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robertogreco : roddreher   4

Inside and Outside the Cage – spottedtoad
"School, as I’ve said a number of times, serves this purpose already. I’ll sometimes encounter people who treat the idea that kids learn relatively little in school, that it’s a pointless hamster wheel that doesn’t get anyone anywhere, as some kind of scandal or shock. Maybe, but have you seen adult life lately? Is what kids do on an average school day so much more pointless and lonely and anomic than what you did yesterday- not than your ideal of what a ten year old or thirty year old should be doing, but what you actually, personally did? American parents are insanely competitive and push their kids and their kids’ schools to do all kinds of pointless shit, because we literally don’t have any other idea how to fill their and our days. They’re already staring at screens for nine hours a day. It could get worse. Four times as many young women 25-34 years old overdosed last year as in 1999. I don’t think school is the problem.

Maybe it’s a Tragedy of the (Missing) Commons. Maybe if you, and you, and you, and you, all pulled your kid out of school, tuned in, turned on (to Jesus or Allah or John Dewey or whoever), and dropped out, let them run around and build forts and make out or read Dante or whatever, maybe they can reinvent society on better grounds. The Benedict Option, like Rod Dreher says.  I’m not saying it’s impossible, and maybe we all need to be more utopian on our home turf even while being less so on other people’s. The ideal- or at least our own ideals- might be more within our grasp than we think. Maybe.

Or maybe what limited store of self-reliance we have is going to be destroyed, utterly, by the next wave of technology, or the next, and the best we can hope for is a benevolently paternalist technostate, the FitBit vibrating on our wrist to tell us to stop being inert, urging us to less self-destruction than we’d otherwise tend, telling us, whether we’re ten or fifty, to turn in our homework next time they see us and to remember to put our names on our papers if we want to get credit on the test."
education  homeschool  2017  unschooling  deschooling  commons  johndewey  benedictoption  roddreher  utopia  self-reliance  individualism  schools  schooling  freedom  technology  via:ayjay 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People | The American Conservative
"My grandma (Mamaw) recognized this instinctively. She said that most people were probably prejudiced, but they had to be secretive about it. “We”–meaning hillbillies–“are the only group of people you don’t have to be ashamed to look down upon.” During my final year at Yale Law, I took a small class with a professor I really admired (and still do). was the only veteran in the class, and when this came up somehow in conversation, a young woman looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you were in the Marines. You just seem so nice. I thought that people in the military had to act a certain way.” It was incredibly insulting, and it was my first real introduction to the idea that this institution that was so important among my neighbors was looked down upon in such a personal way. To this lady, to be in the military meant that you had to be some sort of barbarian.



"At the same time, the hostility between the working class and the elites is so great that there will always be some wariness toward those who go to the other side. And can you blame them? A lot of these people know nothing but judgment and condescension from those with financial and political power, and the thought of their children acquiring that same hostility is noxious. It may just be the sort of value we have to live with.

The odd thing is, the deeper I get into elite culture, the more I see value in this reverse snobbery. It’s the great privilege of my life that I’m deep enough into the American elite that I can indulge a little anti-elitism. Like I said, it keeps you grounded, if nothing else! But it would have been incredibly destructive to indulge too much of it when I was 18.



the point that the meta-narrative of the 2016 election is learned helplessness as a political value. We’re no longer a country that believes in human agency, and as a formerly poor person, I find it incredibly insulting. To hear Trump or Clinton talk about the poor, one would draw the conclusion that they have no power to affect their own lives. Things have been done to them, from bad trade deals to Chinese labor competition, and they need help. And without that help, they’re doomed to lives of misery they didn’t choose.

Obviously, the idea that there aren’t structural barriers facing both the white and black poor is ridiculous. Mamaw recognized that our lives were harder than rich white people, but she always tempered her recognition of the barriers with a hard-noses willfulness: “never be like those a–holes who think the deck is stacked against them.” In hindsight, she was this incredibly perceptive woman. She recognized the message my environment had for me, and she actively fought against it.

There’s good research on this stuff. Believing you have no control is incredibly destructive, and that may be especially true when you face unique barriers. The first time I encountered this idea was in my exposure to addiction subculture, which is quite supportive and admirable in its own way, but is full of literature that speaks about addiction as a disease. If you spend a day in these circles, you’ll hear someone say something to the effect of, “You wouldn’t judge a cancer patient for a tumor, so why judge an addict for drug use.” This view is a perfect microcosm of the problem among poor Americans. On the one hand, the research is clear that there are biological elements to addiction–in that way, it does mimic a disease. On the other hand, the research is also clear that people who believe their addiction is a biologically mandated disease show less ability to resist it. It’s this awful catch-22, where recognizing the true nature of the problem actually hinders the ability to overcome.

