The New Weirdness Illustrated

In the spirit of my last post, “When the Weird Becomes Normal,” I’ve decided to dedicate today’s blog to a litany of weirdness, amply illustrated by some of our best cartoonists, political and otherwise. I’ll let the cartoons speak for themselves.

On the political front, there’s always the Obama administration to demonstrate supreme foolishness:

Cold-Blooded Killers

Never Felt Better

The sad state of education helps to show why we are in decline as a nation:

Enough Is Enough

As we move further into the culture, we see a radical feminism that has undermined men and the family in society and contributed to our redefining of terms:

Benevolent

Finally, there is the lethal combination of a depraved culture, redefinition of terms, and pure political opportunism:

Poor Progressive

That’s about all I can take for one day. Lord, give us Your strength and wisdom for how to respond to all that is happening around us.

Lewis: Christianity & Education

I’m preparing to begin my twenty-seventh year of teaching college this fall. One of the joys I’ve had is the free hand to develop upper-level courses for history majors. Due to all my research on C. S. Lewis this year (and my still-hoped-for book on him), I will be teaching a course on him in the upcoming semester.

Lewis and education go together. He had many wise and insightful comments on the aims and limits of education. For a good summary, everyone should read The Abolition of Man (which my students will read this fall). Yet he sprinkled gems about education throughout his writings.

One, in particular, an essay called “On the Transmission of Christianity,” offers the kinds of thoughts that make me say, “Yes, exactly!” For instance, he comments,

C. S. Lewis 4None can give to another what he does not possess himself. No generation can bequeath to its successor what it has not got. You may frame the syllabus as you please. But . . . if we are sceptical we shall teach scepticism to our pupils, if fools only folly, if vulgar only vulgarity, if saints sanctity, if heroes heroism. Education is only the most fully conscious of the channels whereby each generation influences the next. It is not a closed system. Nothing which was not in the teachers can flow from them into the pupils. [emphasis mine]

Teachers are the key. You can tell them what they are supposed to teach (as state authorities try to do), but even if those authorities want them to teach things that are consistent with Christian faith, it will not come across the way it is intended if the teachers themselves have none of that faith. The whole system of government-controlled education, in my view, is flawed. Lewis tackles that as well:

It is unlikely that in the next forty years England will have a government which would encourage or even tolerate any radically Christian elements in its State system of education. Where the tide flows towards increasing State control, Christianity, with its claims in one way personal and in the other way ecumenical and both ways antithetical to omnicompetent government, must always in fact . . . be treated as an enemy.

Substitute America for England in that comment and you have our current state of affairs. He continues,

Like learning, like the family, like any ancient and liberal profession, like the common law, it [Christianity] gives the individual a standing ground against the State. Hence Rousseau, the father of the totalitarians, said wisely enough, from his own point of view, of Christianity, Je ne connais rien de plus contraire à l’esprit social [I know nothing more opposed to the social spirit].

In the second place, even if we were permitted to force a Christian curriculum on the existing schools with the existing teachers we should only be making masters hypocrites and hardening the pupils’ hearts.

This is why I’ve never been excited by attempts to force public schools to be Christian. Instead, I’ve always advocated alternatives to the public system. The only hope for real Christian education is outside government control. It appears Lewis may have been in agreement with that position.

Lewis: Do We Want Vision or Virtue?

C.S. Lewis 9Is there a moral law to which all men are subjected, or do men create whatever morality exists, according to their own lights? C. S. Lewis says that the second proposition is a disaster. Unfortunately, it’s where we are, to a great extent. In his essay “The Poison of Subjectivism,” Lewis states,

Many a popular “planner” on a democratic platform, many a mild-eyed scientist in a democratic laboratory means, in the last resort, just what the Fascist means. He believes that “good” means whatever men are conditioned to approve. He believes that it is the function of him and his kind to condition men; to create consciences by . . . state education and mass propaganda.

When we do that, here is what happens:

But if there is no Law of Nature, the ethos of any society is the creation of its rulers, educators and conditioners; and every creator stands above and outside his own creation.

In other words, the politicians and educators (may we add the news and entertainment media here?) determine right and wrong for the whole society, apart from God’s right and wrong. They, in essence, set themselves up as gods who are not subject to the laws they impose on others.

Lewis then brings this down to earth and thinks about what this means when we vote in our elections. What do we look for in our candidates?

Unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish. If we do, we may live, and such a return might have one minor advantage. If we believed in the absolute reality of elementary moral platitudes, we should value those who solicit our votes by other standards than have recently been in fashion. While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as “vision,” “dynamism,” “creativity,” and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial—virtue, knowledge, diligence and skill. “Vision” is for sale, or claims to be for sale, everywhere. But give me a man who will do a day’s work for a day’s pay, who will refuse bribes, who will not make up his facts, and who has learned his job.

Think about it. Aren’t we much more attuned to those who promise “vision” and who come across as “dynamic” than those who simply exhibit personal virtue and have the skills necessary to the task? When we focus on the former, we get the ideologues who lead us astray. When we focus on the latter, we get the kind of people of whom God approves.

A College Education

In honor of all the college graduates who have walked across that stage in the past few weeks, I present a Mallard Fillmore running commentary on the state of higher education in America.

Special College Memories

College Loan Debt

Career in Congress

Lest you get the wrong idea, I’m hardly opposed to a college education. After all, I’ve been teaching at that level for the past 26 years. I am opposed, though, to any college education that is not college level, thereby offering no real education at all. Sadly, that is the status of so much of what passes for higher education today.

Think carefully before you spend all that money you will have to pay back for many years. Be sure you are receiving what you are paying for.

