Sunday, April 09, 2017

Why Can't They Be Like We Were?

Here's an article by Patrick Deneen, a professor at Notre Dame, about how ignorant the kids he teaches are.  Nothing personal--they're nice, they're honest, they just don't know basic things about our civilization.

Perhaps he's right, but haven't we been hearing this forever?  In fact, Deneen mentions previous Jeremiahs like Allan Bloom and E.D. Hirsch.  Except they were complaining thirty years ago--it was Deneen's generation they thought was hopeless.

So if Deneen comes from a cohort that didn't know anything, how can he be surprised that the kids they've been teaching don't know anything?

There may be plenty of problems with the present generation, but ignorance is natural.  Almost no one has comprehensive knowledge of our culture entering college, and few have it exiting.   The country may be facing serious problems, but in the past we've gotten by with more than enough ignorance of history, literature, science and so on to go around.

I'm surprised Deneen doesn't know that.

3 Comments:

Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Understanding when we've had coherence and when we haven't is indeed an interesting question. I take your point, but it's not as if it is standing on any firmer ground than his point is. How do we know what we know . . .

12:48 PM, April 09, 2017  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I think I stand on firm ground in saying that we've heard it before. Yet people are always wringing their hands about the present generation.

When I was in college, I remember being told that my generation didn't know basic things (that presumably the previous ones did). I thought maybe we were especially ignorant, but then I noticed through the years that someone was always making this claim.

Maybe it's time to stop. Perhaps our culture is more diverse than it used to be and has a smaller common core, but the important point is most 18-year-olds don't have a deep knowledge of the past. Maybe they can learn more (or maybe they won't), but older people should be smart enough to know that's how it is, rather than treat it as if it's a crisis.

(Anyway, I'd be more nervous about what kids think they know that should be questioned.)

4:13 PM, April 09, 2017  
Blogger New England Guy said...

So this is all about the right levels of indoctrination on selected topics. I am guessing that, for example,the North Korean school children have total cultural literacy within their nation and remember all of the important dates and essence of all Great Dear Leader policies.

7:37 AM, April 10, 2017  

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