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Claire Berlinski
Is the Enemy Us? « Back to Story

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"That this idea is absurdengineers dont waste energy worrying about plane crashes so subtle that passengers neither notice them nor complain of themwas no obstacle to its advancement."

I imagine that the author saw this as a devastating put-down. Of course the many other analogies she could have chosen including say internal injuries, which can be devastating to the point of fatal despite being largely unseen, internal rot in structures of all kinds, all would have demonstrated the opposite of what the author intended, so she chose her simple-minded "illustration" carefully.

History is full of examples the oppressed not recognizing oppression for what it was, and the recognition was a pivotal step along the way to throwing it off. A huge element in the French revolution was the recognition by the non-aristocracy that things didn't have to be this way, that it was just the natural order of things, which is how many if not most saw it in the centuries preceding.

What the author here is saying is essentially "I don't see any lack of freedom, the writer I'm critiquing does, therefore it's devastatingly obvious that my view is correct".

The closing of the mind indeed.
like, you are stupid? Seriously, get a clue. This is someone terrified by their ignorance lashing out at fifty years of intellectual progress.
Cultcrit asks: "where does Gramsci argue that liberal societies are no less free than totalitarian ones?"

I think most of us would have put MORE free. Your error is telling. If you defending Gramsci--supported by both Lenin and Stalin, and founder of the Italian Communist Party--then you are a fascist in spirit, even if you choose other names for your addiction to the idea of controlling others.
where does Gramsci argue that liberal societies are no less free than totalitarian ones? You don't know what you're talking about. Dismissing critical humanities based on the stammerings of neophytes is no better than characterizing conservative thought with reference to the tea party idiots who want to get government out of Medicare. It is simply anti-intellectual. If you want to critique, deal with the arguments.
If I read about one more old windbag whinge on about cultural studies in academia...
I say it's the MSM news business model.

The product of news organizations is not news. It's you. They sell your eyeballs to advertisers.

But people don't want hard news (think city council meetings), except for one-off events. One-off events won't pay the daily bills.

One group is large enough to support the news business and will watch every day. That group is soap opera women. They will watch so long as there is soap opera news.

So that's what you get in the MSM. No narrative that will lose the interest of soap opera women will run, lest they tune away.

So every national debate is shaped by the tastes of soap opera women.

No other story, no complication of a simplification, can run.

Soap opera women may not be enough to support the news business, but if that doesn't work, nothing else will either.
I doubt many are reading still, but I wanted to work through a basic intellectual exercise. It's one I've done many times, but still worth doing again from time to time from a slightly different angle. I'm going to crosspost it on my blog, which I'll link at the end.



It's funny to see how many people here are claiming, in effect, "she's just a baby Gramscian: we're the real deal."

I hate all Communists. I want to put that out there. They kill men, women and children outright, they starve them, they torture them physically and mentally, and they put people in prison for very long periods of time for the crime of speaking the truth. It is a doctrine of sadistic cruelty and no one familiar with the history can claim otherwise. If you are a Communist you are by this fact alone capable of accusing your next door neighbor of dissent, knowing that they will lock him him a little metal box he can't sit or sleep in, and which barely provides enough air to breathe through its one little slit, as they did in Cuba, Nicaragua, and of course the Soviet Union and other choice hellholes around the planet.

But to the point here, let's look at how, as an example, a fondness for Gramsci leads to intellectual incoherence. How does he enable the sadism which pervades Marxist practice?

Gramsci had many ideas, but one of the most important and perduring is that of "cultural hegemony". The fact is that Marx was wrong, and the revolutions didn't happen. Anyone who wanted to support Marx's claim to have presented a valid scientific hypothesis was compelled to modify the Master.

Gramsci's big idea was that people were TRICKED into supporting a status quo that supported a power elite, and which covered up the unjust class structure of that society. He claimed, in effect, that everything you had been taught about "right" and "wrong", about duty and patriotism and family, was intended to keep the Man up, and you down.

So you had to reject the "bourgeois" moral narrative--that of the damned middle class that kept the workers from attacking and slitting the throats of rich people--in favor of something else.

But what is that something else? That is the question, isn't it? Not ONCE, I suspect, did Gramsci specify just what his end aim was, in useful terms like "universal employment at reasonable wages in conditions of political liberty and equality before the law". Certainly, he had no PLAN to create anything like that, except in the grossest and most useless abstract terms.



People who use class analysis BY THIS VERY FACT have rejected personal moral narratives, which is to say personal moral agency, which is to say the capacity for both individual moral judgement, and ACCOUNTABILITY. They reject, in other words, individual moral GOODNESS, outside of conformity with the mob, as led by professional and undemocratic (propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding) leaders. This is a necessary conclusion.

I have at times defined myself as a "thought worker". I don't like the word "intellectual". It is for people I define as "cognitive aesthetes": useless people who enjoy the process of thinking in the same way people like solving crossword puzzles, who delight in conversations that make them feel smart, who enjoy the grand passions made possible by thinking big thoughts, the danger associated with subversion; who, in other words, break what they touch, don't realize it, don't care, and who if we let them will destroy everything good in the world. Narcissists. Moral imbeciles.

Gramscian cultural analysis is what I call a "Tubaform", for reasons I won't get in to here. It is a heuristic which, when applied, dissolves the whole world into coherent patterns for the thinker.

But does it generate happiness? Does it produce anything worthwhile? Gramsci was a founder of the Italian Communist Party, and got support from both Lenin and Stalin. He was their kind of person. Historically, this means that Gramsci was capable of more brutality than Mussolini. The Italian Fascists, in particular, were pikers compared even to someone like Castro, and couldn't hold a candle to the seas of concentration camps and dead bodies the Soviet Union created.

So you have thousands of pages of text, and my strong suspicion is that not once will you find a template for individual moral analysis. Not once will you find him questioning how the general living conditions of ALL Italians can be improved. Not once will you find incisive meditations about the nature of human happiness and how best to achieve it.

People who study Gramsci in Graduate School are not asking how to IMPROVE the world. They are asking how to UNDERSTAND the world. This is a very different question. And I don't disagree that the world can be understood coherently in many ways. Many aliens run the world. Maybe the Illuminati or Freemasons. Maybe the Jews.



Maybe Freud is best: all violence is the result of a Death instinct, and we would best spend our time having sex.

Ultimately, the only thing that makes sense is tying the EFFECTS of ideas to their intents. And by that simple criteria, Gramsci fails. Communism is the most horrific, blood-soaked creed in human history. There were some 3,000 lychings in the American South from the end of the Civil War until they stopped in the 1960's or thereabouts. There were AT LEAST 10,000 people murdered in cold blood in North Vietnam ALONE when Ho Chi Minh took over after the French left. Ten times that AT LEAST when the North successfully invaded the South.

Sloppy thinking makes our society worse. It is that simple. You can read my own contributions to sanity on my website: http://www.goodnessmovement.com My day to day blog is linked there. If anyone wants to take issue with me, have at it. I will caution you in advance, though, that your self conceits notwithstanding, you have likely never grappled with genuine, intelligent, and informed ideological "alterity". Your deficits you will need to conceal quickly with silence, after your initial and futile attempts at misdirection and insult.

But you are brilliant? All Conservatives are wrong? Have at it.

I will add, actually, a clarification: there is no such thing as "society". There is no such thing as "class". They are heuristics, nothing more. The ONLY possible root of moral decision is the individual, and this applies even if they use conformity for decision making, even if they CHOOSE not to choose. This point is inescapable, the foundation of true Individualism, and our root problem is that we have forgotten this.

