On Rustication

Forty-five years ago today, I was “rusticated”—which is to say departed the University for a metropolitan area eight hours’ drive to the southwest, at that time less than one-fifth the population of Chicagoland and only one-eighth its density, which would certainly seem like being sent to the countryside to anyone who grew up within a forty-mile radius of the Loop. Recent events have conspired to cast my mind back to that event and reflect on its meaning.

Warning: autobiographical details ahead; and while acknowledging a certain Conradian truth quoted just below the jump, I must insist that those details are the least important. If there is anything worth pondering here, it is the lessons for our time, and the finding of a way to avoid utter catastrophe, which must include avoiding idealizing our past. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I went to the University of Chicago, and I put away childish things.


“I don’t want to bother you much with what happened to me personally,” he began, showing in this remark the weakness of many tellers of tales who seem so often unaware of what their audience would best like to hear …

— Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

 

It isn’t necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice—there are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.

― Frank Zappa, Zappa: A Biography

 

It would be easy, and a lot shorter, to say that what got me to Hyde Park was sheer ability, and measured ability was a great part of it; but I am, as are we all, products of cultural and genetic heritage and our experiences. The cultural heritage of American Boomers included the Space Race. I became aware of it during Gemini and was soon obsessively following the development of Apollo. My genetic heritage included a strong tendency to what is now literally diagnosable as “circumscribed or perseverative interests,” to the point of reading every single book in the local public library under Dewey Decimal Classification 629.4, Space Exploration, and not a few in 530, Astronomy. In 1967–68 that public library was in Beloit, Wisconsin, thirty miles west-southwest of Williams Bay.

One thing led to another, and before long I was in receipt of a response to my handwritten inquiry to Yerkes Observatory, a return letter which saluted me with “Dear Interested Astronomer” precisely because they knew they were writing an eight-year-old. It detailed regular visiting hours for tour groups, and my parents arranged for us to join one as a birthday present when I turned nine. Anyone who has been inside the main dome with the world’s largest refracting telescope on the gigantic Warner & Swasey mount (first displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition) will easily imagine how overwhelmed I was; and when I saw the name of the affiliated institution on the cover of the observatory brochure, well, to quote a line from Tolkien, my choice was made and my doom appointed.

Eight years later my SAT scores came in, and in combination with frankly inflated grades, carefully curated extracurricular activities, and my parents’ exceedingly modest combined income, they made me a hot prospect indeed. I had my test results sent to six schools (IIRC, besides Chicago, they were Cal Tech, Case Western Reserve, Princeton, Rensselaer, and, God help me, I think Harvard, although it might have been Stanford instead). Their interest ranged from distinct to ravenous. Other than Chicago, I applied only to Case Western Reserve, where I had an uncle by marriage who headed the biochemistry department, which I expected to make me a quasi-legacy admit if it came to that. In the event, both accepted me, but there was never any doubt of my preference; to again quote Conrad, “it was written that I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice”—which after all was a bit like Marlow’s deadly self-indulgence of his childhood fantasy.

And my self-indulgence was deadly enough, given how much time I spent sitting in my dorm room in Pierce Tower staring at the walls and thinking about killing myself, although I never got around to formulating a specific plan, much less doing anything about it. In fact I had been experiencing bouts of seasonal depression and sleep disorders for seven years before I ever got there. My education had also been quite patchwork thanks to frequent moves—five grade schools, three junior high/middle schools—and I was entirely lacking in practical, hands-on skills (social skills too, but as anyone who was there in those days knows, that was hardly a dispositive characteristic). So testing into an honors physics program at a global top-ten school didn’t mean as much as someone unfamiliar with the particular culture in question might think, and those unfamiliar with it included me and nearly everyone I knew before arriving.

