture.” Now I’m going to have that going through my head for the rest of the day. Andy Warhol, won’t you please come home?
Andy’s a notoriously difficult interview subject to find these days, but at least one of his proteges is still carrying on his tradition of épatering le bourgeois.
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