I’ve been reviewing my Facebook time-line as an exercise in self-reflection, looking back on things I’ve found interesting or important or entertaining enough to post over the years. I’m feeling very ambivalent about Facebook these days; I think my departure from the service is imminent.
It’s somewhat ironic, then, that it’s a result of my Facebook timeline that I’m again aware of this reflection on Facebook and its ethos from a few years ago. The focus on what’s new, and on immediate reactions, is very real. It creates problems, too; there have been a lot of intemperate posts after recent news items that are both uninformed and inappropriate, leading to a lot of unnecessary hurt. It’s among the many reasons I’m pretty sure I won’t be a part of it much longer.
Intellectuals in the West have long had an affinity for what C. S. Lewis referred to as “chronological snobbery,” the unreflective assumption that what is more recent and modern must be better than what went before. Our entertainment driven culture takes it the next step by forgetting most anything more than a few months in the past.
But it will be those in touch with the reality of the world as it is and has always been who will thrive regardless of circumstances in which they find themselves. Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” should be required reading along with Postman’s book, I think.
Let the one who has ears to hear, hear.
The fiasco that is increasingly the norm in public education in the United States is not particularly a partisan issue, as far as I can tell, though of course the teacher unions are among the biggest donors to the Democrat Party and its candidates. It doesn’t seem to be paying off.
Anyway, the increasingly centralized control of public schools is creating a situation where actual teaching seems to be stifled more and more in favor of reading scripts to students and running through checklists of curricular activities. There’s a huge difference between standards in the sense of “Here’s what students need to learn; teach it to them” and “Here’s what we want you to teach students and here’s how it has to be taught to them.” Unfortunately the latter approach seems to be the favored one by the current administrative Zeitgeist.
It’s driving good teachers out of the field, as this article out of Florida describes. If my impression of the situation in the two other states where I’ve had close contact with public school teachers is any indication, though, there’s nothing particularly unique about Florida.
Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death should be required reading in our entertainment/media saturated society. As bad as it was when he wrote, it’s gotten worse, and it’s led to important changes to the society and cultured foisted upon the bulk of the citizenry by the self-anointed “Ruling Class” (to coin Angelo Codevilla‘s term).
Hanlon’s razor reminds us not to attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence, but we shouldn’t rule out malice either, and there is evidence of deliberate work being done to undermine institutions at the foundation of the United States. Here’s a very interesting piece by the Anchoress on Patheos, reposting some reflections from several years ago on the subject. Lots to consider.
At this time of the school year I’m always pondering ways to improve student interaction with the class, including performance and timeliness on submissions. Forcing them to actually talk with me and address their issues and concerns might help. Here’s an interesting example of a teacher who did that. I may have to consider it again.
As amusing as this election cycle has been at times, largely due to the clever trolling that has accompanied the presence of Donald Trump, it does demonstrate that the society of the United States has weakened to the point that it won’t hold together in the ways it has up to now. This country has flourished as a collection of people working together to advance certain ideas, which enabled it to overcome significant demographic fissures. To point out that the careful consideration of ideas is not the key to success in the current political moment in the United States is to point out the obvious.
That Donald Trump’s imminent nomination by the GOP demonstrates a political party adrift is also obvious, and it would seem to be the fruit of a failure to defend ideas and the language with which to articulate ideas. Jeff Goldstein at his Protein Wisdom blogs tries to impress the importance of that point here (language warning).
In a time when feelings seem to be the most important thing about a person, this article takes a very different line, but in light of the way attitudes of victimhood can lead to strong forms of censorship, it’s worth considering what’s happening to our ability to talk about serious issues.
This political season is going to highlight some issues in our culture and the way we communicate with one another. Or don’t communicate, as the case may be. This was a thoughtful article on the subject.
Here’s a brief conversation addressing some of the questions that arise concerning the candidacy of Donald Trump and the support of evangelicals. Dr. Jim Eckman is a wise observer of these things, so these 4 minutes won’t be wasted if you take time to listen.
The inversion of what is actually valued by certain groups and how those groups are portrayed in our society is one of the more remarkable aspects of this political moment. The hostility to the “Tea Party” on the part of those who claim to support populist values is bizarre.
“The Electric Tea Party Acid Test”