There were, of course, countervailing and exceedingly fortunate influences in my life. These became crucial in, specifically, late October of 1978, when I again traveled to Yerkes, this time with the rest of the undergraduate Astronomy Club, of which I was vice-president. We arranged to do some visual observing through the 24” Cassegrain in the northeast dome. The view of globular cluster M13 in Hercules was staggering, and we also saw Stephan’s Quintet, a group of galaxies in Pegasus. We slept over in the “battleship,” a dormitory room on the second floor of the large connecting section of the observatory named for its porthole-shaped windows. The fall colors around Geneva Lake were stunning, the weather was flawless, and to top it off, my first glimpse of the Northern Lights occurred that night—we were approaching the peak of solar cycle 21. But I knew it would be my last such visit.

Within a month I was filling out the withdrawal form and walking it over to the Admin building. What got me through that time was not any sense of having a fallback, because it had never entered my mind that I could possibly need a Plan B. I really had no idea what to do with myself, other than stay through Winter and Spring Quarters of ’79, and that was mostly so I could again accompany the Astronomy Club on what became an astonishingly successful expedition to see the solar eclipse of Monday, February 26th, one minute and fifty seconds of mind-blowing totality from the shore of Fort Peck Reservoir in Montana. Beyond that, there was nothing … except a sense that somehow, in a logical inversion of Mark 8:36, in losing the world I would gain my soul.

To be sure, flunking out of the University of Chicago is far from unusual, or rather, it wasn’t then. My understanding is that the graduation rate is now 98-99%, but the acceptance rate is also far lower, down around 6-7%. Costs are of course stratospheric, but they were already climbing steeply in the ’70s; I have occasionally wondered whether the $~60k in 2024 dollars that they poured into the rathole that was my feral late-adolescent personality became a factor in exercising more caution in admissions.

Emotional problems while there weren’t unusual either. The bleak spiritual backdrop of Hyde Park, especially in late autumn and winter, was fantastically grim and there were a couple of (seemingly) abrupt crackups and subsequent institutionalizations among the sixty-odd young men in my dorm house during my first year. Dark rumors abounded of multiple suicides every quarter, of an Administration office devoted to suppressing news of suicides, and of an entire ward of Billings Hospital devoted to broken undergraduates. A decade later a then-recent graduate told me the story of a woman who was accepted into one of the graduate divisions directly from a mental institution, and was quite visibly disturbed. This is the sort of thing that seems impossible until you’ve been in that environment.

What distinguished me, rather, was that I never went back to school anywhere. —And thereby inadvertently completed my rescue: gradual, far from painless, entirely (at first) against my wishes … and quite complete. Funny how that works.

A parallel-universe version of me who had “succeeded” would have very much the kind of authoritarian politics and obsession with the PC litany about climate catastrophe, gender fluidity, and racial oppression that dominates the academy today. And J′, let’s call him, would nod approvingly of pro-terrorist mobs rampaging through R1 universities and repeat shibboleths about “genocide” in Gaza. I say this even though Chicago itself has remained sufficiently true to its principles to avoid, or rather mitigate, the worst of the recent lunacy. Because it’s not like J′ would have stayed there after getting his bachelor’s degree, or returned with the Ph.D. that was supposed to be his most likely terminal educational credential; he’d have fetched up somewhere coastal, with all that that implies. And although the younger me might not have been specifically attracted to the leftist Τρισάγιον mentioned above, we routinely become the average of our closest associates.

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

— C.S. Lewis

To underscore the point, neither my measured aptitudes nor any subsequent academic achievement would have delivered me from an unstated but immovable tribal loyalty. We all think we’d be the one in a hundred who becomes “the voice of reason/against the howling mob,” but that’s not the way to bet. In 1977 I was no better than the educrats of 2024 dutifully providing their pronouns in e-mail signatures and ritually fretting over extreme weather events that kill 98% fewer people than a century ago, and nothing I wanted then would have led away from it. And human nature being a constant, “it” has twisted all the way back to the attitudes of the ideological great-grandparents of today’s protesters:

“Many a university teacher during the 1930’s has seen English and American students return from the Continent uncertain whether they were communists or Nazis and certain only that they hated Western liberal civilization.”

