Sunday, October 7, 2012

Two for One

I'm still trying to figure out what happened in the 1960s - and how it continues to affect us.

Here's two quotes from two separate posts that shed some light:

From Patrick Deneen on Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind:
Bloom made an altogether different argument: American youth were increasingly raised to believe that nothing was True, that every belief was merely the expression of an opinion or preference. Americans were raised to be “cultural relativists,” with a default attitude of non-judgmentalism. Not only all other traditions but even one’s own (whatever that might be) were simply views that happened to be held by some people and could not be judged inferior or superior to any other. He bemoaned particularly the decline of household and community religious upbringing in which the worldviews of children were shaped by a comprehensive vision of the good and the true. 
...In retrospect, however, we can discern that opponents to Bloom’s book were not the first generation of “souls without longing,” but the last generation raised within households, traditions, and communities of the sort that Bloom described, and the last who were educated in the older belief that a curriculum guided the course of a human life.  
...Today we live in a different age, one that so worried Bloom—an age of indifference. Institutions of higher learning have almost completely abandoned even a residual belief that there are some books and authors that an educated person should encounter. A rousing defense of a curriculum in which female, African-American, Latino, and other authors should be represented has given way to a nearly thoroughgoing indifference to the content of our students’ curricula. Academia is committed to teaching “critical thinking” and willing to allow nearly any avenue in the training of that amorphous activity, but eschews any belief that the content of what is taught will or ought to influence how a person lives. 
Thus, not only is academia indifferent to whether our students become virtuous human beings (to use a word seldom to be found on today’s campuses), but it holds itself to be unconnected to their vices—thus there remains no self-examination over higher education’s role in producing the kinds of graduates who helped turn Wall Street into a high-stakes casino and our nation’s budget into a giant credit card. Today, in the name of choice, non-judgmentalism, and toleration, institutions prefer to offer the greatest possible expanse of options, in the implicit belief that every 18- to 22-year-old can responsibly fashion his or her own character unaided.
And this from James Kalb on how the elites born of the 1960s have abandoned values for expertise:
In the long run, pure expertise can’t even maintain itself as expertise. It requires good sense to function and develop intelligently, but good sense has a personal element that can’t be made entirely clear and explicit. As a result, an overemphasis on neutral expertise eventually leads to a kind of mindlessness. As the expertise industry grows, becomes more competitive and specialized, and absorbs more and more of our intellectual life, the productive middle ground of educated good sense disappears, and is replaced by minute details and tendentious theories. For that reason post-‘60s intellectuals are notably inferior to their predecessors. 
Ireland's academy - and our nation's elite - are, obviously, similarly affected.


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