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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

It seems to be an article of faith among many today that we are all members of specific generations.  That is, since I was born in 1984 I am a “Millenial” (which sounds like someone who lives in a cave and thinks the local town mayor is the Anti-Christ, but anyway).  As a Millenial, I supposedly like to “celebrate diversity,” I “make my own rules,” I “assume technology” and soforth.  Other “generations” are known for various things, both good and bad (many liberals praise the generation that was young in the sixties, while many conservatives praise the generation that was young in the forties).  Thus, we all have our characteristics mostly determined for us due to the time we were born.

Does this sound like astrology or divination to anyone else?  Now, I don’t think these distinctions have any power in themselves, but the degree to which people adopt them is really frightening.  Reasonable, scientific people who consider themselves above superstition will find themselves gladly signing on to the idea that they act the way they act because of the year they were born.  I am mystified by the appeal of such a thing: why would one wish to behave in the same way others of his generation behave?  Especially, I must add, when people claim that “challenging the rules” or something of that nature is characteristic of their generation.  If that’s true, challenge the rules and act differently!  Don’t be a slave to your generation!

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Tonight I went to one of my favorite on-campus activities here, a philosophy discussion group called “Cafe Socrates”. Tonight we were discussing the division between “analytic” and “Continental” philosophers, and how the divide finds itself played out in many American universities. However, one of the more interesting things we discussed was the fact that English departments are often dedicated to Continental philosophy, of a particularly poorly-thought-out sort. One participant, who in fact is quite liberal himself, pointed out that he hears that many English majors undertake it in order to read great literature, thinking of such authors as Shakespeare and Austen, while in fact what they get is more of searching for “narratives of oppression” and trying to figure out if various authors were gay. I believe this is a severe problem in education: literature is really a pillar of a healthy society. We have begun to turn on our own literature, and rather than building up our character by reading great works, we build up our own opinions by tearing down great works. If we are unable to really focus on the great things that we have done as a people, we will be unable to do great things now: it is not surprising if many modern English departments produce more mediocre critics than great authors.

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