That will have to do for now. I want to talk elsewhere about propaganda.
Shakespeare and Dostoevsky again?
Musty comparative literature syllabus again at Long Beach? Is this a nightmare to be reprised? Who is us, white folks engaged in
beating up Gramsci, Freire, Fanon???? Ugggh!!!
Fat Studiers seems somewhat contrived; what about Fat Students?
Don't forget the conditioning that begins around kindergarten, where every student is a winner, every member of every team gets the exact same trophy, etc.

Miss Manners put another aspect of this very nicely, something to the effect of "we are trained to express ourselves, not to discuss different ideas."
Thank you so much Claire for writing this incredibly brilliant article, so bristling with ideas and wit and real emotions-and generating so much emotion and thought and information. Real dialogue in real time. the need for real conversation, real research is very very deep. In everyone I think. Just as deep as the need to be loved, the need to be heard, the need to be told stories and the need to tell. But Before the students are prepared to look at you or listen to you-why should they listen to this person who is in most cases obviously some kind of overworked minion by comparison to some managers and brandspinners, to the bigshots and the big guns they see all the time in life and on TV (how often have you been phoned by the marketing and branding section of your university about "how to reach out"...?to prospective or current students, how often have any of your classes been asked to design a logo or share their dreams? How often have you had time to talk about dreams and fantasies in class, literature as fantasy, about "the soul that always wants to know more" (from one of my ex-MA students at DU,now doing unpaid research of her own which entails the search for all the gods and bitter roots and herbs, readings of all the main bibles...and who when she was my student was only able to produce a good, but not amazing thesis with a brusque conclusion because as she told me the other day-"I chose Oscar Wilde to please myself and chose to rip him off to please my dad"-she is an Arabic-Russian speaking Muslim married to an Englishman, I think? and now also the founder of a small cafe, deep in the Swedish forest...where she is writing and dreaming now...wanting all the answers, wanting everything...as we all do really "I want to be a student hardcore"-uncover all the mysteries of the universe) the possibility of being god and goddess, of immortality, of death and rebirth. And all of that stuff... How often have you played with your students? How often have you been anxious about covering particular materials or topics in class, making it stressful for everyone, making everyone less likely to learn anything-since you were asking so much, since you were thinking "they must learn this", there's this little window in which I can give them some real information, some useful tools for proper research before they tune out, before they get back to texting their friends or watching some stupid thing on Tv. But of course, despair is not convincing and it never works. Despair and crisis may or may not be a good start, a good beginning. But we cannot stop there. We have to find the joy, to rediscover all the colours and nuances of life and conversation and flirtation and passion. We have to be fully human in the classroom and at all times. We must find the courage to do these things, a little bit at a time. And then everything will be easy and we can talk to our students about everything, help them understand how everything fits or might fit or not fit. Teach them how to communicate properly in writing, in speaking, teaching them what we know, what we have learnt so far.
All the bitterness and the anger here-against you, all the bickering about right and left, all the name-calling and the shaming-of course it is just the fear and shame and in some cases even literal misery of more or less overlooked, undervalued people. Is it true btw what I read that there are instructors in the US currently so poor that they are on food stamps? Just as in Romania we have uni lecturers who teach full time, who research full time and who cannot afford the gas bills, who faint with hunger on the uni corridors. Yes, we still have these kinds of people in the world. People who want to do real research, who are interested in the real questions that have been asked by poets and scientists since the beginning of time and not in the upholding of any particular brand or corporate or theoretical fantasy or in beating some dead old vague horse of their own in the cosy darkness of their own little corner (we need the darkness too, for some of the stages, for some of the process, but the darkness is not it, for pete's sake, the catharsis is far more important than the trauma)exist to remind everybody else that you can live on poetry and just small crumbs at the corner of a table, that you can live a very frugal, in some ways to be sure humiliating and frustrating life, being told off by almost everybody who nevertheless feels secretly liberated by your actions, your words, your ideas...) Who don't feel sufficiently supported in their departments, at their universities (not many of us who do, not many of us who have good full-time jobs or will have them for long-which can be a true "mixed blessing". Far more time for research in combination with not particularly well-paid translation work than is given to academics with g And who become marginal-and marginalise themselves as is the point here by babbling amongst themselves. and that can be great too. The courage to babble and to dream. That kind of courage is quite enough if you want to be a researcher and write top-of-the-line obscure research that only a couple of others, half-crazed, improvising and possibly or impossibly visionary academics can read and that will gradually be disseminated further down the chain. But if you are going to be a teacher as well, your first responsability is to the students. to try and open up every single mind and if at all possible soul to the mysteries of literature, of beauty and art, of love and death. To be more like the people we are "studying"-the patients we are dissecting. And yes, I agree that the focus on trauma is wrong, the focus should be on catharsis,
on the joy and the beauty, the colour and the nuances of life. It is what the young people need, what we all need since we are all young too and able to unlearn, too, at least some of the defence magazines, some of the labels. We must begin with the basic building blocks.human+human+human+ist+ities. And then when we have had the courage to look at these students of ours and to deal with their boredom, their frustrations, the silly things they remember about us, when we have the courage to open it up a little bit, to ask them not at the end of the course in a stupid form that is the cross on which we must creep. When we are prepared for them to ask a question that we don't know the answer to, when we are prepared to talk to them, human being to human being, to show them that we too can ask silly questions, for example, that we can play a game they want to play. When we stop being so afraid and stop wanting to control everything and saying "this method/this gadget...tbc
Defender of political correctness November 29, 2012 at 3:59 AM
You can't use the analogy for contemporary identity studies: 'engineers don’t waste energy worrying about plane crashes so subtle that passengers neither notice them nor complain of them', then go on to list disciplines (women's studies, queer studies, etc.) that do in fact complain about it Clearly Bawer thinks that the job of university is to provide cogs for the neoliberal machine, and that if blacks, gays and women had just written something interesting or 'beautiful', we'd have all been studying them for years!
A spiteful and bitter piece of 'writing'.
It´s GRAMSCIAN, not GRAMSCHIAN. Sad to read, once more, people that think that knowing two or three words related to thinkers linked with the left is enough to engage in serious critique.
At no point does Gramsci state that "that modern liberal democracies are no freer than the most ruthless of totalitarianisms". he usefully drew attention, through his concept of hegemony, that the mind can be shackled surreptitiously. He probably would have found this article a wonderful illustration of that point.
http://snapperheadsoup.blogspot.com/2012/11/is-there-hollywood-blacklist-against.html

