In His Footsteps
JULY 20, 2019
This week, 7 years ago, my parish informed us that a boy walking on Crossroads was hit by a car and passed away early that morning. I was 12 and had known what Crossroads was for as long as I could remember because my parish in Northern Virginia invites walkers to come through and speak at the end of their walks. I remember reading about Andrew and being completely shocked.
This year, I decided to walk with Crossroads, and wow, God’s timing is incredible.
On the first weekend of our walk, way back in San Francisco, at the very first Mass I spoke at, this woman came up to me after and told me she knew someone who did the walk once. I talked to her for a while, and she turned out to be Andrew’s aunt. She said her family was very at peace with what had happened and talking with her was really inspiring and encouraging to me.
On Sunday, I was randomly assigned to speak at St Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish in St Louis, MO. Many parishioners came up to me after and told me Andrew had spoken at this same parish just a couple days before his incident several years ago. They were exceedingly sorrowful, and I had many fascinating conversations with them about Andrew. I told them about how his uncle had walked the rest of the summer in his honor and how the rest of the team that year did end up finishing the walk together. It was really moving, and I was struck by how in 2 days or 2 weeks, or at any moment, something like that could happen to us, but are we really prepared? Are we spiritually prepared?
On Thursday, I was on shift walking, and while finishing the final prayers of a rosary with a teammate, we happened to walk right up to the site of the incident, finding the cross planted for Andrew. It was a chilling experience, kneeling and praying in the middle of the road on the median, while cars drove past all around us. My heart was pounding, and I had goosebumps just thinking about Andrew and how he was killed at that very spot while praying the rosary for the unborn, who do not get a chance to live at all. 7 years later, we walk in his same footsteps, and steadfastly continue to pray for an end to abortion.
I am so grateful I was given a chance to live, and for this chance now to witness the gospel of life to others.
Victoria Bliss, Central Walk 2019
…then back to something more serious, promise.
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts has a lovely campus in Merrimack, New Hampshire, next to the comparatively larger Nashua. The weather cooperated, as the sunny 70F low humidity day is about the best they ever get in New England.
They have a lovely but tiny chapel, so they set up a tent for Mass:
The college requires graduating seniors to make a 5-minute presentation on their thesis before the parents, in a ceremony held at the Mansion, a large 114 year old building a couple miles from campus:
With 28 graduates divided into 2 groups, this didn’t take too long, and we were able to turn to socializing and refreshments.
Bragging break: our son got honors for his thesis defense at TAC; the college president at TMC, unsolicited, told us our daughter’s paper was one of only 2 he’d really liked in his decade-long tenure as president. They did well.
Sunday, we attended Mass at St. Patrick’s – pics in the last post – before heading off to the kid’s uncle’s house (complete with aunt and 4 cousins). On the way, stopped in Northfield, MA, to visit the new TAC East campus. Wow.
The college is renovating some of the buildings, especially the chapel, which, having been built by Protestant Evangelicals, had no center aisle for processions. Overall, most of the buildings are beautiful, the grounds are very striking, just a lovely place. What a blessing!
Our son will be a prefect there next year, meaning he lives in the dorms and hangs with the students, in an effort to help seed the culture which TAC has spent almost 50 years developing on the west coast. He also will be a manager in the kitchen, which means supervising students, mostly, but also doing some cooking. He’s excited. He starts in 6 days.
Daughter soon heads off to Israel for a visit, then back home for a few weeks – then off to Africa as a lay missionary for a year! Yikes! On the plus side, older daughter is moving back to northern California from L.A., so we may see more of her, which is very nice. Down to one 15 year old child, and he’s making noise about doing college early. Kids these days.
So packed house at the moment – we also have another guest – soon to be largely empty. Prayers for the safety and success of our kids would be much appreciated.