Interestingly, both in my conversations with poor blacks and whites, there’s a recognition of the role of better choices in addressing these problems. The refusal to talk about individual agency is in some ways a consequence of a very detached elite, one too afraid to judge and consequently too handicapped to really understand. At the same time, poor people don’t like to be judged, and a little bit of recognition that life has been unfair to them goes a long way. Since Hillbilly Elegy came out, I’ve gotten so many messages along the lines of: “Thank you for being sympathetic but also honest.”

I think that’s the only way to have this conversation and to make the necessary changes: sympathy and honesty. It’s not easy, especially in our politically polarized world, to recognize both the structural and the cultural barriers that so many poor kids face. But I think that if you don’t recognize both, you risk being heartless or condescending, and often both.



[to liberals:] stop pretending that every problem is a structural problem, something imposed on the poor from the outside. I see a significant failure on the Left to understand how these problems develop. They see rising divorce rates as the natural consequence of economic stress. Undoubtedly, that’s partially true. Some of these family problems run far deeper. They see school problems as the consequence of too little money (despite the fact that the per pupil spend in many districts is quite high), and ignore that, as a teacher from my hometown once told me, “They want us to be shepherds to these kids, but they ignore that many of them are raised by wolves.” Again, they’re not all wrong: certainly some schools are unfairly funded. But there’s this weird refusal to deal with the poor as moral agents in their own right. In some cases, the best that public policy can do is help people make better choices, or expose them to better influences through better family policy (like my Mamaw).

There was a huge study that came out a couple of years ago, led by the Harvard economist Raj Chetty. He found that two of the biggest predictors of low upward mobility were 1) living in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty and 2) growing up in a neighborhood with a lot of single mothers. I recall that some of the news articles about the study didn’t even mention the single mother conclusion. That’s a massive oversight! Liberals have to get more comfortable with dealing with the poor as they actually are. I admire their refusal to look down on the least among us, but at some level, that can become an excuse to never really look at the problem at all.



Well, I think it’s important to point out that Christianity, in the quirky way I’ve experienced it, was really important to me, too. For my dad, the way he tells it is that he was a hard partier, he drank a lot, and didn’t have a lot of direction. His Christian faith gave him focus, forced him to think hard about his personal choices, and gave him a community of people who demanded, even if only implicitly, that he act a certain way. I think we all understate the importance of moral pressure, but it helped my dad, and it has certainly helped me! There’s obviously a more explicitly religious argument here, too. If you believe as I do, you believe that the Holy Spirit works in people in a mysterious way. I recognize that a lot of secular folks may look down on that, but I’d make one important point: that not drinking, treating people well, working hard, and so forth, requires a lot of willpower when you didn’t grow up in privilege. That feeling–whether it’s real or entirely fake–that there’s something divine helping you and directing your mind and body, is extraordinarily powerful.

General Chuck Krulak, a former commandant of the Marine Corps, once said that the most important thing the Corps does for the country is “win wars and make Marines.” I didn’t understand that statement the first time I heard it, but for a kid like me, the Marine Corps was basically a four-year education in character and self-management. The challenges start small–running two miles, then three, and more. But they build on each other. If you have good mentors (and I certainly did), you are constantly given tasks, yelled at for failing, advised on how not to fail next time, and then given another try. You learn, through sheer repetition, that you can do difficult things. And that was quite revelatory for me. It gave me a lot of self-confidence. If I had learned helplessness from my environment back home, four years in the Marine Corps taught me something quite different.



After so many years of Republican politicians refusing to even talk about factory closures, Trump’s message is an oasis in the desert. But of course he spent way too much time appealing to people’s fears, and he offered zero substance for how to improve their lives. It was Trump at his best and worst.

My biggest fear with Trump is that, because of the failures of the Republican and Democratic elites, the bar for the white working class is too low. They’re willing to listen to Trump about rapist immigrants and banning all Muslims because other parts of his message are clearly legitimate. A lot of people think Trump is just the first to appeal to the racism and xenophobia that were already there, but I think he’s making the problem worse.

