Ed Driscoll

The Very Definition of Present-Tense Culture

Earlier today, I linked to Roger Kimball’s upcoming book, The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia. The title is reminiscent of an observation Mark Steyn made five years ago regarding a warning from Allan Bloom, the late author of The Closing of the American Mind, concerning the dangers of a “present-tense culture:”

“Popular culture” is more accurately a “present-tense culture”: You’re celebrating the millennium but you can barely conceive of anything before the mid-1960s. We’re at school longer than any society in human history, entering kindergarten at four or five and leaving college the best part of a quarter-century later—or thirty years later in Germany. Yet in all those decades we exist in the din of the present. A classical education considers society as a kind of iceberg, and teaches you the seven-eighths below the surface. Today, we live on the top eighth bobbing around in the flotsam and jetsam of the here and now. And, without the seven-eighths under the water, what’s left on the surface gets thinner and thinner.

“Students at East Orange school named for Whitney Houston mourn singer’s death,” the Newark, NJ-based Star-Ledger reports. The school was renamed in 1997; it was previously called Benjamin Franklin Elementary School.