One thing a classic liberal education is supposed to do for you is make you suspicious of ideas you find emotionally attractive. Like the brutal honesty demanded by science, it is just assumed to rub off on students who work their way through all those tough classic texts. Just about every freshman finds Plato attractive. Like the young men who followed Socrates around just to see him lightly eviscerate some pompous fool, we thrilled to the discovery that pompous fools could be eviscerated, and craved more. Then we run into Aristotle, and don’t like it much, because he, effectively, says: enough with the fun and games, time to stand your ground and say what you mean. Perhaps some of us get the idea that Socrates would have met his match, or more, in Aristotle (although I suspect they would have gotten along pretty well while having some doozies of arguments, because they had doozies of arguments. Socrates must have been bored out of his skull with the Ions and Menos of the world.)
Then, as you move on through the list, one precious idea after another gets beat up. You think that you’ve reached the pinnacle of sophistication as an 18 year old who has learned that the only thing he knows is that he knows nothing, only to have that self-refuting notion beat up by Aristotle’s moderate realism. Then, perhaps, you see how Aristotelian metaphysics and epistemology lead to places you might not want to go, making Descartes very appealing. But Descartes leads to Hume, Berkeley, and, eventually, Kant, while Thomas leads to science. So now, maybe, Descartes is less appealing, and you take another look at Aristotle…
Thus, by a million paths, the serious student learns to take extra care about accepting too readily ideas that he finds attractive, because he finds them attractive.
When I read Alice Miller‘s books 30+ years ago, I found her ideas very attractive, even though her Freudian approach was seriously off putting. I like to say that Miler was a fallen-away Freudian, but had not fallen away nearly far enough. What made her assertions more acceptable to me was how well they fit with evolutionary theory. On the fly as I read her books, I would substitute arguments from natural selection for hers, the unholy offspring of Freud and Rousseau.
Brutal honesty moment: in other words, I back-filled psychological theories I found emotionally appealing with evolutionary just-so stories. I get it. I suppose my purpose in writing this out, apart from trying to make it as clear as possible to myself, is to invite criticism.
What are these theories? I’ve mentioned them before, but never in great detail. Here, I’m paraphrasing them based on 30 year old memories and replacing Freudian turns of phrase with Darwinian language. These start out as truisms (I should hope) but turn dark:
- For their very survival, children need to be part of a family/tribe (Extended family – I’m just going to use ‘tribe’ from here on out). In our evolutionary environment, no children lived to reproduce outside of a tribe. Therefore, intense selection pressure has been applied to children in favor of group membership and against running off or doing anything that might get them excluded. (1)
- As sophisticated social mammals, children by instinct incorporate whatever behaviors are required for tribal membership into their base understanding of the world as foundational assumptions. (This is nothing more than saying ‘tribalism’ is a base state for humans and is pre-rational). Kids don’t think about these requirements (much), they just are.
- We see it in the ‘attachment-promoting behaviors’ of babies and toddlers before they are even aware of what they’re doing. As they grow, their behaviors become more complex and more specific to their particular environment. In this, people are only the most sophisticated among animals – you cat and dog do this as well.
All well and good, and I hope not too controversial. It should be noted that the reciprocal activity on the part of the adults – nurturing the tribe so that the child might survive – must also be a part of any environment of evolutionary adaptation. So parents and relative – the tribe – can be expected to behave in such a way as to promote the survival and integration into the tribe of its children. That’s the model that seems to have been developed and to have worked over the last half a million years or so, at least. There’s nothing necessarily nice or pretty about it – it’s just what works.
But what happens when, as in the modern world for the last couple hundred years in many places, many people survive despite having no tribe in the evolutionary sense? What happens when the brutal culling mechanisms of Darwinian survival get put on hold? Whatever else may happen, it is now possible on a scale and to a degree never known before for children to be neglected, abused, and traumatized – and still live, and perhaps even still reproduce.
- Children who are neglected, abused and otherwise traumatized will, through the all but inexorable drive of instinct, incorporate their neglect, abuse and trauma into their pre-rational view of the world. Miller, in her decades of work as a psychoanalyst, noted a remarkable ability of her patients to excuse, ignore and explain away the objectively horrible things done to them – which is what one would expect, under the evolutionary explanation above. Aside: this, at least, seems to be obviously true from just routine interactions with people.
- So we have a world increasingly filled with damaged children of all ages who, for basic survival reasons, have accepted their mistreatment at the hands of those who were supposed to love them, rationalized it, and who are highly motivated to accept it as part of their tribal membership fees.