It could be that at least part of the reason for the rising tide of political correctness in American society just when 'progressives' have embraced success, wealth, power, and privilege has to do with a similar paradox that characterized the Soviet Union in the 70s and China since the 90s. Liberal elite's use of political correctness isn't merely to suppress the 'evil reactionary right' but to hoodwink the less successful liberals, leftists, 'progressives', and 'people of color' without power and privilege. The liberal elites, by making a big stink about 'racism', 'sexism', and other 'evils' and by shrilling calling for more political correctness to clamp down on the 'evil right', can slyly fool the masses of loser liberals, leftists, 'progressives', and 'people of color' that they, the liberal elites, are ever so serious about working to bring about greater 'social justice' in the world. Loser liberals may be resentful of winner liberals, but as long as winner liberals use their institutional power to push for more political correctness in the struggle against the 'evil right', a lot of loser liberals will just go along and overlook the fact that winner liberals are getting richer while they, the loser liberals, are getting poorer--NY has a great divide between winner liberals and loser liberals who wait tables of the winner liberals.
Loser liberals are also unaware of the fact that the winner liberals have slyly reoriented 'progressivism' so that it will favor the powerful, privileged, and the rich over the unwashed mob. Liberal elites have pulled this off in three ways. One was to favor Identity Politics over class politics. If class politics were the main premise of ideological leftism today, then the liberal elite would be on shaky legs. After all, the liberal elites have been getting richer and richer for the past 30-40 yrs. If class were central to leftism, poor whites of both political parties and different religious affiliations would come together and attack the elites, many of whom are liberal, Jewish, SWPL, feminist, and gay. It wouldn't matter if the angry mob were culturally conservative, liberal, or whatever. They might unite as a class--and even join up with blacks and browns--against the elites, most of whom are liberal or 'progressive'. But with the rise of Identity Politics, the masses are less likely to unite as a class and more likely to break apart along racial, cultural, and ethnic lines. So, blacks prefer black identity and browns prefer brown identity. While conservatives might see Identity Politics as poor blacks and browns ganging up on better-off whites, it could also be seen as poor blacks siding with rich blacks and poor browns siding with rich browns. Thus, masses of blacks and browns are less likely to think in terms of class. A poor black would rather side with a rich black--like Obama--than side with a poor white.
Then, there is the ideology of feminism. As most 'feminists' happen to be privileged--many of them happen to be high IQ Jews and Wasps from good families--, modern feminism is less about women's war against 'patriarchy' but privileged women in academia, government, and upper professions demanding more privileges for themselves. Even so, a lot of unsuccessful women have been won over to feminist ideology, which further undermines the power of class consciousness. If feminism didn't exist, unsuccessful women would join up with unsuccessful men--sexually and politically--and form a united front against successful rich people. But too many unsuccessful women see the world in terms of women vs men, when, in fact, their 'oppressors' aren't so much unsuccessful men but elite 'feminist' women who increasingly hog a bigger share of the pie.
Thirdly, gays may be even more privileged than elite 'feminist' women. Thus, as long as 'progressivism' has turned into a game of fighting the 'war against women' and 'homophobia', it basically serves the privileged class over the mass class. So, loser liberal whites, instead of siding with loser white conservatives, would rather expend most of their political energy on waving the gay flag or lionizing the likes of Sandra Fluke as a heroine when such things really favor privileged gays and pampered elite 'feminists'. It's all very pathetic.

But, this problem exists on the conservative side as well. A whole bunch of white conservatives refuse to side with white liberals against the elites because they care more about 'right to life' than economic issues. Powerful and privileged conservative elites have cynically exploited issues like abortion to keep the underclass masses of white conservatives to keep voting for the party of Wall Street instead to finding common ground with 'loser' white liberals who've also been left out of global game of power and privilege.

Of course, the biggest joke of all on the so-called Left is the cult of Holocaustianity and the fight against 'antisemitism'. If indeed American society was infested with neo-Nazis and skinheads--and if Jews were indeed a truly powerless group--, I can understand the need to stand up to antisemitism, but most of the hysteria about 'antisemitism' today isn't to protect powerless Jews from powerful 'anti-Semites' but to forbid criticism of Jewish power that only happens to be the most powerful power in America. If leftism is about standing up for the powerless against the powerful, how can it be leftist when one of the hallmarks of today's leftism is all the hysteria about 'antisemitism' that silences legitimate and necessary discussion and criticism of Jewish power, privilege, and influence? Thus, what now goes by the name of 'leftism' is really calibrated to protect power/privilege than to challenge it. Since the elites are dominated by so-called 'progressives' and since these 'progressives' are hypocritical power-lusters(indeed hardly any different from the piggish elite class that formed in Kremlin in the 60s/70s and within the Chinese Communist Party since the 90s), they feel this need to maintain the charade of their commitment to 'progress' by increasing political correctness. In a nutshell, they hide their immense economic success as globalist capitalists by drowning the public sphere with the bullhorn of political correctness--and too many people are too stupid to figure this out.
http://snapperheadsoup.blogspot.com/2012/11/is-identity-politics-really-leftist-or.html

So-called Identity Politics is rightist or even 'far-rightist'. The only reason why it's mistaken as 'leftist' is because non-white or anti-white groups are allied with self-loathing and suicidal white leftists and liberals. Muslims who call for Sharia Law in France and UK vote for leftist parties not because they support leftist or 'progressive' ideology but because stupid-sucker-leftists-in-power translates to more tribal power to their own kind, the Muslims. The REAL impulse and agenda as to why non-whites ally with white leftist groups are essentially rightist. Most members of Nation of Islam vote Democratic because they see the Democratic Party handing out more bribes to the black community. It is a case of black rightists allying with white liberals. White liberals get the vote, and blacks get more freebies. And most Hispanic-Americans ally with white leftists and liberals because the Democratic Party offers them more 'stuff' and looser immigration--which means more Hispanics in America which means more Hispanic power. If US bordered China or India instead of Mexico, and if most illegal immigrants were Asian, would Hispanic-Americans support illegal immigration and amnesty? Of course not. Why would Mexican-Americans want their jobs and opportunities to be taken from them by the Asiatic tide? Indeed, Mexican-Americans fully support Mexico's own draconian anti-immigration policies.

And why are so many Jews 'progressive'? The main reason again is essentially rightist. Jews are for maximizing Jewish power, and so in Israel where Jews are the majority, Jews will support nationalism, ethnocentrism, and tight border security. But in the US where Jews are the elite minority, they want to increase diversity because that allows the ultra-powerful and ultra-privileged Jewish elite to play divide-and-rule among the various goy groups. Jews don't really care about equality; they are promoting 'diversity' mainly to secure their own power.
Why was the British able to rule India for as long as they did? Because India was very diverse and divided by caste, language, religion, locality, customs, and etc. Therefore, the British imperialist elite, though greatly outnumbered by the natives, could always play one side against the other. When the Brits took over the subcontinent from the Muslim Moghuls, they sided with the Hindus. Later when the rising tide of Hindu nationalism challenged British authority, the Brits sided with the Muslims.
If India had been relatively homogeneous like China, Indians would have united much earlier to drive out the British. But because India was so diverse and divided, it took a long time for the people of India to develop something like a national consciousness and overthrow the yoke of British imperialism.

Jews want more homogeneity in Israel and more diversity in the US. More homogeneity where they are the majority and more diversity where they are the minority. If US were mostly white, there would always be the possibility of whites uniting against Jewish power. But if US becomes more diverse, Jews can choose and exploit all sorts of alliances across various ethnic and racial groups to boost their own power. As the Romans and the Chinese said, 'make barbarians fight barbarians'. Jews think, 'make goyim fight goyim'. It's what Jerry Springer does on his show. He invites white trash, brown trash, and black trash and make them bash one another while he, the clever Jew, stands back and watches amused.
So, Jewish 'progressivism' is really just a ruse for Jewish tribalism. Notice how even most so-called liberal Jews are silent about the massive oppression of Palestinians that is happening in Israel. NY TIMES is much more likely to bitch about what Chinese are doing in Tibet than what Israelis are doing to Palestinians.
What would Nietzche say about $5 trillion in annual increases in our national debt? And of what relevance is a so-called "Liberal" education if it fails to teach us to ask basic questions, demand satisfactory answers, and grasp without it being spoonfed to us the consequences of failure?
That there has been a dumbing down of America was brought home to me, literally, when I located my late father, Herbert Pollock's one letter to the editor of the NY Times, published in the August 30, 1970 issue. The subject was the then-salient Cold War, the Soviet Empire, and an analysis of Russia's historical fear of China. The letter was six substantive paragraphs, and to my now adult assessment, highly sophisticated in argument and language. My father's was one of many letters on that page - I count 13, all quite lengthy, including a letter on "Word Watching" from that late word watcher, William Safire.

