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Bork Bork Bork! - Elf M. Sternberg
Bork Bork Bork!
Sometimes, threads assemble by pure synchronicity.

fallenpegasus pointed some of us today to the article on Slashdot called Why Nerds Are Unpopular, and one paragraph pointedly caught my eye (ow, that's more painful than I meant it to sound!). Graham wrote:
I think the important thing about the real world is not that it's populated by adults, but that it's very large, and the things you do have real effects. That's what school, prison, and ladies-who-lunch all lack. The inhabitants of all those worlds are trapped in little bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect. Naturally these societies degenerate into savagery. They have no function for their form to follow.

Robert Bork, whom I shall never forgive for his frontal attack on Griswold v. Roe nor for his ongoing attack on individual liberties, nonetheless has an exceptionally powerful insight into modern liberal thought when he states:
Modern liberalism grew out of classical liberalism by expanding its central ideals-- liberty and equality... [Today], "equality" has become radical egalitarianism (the equality of outcomes rather than of opportunities), and "liberty" takes the form of radical individualism (a refusal to admit limits to the gratifications of the self).

Individualism and egalitarianism may seem an odd pair, since liberty in any degree produces inequality, while equality of outcomes requires coercion that destroys liberty. If they are to operate simultaneously, radical egalitarianism and radical individualism, where they do not complement one another, must operate in different areas of life, and that is precisely what we see in today's culture. Radical egalitarianism advances, on the one hand, in areas of life and society where superior achievement is possible and would be rewarded but for coerced equality. Radical individualism, on the other hand, is demanded when there is no danger that achievement will produce inequality and people wish to be unhindered in the pursuit of pleasure. This finds expression particularly in the areas of sexuality and violence, and their vicarious enjoyment in popular entertainment.

While usually I could care less about the "conservative vs. liberal" argument-- both components of which are dangerous because both are simply Statics with different agendas-- Bork is essentially correct here about the radical egalitarianism that seems to grip more and more of our academic instutions.

(On the other hand, it's a laugh riot when Limbaugh whines about Ritalin, one of the few drugs that, used responsibly, actually gives merit-worthy but clinically hyperactive kids a chance to succeed against the school system he hates so much.)

So let me go out on my limb here and say that Graham is saying essentially the same thing: a system that refuses to acknowledge that there are winners and losers, one that traps everyone into "bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect," is going to produce a people of nothing but savagery.

Current Mood: mischievous mischievous
Current Music: Ayumi Hamasaki, Friend

4 comments or Leave a comment
elfric From: elfric Date: February 19th, 2003 04:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
While I won't disagree at all with Graham's assessment of schools and ladies-who-lunch (LOL), I am curious what you think would be better than our current school system that espouses radical egalitarianism. It is inevitable that people of differing abilities will enter the system. Our current schools strive to make them all equally ineffectual. The opposite kind of system would be useful for producing a limited number of highly effective individuals and a lot of mediocre ones. The latter system is what has happened throughout most of history, I think.

Are we then, simply standing on the shoulders of the old teaching styles and slowly tearing them down by our current teaching methods, or are we succeeding in actually building a better society with people of equally low caliber?

Is there some in between method that you would propose or simply a return to old teaching styles?

(playing a bit of devil's advocate here, because I actually find your post highly profound and agree with it, but can't pass up a good debate =) )
elfs From: elfs Date: February 20th, 2003 09:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, the problem with asking me the question is that I went to one of the old-style schools. My parents determined, rightfully or not, that I was going to be a problem in the public school system and they sent me to an English public school (which, in the U.S., constitutes a private school). I wore a coat and tie to every class and every meal, attended chapel every day, was forced into physical education whether I wanted it or not, lived on-campus with five hundred other boys and no girls, received lessons in posture and etiquette alongside history and Latin, and had lights-out at ten, mandatory.

I was one of the mediocre students. I was terrible. I barely made it through the regimen. I know I was a crappy student. I got Bs and Cs in English, maths, histories, and sciences. I failed Latin twice and had to take remedial courses to keep up. (Not that that was so bad-- the remedial system had girls in it, so maybe there was actually some incentive.)

Despite these failures, that system taught me how to write with clarity and concision. It taught me how to do research and how to continue the practice of self-education.

Any system that relentlessly creates meritocratic mediocre students is better than one than haphazardly creates egalitarian, inept ones.

omahas From: omahas Date: February 20th, 2003 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

What we'll do with ours...

I know I was a crappy student.

And look how Elf turned out ;)

Actually, I am of the opinion that one of the biggest problems with the school system that we have is rooted in the loss of civic responsibility. In other words, parents send their kids to school on the assumption that school will raise them. Their job, apparently, is done.

Now, I know that not all parents actually have this opinion, but many really do, consciously or not. Their kids come home, they do their homework, and their parents rarely intervene. Sometimes it's because their parents don't care. Sometimes it's because they don't know how to deal with their kids education or are afraid to do so. Sometimes it's because they look at their kids homework and go "huh?". They've either forgotten how it was supposed to be done, or never got that far in the first place. Imagine these parents telling their kids "Uh, I have no idea. I never got that far/don't remember this." Translation to their kids (they think, whether it's true or not): "I'm too stupid/I'm dumber than you." Most parents don't want to say something like that.

I'm of the opinion that parents have equal responsibility to educate their children as the school system does, but more so in those areas that the school system shouldn't be educating their kids on in the first place. That would be civic responsibility, ethics, our specific culture (as well as the cultural heritage that they may have come from), etiquete, etc. There's nothing wrong with parents helping out with other kinds of homework, and I encourage parents to do so. But they need to be involved in some way with their kids' education.
stoneself From: stoneself Date: February 21st, 2003 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
local effects accumulate. it isn't so much that prisons, school, and lwl are local, but that they do not see their connection to the other scopes of society.

that is to say that perceiving, promoting, and enforcing insular local settings when in fact they are not insulated or purely local causes problem. this is a function of dealing with some mental contruct that is a fantasy rather than dealing with the reality that gave rise to the fantasy.

which is how i view bork's position. he is correct that modern liberalism has a problem with its idealism. modern liberalism thinks it can manifest its utopian fantasy. but it can't because it does not admit that it's ideas are fantasies. egalitarian situations come at the cost of individual rights (or vice versa) in situation when resources are finite.

operating in a world of fantasy is not healthy.
4 comments or Leave a comment