In a discussion of a recent SciFi novel, one writer noted that the premise of the book – that old men would be recruited as warriors (with new cyber-bodies, of course) because their life experiences would make them better soldiers – flies in the face of reality. (Note: the military SciFi crowd is a diamond-hard geek-fest – get your facts right, or be ready for some withering incoming fire.) No, the writer pointed out, the whole point of recruiting 18 to 20 year olds is that they are most susceptible at that age to being reformed into soldiers. The boot camp experience tears them down psychically, in order to build them up into a fighting team, where each member identifies with and will sacrifice for the group, and accepts the group’s goals as his own. Old men would be exactly the wrong kind of soldiers, more likely to be able to think for themselves, more likely to ponder and hesitate, less psychically malleable.
It is not a coincidence that that’s the same age kids typically start attending college. Or, at least, educators seem to have recognized the possibilities…
College-level group cohesion is being enforced more baldly and vigorously each day. A friend recently told me that his niece was having trouble at Cal because she wrote about Christianity when allowed to pick her own topics, and the professor deemed that inappropriate – unless she was condemning it. And then there’s this. (Note: don’t know anything about this source, good or bad.)
Group cohesion, baby. As Fichte says, can’t have the little dears thinking for themselves! That how you lose wars to the French! Something like that. A proper education pries the student loose from parents, family and culture so that he can form proper group cohesion for the tasks that will be set for it. What, exactly, those tasks may be has not been subject to much public discussion.
By what grace and fate I managed to avoid this group cohesion only God knows, but I did seem to avoid it. The teachers in the Catholic schools I attended in the 60’s and 70’s were pretty much willing to leave me alone. During school, I lived in my own little alternate universe, where homework was ignored and the classroom was a minor inconvenience. From there, I went to perhaps the last secular school in America where you aren’t made to conform to some unnamed assumed apex of intellectual and moral perfection – St. John’s College. Instead, by reading all those dead white guys, you got a sense for how petty and adolescent much as what passes for modern thought is. Even the little bit of Plato a typical bright 18 year old could figure out made most modern ‘arguments’ look pretty stupid by comparison.
The group to which Johnnies cohere is the Great Conversation – all those people who, down through the ages, have struggled to understand and engaged in discussion of the Great Ideas as embodied in the Great Books. Since that group spans half the globe and 3,000+ years, it lacks the parochialism of the modern elite education group. Marx is just one guy in that discussion, and not one of the brighter ones. Freud has to sit at the kiddie table.
As I send son # 2 and daughter # 2 off to Thomas Aquinas and Thomas More, respectively, in the next few months, here’s praying the group they cohere to is Catholic, reasonable and good.