Friday, March 31, 2017

Masters of Systematic Ignorance: The Generation Without a Culture

Well, I bet they know all the video games. And what happened to Brangelina.
How a Generation Lost Its Common Culture

My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture.

It’s difficult to gain admissions to the schools where I’ve taught – Princeton, Georgetown, and now Notre Dame. Students at these institutions have done what has been demanded of them: they are superb test-takers, they know exactly what is needed to get an A in every class (meaning that they rarely allow themselves to become passionate and invested in any one subject); they build superb resumes. They are respectful and cordial to their elders, though easy-going if crude with their peers. They respect diversity (without having the slightest clue what diversity is) and they are experts in the arts of non-judgmentalism (at least publically). They are the cream of their generation, the masters of the universe, a generation-in-waiting to run America and the world.

But ask them some basic questions about the civilization they will be inheriting, and be prepared for averted eyes and somewhat panicked looks. Who fought in the Peloponnesian War? Who taught Plato, and whom did Plato teach? How did Socrates die? Raise your hand if you have read both the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Canterbury Tales? Paradise Lost? The Inferno?

Who was Saul of Tarsus? What were the 95 theses, who wrote them, and what was their effect? Why does the Magna Carta matter? How and where did Thomas Becket die? Who was Guy Fawkes, and why is there a day named after him? What did Lincoln say in his Second Inaugural? His first Inaugural? How about his third Inaugural? What are the Federalist Papers?

Some students, due most often to serendipitous class choices or a quirky old-fashioned teacher, might know a few of these answers. But most students have not been educated to know them. At best, they possess accidental knowledge, but otherwise are masters of systematic ignorance. It is not their “fault” for pervasive ignorance of western and American history, civilization, politics, art and literature. They have learned exactly what we have asked of them – to be like mayflies, alive by happenstance in a fleeting present.
"Mayflies in a fleeting present"... great analogy. No knowledge or curiosity about how their reality happened. Stuff is just there, wasn't it always? And who actually cares, anyway?

It will be interesting to see if any of these massively uneducated millennials generates sufficient curiosity to emerge into full intellectual mode. If the answer is none, then the world is completely out of philosophers and wisdom, and filled instead with maleducated grubbers who never emerge from the lowest rung of Maslow's hierarchy.


Steven said...

Some in your parents and grandparents' generation said the same thing. There are always those who can embrace change, and those who cannot. The latter is almost always on the wrong side of history.

Steven Satak said...

Another blanked-out nym. Told you they'd be back, Stan.

I embrace change. That does not excuse ignorance of my past, or the past of my culture. Nor does it mean that everything that is older than a year or so is somehow bad.

Steven, you appear to be a chronological snob. Also, no doubt due to a steady diet of evolutionism, you believe that *anything* that is new is an *automatic* advance on anything that is older.

It is not so.

Meanwhile we have your comment, which steps in and implies... well, what? That anyone who studies the past = someone who refuses to 'embrace change'? But all of this is answered with the closing phrase 'the right side of history'.

How in hell would you know what side of history you were on - that *anyone* was on - if you don't know it?

This is what I mean, Stan. This inability to detect self-contradiction in their own writing... it's an undeniable tell. They really don't think anyone can see it. But they live in a world of 'because I said so".

This is the world this article predicts is coming. And the first comment is made by someone who is a perfect example. The irony would be delicious if it weren't so goddamn sad.

Stan said...

Interesting point. Every generation thinks that the following generation is empty headed and without any cultural awareness or historical context...? The "Greatest generation" essentially dropped their plows and went to war, dying in droves specifically for the "American Way" (liberty and freedom for all).

When WWII was over, they bred a generation of spoiled-rotten Leftists on one hand, and engineers of the technical future of the world (semiconductors, computers, pollution-free cars) on the other hand. The Leftists went on to perform their Gramscian, Marxist March Through the Institutions, passing rules to throttle all thought and dissent.

The Marxists decided that, contra Darwin, they had evolved into superiority which they acquired genetically by some massive mutation event, and which endowed them with the ability to drive history in a direction of benefit to at least themselves, and by extension, to all mankind since what is good for the Marxist is tautologically good for all mankind.

