Saturday, November 19, 2005

Advice to a child going off to college

A fictitious screed I wrote some years ago. The pithiest zingers here are probably stolen from someone else. I hope this won't be necessary by the time my own are really old enough to go to college.

Congratulations, my child! You are finally going off to college. One day you were in diapers, and now you're headed off into the wide world. In a sense, my work is done. For the first time you will be making your day-to-day decisions without input from me. You are not yet an adult, but neither are you an adolescent any longer. You will face the challenges that all young people face when they are on their own: self-discipline, work, finding your way in life. I trust you will use this time to prepare for adulthood, rather than to prolong your adolescence. These four years will seem like an eternity-before, during, and after them. It is your last and best opportunity to connect with large numbers of your peers, to get your share of sheer magic out of life. I wish you much success and fulfillment during your time there.

College is not like it was when I was there, however. Don't misunderstand; I didn't live in a golden age. I had some courses that were clinkers, some teachers that were stinkers, some friends who turned out to be sheer bastards, some times when I shamed myself. But that happens to everyone, and will also happen to you. What I am concerned about are the PC police. The curriculum-corers. The array of leftists who have seized control of so many universities, and who may prevent you from getting *my* money's worth of education for you. Consider these tips I've written out for you, and though I hope you never need to use them, remember that forewarned is forearmed.

· I am sending you to college to become civilized. That is, I am sending you there to get steeped in the great record of The West, mankind's most successful attempt to shake free of the degradation and chaos of bare savagery. People who want to destroy civilization are call "barbarians". They are dangerous, none more so than barbarians with PhD's. Don't turn up your nose at a chance to learn something, but don't confuse an open mind with a hole in your head, either.

· Political Correctness, like its foreign uncle Communism, is the negation of liberty masquerading as the attainment of liberation. Anything that must be done in lockstep may be good or bad, depending on circumstances-but it is never freedom.

· In any given state of affairs, five per cent of the people pull one way, five per cent pull another way, and the remaining 90 per cent are largely content to go along with whoever seems to be pulling the hardest. So don't let the bastards shove you around! For everyone who takes your side, figure about three other people who sympathize, but aren't quite brave enough to say so.

· Some professors will use standard English to deride standard English, Western ideas of human rights to denounce human rights in the West, scientific reasoning to deplore science, religious language to sneer at your religion. Such people may imagine themselves to be incisive critics, even voices of conscience. In truth, they are hothouse blossoms, as ignorant of their American blessings as fish are ignorant of water. The sincere ones, I mean. There are plenty others who have found it necessary to parrot this jargon simply in order to obtain employment. The lot of them should have no moral authority with you. Try not to snicker, though.

· There used to be a thing called American Philosophy. Your philosophy courses, if you take any beyond the introductory surveys, will consist mostly of the thought of French deconstructionists and their literal-minded American disciples. But you may have a chance to get introduced to people like William James and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Take the chance.

· You will most likely be required to swallow and regurgitate a considerable amount of feminist scholarship. The academic feminism you will likely encounter may be roughly broken down into four categories.

1) Mythological feminism. There never was a primordial female Eden. And women have never been all slaves. Man and woman both have the capacity for good and evil. The relations between the sexes, like the relations among any set of people, have been a mix of sordidness and saintliness throughout history. We have always been either at each others' throats or in each others' arms.

2) Hard-left feminism. Since at least the 1960s, when Marxism made its way back into American intellectual life, the destruction ("transformation", in their parlance) of the family has been a goal of the feminists. Don't ask me how or why, but it is evident that the religious inquisitor of the Middle Ages has been reborn as the militant political agitator in our own day. This is why, as a child, you saw episodes of Sesame Street and other "educational" programming minimizing the stature and benefits of a family headed by a husband and wife. Now you're in for the grown-up version of the same destructive propaganda. To these people, every nest is a cage. Question all statistics. Chances are that they are incomplete, misconstrued or, like the famous Super Bowl wife-battering hoax, just plain lies.

3) Selective feminism. You will have to sit through a lot of blather about how frightened "the patriarchy" is of "strong women." Most of the "strong women" trotted out will be leftists or proto-leftists. Margaret Thatcher, Eleanor of Aquitane, the Confederate home front, none of these strong women will be held up as examples of strength or endurance. Most had families and loved them, and did not produce agitprop for leftist causes, therefore in feminist eyes they never existed.

