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In Prospect

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In Prospect

Spring 2018
Arts and Culture

Identity politics has corroded literature and history and sociology departments from coast to coast, but the hard sciences have remained mostly free of diversity mania. No longer: as Heather Mac Donald reports in “How Identity Politics Is Harming the Sciences,” the federal government, university officials, and even scientific societies have joined forces to promote the representation of underrepresented minorities and females in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), even though there’s zero evidence that bigotry is holding back qualified candidates in these disciplines. The campaign, warns Mac Donald, is damaging pedagogy and gutting standards in the evaluation of scientific qualifications. The result will be a less competitive America.

Reality TV star Mike Rowe’s Discovery Channel series Dirty Jobs, profiling various types of blue-collar work, was wildly successful. But as he visited job sites for the show, he kept seeing Help Wanted signs and heard employers grumble that they had a rough time finding skilled help, despite the excellent compensation that many trade jobs offered. Not all Americans, Rowe discovered, were okay with getting their hands dirty—even when they needed work, as so many did during the Great Recession. Rowe, together with a number of like-minded allies, gave himself a philanthropic mission to promote careers in the trades and, more broadly, revive the American work ethic. In “Dirty Jobs, Good Pay,” Steven Malanga chronicles their efforts and assesses their results.

Work is the theme of several other stories in this issue. Aaron M. Renn’s “Manufacturing a Comeback” shows how Grand Rapids, once caught in a downward spiral like most Rust Belt cities, is today generating lots of dirty jobs. Oren Cass asks: “Is Technology Destroying the Labor Market?” His short answer: no. What has really harmed the industrial economy, he maintains, are misguided policies that, among other things, have made it more costly—and hence less profitable—to make things and that have distorted incentives to work. In “Project Freedom,” Myron Magnet brings the argument of his classic The Dream and the Nightmare into our current political and economic context and says that it’s time to end welfare, once and for all, and build a renewed culture of work and personal responsibility. Joel Kotkin’s “Brownout” documents Jerry Brown’s economic legacy as California governor, which has seen the state wage regulatory war on working-class employment and grow increasingly dependent on Silicon Valley capital-gains tax dollars.

For months now, the #MeToo movement has sought to expose the sexual predations of abusive males, starting with Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. The campaign may have begun as a protest against workplace harassment, says Kay S. Hymowitz in “The Sexual Revolution’s Angry Children,” but it soon transformed into a kind of counterrevolution—an unwitting revolt against the sixties’ overthrow of norms of sexual comportment. Young women lost the social reinforcement that made them the gatekeepers of sexual propriety; men were unchained from old restraints. Given the differing realities of female and male natures—a lot of men “would have sex with a Venetian blind,” in Nora Ephron’s amusing formulation, while women, due partly to the basics of sexual reproduction, tend to be choosier—the post-sixties dispensation wasn’t going to end well, as the rage and confusion of many of the new counterrevolutionaries suggest.

Charles Upton Sahm’s “American History, Renewed” tells a happier story: of the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s push, using innovative curricula and visits to the smash Broadway musical Hamilton, to ignite a love for history and civics among students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In “Profane Reality, Sacred Memory,” Time legend Lance Morrow remembers Bobby Kennedy, a half-century after his assassination. Drawing on his memories of the former senator and attorney general—he caught a touchdown pass over Kennedy’s outstretched arm in a touch football game—Morrow finds that “Bobby’s is the family’s completest story, with the clearest moral contours.” It was Bobby’s death in June 1968, Morrow believes, that, even more than his brother’s earlier murder, “left an authentic ache in the American heart.”

—Brian C. Anderson

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