Joel Kotkin’s article at Spiked describes the desperate situation our nation is in but he has hope that it could be turned around.
The article begins with some alarming stats which do point to the failure of the government public school educational system. We are in a steep decline.
He believes, like Victor Davis Hanson, that we are in feudal times, driven by illiteracy, bias, and a rejection of the West’s past.
- Over half of American adults have a reading level below the equivalent of sixth-grade level (11- to 12-year-olds)
- Book reading outside of school or work among the young in particular has declined markedly.
- A survey conducted in 2014 found slightly over half of the American children saying they liked to read books ‘for fun’, down from 60 percent in 2010.
- It’s happening in the UK and around the world. It isn’t just a US phenomenon.
- Employers find it hard to get workers capable of a serious conversation.
- Over 60 percent of applicants are found to be lacking in basic social skills. Today’s teens’ experiences are increasingly limited to what they access on their phones and social media.
- The average attention span has fallen 50 percent since 2000, mainly due to social media use. This loss of literacy comes at a time when much of our education and literary establishment has embraced censorship, while on the right there’s an increasingly Pavlovian embrace of book-banning.
- The assault on studying ‘great books’ and Western culture largely comes from progressive professors with PhDs, and the ever-expanding university bureaucracies and their recent graduates.
- In the new schema, the past is seen as racist, ugly, and simply too complex for young minds. At many US colleges, books were written before 1990 are considered ‘inaccessible’ to students. University policies increasingly marginalize Homer, Confucius, Shakespeare, Milton, Tocqueville, or the Founding Fathers. Some books are scorned for having been written by dead white males, who as a group are linked to such horrors as slavery, the subjugation of women, and mass poverty. America’s cultural arbiters, such as the National Archives, now consider it necessary to flag up the nation’s founding documents for ‘harmful language’.
Ultimately, many of those things that drove Western ascendancy since 1500 – reason, work ethic, family, and even science – are being cashiered to create some kind of woke brave new world. And our society seems all the poorer for the loss.
We’ll just jump to his conclusion because it would be best if you read his article:
Those with the good fortune to live in pluralistic Western-style democracies, rooted in classical culture, should recognize how rare such open societies have been through history, and how much the vitality of these societies is threatened today. Historically, democracy has been like a flame that shines bright for a while – as in Greece and Rome – and then succumbs to autocracy or ossifies into hierarchy.
A future shaped by the best Western values is still possible, if we are willing to embrace it, and teach it to future generations. Such a broad vision will be resisted by the woke, and some nationalists on the right may see inclusivity as too tolerant of change and difference. Books and open discussion are decisive weapons against the rise of post-literate intolerance. This is what helped overwhelm feudalism and could fend off its repeat appearance in our era.
Just a thought, but we’d be better off if all social media was banned, not books.