— Friedrich Hayek

American society has been on Screwtape’s safe, gradual road since the last of the (cultural) Boomers, born around 1960, entered adulthood, roughly the early 1980s. Our collective ability to manage large-scale risks, usually but not always exogenous ones, has been ratcheting downward ever since, and is reaching an ebb as the Silent Generation vanishes. If I were in Zhongnanhai I would be elated to think that my opposite numbers in DC (most obviously Foggy Bottom, but very much including Langley, Fort Meade, and the Pentagon) had been educated in the Ivy League—and as our own Trent Telenko has noted, never so much as driven a forklift on a summer job.

NB: I am not this kind of optimist. — JDM

Pace George Hotz, who is probably smarter than me, and to some extent Dave Friedman, who is almost certainly smarter than me, this should not be what happens. The current upper class (possible neologistic acronym: CUCs) obviously deserves to fall, and very likely will to a large extent, but swapping it out for Silicon Valley’s soi-disant rationalists might wreck things even faster, which only pure nihilists would welcome. If there is any politically describable solution whatsoever, it seems to me that it must constitute a kind of ἰσονομία in which there is no readily identifiable upper class at all.

The hardest thing, really, is that we should have seen it all coming: “When it is sunset, you say: Fair weather, for the sky is red. And when it is dawn: Stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening. Do you know how to judge the face of the sky, and can you not judge the signs of the times?” — Matthew 16:2-3, Lattimore translation … and by quoting that I mean we should have seen it in the ’70s. Plenty of people have tried to grapple with Strauss and Howe’s warnings beginning in the early ’90s, but it seems that even widespread knowledge of a cycle of generational temperaments does little to mitigate that cycle’s most dangerous period.

To offer a more lurid analogy to the troubled atmosphere of 1st century Judea, there is again a worldly power proclaiming its equal willingness to slaughter Christians and Jews, and what it might lack in state sponsorship is more than made up by a combination of state failure and ubiquitous dual-use technologies. Everything from CRISPR to Caribbean gangsters could become involved; and our survival may be largely a matter of the sort of chance mentioned three millenia ago in Ecclesiastes 9:11, which like the rest of the Wisdom Literature seems to draw heavily from a century or two of sharp lessons learned in the aftermath of the Late Bronze Age collapse.

For all that, I counsel constructive apprehension, not fearfulness. The United States of the 2020s is a tale of two cities, a head-snappingly bizarre mixture of high-functioning and incompetent, or at least dreadfully vulnerable. We enjoy a torrent of conveniences that would have seemed miraculous to our grandparents … while having no defense against the battlefield innovations now in daily use on the Pontic Steppe, innovations certain to spread to every conflict in the world within the decade and become trivially available to criminals, terrorists, and authoritarian regimes in our own hemisphere.

But our vulnerability isn’t hardware; it’s software, in the sense of attitude and self-concept.

“And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

— Numbers 13:33, ESV

“Donald Trump’s core appeal is to people who want to close America to trade and immigration in pursuit of a static notion of greatness anchored in the 1950s. I sometimes say that if you’re reading The Future and Its Enemies today, just substitute ‘Donald Trump’ whenever it says ‘Pat Buchanan.’”

— Virginia Postrel

Referring back to Zappa, this audience will need no persuasion about the possible danger of ending the world in paperwork. Retreating to a vision of the world of the Boomers’ childhood would be how to end the world in nostalgia—an attempted return to a world with far less material connectivity, with no towering Nephilim in view. But in our time, the sons of Anak are not to be avoided; they are to be defeated, decisively, wherever they threaten, whether in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia … or Columbia University’s main lawn. And our incumbent leadership, made up of those who look into the future and see only “a land that devours its inhabitants,” whether in the form of environmental catastrophe, ethnic oppression, or cisheteronormative patriarchy, must, to follow John Gilmore’s aphorism about the internet, be treated as network damage and routed around.