Thus did history acquire a direction - the direction of utopia via Marxist dictation. After all it worked so well for Lenin and Russia, at least after a number of autonomous societies were eradicated for being on the wrong side of history.

Yes the wrong side of history. Only the Marxists know how to get on the right side of history. If you are on the wrong side, then you impede the People's March to Utopia. You on the wrong side cannot be the New Man. You cannot attain the glory of the Revolution For the Right Side of History.

Only Marxists are on the Right Side of History. After they sieze control, the old history and historians are wiped clean, and the Right Side of History starts at year zero of the Glorious Revolution.

The Right Side of History has ruled half the world since 1917. That half of the world didn't have to embrace change; they had it jammed down their throats as they were forced to their knees... those who weren't just purged in genocides.

Stan said...

Now it's the Leftists whose amygdala's have been hijacked who cannot tolerate change. The top down change is being provided quite quickly, and the Leftists are in spasms, literal spasms of resistance to the change. So of course the fact that they advocated for Change under Obama did not mean just any change. The open term "Change" really meant that "We The Anointed of Evolutionary Progress" will change the way that YOU MORONS will live, breathe and die. Change, then, meant purely deranged totalitarianism.

Change. Wrong side of history. All the same Marxist crap-talk. Always the same since before 1917, in fact ever since Marx, Engles, Nietzsche, and Lenin all talked the same crap.

"We love the impoverished and starving so much that we'll make all of you impoverished and starving". The mantra of Hugo Chavez. The necessary end point of the Right Side of History.

Steven said...

Such bizarre responses! Leftist, me? What!? Keep changing name? Huh? You want people with Google profiles only or what? I don't care for that, this is just some random comment on some random blog, which clearly receives almost no visitors given the lack of intereactions... And most of what you guys wrote is either irrelevant or a confirmation of what I just said: you are angry at the newer generations for being too different from your ideal of what having Culture & Knowledge is. Just like older folks were angry at younger ones for wanting to end torture / end slavery / allow women to vote / allow mixed-race marriage / allow women to choose what to do with their body / allow people to choose who they want to marry / ...and so many other examples.

Steven Satak said...

Stan, your comment on the post-WWII generation sparked an idea.

John C. Wright has commented elsewhere on what he calls 'magical thinking'.

I submit that the generation that fought WWII understood reality both because they built their own machines, and thus understood them, and because they had faced death either directly or at a remove or two.

The generations that followed were presented with increasingly complex devices, that became harder and harder to duplicate - witness the decline of the electronics hobby in the early 1990s.

Finally, they are now handling disposable black boxes that do all manner of things. Disposable, because they are not made in such a way that they can be repaired. Black boxes, because aside from the software, no one who uses them can tell you how they work.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"

Do you think the technology we have today counts as 'sufficiently advanced'? Wouldn't a technology whose majority of users have no idea how it works - to the point where they cannot repair it, but must throw it away when it breaks and purchase a replacement - wouldn't you call that a good definition of 'sufficiently advanced'?

If you do, then you can be disappointed, but never really surprised, by the idea that the latest generations believe in magic. Deeply. Desperately. It is all most of them have experienced. It is all they have.

Stan said...

The idea that the children all know better than their elders was prevalent in the 1960-70 period. The mantra of one of the many psycho-squads of Leftist kids running around bombing buildings and holding up banks was "don't trust anyone over 30". Only those with the partially developed frontal lobes "knew" what was right.

What was "right" was anything and everything that their elders considered wrong, such as dosing daily with any drugs you could get. The juvenile rebellion was, like always, morally cloaked (in Alinsky terms): drugging out equals "freedom" and who can be against freedom? In fact real freedom in moral terms means "if it feels good, do it!" The total anarchy precursor to total tyranny.

This legitimized any action whatsoever with no concern for consequences. It promoted rampant homosexual promiscuity in the era of AIDs. It promoted the sexual promiscuity revolution in the era of killing the consequential child. It denigrated the family, reducing the stability of blacks and whites as well. It promoted the "Me Generation" - total narcissism. And that produced the idea that what offends ME must be eliminated, totally, from existence. In other words, tolerance becomes INtolerance just because a generation redefines terms to suit their own narcissist demands. And through the NEW tolerance, eliminationism becomes real.

