My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture.
It’s difficult to gain admissions to the schools where I’ve taught – Princeton, Georgetown, and now Notre Dame. Students at these institutions have done what has been demanded of them: they are superb test-takers, they know exactly what is needed to get an A in every class (meaning that they rarely allow themselves to become passionate and invested in any one subject); they build superb resumes. They are respectful and cordial to their elders, though easy-going if crude with their peers. They respect diversity (without having the slightest clue what diversity is) and they are experts in the arts of non-judgmentalism (at least publically). They are the cream of their generation, the masters of the universe, a generation-in-waiting to run America and the world.
But ask them some basic questions about the civilization they will be inheriting, and be prepared for averted eyes and somewhat panicked looks. Who fought in the Peloponnesian War? Who taught Plato, and whom did Plato teach? How did Socrates die? Raise your hand if you have read both the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Canterbury Tales? Paradise Lost? The Inferno?
Who was Saul of Tarsus? What were the 95 theses, who wrote them, and what was their effect? Why does the Magna Carta matter? How and where did Thomas Becket die? Who was Guy Fawkes, and why is there a day named after him? What did Lincoln say in his Second Inaugural? His first Inaugural? How about his third Inaugural? What are the Federalist Papers?
Some students, due most often to serendipitous class choices or a quirky old-fashioned teacher, might know a few of these answers. But most students have not been educated to know them. At best, they possess accidental knowledge, but otherwise are masters of systematic ignorance. It is not their “fault” for pervasive ignorance of western and American history, civilization, politics, art and literature. They have learned exactly what we have asked of them – to be like mayflies, alive by happenstance in a fleeting present.
Free speech is threatened on college campuses in the United States. So the Cultural Marxists are having their influence. Recently, in Leeds, England, Tommy Robinson was arrested, a court was assembled lickety-split or on the spot, either way, it was ready-made, and had what appears to be something resembling a hearing a la Che Guevara, but certainly not in front of a jury of his peers to hear the charges, examine evidence, or deliberate on the application of the law in his case, and then was shockingly sentenced to 13 months in jail. What was his crime? Tommy Robinson is an independent, British conservative journalist who condemns grooming gangs in and around England. Grooming gangs are men and women who cull young girls into prostitution
So Tommy Robinson tracks the perpetrators, and, like any journalist worth his salt, appears at the courthouse to get an interview of the perpetrators. He is assertive. You can see in this video how he approaches the defendants and what kind of response he receives. And perhaps Tommy Robinson’s greatest crime is that he is dogging adults who are currying children into prostitution, adults who abuse and terrify the girls in the process. His charge? He was arrested for disturbing the peace, or in British doublespeak, “breach of the peace.” That was a lie. But can we be surprised to find government lying? The chilling ramifications of his arrest are that it signals a ramped-up effort to crush freedom of speech. I guess as long as you’re talking about puppy dogs and butterflies, freedom of speech is perfectly peachy. But when you start to indict criminals who go unmolested and in the process indict the legal system biased in favor of certain groups in Britain, why, you’re a “right-wing activist” or a “Nazi” or worse.
The silencing of Tommy Robinson is chilling. One because of the size of the Muslim population in the UK prisons. So the very group that he’s railed against will now host him Abu Ghraib-style in prison. This is a horrific plot to get Robinson in prison on a pretext, sentence him to 13 months in the lion’s den, let the wheels of justice drag their Molochian feet while the folks inside, working with the guards and unofficial gimps, conspire to murder him. Once the deed is done, news will break BREAKING NEWS: “Tommy Robinson found dead, hung in his prison cell.” Two, the speed at which the judge condemned Robinson without a legitimate trial is horrifying.
The Muslim prison population in France makes up 70%. In the UK, it is 44%. Given that Tommy Robinson has been railing against the Muslim population that has overrun his hometown, it seems clear that this is murder-by-government scheme to kill Tommy in prison.
