The illustrious dunderheads

Michael Barone sees a cultural and generational problem in America:

“They always blame America first.” That was Jeane Kirkpatrick…they seem to start off with a default assumption that we are in the wrong. The “we” can take different forms: the United States government, the vast mass of middle-class Americans, white people, affluent people, churchgoing people or the advanced English-speaking countries. Such people are seen as privileged and selfish, greedy and bigoted, rash and violent. If something bad happens, the default assumption is that it’s their fault. They always blame America…

Where does this default assumption come from?…It comes, I think, from our schools and, especially, from our colleges and universities. The first are staffed by liberals long accustomed to see America as full of problems needing solving; the latter have been packed full of the people cultural critic Roger Kimball calls “tenured radicals,” people who see this country and its people as the source of all evil in the world. On campuses, students are bombarded with denunciations of dead white males and urged to engage in the deconstruction of all past learning…

if there is slaughter in Darfur, it is our fault; if there are IEDs in Iraq, it is our fault; if peasants in Latin America are living in squalor, it is our fault; if there are climate changes that have any bad effect on anybody, it is our fault.

Barone’s and Kimball’s “tenured radicals” of today have a lot in common with the illustrious dunderheads of seventy years ago. The Illustrrious Dunderheads by Rex Stout (yes, that Rex Stout) is a book about the wrong-headed political elites in the US in the run-up to World War II. There were many of them (and you might be surprised to know that many of them did not change their minds after Pearl Harbor — they lowered their profiles and voices). Now the Illustrious Dunderheads run the universities, and there are some things that they just can’t stand, and do not teach, according to Barone:

Andrew Roberts’s splendid “History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900.” Roberts points out almost all the advances of freedom in the 20th century have been made by the English-speaking peoples — Americans especially, but British, as well, and also (here his account will be unfamiliar to most American readers) Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders. And he recalls what held and holds them together by quoting a speech Winston Churchill gave in 1943 at Harvard: “Law, language, literature — these are considerable factors. Common conceptions of what is right and decent, a marked regard for fair play, especially to the weak and poor, a stern sentiment of impartial justice and above all a love of personal freedom … these are the common conceptions on both sides of the ocean among the English-speaking peoples.”

We have ourselves addressed in the past the appalling ignorance of the young about “an accurate view of history and America’s place in it,” that has been inflicted on them by the tenured and foolish. As we said below, America’s last two generations of the “well-educated” have known little economic privation and little warfare broadly involving the populace. Therefore, we just might be due for some really silly experiments born of ignorance and easy times — perhaps dangerous experiments since we live in a dangerous world. If that happens, part of the cause will no doubt be the destructive utopian fantasies of today’s illustrious dunderheads.

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