- It gets worse: as part of the emotional mechanisms that ‘worked’ insofar as they did in fact survive into adulthood, their experiences and coping mechanisms now become the template for how to raise any children they might have. Thus, Miller observed the pattern where someone who had been sexually abused as a child, even if they were not themselves an abuser, would routinely put their children into situations where they were likely to be abused. To do otherwise would be to confront the careful structure that allowed the parent to survive in the first place. Very painful and disorienting.
- This is expressed in the title of one of her books: Thou Shalt Not Be Aware. To acknowledge one’s own mistreatment enough to protect one’s own child requires reopening some deep and carefully scarred over wounds. Rather than do that, we readily subject our kids to what we experienced, no matter how horrible.
Miller says that a sympathetic witness, someone who understood the trauma and abuse on some level and could tell the child that it wasn’t right, was all but essential to having any hope for healing. That witness provided a counter to all the stories the kid would otherwise make up in order to keep his membership in the tribe: that daddy didn’t mean it, that momma does really care, that what uncle did wasn’t so bad, and so on – all the little myths one runs into whenever one is drawn into other people’s dramas. Lacking such a witness, it seemed to Miller all but impossible to get past all the barricades built up by the child.
So, there you have it: I see – I think, that’s the question – people reenacting in their child’s life whatever it was that traumatized them as children: people who were abandoned at 15 abandon their own kids as teens; children of divorce get divorced; Sexually abused kids become libertines and expose their own kids to that life; and so in a million ways.
There’s more, but that’s the general outline. I’m not just saying that miserable childhoods tend to make for miserable adults. I’m saying that miserable childhoods tend to all but compel people to make their own children miserable in the same way.
Anyway, make any sense? I readily acknowledge that Miller is a loon – I read most if not all of her books, and she gets into speculation that’s little better than palm reading in many places. And, as mentioned, even though she became one of Freud’s harshest critics, she still thought and spoke like a Freudian. Am I just experiencing confirmation bias when I seem to see this inflicting of one’s childhood trauma on one’s own children everywhere I look, or is it real?
- And, of course, tribes can’t survive without children, either, so, at least by nature, tribes care about their children as passionately as children yearn to belong. Note that this doesn’t imply any sort of lovie-dovie niceness: the ever-popular Yanomami tribesmen raise their sons to be good little homicidal sociopaths, because that approach has been proven to work. Similarly, their daughters are raised to seek the most murderous sociopaths as mates.
- And then expanded, by design, to school, with its artificial and arbitrary tribes of classrooms and grades. But Miller doesn’t go there, as far as my memory can recall.
The Resurrection, by Piero della Francesca, a fresco from the 1460s found in the Palazzo della Residenza, the City Hall, as it were, in the town of Sansepolcro, Tuscany, Italy. As is so often the case, in person it is far more impressive and moving than any reproduction. This fresco has made a strong impressions on many people, including many non-Catholics and even atheists. Huxley wrote about it. This is Christ in triumph, but also Christ in judgement, which makes it an image well-suited to our current crazy years. It was commissioned not for a church or chapel, but for the place where city government was conducted. The village elders would pray before it prior to conducting business, to remind themselves that they would be judged by Christ, who died and rose that they might be saved. Look at the face della Francesca gave to Christ: A merciful yet just judge.
This fresco shows an amazing degree of sophistication: 2 vanishing points, one for the soldiers, one for Christ, so that the eye can contemplate them both separately and together. The near-hyperrealism of the guards on the one hand stands against the utter disregard for gravity and anatomy other. There are three legs between four guards; the guard in the front right is leaning on air; more subtly, the guards in the middle have assumed anatomically and physically impossible positions. While there are technical accounts of why this is so, the simple reason is that della Francesca was painting the Resurrection, not a bunch of mercenary guards. Stuffing in the right number of legs and giving them all proper postures and things to lean on just didn’t figure into it.