Tommy Robinson has been arrested in Leeds court for reporting on grooming gangs. More updates to follow pic.twitter.com/iEPDoNOKHM
This is an old idea but it’s also a new idea for those who haven’t seen it or heard it or grasped it. Calling schools factories may sound like the cynicism of a grumpy socialist who’s given up on his dreams. But the compliance factor is so strong that students will go to great lengths to carve out some personal identity of their own amidst the throng to escape the horde and tragically commit some self-destructive act. I saw kids with piercings of all kinds in all kinds of places–lips, tongue, nose, eye brow, navel, toes. I saw young men wear cargo pants around their thighs, revealing in a very disturbing fashion too much of their derrière, shackled by poor taste. Learning about ourselves, our personalities, if we have the capacity for being cruel without commiting to it, what group or gospel we’re prepared to give ourselves over to can be complicated. We’re always testing new ideas to see if they fit. Some kids get ahead of themselves and put on an attire without assessing the thing beforehand only to find themselves suffering serious regret from a decision prematurely committed to.
Learning is a tricky endeavor. So is teaching. There is a theory in teaching called mimesis. It means imitation, and that is one of our earliest expressions of learning if we’re not literate or fluent enough with words and reasoning. If a student doesn’t feel he has a background to know all of what his teacher knows, he might imitate the teacher and parrot back some of the phrases and ideas as proof that he’s learned or at least followed along. And students will definitely earn some credit for that effort. It shows they’ve listened. But it’s not just in ideas and thought that a student will imitate his teacher. He will adopt his teacher’s attitude, some of his phrases, his values toward the subject or learning in general, and even make his own, as long as the wardrobe holds out, a style in the teacher’s fashion repertoire. Much of this imitation is experimental, like putting on a new hat and turning one’s head in the mirror to see how the fat fits and how or if the image matches a persona befitting the wearer. Teachers are overwhelmed. They’re thinking of the resource material that goes into their lessons, their presentation, grading, deadlines, and so forth. So they don’t have a lot of time for students. Students, on the other hand, are investing a lot into their teacher without the teacher’s knowledge. And though the copying of some aspect of their teacher is a temporary phase, one hopes that what the student does to himself in the process of that imitation that it is at least harmless and not something traumatic before they learn to think on their own and have their opinions command more self-respect.
Remember the teacher sits or stands at the front of the room. He’s the main feature. His image and name, his ideas and values are on the marquee. Students wrestle between awe and contempt. Even if the teacher is more deserving of contempt, the student, out of self-preservation, will opt for some tempered version of admiration. That option is more optimistic given the captive circumstances he’s surrendering himself to. Students are asked to learn a body of work that is purported to have some wide-ranging value in their intellectual development. It does not. Kids can and do learn on their own. They will learn from somebody. And I’d read one years that parents would rather part with their son or daughter all day than to part with their 42 inch flat screen TV.
Perhaps this mimesis theory is too powerful, too frightening a thing to examine furhter. But think about one’s calling, how we are called to be something in life or follow someone powerful. Some people are called to Christianity, to become Christlike. Others are called to be teachers or service-minded businessmen or Chief Executive Officers or to mimic great legal minds or pursue medical discoveries. David Gornosky argues in “Our Fate Lies in Who We Imitate” that “All life is lived in imitation of another. We imitate enemies, friends, coworkers, parents, spouses, children, fantasy characters.” I tend to agree with him. He says that
we cannot escape the gravitational pull of powerful models beckoning us by their every action and word to become them.
We’re all looking for a personal mentor, someone we admire; if not admiration, then at least someone will show us the way. For clearly it is not our parents. In some regards it is our parents. We find virtues and ethics in them that we cherish and want not just to imitate but to replicate in the world. But in the context of school and an educational classroom, this is the greatest concern facing students and teachers. I recall one student telling another teacher, “I wouldn’t wanna be ya.” That was an astute observation. That student recognized the utter failure and misery the teacher wore on his daily brow. And so I laugh when I hear people defending public education. The thing that is driving the kid is this mimesis. He will find his own person or persona to imitate. The same is true for artists. Crime fiction writers might adopt the persona of a private detective so that they can write good crime fiction. Painters fashion themselves a Jackson Pollock. So do not get taken in by union bumper stickers that declare stupidly “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” Thank no one. It’s a meaningless, self-serving statement that serves the teachers union[s].