Finally, in the spirit of ἰσονομία, referring again to something from the Counterparts album, I can do no better than quote this lyric:

If the future’s looking dark
We’re the ones who have to shine
If there’s no one in control
We’re the ones who draw the line
Though we live in trying times —
We’re the ones who have to try
Though we know that time has wings —
We’re the ones who have to fly

22 thoughts on “On Rustication”

  1. A convention of our Alternate Selves would be an interesting meeting to attend.
    Guess I’m thinking on a 50th high school class reunion coming up.
    Should I be who I was? Who I am? Or a more or less fictitious but interesting Alternate Me?

    T

  2. The Virginal Postrel quote is disappointing. “pursuit of a static notion of greatness anchored in the 1950s”???….seems to me pretty clear that the advocates of stasis are to be found in the Democratic Party, from worship of public schools (no matter how bad they are) to the belief that the only good jobs are union jobs. I thought VP was more perceptive than that.

  3. Trump is a caricature of New York rudeness and Hollywood excess. He is also a fan of Americana and regards business as the Great American Pastime. That puts him at odds with the Howard Zinn-genuflecting poltroons who distrust the notion of the business sector and America’s cultural institutions going about without major shepherding from the State. He doesn’t have Sowell’s or DeSantis’ grasp of the issues, but he trusts the normies that the modern left wants to overthrow.

  4. Thanks Jay for providing a big picture-view of the mess we’re in. I found it what, providential?, that it came at the same time that the lecture series I have been following covered Hume’s theories regarding patterns and causality.

    I have to admit I’m not a big fan of Strauss-Howe. The idea of societal stasis, decay, and rebirth has been around since Aristotle but the timespans in S-H are a bit superficial. Yes there was a Renaissance after the Roman Empire fell, it just took 900 years to do it.

    I would also be cautious about Trent Telenko’s “forklift” critique of the elites; after all those British elites who built the Empire during the long European peace probably didn’t do anything more physical than ring the bell to summon a servant (I will leave off that in addition to multiple degrees, I still hold multiple certifications on fork lifts and other lift trucks) so there is something else going on

    What S-H does get right is the idea of a society exhausting its intellectual and cultural capital. However rather than over 3 to 4 generations, I would point all the way back to the long roar of the 19th Century where the Industrial Revolution finished the job of unhinging western Europe from its traditional moorings. The civilizational crisis that became obvious after WW I and described by C.S. Lewis actually was existent long before, and the two wars simply kicked in the brittle facade

    We in the US aren’t on the same timeline as Europe because we haven’t suffered the same devastation and defeat those wars produced. However our crisis has its roots 120+ years back to the Progressive era with Woodrow Wilson and John Dewey, people who did more than anyone else to undermine American society. All the other cultural vandals, even the post-modern Woke, owe those two a debt of gratitude Only now have we have finally caught up with our European counterparts in terms of civilizational exhaustion and despair

    I have found people who recognize the crisis make two fundamental mistakes, First this isn’t a 20-30 year problem and not just isolated to some corrupt elites but an epochal crisis of civilization; we see the symptoms but not the real causes. Second is that we don’t make explicit what should be obvious, that a society, a civilization is rooted in particular norms that both define what it is and is not. You can have a diverse, open society, a community of communities, but only is you can define at some point ethics and virtues. It is the water in which everybody, even the libertarians, swim and accordingly easy to take for granted

    What did those 19th Century British toffs have that both our elites and British elites since Churchill (with the exception of Thatcher) don’t? Both an understanding of what made their culture tick and an appreciation that said culture was a good thing worth fighting for.

    I just noticed Alan’s comment and I think he nails it. Trump understands this and in fact is the best proponent of America as a nation since Reagan.

