Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Culture: More campus wierdness

It's funny--the Northwestern fiasco reminds me of a lot the time I had taken from me in college by having to study under the professorial version of Mr. Henry M. Bowles, III.

For example, I took this one class where the professor viewed all of existence though a feminist lens--that is, the Marxist theory that life is nothing more then a perpetual struggle between the genders for power and control. I was given an assignment where I had to review an essay written by a feminist author who maintained that the Columbine massacre was caused by "a crisis in masculinity"-that is, football.

Huh? I thought it was because the shooters were friggin' moonbats.

So here's what I wrote:

In their op-ed "The National Conversation in the Wake of Littleton is Missing the Mark," Jackson Katz and Sut Jhally (2000) hold that the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, where two teenaged students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 other students and a teacher before committing suicide is the result of patriarchy. Katz and Jhally argue that Harris and Klebold's rampage is "not a crisis in youth culture but a crisis in masculinity." If it were not, the authors ask, "why are girls, who live in the same environment, not responding in the same way?"

According to Katz and Jhally, the gender distinction forming men's violent tendencies is shaped by media, arts, sports and other social institutions that produce "a stream of images of violent, abusive men and promotes characteristics such as dominance, power, and control as means of establishing or maintaining manhood."

Yet Katz and Jhally's argument falls flat for the simple reason that Harris and Klebold committed suicide; their rampage was about nihilism and psychopathic contempt for all life-- and not the supremacy of men. Patriarchy, however wrong-headed, at least aspires to empower men; Harris and Klebold, as they drew their weapons upon themselves in their final act of violence, empowered no one.

In "The Depressive and the Psychopath," Dave Cullen (2004) makes a key identification in understanding the motives of the killers. Noting the FBI's analyses of the psychology of Harris and Klebold, the year they spent planning their attack and the failed propane bombs the pair manufactured in their attempt to explode the school and produce a death toll exceeding several hundred, Cullen remarks:

Harris and Klebold would have been dismayed that Columbine was dubbed the "worst school shooting in American history." They set their sights on eclipsing the world's greatest mass murderers, but the media never saw past the choice of venue. The school setting drove analysis in precisely the wrong direction.
The Columbine massacre was not about the conflict between geeks and jocks in high school or the tendency of some boys to rough up their perceived lessors. It was about wholesale elevation of death for the sake of death. Accordingly, a more plausible theory to explain what led Harris and Klebold to choose murder is that they were the consummate achievement of a philosophic and educational system that promotes whim-worship over cognitive ability.

For years, the proponents of progressive education have controlled America's educational institutions. The hallmark of progressive education is the view that children should discover or construct their own knowledge; one thinks of the famous progressive chestnut that the mission of the educator is not to teach school subjects, but "to teach Johnny." In understanding human division, the progressive philosophy of education maintains that the cause of social strife is the unwillingness of an individual to sacrifice his convictions to the group. Glen Woiceshyn (1997) of the Ayn Rand Institute observes that philosopher John Dewey, the founder of progressive education, maintained that it is the insistence on distinctions such as "true versus false" and "right versus wrong" that generates social conflict. Interpreting Dewey's thought, he says, "If only children did not hold strong ideas, disagreement and conflict would evaporate in the sunshine of social harmony. Truth, therefore, is socially fractious - while ignorance is bliss."

Yet without clear instruction in how to think and how to perceive reality objectively--including the recognition that others have rights--Woiceshyn argues that children are vehicles out of control.

"Which feelings will guide [the child]? The fear and anxiety generated by ignorance and cognitive incompetence? The frustration and rage felt when his desires aren't immediately satisfied? The self-hatred that gets subconsciously projected at others? The false security offered by a gang? The desire to control others by force because of an inability to control reality?

What definitely won't guide him is reason - which is why violence is on the rise."
In understanding the violence that animates the seemingly innocent, it is not enough to observe that the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre were boys, or that they played violent video games, or that they listened to dark music. Millions of boys do the same things. One must examine the basic foundation of Harris and Klebold's thinking-the very philosophic choices that they made and that were made for them by others.
My grade for this essay: Zero. Zip. Nada. Why? I was supposed to "review" the article (that is, agree with its arguments), not refute the author's claim with actual facts. Yeah, right. It was too late for me to drop, so I ended up with a C+ for the semester. Still graduated with honors though. :-)

I'm glad that an individual like Mr. Henry M. Bowles, III is getting nuked while he is still in his embryonic stage. Hopefully it will be the slap to the head that will inspire him to get his "dope straight" as we would say in the Marines--or at least remain silent when confronted with his "less intelligent" peers.

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