The other big problem I have with Trump is that he has dragged down our entire political conversation. It’s not just that he inflames the tribalism of the Right; it’s that he encourages the worst impulses of the Left. In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from so many of my elite friends some version of, “Trump is the racist leader all of these racist white people deserve.” These comments almost always come from white progressives who know literally zero culturally working class Americans. And I’m always left thinking: if this is the quality of thought of a Harvard Law graduate, then our society is truly doomed. In a world of Trump, we’ve abandoned the pretense of persuasion. The November election strikes me as little more than a referendum on whose tribe is bigger."
donaldtrump  us  elections  2016  politics  poverty  roddreher  jdvance  agency  personalagency  race  economics  policy  optimism  bias  hostility  elitism  tribalism  progressives  liberals  resilience  military  christianity  structure  discipline  willpower  mentors  self-management  character  education  society  class  judgement  condescension  helplessness  despair  learnedhelplessness  sympathy  honesty  rajchetty  snobbery  complexity 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Harmony, Communion, Incarnation | The American Conservative
"It is tempting to call LS a traditionally conservative document, but there is plenty in it that will unnerve free-market individualists, who generally call themselves conservative — and liberals will be just as challenged by it. What Francis has written is an encyclical that celebrates life as harmony, communion, and incarnation. He calls on all persons to revere nature as gift, and to think not as atomized individuals, but as stewards who owe a debt to others, as well as to the past and to the future.

If you have read my 2006 book Crunchy Cons, the roots of all this in traditional conservatism should be very familiar. LS is a radical challenge to modernity as both the political left and the right understand it. Catholic blogger Jennifer Fitz understands what’s it stake here, calling, tongue-in-cheekily, LS a “terrible problem” for Catholics who practice the separation of their faith from their entire lives …"



"The root of all our environmental and social problems is selfishness, is pride, is the belief that we are the center and the height of all creation. Therefore, if we are to restore the environment, it can’t simply be a matter of applying an ingenious set of technical solutions. It requires, more deeply, conversion of the heart. The core of the problem, Francis indicates, is the mistaken belief that humankind lives apart from nature, and the related belief that we owe nothing to others, either those who share this time and place with us, our ancestors, or to our descendants.

And, it’s the unwillingness to see that everything is connected, a phrase that turns up over and over in LS. For example, says Francis, there is a solid scientific consensus that the planet is warming, and that humankind dumping of carbon into the atmosphere has a lot to do with it. (He’s right that there is a scientific consensus, by the way.) This means that the industrial nations, with the activity that has both made them wealthy and that is a result of their wealth, bear a disproportionate responsibility for contributing to a condition that affects the entire planet. The poorest people on the planet, though, are those who suffer the most from the effects of climate change, yet, says the pope, the richest nations feel little sense of obligation to help those whose suffering is increased, indirectly, by the way the rich nations choose to live.

He has a point. One weakness of LS, though, is the pope’s lack of recognition of the fact that the greatest force pulling the poor masses out of poverty has been … capitalism, and industrial development. (David Brooks has a valid critique of this out today.) On the other hand, the pope is correct that the planet cannot withstand a universalization of the industrial, carbon-based system. And he is certainly right that the solution cannot be found in a “deified market” — that is, a vision that treats the free market as an end in itself, rather than as a means to an end, which is a just and harmonious life based on the common good.

“The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis,” says Francis. He means that our individualism and self-centeredness keeps us from seeing and doing what is necessary to meet the challenge. This, the pope indicates, is at the root of so many of our problems today — and not just environmental problems."



"Laudato Si is a rich, complex work. It doesn’t offer solutions — the Pope admits that the Church is not competent to offer technical advice — but it does provide a framework for discussing solutions. Francis says that rather than give up in the face of the immensity of the challenge, each of us would do well to live by St. Therese’s “little way”: doing what we ourselves can do, within the limits of our own particular circumstances, to restore harmony to creation by restoring it in our own hearts and lives. Even that would be a radical countercultural act, because it goes against the dominant paradigm of our time."
laudatosi'  2015  roddreher  popefrancis  christianity  conservatism  consumerism  culture  society  nature  environment  clinatechange  science  economics  ecology  harmony  communion  incarnation  via:ayjay  selfishness  capitalism 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Text Patterns: one reader's report [The first comment, from a high school teacher, is a thought I've had many times—does "teaching" a book interrupt the reading process?]
"Rod Dreher…tells a thought-provoking story about the combined effects on a reader, namely him, of (a) an iPad and a (b) sabbatical from blogging: "So, I burrowed in last night to read an hour of [Franzen’s] "Freedom," and ended up staying on the couch for two hours, until I finished the book ... I tried to recall the last time I had finished a novel, or any book (I've always got several going at any given moment). I couldn't. Partly this is because Franzen's novel is such a good read, but I think mostly it's because I was in the habit of stopping whatever I was doing to blog about a compelling insight, or even simply to blog a moving passage of whatever I was reading. It occurred to me this morning that this way of reading worked hard against allowing a narrative to sink its hook into me. I was never able to give myself over completely to the narrative, fictional or non-fictional."
alanjacobs  roddreher  reading  books  blogging  blogsabbaticals  teaching  novels  immersion 
september 2010 by robertogreco

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