Since 1995, I have had 20 letters published in the once august Times, and that is not to my credit. Every one of my letters has been brief, edited down to a kernel, but worse, trivial in the extreme. I wrote on the shape of a toothbrush, on a famous actress as a mother, on the plight of a schoolgirl who lived in a trailer. Well, the last might qualify as serious.

But my language was simple compared to my father's. My ideas were obvious and easily digested.

Yes, America has dumbed down in the past 40 years, and I can't blame it on my university which was top notch, and my professors who were conservative-leaning. I can only blame the dumbing down of America on - in micro form - myself and my own avoidance of important subjects.

How did I become so shallow? How did I not know my father was deep? Only the excavation of a 42 year old letter illustrated to me the difference.
Is there any evidence that the culture is in decline? What would constitute evidence? Per capita readings of canonical books?
Anthony Reynolds (NYU) November 28, 2012 at 5:34 AM
Let me see. Bruce Bawer wants to blame the grammatical incoherence of the young on postmodernism. Is that right? Then Bruce Bawer is, "like," an idiot ... in the, "like," same way that his muse, Allan Bloom, was before him. It may be true that the young are ignorant and incoherent. But this fact cannot be blamed - at least legitimately - on Nietzsche and Foucault, try as the indignant conservative intelligentsia might. Those who would like to blame the ills of the contemporary world on Nietzsche, Foucault, and Said are simply longing for a world in which we all look to Aquinas, a world in which medieval scholasticism is seen as cutting edge. My advice: grow up.
Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy November 28, 2012 at 4:09 AM
An aspect of what Bawer complains of is increasing focus on the 'here-and-now' at the expense of the 'there-or-then'. I define 'here-and-now' as 'relating to some aspect of the English-speaking world within the last 50 years'. 'There-or-then' encompasses everything else. A study at the U of Canterbury in Christchurch, NZ, showed that, in Arts, the proportion of 'here-and-now' courses had risen considerably between 1985 and 2005.
This shift in focus is sometimes justified in terms of 'relevance' and 'reflecting students' interests'. But, in the humanities, it isn't the job of academics to put on courses of the kind that students think they want. It's the job of academics to put on courses of the kind that they know the students need.
Referring to a female graduate as a "stammering bimbo" surely bespeaks the coarsening of intellect that the author pretends to lament. Is "claire Berlinski" Ann Coulter's new pen name?
Didn't the academic quasi-marxist identity studies reach their peak influence in the mid-90s and wane after the Sokal Affair? The Duke false rape non-sense also revealed the absurdity of these professors. I am not saying these professors do not have influence (see Harvard Summers affair), but they have largely been isolated. Science, engineering, medicine, economics, and political science has taken over the reigns in academia. In short, Sokal won.

At present, I would argue that practical electoral demographics is driving identity politics, not academia.

The recent election showed the success of the Democratic Party in combining identity politics (winning blacks, hispanics, and feminists) with a technocratic, scientifically driven government (doing much better and even winning among suburban and urban, well-educated professionals). Note the absence of middle and working class voters in this coalition.
Why in the name of the God of reason would you bother reviewing the rant of a crank?

The way to deal with utter trash is to ignore it.
Let's do a simple experiment. This is likely an educated crowd, typical of the products of our system, even if likely skewed a bit to the right simply by having chosen to read this publication.

How many of you know that if we take the taxes we collected in 2011, and subtract from them both what the Federal Government spent it is various activities, AND what it should have set aside to fund future Medicare and Social Security payments, that the difference would be something on the order of $5 TRILLION, or roughly $42,000 per American family? It's true: here is a link: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2012-05-18/federal-deficit-accounting/55179748/1

Now, if you did not know this--and most people seemingly do not--why? How is that you failed to go find this fact? More importantly, how is it that the products of our educational system who chose to go into journalism are not making a major issue of this?

Can anyone who has studied history or the most basic economics--or who has balanced a home budget--question for a moment that this situation is unsustainable?

I have romantic dreams sometimes. Instead of going to Hawaii and stumbling across the woman of my dreams on a secluded beach, what happens is that the bulk of at least EDUCATED Americans ACT RATIONAL; that they act as if they are adults, understand adult responsibility for the future, for posterity, and are concerned enough both to demand and to provide accurate information of the sort needed for substantive debate.

It is not a question of Granny going over a cliff: She's going. Period. The question is how high the cliff will be, and how soon. You cannot spend too much money forever. It just can't be done.

Our problem is that our students learn to question what the meaning of "is" is--and what the meaning of "questioning" is; and learn to find oppression in comfortable apartments, new clothes, state of the art everything, while doing next to no work, and passing a doobie around. It is pathetic, and so is anyone who wants to defend, now, Gramsci or any of his fellow lunatics.
God help the republic if it needs the Berlinski's to figure out that materialism is too important to be left to the marxists.
Well done. To dismiss Gramsci on the basis of a grad student's accent is quite the feat of both prejudice and stupidity.
Here is a simple question: does the average University student graduate better able to interact productively with ideological Others? The answer--both culturally and politically--is a decided NO.

If you doubt this, I would encourage you to visit the Daily Cause (Kos), sign up, wait your week to post a diary, then post that you think the government spends too much money, and that after four years, Barack Obama can't blame anybody but himself. See what happens. Most of these kids--and whatever their biological age, they are kids--never grow up, and their education complements this desire nicely.

The root claim that MUST in my view be a part of any truly LIBERAL arts curriculum, in the sense that Adam Smith, George Washington, and John Stuart Mill were all Liberals, is that pain is an ineluctable part of life. No matter what you do, no matter how you scramble to and fro, pain in some form will always be there.

The task of the Liberal is to engage with this fact creatively, synthetically.

They don't do this in universities any more. They don't even graduate people able to have reasoned debates with people who did not walk in agreeing with them on the fundamentals. We are not graduating responsible, intellectually well bred citizens. We are graduating whiny, incurious, angry little beasts.

I interact with them all the time. I know whereof I speak.

I will add that the root problem is simply the failure of academics responsible for so doing to come up with some reason for living better than fanatical political engagement. Does anyone seriously think people find consolation if they study Philosophy?

An error which compounds this is the persistent delusion of Materialism. It is a falsified creed, which has no bearing to our best guesses about the nature of the universe, but it won't leave.
This gives the Academy far, far too much influence in our cultural life. It's better if you think of some of these programs as a sort of jobs program for people who are intelligent but otherwise unemployable.

On Michelle's difficulties with English, you may appreciate this young singer-songwriter's take on "So, Um, Like": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2puv4rtFuM0&feature=g-subs
You critique the flabby relativism of the humanities, crudely dismiss a selection of marxists (no others!), and then say " The chief objective of an education in the humanities today, Bawer argues—with abundant anecdotal evidence to support the claim". I stopped reading at that point. Can you imagine why? What is anecdotal evidence worth?
Too bad they can't all just work for right wing publications and write dismissively of "stammering bimbo" grad students.

Also that "comparative literature syllabus" isn't a syllabus, it's a major checklist.

