Over the last couple pf years, I have been spending a lot of time teaching, perhaps "trying to teach" might be more adequate an expression. I never liked teaching particularly. I was twice named best classroom teacher of the year at West Point. I never liked it particularly. A pose? You will make your own judgment. Nevertheless, circumstance has caused me to return to this activity. I need not explain the circumstance.
My recent exposure to adult American students associated with universities and the military makes me think that Susan Jacoby is largely correct in believing that we Americans are becoming more and more ignorant even as we become more and more proud of our ignorance.
What passes for education these days is largely devoid of the kind of cultural depth and richness of knowledge of the human experience that I associate with real education, as opposed to vocational training in; marketing, communications, journalism, business administration, etc., ad nauseam....
And then there are the social "sciences." These are ritualistic disciplines in which the devotees worship such gods as Weber, Durkheim and the like in pursuit of the ability to discern the esoteric meaning of data involving peoples the world across. For the political "scientists" the quest always seem to be to explain why the apparent data does not reflect "inner reality." Thus, for the social sciences trained geniuses of the Coalition Provisional Authority, it was perfectly clear that the Iraq visible to the naked eye was only masking the real Iraq that would emerge when the visible shell was smashed.
College students today do not read unless forced to do so. They do not watch old movies. They do not have intellectual bull sessions. They are too busy learning vocational skills to do that. In high school, the vast majority of them were too busy building their "resumes" to do any of those things. Ah yes, their parents encouraged that.
Senior military officers in this country have largely become anti-intellectual people who cringe from the idea of independent thought and who, in the main, seek to intimidate their subordinates into accepting politically driven depictions of reality even when the evidence of their eyes shows that reality sent down from above is nonsense. As an example of that, senior officers in Iraq continued through '05 to threaten the careers of subordinates who insisted that US forces faced a full blown insurgency. The seniors should not be blamed too much. They are too poorly informed to know better,
We have largely lost the ability in the US to see events in the context of human experience over the millennia. That experience is called "history" and since "history" is one of the humanities, its name is dirt in America. "Literature" for Americans is the trash on the best seller lists, Clancy, etc.
God help us.
You foreigners should not feel too good about this. Look around you. pl