So the question is, who are you handing your kids over to every morning for 6 hours of the day? Do you know? Shouldn’t you?
The fact that it’s captioned by Noam Chomsky gives this statement a few more teeth. Even better perhaps are these words from Ron Paul:
Ever notice how government “schools” are modeled after a factory? They even look like factories. This was done on purpose, of course.
Well before any of us took our first breath on Earth, government laws were created to *force* everyone into these factories during their most impressionable years.
Individuality, creativity, spontaneity, and natural curiosity would be *molded* into conformity, subservience, and the compulsion to obey authority.
Compulsory “education” is the crown jewel of government control. With a free population of creative individuals, the U.S. federal government would have *never* become the biggest government in the history of the world.
CUPERTINO — Vishruth Iyer’s parents gathered close as their 15-year-old son opened an email with the thrilling news: The Monta Vista High sophomore earned the rare distinction of scoring a perfect 36 on his ACT college entrance exam.
“I almost fell out of my chair,” his father, Anand, said. “It was a big congratulations. I didn’t even know what to say to him.”
But as much as he and his wife, Sucharita, hope that Vishruth’s success could catapult him into the college of his choice by the time he’s a senior, they can’t help but be skeptical. As they are learning — along with many high school seniors now receiving their final acceptance and rejection letters from some of the top-ranked schools in the country — perfection doesn’t guarantee a spot at Stanford, Princeton or even Berkeley.
“Not now, no,” said Margaret Routhe, an independent college counselor in famously-competitive Palo Alto. “If you have a 36 on your ACT and think you’re going to walk into Harvard, it’s not the case.”
As recently as five years ago, Stanford was rejecting about 69 percent of applicants with perfect SAT scores. And those scores don’t come easily. Only a fraction of 1 percent of students who take the SAT scored a perfect 1600 or, on the ACT, a composite 36 on the four subject areas. The College Board that runs the SAT didn’t provide specific numbers on perfect scores but reported that only 5 percent of test takers score above 1400.
For the ACT, only one-tenth of one percent of test takers across the country scored a 36 this year, and California is home to 421 of them. The fact that Vishruth is only a sophomore makes his achievement all the more rare. Four Bay Area high schools can claim at least a dozen top-scoring students on the ACT this year: Gunn in Palo Alto with 18, Lynbrook in San Jose with 13 and, with 12 each, Mission San Jose in Fremont and Harker School in San Jose.
Although top scores on either test are certainly special, admissions officers at elite universities are looking for something, ahem, more special. Stanford calls its admissions screening “holistic” and is searching for “intellectual vitality” and extraordinary achievements among the piles of applicants. On Friday, the university announced it accepted 4.3 percent of its undergraduate applicants this year.
There are at least a couple thousand kids with perfect ACTs or SATs all competing for slots in the same top 10 schools listed on U.S. News and World Report, said Irena Smith, who also runs an independent college counseling business in Palo Alto.
They’re getting eclipsed with someone who is an Olympic hopeful, someone with multiple patents, published authors,” she said, “and even a lot of those kids aren’t getting in.
Just ask David Hogg, who survived the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High to become one of the most recognizable leaders of the student-led gun control movement.
Despite a 4.2 GPA, the Florida student was rejected by UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego and UC Irvine. Perhaps TMZ put it best with this headline: “Parkland leader David Hogg — I’m Changing the World … BUT UC SCHOOLS STILL REJECTED ME.”
College Confidential, the website dedicated to students making college plans, has become a forum for the forlorn in the past week. Ben Shumaker, an 18-year-old senior from Holland, Mich., who was denied from every Ivy League school he applied to as well as USC and Case Western, started a discussion group this week titled, “I’m Baffled At Rejection From Some Great Schools.”
He earned a 4.43 weighted GPA, he said, a 1550 out of 1600 on his SAT and 34 on his ACT. He took 22 semesters of Advanced Placement coursework and was ranked No. 1 in his class of 536 students. He even had what he thought was an unusual, extraordinary achievement: being the youngest player, by far, on a pro tour of the strategic trading card game “Magic the Gathering.” He was admitted to the University of Michigan, but it’s not his top choice. As he’s coming to terms with his rejections, he’s come up with his own explanation, one shared by many college admissions experts for the top schools.