It seems patently absurd to suggest that the, perhaps five to ten percent of American college age students who major in the Humanities at major universities somehow are to blame for all the "decline of American culture" and not the vast corporations who produce "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." Though I think you're right. We need less post-modern theory and more theory about how to kill whitey and guillotine the rich. Some practical stuff.
and @ B. Samuel Davis:

The insular nature of campuses you mention, where odd inanities are bred and drift out into the surrounding culture (to use your words) - that is a myth.

Community activities are always part of the job for professors. It's actually one of the required parts of earning tenure - campus service and community service. I work regularly with local high schools, politicians from the U.S. and abroad, filmmakers, artists, authors, fashion designers, musicians, event organizers, business leaders, architects, translators, and more.

Campuses can provide some quiet places for us to think and write, but that doesn't mean we're all locked in some intellectual Galapagos inbreeding moronity.

If anyone doesn't think humanities studies are crucial to educating thinking citizens, drop by a university sometime: spend some time watching people learn how to read a text, a headline, a political speech. It's shocking to see how few high school graduates can grasp the basic points of messages all around them, let alone the subtleties. We are working to change that. It's a battle of attrition though, and hard to do with so little support from the vocational mindset that has taken over our culture.

Basic message: universities, including liberal arts/humanities, are not the enemy. They are the best chance for raising thinking citizens, creative minds who will lead in all industries. Business innovation doesn't come from taking only business classes. Scientific inspiration and innovation don't come from taking only science classes. Effective politicians build vision through taking classes outside the political science majors. Architects benefit from art history and literary studies. Great business leaders, politicians, architects and scientists will tell you that - read a few of their memoirs and see what they say.

Sciences, business, political science and economics: important.
Literature, music and philosophy: important.

The list goes on, but the point is that they work together.
A couple of comments: If the relativists at least had turned Solway's fatuous phrase around to read “[t]here are no civilized men, only different forms of barbarians” they might at least have had a motive for thinking about how those barbarians might be turned into civilized men, but no such luck.
The "altarnative causes" which Claire Berlinsky suggests for our consideration generally seem to come into play at too late a stage of our current cultural collapse to really explain it. They may be symptoms rather than causes. A possible candidate better placed in time in that regard is the coming of age of the "Woodstock generation." After they were done with "doing their own thing" in the fragrant haze of communes and crash-pads, they "returned" to American life in two streams: The poster boy for one of those streams is Jerry Rubin: from hippie to yippie to yuppie (Wall Street). Many of the novel financial instruments and practices that figured in the 2007-2008 financial collapse were introduced in the early 1980s, which is about when these people - unfettered by "square" (traditional) standards of accountability and rectitude - had embarked on their careers, newly minted diplomas in hand. The other stream went for influence and power instead of for riches. In order to realize the feverish dreams of a brave new world incubated during their stint in the 1960s counter-culture “revolution”, they decided to "continue the revolution from inside the system." They cut off their pony tails, donned suits, and went into education, local, state, and federal government service, and allied pursuits. Their Bible was Saul Alinsky's book "Rules for radicals" (Random House, 1971), which advised exactly that, along with the new career of "community organizer", as the royal road from the "world as it is" to the "world as it ought to be." If there is to be a poster boy for this stream it may be the current President of the United States. If so, careful reading of Alinsky's book provides sobering food for thought.
I'm a professor in the Department of Comparative World Literature at CSU Long Beach, cited at the end. If anyone is wondering what happens in our courses, or what a syllabus looks like, I encourage you to contact me. There are so many misunderstandings about what the humanities collectively mean to our education system and to larger social, intellectual, and economic systems at large -- I invite you to talk with me more. I won't put my email here, to avoid spambots, but it's here:

http://www.csulb.edu/colleges/cla/departments/complit-classics/faculty-and-staff/

All best,
Jordan Smith

wow... nothing proves a theory is worthy of being taken seriously to me like citing a young person expressing themselves poorly in a conversation with an author who's hoping to use that conversation to further his point.
A friend of mine teaches literature at a local college. One of the books on his reading list was "This Way For Gas Ladies And Gentlemen" by Tadeusz Borowski. Borowski was a prisoner in Auschwitz, and wrote the book soon after the war.

My friend asked the students what they thought about the book, and a young man said he very much liked the book, because everyone was represented: Jews, Poles, women, men, gays, etc. The student was clearly a product of identity politics and the Canadian version of multiculturalism. I nearly died laughing when I heard the story, and I still laugh when I relate it.
Tea party apologetics and badly written.
this is the typical dismissal of gramsci, and therefore in this case foucault and the like as simply 'absurd', a dismissal which cheapens the intellectual value.
It also proves them, though, by highlighting that the the 'intellectual' american can only dismiss offhand the ideas that challenge their funding source (ford foundation and the like), as their grants are more relevant than their truths. Intellectual indeed.
Of course I only had to read the title of her book to make a similarly simple dismissal as pandering to her conservative funders. Is this shallow? well gramsci would say so.
Yes... this is an America where half the population believes the world is 6000 years old and will end in our lifetime. And America that, despite flooding in Manhattan and wintertime Arctic Ocean shipping, doesn't believe in global warming. An America where people list their ethnicity as autocthonous "America,"; where a rising tide stopped lifting the boats of 80 percent of households; where we are continually fighting the secessionist urges of Mississippians who still reject interracial marriage.

And you are lost in a world of academic conferences and feeling resentment towards your sport-coated brethren.

Go... go find a real problem to address.
Claire uses wikipedia. It's obvious. She is an ignorant journalist who probably hasn't even read Paulo Freire, let alone Shakespeare, and I am positive she did not look into the way in which Freire used Shakespeare to teach peasants to read. I am tired of reading articles by "experts" who don't know their subject matter. Uninformed articles like this are the real signs of a degraded culture. I am surprised Arts and Letters Daily linked to such a pitiful article. Shouldn't critics be required to have at least a working knowledge of their subject matter? The reduction of Gramsci is laughable. And I don't even like Gramsci. Read Stanley Fish for insights that come from an informed mind. This stuff is pollution.
What goes on overall in the humanities in universities is hard to know but the California State University Curriculum looks fishy to me. A common ruse is to teach "studies in . . ." courses, where the label looks canonical but the content might be either not so or the canon from an "identity" angle. And profs no longer decide whcih specific books to teach but are mostly on their own. One English lit meant the major writers and that was that and they were taught as if they had something worth getting to get. Gone. and identity stuff is just one cause (publish more and more another)
The contributor complains of the "inability of many young Americans to express a simple or even grammatically coherent thought", and proceeds almost immediately to emit this:

"One was postmodernism, of course, which traced its roots to the great anthropologists, but from which, alas, was derived a form of crude cultural relativism that achieved the ignominious trifecta of insipidity, incoherence, and blithe ignorance of a philosophical literature treating the idea of relativism from the Sophists to, at the very least, G. E. Moore. "

We imagine more of the same followed; we admit we did not bother to investigate further.

Fie upon you, and your heirs and acolytes.
What a filthy excuse for a human being you are.
"Then arrived the minor idea of hegemony, conceived by the minor Marxist intellect Antonio Gramsci, who argued that modern liberal democracies are no freer than the most ruthless of totalitarianisms. The oppression was merely unseen."

