July 9, 2015

DAVID GELERNTER: COLLEGE STUDENTS ‘ARE SO IGNORANT THAT IT’S HARD TO ACCEPT HOW IGNORANT THEY ARE,’ Gelernter tells Bill Kristol while discussing his recent book America Lite. The video of the interview is online at YouTube; the transcript is here. Kristol asks Gelernter “Why is America ‘Lite’? Was it ever heavy? I mean, haven’t people been complaining about America-Lite for 200 years?”

GELERNTER: I guess they have, they’re never ever any shortage of complaints. And it’s true. It’s something one really has to keep in mind that any generation looking back is likely to be wistful and nostalgic on how great it used to be. Of course, we’ve made progress in a million ways. How about dentistry? An obvious example. We’re so much wealthier in the middle class; we take this for granted, but I think of my parents’ generation, the middle class has made enormous progress.

But America-Lite. I’m a teacher of college students. I’m lucky to be at one of the best colleges in the world, at Yale. Our students are as smart as any in the world. They work very hard to get here. They are eager, they’re likable. My generation is getting a chip on its shoulder, we always thought we knew everything about every topic, our professors were morons, and we were the ones who were building the world.

My students today are much less obnoxious. Much more likable than I and my friends used to be, but they are so ignorant that it’s hard to accept how ignorant they are. You tell yourself stories; it’s very hard to grasp that the person you’re talking to, who is bright, articulate, advisable, interested, and doesn’t know who Beethoven is. Had no view looking back at the history of the 20th century – just sees a fog. A blank. Has the vaguest idea of who Winston Churchill was or why he mattered. And maybe has no image of Teddy Roosevelt, let’s say, at all. I mean, these are people who – We have failed.

Which may partially help to explain the recent observations from the New York Times’ John Tierney while guest-blogging at Instapundit last week and the Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis that conservatives and leftists are speaking nearly completely different languages these days, making debate near impossible.

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