This is the wisdom of youth, expressed in the consequences of real life.

Stan said...

Steven S.:
I speak from the vantage point of knowing how technology works, in substantial detail. So I don't see magic in technology.

However, the deeply embedded technology such as packet formation and transmission is completely opaque to casual analysis by intelligent people without technical backgrounds. The operation of an iphone can't be analyzed with household tools. Even the internal operation of an automobile requires specialty knowledge.

In the sense that an iphone is not reproducible by the general population, I suspect that it looks like magic in a plastic case. And of course if the engineers and innovators were all eradicated, the general population would eventually lose technology, and revert slowly to, well, hunter-gatherers, I suppose.

Stan said...

The changes you mention, such as women's suffrage, was not due to young people wanting to remain ignorant of history as you suggest. Those issues were not even young people's issues. Slavery was not ended by young people's ignorance nor by young people at all. Slavery was ended by Republicans, who then had to fight Democrats who started the Civil War.

But of course that is history, isn't it?

Steven Satak said...

"Steven", if the insults haven't tipped you off, is our old visitor Kirk, et al.

The responses are identical.

What I was trying to write was that our technology almost demands, from most people, 'magical thinking' in order to deal practically with their day-to-day lives. They know the phone is not magic, but due to the things I listed, they must treat it as though it were. The right ingredients, the correct incantations, and there you are. User interfaces are beginning to reflect this.

Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. 'Steven' writes as though 'he' were some innovator, coming up with this stuff and nonsense about young people, embracing change, history is a waste of time because it wasn't written by me, blah blah blah.

But even I can recall Henry Ford declaring that 'history is bunk', back in the 1920s, I think. And he was a rich old man when he said it. World's first billionaire. Ego was just as big as 'Steven's, too.

Steven Satak said...

Oh, and one more thing..

Took another look at "Steven' and here's what I see:

Six (6) sneering phrases, intended to run Stan and his blog down: Bizarre, Random, No visitors, Lack of interactions, Irrelevant, Angry. Supporting statements: None. Based on personal opinion. Which is the same as 'because I said so".

Wraps up by listing examples with no supporting arguments. Apparently, his entertainment is to stir shit up and then leaves us running around trying to answer him back.

To quote John C. Wright:

"...But a Leftist does not argue in this way. Rather, his argument is that you are a stupid lunatic for being afraid of witchcraft, and for thinking that everyone on the Left is a practicing satanist.

Now, if you notice, there are three things wrong with this argument: first, you neither said nor implied what the Leftist accuses you of saying or implying. So it is a strawman argument, therefore irrelevant. Second, it does not address the argument you gave, merely mocks you as a person. So it is ad hominem, therefore irrelevant. Third, it is not an argument at all. An insult is not an argument.

One cannot argue with this for the same reason one cannot argue with poop flung by a monkey. The monkey poop is not attempting to discuss a difference of opinion nor come to a conclusion about the true answer to any questions being discussed.

Why would a Leftist in an argument make statements he knows or should know have no relevance to the argument?

The answer is as given above: the words uttered are merely symbolic. It is a verbal form of magical thinking.


If the idea that someone would receive the reward for doing work he had not done is an idea that seems endlessly familiar while discussing Leftism, this is not a coincidence. The root of all magical thinking is this desire for results without effort."

Steven said...

You would be good in politics Stan. You answer nothing and bring up other topics that are irrelevant, trying to blame the Democrats of the civil war era, come on...

And Steven, the other one, this thing of people being dumber because they cannot repair their iPhone is absurd. That same iPhone allows anyone to access more information than anyone in the history of humankind ever could. Of course, some use it to watch cat videos more than anything else, but this is not new, we always had libraries filled with books, people just chose not to visit them.

Stan said...

Either get an identity, or be deleted from future conversations. You are obviously here just to bicker, as your comment just above shows. There is no relationship between your comment and the subject matter, only useless snark.

Steven said...

It seems to me that the post itself was just a giant snark at an entire generation of people, which you happen to perceive as lesser because they don't have much culture, disagree with you on many topics and basically end up labeled as some sort of irrational anti-intellectual individuals devoid of value. Not much to discuss indeed, I agree, so I am out of here. I don't want to use my actual Google profile for random blogs like that. Sorry. Bye!