This is really a bit too crude. Firstly Gramsci's idea of hegemony was develloped to explain why revolution had taken place in Russia instead of in the West & not as suggested here to show that liberal democracies are as bad as totalitarian regimes. Secondly, whilst those in the identity politics business do indeed have the tendency to give hegemony into a mystique conspirational vibe, the way I have seen it being used for the most part is simply as a way of describing how concensus & legitimacy is constructed. Now I may assume that it is uncontested here that concensus & legitmiacy do not fall under the catergory of absurd ideas.
"And why has our public debate coarsened?"
I read a very convincing article (I don't remember where or who authored it) that public debate hasn't coarsened - it's just that we are now able to see the level it has always been at, mainly because of the internet. 50 years ago we didn't have access to everyone's opinions, now we do; but that doesn't mean they were any better 50 years ago.
The same can be said for "polarized politics"
congratulations, you got it all figured out.
The link in the last paragraph is not a course syllabus - there are no works listed. It is a list of required courses. How does this prove or even relate to anything in the article? How do we know Gramsci isn't assigned in every single course as theory reading?

Blaming the Internet is so boring and lazy!

I have some problems with identity politics, although from a left perspective (see, for example, Rorty's "Achieving Our Country" - one need not be a Rortyan-style Pragmatist to appreciate his argument) - and I am curious about this book, but found this review to be shallow and not at all exemplary of the supposedly rigorous thinking a "serious" education ought to provide. Where are the smart conservatives? I know they're out there! Right?
Berlinski may be reversing cause and effect here. Intellectuals (i.e. universities) develop the ideas that drive the culture—including the media, K-12 education, etc. Much of the "cultural coarsening" that she discusses is precisely the result to be expected of an ill- and mis-educated citizenry with abundant press and media freedom (i.e. freedom of expression). The more freedom we have, the more free we are to publicly enact our selves and execute our ideas, such as they may be. It is to be expected that the culture of a free and well-educated people will be very different from that of a free but ill- or mis-educated people. Of course, all of this suggests not that we should have less freedom, but rather more good education.
If Bawer really believes that Gramsci, Freire and Fanon are at the heart of identity politics, then he hasn't understood much of the work he was reading in ploughing through those syllabi. They're among the least influential writers for the identity/cultural studies that arose in the 1980s. Sounds like Bawer has the same prejudice as many right-wing writers on this field - that such disciplines are simply the old 'new left' by other means. In fact Freire and Fanon would be seen as 'essentialist' thinkers, something Bawer doesn't seem to have picked up in guffawing at Michele. Sounds like the Republican disease has hit the right-wing academy - believe your own mythology, and be surprised when you get your arse handed to you
'She’s “sort of reviving a Gramschian-style Marxism,” involving the idea that global warming is “sort of, like, a crisis, in the human relationship to nature?” Bawer claims that his heart goes out to her. (His heart is bigger than mine.)'

Oh how superior to poor Michele are Bruce and Claire! It simply takes one's breath away.
"I don’t know what precisely the problem is, only that there is a problem."

Agreed. I told my children to go to the library if they wanted to get a liberal arts education. Fortunately, America's colleges still provide a terrific education in the sciences. From what I noticed, there is a two tiered system in colleges these days: those in the sciences study most of the time. Those in the liberal arts/humanities party most of the time. Guess which has the easier time getting jobs after graduation?

Naturally that's not true for everyone. I can only base this on what I'm told. But, perhaps the perception on campus that the humanities is not a serious area of study has been encouraged by what is described in this article. Plus, hard work could be considered a Western concept inapplicable to the new way of thinking.

As for the substance of the article, one can only imagine that the insular nature of campuses lead to absurd ways of thinking. The problem is that these inanities have a tendency to drift into the surrounding culture.

You almost wish that someone who believes that there is a resemblance between a western democracy, and say North Korea, would actually spend some time as at the bottom of the social order in North Korea. Because when these people imagine a new society, it is always with them wielding power, not suffering under it. You can hardly imagine what sort of moron could think like that, but somehow we not only tolerate it, we trust our children to these people.

Maybe we are as dumb as they are.

Q&A with Salman Khan from this: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/506356/qa-with-salman-khan/

Here’s what I think it could look like in five years: the learning side will be free, but if and when you want to prove what you know, and get a credential, you would go to a proctoring center [for an exam]. And that would cost something. Let’s say it costs $100 to administer that exam. I could see charging $150 for it. And then you have a $50 margin that you can reinvest on the free-learning side.

I think that is consistent with the mission. You are taking the cost of the credential down from thousands of dollars to hundreds of dollars. And the [software] system would tell them they are ready for it. So no paying tuition for community college and then dropping out, or even finishing the whole thing and saying “Oh, I’m $20,000 in debt and what did I get out of it?”

Now you are like, “Look, there is this micro-credential in basic accounting I can get for $150, and I basically know I am going to pass before I invest that money.” That would be a huge positive for the consumers of education, and it could pay the bills on the learning side.

In five years or less, the colleges and universities will look like US military bases in 1947. A new paradigm will probably emerge where advanced credentials are judged by communities of scholars, who mentor advanced students online, and but not necessarily often, in person, and where membership in the communities is seen as a honor and not as a way to make a large income.

It is noteworthy that Kahn had no government involvement, which IMHO would have screwed up his inspiration and the resulting work beyond all recognition.


Q&A with Salman Khan from this: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/506356/qa-with-salman-khan/

Here’s what I think it could look like in five years: the learning side will be free, but if and when you want to prove what you know, and get a credential, you would go to a proctoring center [for an exam]. And that would cost something. Let’s say it costs $100 to administer that exam. I could see charging $150 for it. And then you have a $50 margin that you can reinvest on the free-learning side.

I think that is consistent with the mission. You are taking the cost of the credential down from thousands of dollars to hundreds of dollars. And the [software] system would tell them they are ready for it. So no paying tuition for community college and then dropping out, or even finishing the whole thing and saying “Oh, I’m $20,000 in debt and what did I get out of it?”

Now you are like, “Look, there is this micro-credential in basic accounting I can get for $150, and I basically know I am going to pass before I invest that money.” That would be a huge positive for the consumers of education, and it could pay the bills on the learning side.

In five years or less, the colleges and universities will look like US military bases in 1947. A new paradigm will probably emerge where advanced credentials are judged by communities of scholars, who mentor advanced students online, and but not necessarily often, in person, and where membership in the communities is seen as a honor and not as a way to make a large income.

It is noteworthy that Kahn had no government involvement, which IMHO would have screwed up his inspiration and the resulting work beyond all recognition.


A return to standards is needed, a trade is a better outcome for most humanities students in second and third tier Universities. We need no more than ten percent of students as graduates, the rest would be better served with trade related dipomas in areas of demand, commerce, technology, scient, engineers and hospitality. Internet based degrees could then flourish in a free market, as people seek to increase their skills and get managerial posts.
Provide rigour to the studies, and let students fail without then cutting the casual lecturers hours. Of course everyone gets an "A" when you know if they don't you will get a bad review and lose half your casual hours next semester.
A return to standards is needed, a trade is a better outcome for most humanities students in second and third tier Universities. We need no more than ten percent of students as graduates, the rest would be better served with trade related dipomas in areas of demand, commerce, technology, scient, engineers and hospitality. Internet based degrees could then flourish in a free market, as people seek to increase their skills and get managerial posts.
Provide rigour to the studies, and let students fail without then cutting the casual lecturers hours. Of course everyone gets an "A" when you know if they don't you will get a bad review and lose half your casual hours next semester.
I have another suggestion to MS Berlinkski's quizzicalness, but I wrote it two days ago to the Wall Street Journal Letters, which will probably not publish it. If they do not, I will put it up elsewhere, where I have put 200 unpublished letters to various papers here and in the UK. Under my rubrick: LETTERS TO THE WORLD, and keyword my name, Jascha Kessler, or perhaps, Letters, etc.
I have another suggestion to MS Berlinkski's quizzicalness, but I wrote it two days ago to the Wall Street Journal Letters, which will probably not publish it. If they do not, I will put it up elsewhere, where I have put 200 unpublished letters to various papers here and in the UK. Under my rubrick: LETTERS TO THE WORLD, and keyword my name, Jascha Kessler, or perhaps, Letters, etc.
I have another suggestion to MS Berlinkski's quizzicalness, but I wrote it two days ago to the Wall Street Journal Letters, which will probably not publish it. If they do not, I will put it up elsewhere, where I have put 200 unpublished letters to various papers here and in the UK. Under my rubrick: LETTERS TO THE WORLD, and keyword my name, Jascha Kessler, or perhaps, Letters, etc.
The Perfidious Multicultural Idea.