  5. We enjoy a torrent of conveniences that would have seemed miraculous to our grandparents … while having no defense against the battlefield innovations now in daily use on the Pontic Steppe, innovations certain to spread to every conflict in the world within the decade and become trivially available to criminals, terrorists, and authoritarian regimes in our own hemisphere.

    We are there now. Israel has the world’s most competent air defenses, yet is being attacked successfully by low-tech drones. The USA is wide-open to all kinds of attacks. Maybe we’ll be lucky.

  6. Part of the problem is the hunger on the part of colleges to get more money from tuition. The middle class is becoming wise to the student loan situation. In order to attract more students, the colleges have dumbed down curriculum and added useless majors for lower IQ students. “Studies” majors are a prominent example but Education majors are now the bottom quintile of student IQ. When I was in college, long ago, women did not have as many options and many bright young women became teachers until their husband’s careers had taken off. That is no longer the case and Ed schools have to fill up the seats with lower IQ students.

    The old elite colleges are facing a population effect as the applicant pool shrinks and tuition rises. Hence the larger number of Arab and Chinese foreign students who pay full tuition. we see the result in political activity that is not traditional.

    The result has been an incompetent upper class. I think the result, even if Trump is elected, is an economic disaster. Maybe a lost war.

  7. Mike K
    Education majors are now the bottom quintile of student IQ.
    The days of most female college grads being channeled into nursing and teaching are over. My 9th grade math teacher, although inept at classroom management, was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from a Big 10 school. The school’s Latin teacher had an Ivy League Ph.D. (1930s). At the time, it was difficult for women to get college teaching positions. Today, bright women have many more options beyond teaching or nursing. As a result, the intellectual level of schoolteachers is lower than it was several generations ago. ( I had two high school English teachers (male) who went on to get doctorates in English and Linguistics.)

    Nonetheless, schoolteachers today are not as dumb as you believe. ETS: Improving Teacher Quality in a Changing Policy Landscape Improvements in the Teaching Pool informs us that beginning teachers who passed the Praxis tests for teacher certification had average SAT scores of 521-Math and 531-Verbal. (Figure 15 on page 20 and Figure 13 on page 18)
    This compares with average SATs for college graduates of 543-Verbal and 542-Math. Below average, but not by a lot.
    Beginning teachers certified Elementary Ed, Special Ed, and Phys Ed teachers have SAT scores well below the SAT scores for college graduates.

    Beginning teachers certified for high school academic subjects score above average on the SAT section that best pertains to their certification.

    Average Verbal SAT by Certification Area
    Art& Music 550
    Math 551
    Social Studies 555
    Foreign Language 555
    Science 560
    English 575
    College Grads 542

    Average Verbal SAT by Certification Area
    Science 560
    Mathematics 590
    (These are eyeball estimates off bar graphs)</blockquote

    I'd estimate Elementary Ed certifications as 510-Verbal and 505- Math
    Phys Ed scores are way low, but no one ever expected gym teachers to be bright.

    I taught 8th+ 9th grade math for 2 years. I learned that knowledge of subject matter ( I had 750 Math Verbal SAT + 3.5 GPA math average in college) is necessary, but not sufficient , to be a competent teacher.

  8. Chaos–too often, actual violence–surely tends to drive away potential talented teachers, as does curriculum micromanagement and enforcement of low standards.

    “I learned that knowledge of subject matter ( I had 750 Math Verbal SAT + 3.5 GPA math average in college) is necessary, but not sufficient , to be a competent teacher”….but does the curriculum of the typical ed school really do much to provide this knowlege/skillset?

  9. no because the german educational models much like the Soviet constructivist ones, do not integrate meaningful classroom management into their curriculum

  10. Does anyone know of any reports over the last few years that construct a credible causal model between teacher quality and student achievement?

    My familiarity with the research is a bit old but from my past experience on a policy level in AZ I remember the the correlation between teacher “quality” and student achievement was strongest with lower socioeconomic group.