Lewis on Progressive Education: God Help Us All

C. S. Lewis 2C. S. Lewis developed friendships with a number of American college and university professors. One of them, Nathan Comfort Starr, visited Lewis three times over a period of fifteen years, and kept up a steady correspondence with him. Like Lewis, he was a Christian traditionalist when it came to education: learn the classics, hold students to a standard of intellectual rigor.

Starr was teaching at Rollins College in Florida in the early 1950s when a “progressive” president at the college decided to purge the traditionalists from the faculty. Because Lewis was such a revered figure, both in the scholarly and Christian worlds, he pleaded with him to write something that could be put in the newspapers or some such public organ, defending the professors.

Lewis certainly had great sympathy for them. In his response to Starr, he emphatically stated, “This is the sort of thing that makes my blood boil. The events at Rollins College seem to me to concentrate into one filthy amalgam every tendency in the modern world which I most hate and despise. And, as you say, this kind of thing will put an end to American scholarship if it goes on.”

Yet he declined to write something publicly, feeling that it would not be helpful. Here’s his rationale:

Why then did I not cable to an American paper as you suggested? My dear fellow, consider. What could unsolicited advice from a foreigner do except to stiffen the Wagnerian party by enlisting on its side every anti-British and every anti-God element in the state? You are asking me to damage a good cause by what would, from an unauthorized outsider like me, be simply impertinence. In a cooler moment (I don’t expect you to be cool at present) you will be thankful I didn’t. God help us all. It is terrible to live in a post-civilized age.

I have to agree with Lewis’s reasoning here. His intervention probably wouldn’t have helped. His response, though, does point to the fact that the current problems we face in education—at all levels—are not new. They have been brewing for a long time. Only now are they threatening to overwhelm us. The “progressive” element has had traditional education as a target for a long time.

We have dumbed down our expectations of students to the point of absurdity in many cases. Lewis referenced the “anti-God element in the state”; that element has only grown since he wrote that. We are, as he said, living “in a post-civilized age.” The reason we are rapidly descending into that age is that we are also an increasingly post-Christian age.

Lewis was correct in his plea: “God help us all.”

Is Education Firing Blanks?

Have you ever watched any of these “man on the street” interviews where the interviewer asks people basic knowledge questions? One of the best at this is Jesse Watters, who shows up regularly on The O’Reilly Factor. Last night, he was asking people some really hard questions, like “Who was the first president of the United States?” Blank faces. “Who bombed Pearl Harbor”? More blanks. “Who was president during WWII”? Guesses included Abraham Lincoln and George Bush.

I trust none of those questions stumped you.

I was reminded of a Mallard Fillmore cartoon I saw recently:

Good Presentation

A little far-fetched? Perhaps. But if you’ve seen and heard the things I’ve seen and heard as a university professor, you wouldn’t put it beyond the realm of possibility in some cases.

We have a generation that generally doesn’t like to read—sometimes that’s because they’ve never been taught how to read, apparently. And I’m talking about those who are in college. Having to read a history book and be quizzed over what you have read is becoming “unfair.” A professor who requires that has “unrealistic expectations.” That professor “enjoys” failing students.

Yes, I’ve heard all of those.

Of course, this starts earlier in life:

Preachy

Just try to straighten someone out with facts and see what can happen.

I only raise this issue today because I’m concerned with the state of education. When we have a society that says feelings trump logical thinking, we are in danger. When we push “inventive spelling” or move students along to the next level when they’re not ready—because we don’t wish to damage their self-esteem—we are creating a self-absorbed citizenry.

When we then tell all of these poorly educated students that they should go to college, we’re dumbing down what college is supposed to be.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m fully dedicated to teaching anyone who is in any class I teach. My goal is to help them be what God has called them to be. But we also need to recognize the problem and do what we can to change course.

By the way, Mr. President, two years of community college provided “free”—i.e., at taxpayer expense—is no solution. That only contributes to the problem.

“Free” College?

Do we really need President Obama to tell us what the state of the Union is? Well, he’s going to give us his views tonight in this annual ritual of meaninglessness. We already know what he’s going to say because the administration has leaked all pertinent information.

In no way is Obama going to be conciliatory or striving to work with Republicans. This is going to be an in-your-face declaration of progressive warfare. Top of his list will be the goal of collecting more taxes; in fact, he’s going to propose more than $320 billion extra over the next decade. Now who is that going to come from?

Why, the rich will pay it all, of course. He will position himself as the champion of the middle class, and if Republicans object, they will be targeted as the evil supporters of the privileged. Never mind that “rich” will be loosely defined and will include most of the unsuspecting middle class.

One of his top priorities for those new taxes is to fund his “free” community college proposal, supposedly providing everyone who wants it, two free years of community college. Buried in the details is the manner of funding: people who have been setting aside college funds in a tax-free account will, if his plan goes into effect, now have to pay taxes on the money they’ve been saving.

In other words, those who are paying for college themselves now have to fund those who are getting it “free.”

There’s something about that word “free” that people don’t really grasp:

Should Be Free

Keep in mind also the person who is making this promise:

Free College Caution

Some of the cartoonists have picked up on the smoke and mirrors of this promise:

Free College

See How It Works

The bottom line here is that President Obama is focused entirely on what the government can do for you. He’s far less interested in promoting policies that actually energize the economy and create jobs. But shouldn’t that be his priority?

Forgot Something

His ideology, which is anti-free enterprise, has worked against us for six years. None of his empty promises tonight will help one bit. The only solace is that his proposals are dead on arrival in the Congress. He knows that, so the entire purpose of this evening’s diatribe will be for political gain; he hopes this will paint the Republicans as the enemy of the middle class and that their refusal to do his bidding will hurt them in 2016.

It’s despicable politics at its worst. Yet it will fool some of the people all of the time.