Really ??? Learning about other cultures, per se, is now "perfidious." I'm sure we can find something perfidious, somewhere. The looking, itself, is not the perfidy.

We are the civilization that spawned Hitler and nuclear weapons by the tens of thousands and enormous biological warfare programs and now go nuts today denying global warming. From the New York area, maybe we could be a skosh more careful claiming superiority ???
If Mr. Bawer thinks our culture's become degraded I suspect his study of the past was limited to the moneyed and educated.
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Outside the precious precincts of that tiny minority culture was what you found on most food and it was of the microbial variety.
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Fear, hunger and desperation tend to crowd out the pursuit of the aesthetic and since that was humanity's lot through most of human history what we celebrate as the elevated culture of the past was really all that's left of the excesses of the very rich who employed the unusually talented.
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I suspect that "what's left" doesn't quite encompass all that was brought into existance during those times and blessedly so. Since I categorically reject the notion that human taste's diminished over the centuries the explanation for the belief in a "Golden Age" is that what was distinctly un-golden succumbed to the erosion of time and has, blessedly again, gone out of common knowledge.
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As for all the college "studies" departments that sprang up in the seventies, they're commonly on life support. While the days of identity politics woven into academe isn't over its best days are in the past. But, you have to dig to uncover the quiet folding of a black studies department into the history department and the equally quiet marginalization of the more radical elements that came with the migration.
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Some of those radicals won't, of course, go quietly but the cost of college has reached the point that there are relatively few prospective students who can afford to pursue a degree which qualifies one to do nothing but teach the next generation of students to take your place. If you don't have any students taking your classes you can scream as loud as you want but your raison d'etre has cease to exist. To use a distinctly uncultured phrase, money talks....
I'm a numbers guy, and would like to know how many
universities have programs in the study of western culture and history. Universities are a sort of intellectual hothouse that breed arrogance, unearned in any but their(the professors') specialities, if then.
"Then arrived the minor idea of hegemony, conceived by the minor Marxist intellect Antonio Gramsci, who argued that modern liberal democracies are no freer than the most ruthless of totalitarianisms."

Not that I am a big fan of Gramsci, but I don´t think it would be fair to treat him as a relativist in that sense. After all, he was preoccupied with and imprisoned under Italian fascism. People did with his concept whatever they needed it for. The conceptions using Gramscian premises might often not have anything to do with one another, it is widely discussed in IR with questions not related to what postmodern studies are concerned with, and Gramsci is politicized ranging from the far Left to even the new right in Europe (France mainly). One cannot say much about him because he wrote his main works in prison and did not really have the chance to clarify himself.
Higher education? Then why changes with those who haven't gone to college. If that's the only cause presented it is superficial. Culture is changing and there are myriad reasons for that - television? mother's working? computers and computer games? hand held (and continually used) wireless electronic devices? Why does everyone want to pick on education as the sole cause?
It's not all that complicated, Claire. What strength there was and remains had its roots in a certain tradition, and especially in the genuine belief that produced the works and thought that formed that tradition. As the beliefs were held by fewer and fewer persons, fewer and fewer works, less and less thought, was produced. Eventually a tipping point was reached in which the tradition itself began to be undervalued widely. The resulting vacuum demanded filling, and fill it did, with works and thoughts based on other beliefs. These new beliefs, their 'tradition', thought, and works, degraded our culture and coarsened our public debate, as well as producing a polarization between the adherents of both traditions. But you know all this already, and could articulate it far better than I.
Hmmm . . . as usual, the defence of Judeo-Christianity and suggesting that its rejection by the West might have something to do with the degradation of our present culture seems to be a conversation stopper. I guess I get it, but I don’t find it intellectually honest.

What a juxtaposition: in polite company, we’re not supposed to say anything bad about Islam or, apparently, anything good about Christianity: two elephants in the room. Hmmm . . .
When I have received a death sentence, I am not much interested in the chemical composition of the instruments to be employed in my demise.

The left, collectively, has done its work well and has now succeeded in bringing about absolute tyranny. All the levers of power are in their hands at last, and the American experiment in liberty is done. I am getting my house in order.
On another matter, I happened upon this article by George Weigel: Pope Benedict Speaks Truth to Power. It deals with the banishment of Christianity from the public square and the resulting cultural amnesia and squalor of the West.

“. . . In his September 22 address to the Bundestag, Benedict spoke some home truths to his countrymen who, like many of their European Union compatriots, have forgotten a great deal about the cultural foundations of the West — foundations that are essential in supporting the political edifice of human rights and the rule of law. . . .

[Quoting the pope]: “The conviction that there is a Creator God is what gave rise to the idea of human rights, the idea of the equality of all people before the law, the recognition of the inviolability of human dignity in every single person, and the awareness of people’s responsibility for their actions. Our cultural memory is shaped by these rational insights. To ignore it or dismiss it as a thing of the past would be to dismember our culture totally and rob it of its completeness. The culture of Europe arose from the encounter between Jerusalem, Athens and Rome – from the encounter between Israel’s monotheism, the philosophical reason of the Greeks, and Roman law. This three-way encounter has shaped the inner identity of Europe. In the awareness of man’s responsibility before God and in the acknowledgment of the inviolable dignity of every single human person, it has established criteria of law: It is these criteria that we are called upon to defend at this moment in our history.

“. . . Europe is dying, and Benedict knows it. It is dying demographically, which is one root of its current fiscal and political mess. But self-destructive birthrates do not just happen, absent wars, plagues, and natural disasters; Europe’s self-destruction is a by-product of a deep spiritual malaise that has led to both demographic winter and cultural crisis. . . .”

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/278487/pope-benedict-speaks-truth-power-george-weigel
BDL, our elementary schools are so busy indoctrinating students with progressive clap-trap, there’s almost no time left over for serious academic pursuits. In fact, such pursuits are no longer considered to be the prime purpose of our schools: social and political indoctrination is so much more important—and glamourous! Not to mention that most of the younger teachers have never been taught the basics either: grammar, what’s that? Memorization of the number facts? How boring and passé. Style over substance is so much more sexy and fun!

When discussing the degradation of our culture, which more and more people are experiencing in real time, I think the focus on academia is important. However, the rot starts well before that. First of all, Christianity has been unceremoniously stuffed into the closet, bloodied and gagged—and with it, its focus on altruism and principled, high achievement. By the time our kids get to college, their flabby brains—with no rigourous exercise, what else would one expect?—have been well conditioned to accept utter clap-trap. Then try reasoning with such a person. Talk about closed (and dark) minds!

Kyrie eleison.
"This inability of many young Americans to express a simple or even grammatically coherent thought..."

Aren't you supposed to pick up this kind of thing in school BEFORE you get to college?
I think Mr. Bawer is trying to reveal the intellectual foundation for the disintegration of our culture. Most of the bottom-feeders today have never heard of those people. Whether our culture would be so debased without those intellectuals is a good question.