    The problem with K-12 is that as a bureaucracy it has the perverse incentive of when it fails in its mission that the preferred solution over the medium to long-term is to pump more money into it and (true to the technocratic nature of bureaucracy) bring in “smarter” people. It is the path of least resistance

  11. Why? Because we are playing civilizational jenga.
    I think one of the bigger differences between Trump and Biden is that Trumpet sets out his policies and Biden engages in personal attacks. And the DCP loves.
    So, what are the DCP policies?
    Communism
    Personal attacks
    Looting the treasury, aka personal enrichment
    Destruction of the Legal system
    Financial ruin of the USA, Out of control Spending
    Killing the Unborn, aka Abortion on demand, to the day to birth plus seven. Why? We wants to.

  12. I don’t know that Buchanan ever offered a viable way forward. But the basis for building that way would be a lot stronger if the GOP and Americans had favoured Buchanan instead of, say, Newt Gingrich, whose sort of techno-corporate neoconservatism of the 80s never gelled, and who seemed to waste the greatest political moments of the 90s in the most spectacular imaginable fashion.

  13. Because hastert the compromised speaker was better dream on was newt always on the ball buchanan was as much about economics as culture the rejoinder to that weekend of love (la riots) seem to agitate people more

  14. …and who seemed to waste the greatest political moments of the 90s in the most spectacular imaginable fashion.

    As something of a fan of Gingrich, I would offer a different interpretation.

    In my view he got the full Alinsky treatment- pick a target, polarize, etc- simply because his efforts were acting against what we now know as the Deep State. I still recall early in his Speakership he was giving press briefings which soon ended because the “journalists” spent all their time trying for gotchas and attacking him.

    End result, he left congress, we had Bob Livingston- until his affairs were outed after about a day- and then Dennis Hastert.

    Hastert, it turns out, had been paying hush money to his abuse victims for many years- and lots of it.

    I take this as yet another tell- not that another was needed- that the GOP is nothing more than pretend fake sham opposition because I see no reason to assume the endless strange betrayals and mysterious political failures are being committed by politicians any less compromised than Hastert was when he became Speaker and surely before.

    We’ll find out years later, after they leave office, as in the case of Hastert, or perhaps never.

  15. Gringo:“I learned that knowledge of subject matter ( I had 750 Math Verbal SAT + 3.5 GPA math average in college) is necessary, but not sufficient , to be a competent teacher”
    David Foster in reply….but does the curriculum of the typical ed school really do much to provide this knowlege/skillset?

    Not really. There has been formal classroom instruction for some 2,500 years, sufficient time to find out that works and what doesn’t work in classroom instruction. There is a need for pedagogy, as it is not necessarily readily apparent how to teach a given subject matter to a given population. (For example, young children (4-7, say) like and benefit from repetition more than 16-year olds. Why? Their knowledge base is much smaller, so they need more reinforcement on what they learn. Which is why small children like phonics drills, which adults do not. Adult educators assume that because THEY do not like phonics drills, neither do children.)

    What do ed schools do? For the most part, they spend their time propagating the latest educational fad, which is supposed to be the next big theory that will explain all about education. Learning styles, for example. The fad will be accepted and promulgated throughout the ed schools without having been thoroughly tested. After five years or so, there has been sufficient research to show that the educational fad de jour doesn’t work. Not to worry. A new educational fad will take its place. The old educational fad is dead. Long live the new educational fad.

    Another thing that ed schools do is push various forms of the DEI dogma- which they have been doing for decades.

  16. Newt Gringrich’s time in Congress was a remarkable period. His “Contract with America” and its influence in getting a Republican House for the first time in 40 years set the stage for Republican expectations today. The caucus rebellions against Boehner and McCarthy are based on the expectations that a Republican House is both normal and that it should actually mean something worthwhile.