4) Self-pitying feminism. After hearing about all the "strong women", you will be told what helpless victims women are today. Democracy and tradition are evil, they'll say. Nothing good happens to women, unless a radicalized government bureaucracy and judiciary make it happen by edict, they'll say. I have raised you to be a proud American. In the Third Rate World, where women really are treated as awfully as feminists pretend Americans are, feminism may be a force for good. "May", I stress. But in America, feminism is a cultural luxury, made possible by the boundless freedom this country enjoys. Other people may wish to accept the manacles, to stop their hands from shaking. But you must remember the times I told you to wipe your nose and quit feeling sorry for yourself. You are nobody's victim, nor has anyone ever been your victim.

· He who says he is without sin is a fool. So too he who says he is by definition incapable of racism is a godamighty fool. But he's probably being well paid for saying so, if he is on the faculty.

· I have raised you to give people of other races and backgrounds the basic respect that any person is entitled to, in addition to the respect that they have to earn from you by their character. However, as in grade school, you will meet some of these people who have been raised to hate and resent you because of your race and background. Remember that you cannot change poisoned hearts. What will be new to you is that the university administration will think it right, good, and necessary to give these people special treatment, deference in all matters of controversy, and in general treat them like sacred cats in the temple. It's a shameful sight, watching grownups in authority being turned into dancing bears whenever resentful brats snap their fingers. But that's part of your education.

· You will encounter various forms of primitivism. Multiculturalists and diversity hounds, like children, are attracted to bright colors. So you will see utterly ordinary middle-class young people decked out in Mexican wedding shirts, llama hair ponchos, kente headcloths, Pert-conditioned dreadlocks, Birkenstocks, beads, bangles, badges, buttons, etc. The idea is that they wish to sweep away all the hypocrisies and encrustations of the modern world and get back to the simple essence of life in tune with nature. None of them really mean it, else they wouldn't be at a university. For the students, it's a phase; for the faculty, it's a pose. None of them would care to forego First World standards of societal organization: liberty, tolerance--or dentistry, for that matter.

· There is more *genuine* diversity between Toscanini and Furtwangler, between Ingres and Delacroix, between Einstein and Bohr, between Shaw and Wilde, between Mencken and Chesterton, than among any given busload of multiculturalists. If any teacher in any class dismisses a person, movement, idea, or era as Dead White European Males, go immediately to the registrar and demand a refund, because you'll know you are being cheated something scandalous.

· Beware of reality inversions. If you are asked to ponder a question like "What causes poverty?", you may be sure that the questioner has a severely distorted view of history-or is shepherding you into an ideological corral. Poverty has been the norm for most people most of the time up until the last score of decades. "What causes wealth?" is a much more fruitful question, and it does not constrain you to wear any leftist hairshirts.

· Society's enemies are radicals' mascots. One college even has an endowed sociology chair named after a famous American traitor. Vagrants, criminals, semi-criminal entertainers, career government charity recipients, all will be held up for your sympathy, or to excite your anger against productive society. (When your teachers start blithering about "root causes" of social ills, listen carefully for any causes "rooted" in personal responsibility. There will most likely be none.) Other countries have suffered from real tyrannies, and have produced real prophets, martyrs, and freedom fighters. Your teacher, being irritated at thinking of his own insignificance compared to those brave souls, searches for an analogous role for himself. Since he lives in the freest nation in history, he alights upon his nation's enemies, into whom he projects his fantasies of revolution.

· Learn to see through cant. "If you're not part of the solution; you're part of the problem" will be hurled at you from time to time. Invite the activist to consider that his solution may be part of the problem. Or someone may feel very brave and noble by saying, "Given the choice between betraying my country and betraying my friends, I would betray my country." You can point out that by betraying one's country one is also betraying one's friends. Remember that talk may be expensive in college, but it carries even less culpability than in real life. Radicals prefer to be unaccountable for their words and deeds, which is why they cluster in universities and government bureaucracies.

· Finally, dig deep in the university library! Your classrooms may be a PC wasteland, but even the most deracinated radical has not yet dared to burn the libraries. The Western heritage is in there, if you take time to search it out. Good luck, my child!

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