BTX, your cite gives only a list of courses in literature at CSU Long Beach, not the comaparative literature syllabus.
I have another angle. How about the fact that, in the West, there has been an almost complete repudiation of our Judeo-Christian foundation? When the roots of a tree are attacked and decimated, the tree withers and dies. It can no longer sustain its own life nor that of organisms that rely on it. I honestly believe that that’s what’s happening in the West.

I’m an elementary school teacher: talk about barbarians! Over the last four decades, as Christianity has been banned from our schools (and almost no students attend church or synagogue: lots attend the mosque), students’ rights have become front and centre: try disciplining a miscreant, whose “right to respect” trumps the teacher’s. It happens all the time. In fact, the more disturbed and disruptive—even violent—the student is (and it’s a real bonus if s/he is a visible minority), the more the system lets that “unfortunate, not-able-to-be-held-to-account” (sic) student off the hook. (Think Obama’s quotas for suspensions.) It’s a scandal of daunting proportions.

I’ve never seen so many self-referential, Me-Me-Me kids in my life. Not only have they never contemplated that they are NOT the centre of the universe—neither have their immature parents—the idea of altruism would make most of them laugh. What?! The Good Samaritan? Huh? The actual shunning of our traditional, Judeo-Christian beliefs and mores has left a vacuum, now filled with politically motivated clap-trap: greeny Gaia worship—literally—the sexualisation of our kids, promotion of the gay agenda under the guise anti-bullying (as the bullies take over), anti-capitalism—you name it (as academic standards plummet). Our culture is treated as a dirty throw-back to the dark ages.

As G.K. Chesterton (maybe) said, “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.” When people no longer have confidence in their own story and identity, they’re easy pickings for all kinds of bogus fads and flim-flam. I’d contend that turning our backs on our Judeo-Christian roots has everything to do with why so many college students so easily fall for the absolute junk being peddled to them. Those who respect—and maybe even actually believe—the Judeo-Christian story of our civilization are not so easily hoodwinked. (Arthur C. Brooks’ study also showed that they are substantially more community-oriented and altruistic than their secular, fellow citizens.)

For the past 30 years at least, our kids have been poorly socialized, in an actively anti-(Judeo-)Christian environment: they think the world is there to serve them, not the other way around. They’re generally rootless, rudderless, and selfish: they’re most definitely not loyal to their own tribe. What an irony: while all other tribes in the multicultural mix are taught to revere and stand up for their culture, no matter how decrepit, young people in the West are taught to disparage their own, rather noble one. In such a dangerous world, with many predators out there, this is not a winning formula. I have a great deal of respect for Bruce Bawer. However, I don’t believe that one can comprehensively explain the degradation of our culture without a serious account of the pervasive rejection our Judeo-Christian roots.
At least the problem is being addressed by people like Bawer. Over the last 20 years or so, authors such as Roger Scruton, Bryan Appleyard and Antony O'Hear have written extensively concerning our general cultural and spiritual decline. Twenty years ago they were reviled, but today many otherwise hostile intellectuals, often grudgingly, acknowledge that they may have a point.
Ms. Berlinsky is too kind towards, “This inability of many young Americans to express a simple or even grammatically coherent thought.”

Those ‘students’ likely fall below minus one standard deviation (IQ = < 85) of intelligence. They should never have been admitted to higher education. Under that dunce cap might be included, many ‘professors’. All are the beneficiaries of state payments per head, lowered academic standards, grade inflation, inadequately educated, quota - selected professors, who are teaching the second of successive generations of stupidity studies.

Universities do instill excellence in the sciences and technologies, with almost all male students and professors.

Jeffrey Asher
Dick Illyes writes, "Will Universities survive? Almost certainly, but after downsizings and pay reductions so dramatic that they are inconceivable today."

Just for general information here: The "pay reductions" are already here. 75% of university teachers are now poverty-level, itinerant "adjuncts," especially in the humanities. Those few with tenure are doing okay, but they are no longer typical. This contributes to a decline in quality, of course, since enrollment-based universities need student satisfaction, which drives student teaching evaluations which decide if the adjunct keeps his/her job. Sexy classes like fat studies or sports studies are also more popular with the students. Instructors also need to teach way too many courses at once to survive, so they cut corners. The universities even mandate cutting corners - shortening term lengths and mandating more and more remedial work in college. So the poverty-level pay of instruction and the customer service model of education lead directly to a drop in quality, a factory model of degree production over deep engagement with the canon.

I'm one of those adjuncts, a moderate liberal with some conservative leanings, broad training in the western tradition, a hostile attitude toward postmodernism and little interest in the "sexy" trends - but you're losing me. I've given up and am leaving academia. I won't choose between feeding the kids and some day being able to retire. I'm silly enough to actually want both, so I'm leaving.
The initial statement in the editorial - that the universities are responsible for the "coarseness" of our discourse - is ridiculous and I am glad that the article goes on to differentiate. There are plenty of problems with academia, and the issues explored here are among them. But the counterattack against those problems is also made by some academics as well (it is a phase and it will self-correct) and, more importantly, the "coarseness" and dubmness of public discourse so obvious in TV "news" and especially talk radio has very little to do with universities. Academia is a popular target right now, easy prey for polemics.
I'm so glad I studied engineering, because I learned how to think, rather than what to think.

I also learned that while effort and good intentions are noble, it's actual results achieved that really count in the end.

I feel sorry for many of today's students, who go into debt learning something that will be of little use to them in the real world -- or worse, hinder or prevent their success in life. We have the Liberal Academia to blame for this.
I actually suspect stammering bimbo Michele is like one of young Barack Obama's fictional composite dates because she did not say global warming is actually, like, a crisis, in the human relationship to nature.
Read the first and last paragraph and found no desire to read more, but I did read it all and decided that higher education is not for me and I will stick to experiential living on which to base my journey.
The cycles of history described by Strauss and Howe in The Fourth Turning, amplified dramatically by the size of the boomer generation, does a lot to explain the situation. IMO we are in the end period of what they termed the third cycle, the Unraveling. It will be followed by the Crisis, involving the total collapse of one or more widely accepted social arrangements.

The move into the Crisis will also involve an abrupt shift in public opinion on a number of issues. If someone had been asked in 1930 if prohibition would ever end, they would have said there was no chance. In February 1933 Congress sent it to the states and it was adopted in December 1933. This is a classic example of the change in public opinion accompanying what Strauss and Howe term a Turning. Multiculturalism will probably vanish except as a historical curiosity during the coming Fourth Turning.

The amazing cost increases in higher education, leaving graduates so burdened with debt that they are unable to buy their first house, marry, and start a family, will destroy higher education as we know it, to be replaced with Internet based courses and a variety of methods of recognition of achievement.

Will Universities survive? Almost certainly, but after downsizings and pay reductions so dramatic that they are inconceivable today.
The source of the demeaning of all that is good about America and the energy for the de-Christianizing of America is higher education. Wasn't this the objective of Thomas Mann? If you look at where the great leftist minds congregate, isn't it higher education? Anything they do well academically is their cover.
Claire,
Remember what happened to Larry Summers when he tried to ask whether there could be differences between males and females? I suspect that there are many academics who either don't care much about the ...Studies programs or are afraid to challenge their value. They probably worry more about avoiding conflicts with the diversity director.
Also, you have to consider the schools of education.They have managed to bring self esteem, fairnesss, and victimhood even into elementary school curriculums, so that many college students aren't trained to ask questions. They will however, turn up for protests.