    Alas Gingrich’s experience 1995-96 proves that you cannot run policy from Congress when you have a hostile White House and Dole’s nomination, let alone his defeat, 1996 signaled the end. In reality given who came before him (Michel) and after (Hastert to McCarthy), Gingrich should be seen as the exception and not the rule.

    I can’t help but be drawn by the similarities between the “Contract” and the Heritage Foundation’s “2025 Project” I don’t expect to officially embrace it but I believe it has its implicit support. That, Trump’s reception on Capitol Hill last week, and his plan to reimplement Schedule F shows that he will settle all family policy business come January (if he lives that long)

  17. Teacher quality…

    It was remarked above that subject matter knowledge is a necessary, but not sufficient , quality to be a competent teacher. I think that’s a pretty good presumption and you could develop a strong hypothesis on it by tracking both the level of overall educational and subject-level attainment of teachers and correlating it over time, say by using the NAEP data sets that go back to 1990.

    However I have two concerns about this focus.

    First if you go through NAEP data only 35% of 4th graders nationwide tested in 2019 were proficient in reading reflecting a downward trend since 2017 that has continued post-COVID. In fact the NAEP assessment for 4th grade reading has shown no overall gain since 2011. I doubt there has been a drop in the credential level for teachers over that time and of course for 4th graders there is less of a need for subject-level mastery.

    Second, the obvious factor that people have pointed to is the increasing use of cell phones in society (and therefore children) since 2011. I think that is only part of the answer. If you dig deeper into the data by race, not only is Asian reading proficiency higher than other races across all grades but has actually increased since 2011; in the case of 8th grade by a dramatic 8 percentage points to 57%

    This brings out a few ugly truths that correlate with my personal experience and observations. First families matter in education and I’m willing to bet is the primary determining variable for educational achievement. Yes the public debate regarding education has been historically dominated by the Left focusing on more material such as money and credentials and now of course CRT. However there is still the same search for silver bullets on the Right; curricular reform, testing, and other initiatives such as the one by DeSantis to ban cell phones in schools. These will help but seem to be dancing around the key variable which is family structure and expectations

    This leads to the second ugly truth, that we as a society and for many families have offloaded the responsibility of educating our kids to the educational bureaucracy. There are the normal pathologies of any bureaucracy that develop over time in that they become inward-focused and resistant to change. However the larger problem is that any possible solution is by definition, in this case raising the level of educational achievement by kids, defined solely in terms of the bureaucracy itself. Per capita funding levels, teacher training, what is allowed in terms of curriculum or behavior within the schools itself. A complaint I have heard from many teachers is that outside of the bureaucratic strait jacket they have to operate, their biggest problem are students who are not ready to learn or just plain incapable of doing so.

    All the other factors are more of symptoms, not the actual problems. Time to stop playing small ball.

  18. — Our elites suck at making America great because they hate America, and they despise Americans. This is why they are fine with importing 30 million people who hate us and have no interest in assimilating.

    — Wm Buckley nailed it about preferring to be governed by random folks from the phone book. The Democrat party leaders are the embodiment of Dunning-Kruger. Most Republicans in Congress are just ambitious, selfish assholes who lived in red states and registered R in order to win. They don’t have a distaste for big govt, they rather enjoy it.

    — The 1994 Gingrich House win with the Contract had one major reaction — news media were stunned into moving far beyond simple bias favoring Democrats into full-fledged, corrupt cheerleading for Clinton and the team. After the wake-up call, the use of nasty, vile slanders of the right ramped up dramatically. As the Clinton scandals and crimes piled higher, the lefty faithful needed ever greater assurance that their opponents were evil in order to justify continuing support for the criminals. (See Krauthammer’s axiom) It has continued to accelerate for the last 30 years.

    The good news? Most Americans are decent and patriotic. They are disgusted by Big Brother Democrats and won’t vote for it anymore. If Democrats continue to cheat, a reckoning will come. Whether it turns violent will depend on how Democrats choose to respond.

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