“I sort of felt like in academics, the courses you take and the grades you earn, there is a level where it stops mattering,” Shumaker said. “If you get perfect grades and near-perfect scores, it just puts you in the pool.”
Divining the “secret sauce” of top-tier schools is what sends many parents to hire outside college counselors, who repeatedly stress to deaf ears that there are hundreds of great universities to choose from, not just the Top 10 — a list created in the 1980s by U.S. News and World Report that is considered by many as largely responsible for the crush of applications to Ivy Leagues and the towering hopes of students and parents.
As an antidote to those expectations, required reading at some high schools has become Frank Bruni’s Where You Go is not Who You‘ll Be, filled with success stories of people who didn’t go to name-brand universities.
For Vishruth Iyer’s immigrant parents, who are now U.S. citizens and earned advanced degrees at California universities, it’s difficult to lower their expectations for Vishruth and his twin brother, Pratyush, who is a straight-A student and competitive swimmer. They moved from San Jose to Cupertino for the quality schools. They sent the boys to prep classes at $90 a session, and they’re both focusing next on the SAT.
But the first thing the counselor told them was that their sons have three strikes against them, especially at private universities: They are Indian, they are male and they want to pursue computer science or engineering.
“It’s a common profile,” Anand Iyer said. “How do you differentiate yourself when my kids are naturally inclined to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)? I am totally frustrated with the whole system, basically.”
A trial is expected this summer in a federal civil rights case against Harvard, alleging it discriminated against Asian Americans by unfairly capping the number it admits, despite their qualifications. The nonprofit filing the lawsuit cites a 2009 Princeton study showing that Asian Americans need to score 140 points higher than whites on the SAT to have the same chances to land a spot at elite colleges.
The Iyer boys will likely have better luck at a UC school — which banned affirmative action in admissions in the 1990s — than a private Ivy League school, said Barbara Austin, who counsels Bay Area high school students. She also encourages students to widen their choices.
“There aren’t just 25 schools, there are 400 schools that are marvelous,” said Austin, who is based in Oakland.
Even with two years to go before applications are due, Vishruth’s parents are anxious — and exploring options for the sophomore to build his college portfolio by possibly doing research with a university professor this summer. At the same time, Vishruth is taking a mellower approach — something teachers and counselors have tried to impose.
“I don’t think it will change my future that much whether I go to a top-tier school or just under that,” he said. “I’m confident I’ll be fine for the future. But my parents are always saying, ‘Don’t play video games, study for the subject SAT test for math.’ I kind of tell my parents to relax and mind their own business. I’ve got it covered, you know?”
He starts off at the 1:32 mark by telling CBC’s Wendy Mesley
MESLEY: What are the forces that have made you so popular?
PETERSON: I tell archetypal stories. Being fed a diet of rights and impulsive freedoms for 50 years, but rights aren’t as useful for establishing what’s meaningful in your life as responsibility. The responsibility you take on for your career, the responsibility you take on for your education, the responsibility you take on for your family and the broader community . . . .
From the 7:23 mark forward Peterson is at his best . . . .
Don’t stay in the Underworld! That’s who I am talking to.
That’s what I am trying to do. I am trying to call them forth as individuals out of the chaos that they are ensconced in.
What do you think should happen in this polarized world? If you’re dealing with people you think are attracted by a pathological ideology? What do you think you should do with them? What I do with them is say, “Look, why don’t you make yourself into an individual and get the hell away from the ideology? And so a lot of these kids are lost in the underworld, let’s say, in nihilism and they turned to these ideological solutions because they don’t know what else to do and they’re angry. It’s like I have something better for them to do—Grow the hell up! and sort yourself out as an individual, and that’s exactly why I made this particular tweet. And I get letters from people all the time who say, “Look, you know I was moving toward the fringes and I am not doing that any more. I see why it’s wrong.”
So you’ve become this huge sensation? Are you a prophet?
Well, I don’t know where I go. We’re in a new world really because of the reach of social media. And so I have this immense multimedia platform.