This masterpiece narrowly survived destruction in World War II when British artillery officer Tony Clarke defied orders to shell the town. He had never seen the fresco, but had read Huxly’s description, and had seen the destruction of Monte Cassino. He didn’t want to go down in History as the dude who wantonly and needlessly destroyed a priceless work of art. The grateful villagers (Sansepolcro is hardly more than a village even today) named a street after Clarke. (1)
The della Francesca brough the image below to mind: Gerard David’s image of the Judgement of Cambyses. commissioned in 1488 for the City Hall of Bruges. In this diptych, we see on the left Cyrus’s son Cambyses condemning the corrupt judge Sisamnes, who on the right is shown suffering his sentence: being flayed alive. His skin was then used to cover the judgement seat, occupied next by his successor: his own son.
Dante puts traitors to benefactors in the lowest circle of Hell. This would include those who are entrusted with the public good and abuse that trust. On this most holy of days, we rejoice that a good, merciful and just judge awaits us, but are warned to not presume on his mercy. We pray for those who reject His authority, and fervently throw ourselves on his mercy and beg mercy on everyone we know.
Mercy is there for the asking, but God is too polite to force His mercy on us if we won’t ask for it.
- One of the weird things that came out of the two world wars: in my (very light – I welcome correction here) reading, wanton destruction for the sake of revenge was just as much, if not more, prevalent on the British side than the Nazi side (one gets the impression the Americans were merely clueless, but I’m hardly an authority). Understandable, since the Germans bombed London to terrorize the English. Given the horror of those attacks and British character, that did not go over well. I think many in England would have reduced all of Germany to ash if they could. They came close in some places. Meanwhile, there are numerous stories about Nazi officers doing what they could to prevent wanton destruction: not burning Paris against orders, not putting anything important enough to destroy in the ancient heart of Florence, for two examples. Not defending Naziism (isn’t it insane that I think it necessary to state that?) but individual Nazis were just human beings like us, and could behave as evilly or beautifully as anybody else. We prevent ourselves from learning from this cautionary tale by blanket vilification: those people were not like us! They were evil! Nope, they were for the most part just regular folks who fell to social pressures, a misplaced sense of duty and a eagerness to believe a story whereby their troubles were all somebody else’s fault. Kind of exactly like most people today.
We are discussing textbooks, starting here with some preliminaries and what textbooks are. The remaining two questions are:
2. Who gets to say what’s in textbooks
3. Why do we need them
Who gets to say what’s in textbooks? First, let’s consider a fairly recent and I think representative example. Richard Feynman was once on a textbook committee here in California. (Aside: the link above came up when googled for the Feynman essay. The commentary at that site is also worth perusing.) While his experiences date back 50 years, the situation has only become worse. So, who says what in them?
You see, the state had a law that all of the schoolbooks used by all of the kids in all of the public schools have to be chosen by the State Board of Education, so they have a committee to look over the books and to give them advice on which books to take.
Feynman getting a say in what’s in science and math books? Famous, brilliant, Nobel-winning teacher? Sounds about right. Buuuut:
Immediately I began getting letters and telephone calls from schoolbook publishers. They said things like, “We’re very glad to hear you’re on the committee because we really wanted a scientific guy . . .” and “It’s wonderful to have a scientist on the committee, because our books are scientifically oriented . . .” But they also said things like, “We’d like to explain to you what our book is about . . .” and “We’ll be very glad to help you in any way we can to judge our books . . .” That seemed to me kind of crazy.
A nice lady who’d been on the committee before told him how it worked:
They would get a relatively large number of copies of each book and would give them to various teachers and administrators in their district. Then they would get reports back on what these people thought about the books.
But this is Feynman we’re talking about! So:
Since I didn’t know a lot of teachers or administrators, and since I felt that I could, by reading the books myself, make up my mind as to how they looked to me, I chose to read all the books myself. . . .
If you know anything about government committees, you may be able to guess what happens. Feynman is the ONLY person on the committee who read any of the books. In one case, there was a book being rated even though it was blank:
We came to a certain book, part of a set of three supplementary books published by the same company, and they asked me what I thought about it.
I said, “The book depository didn’t send me that book, but the other two were nice.”
Someone tried repeating the question: “What do you think about that book?”
“I said they didn’t send me that one, so I don’t have any judgment on it.”
The man from the book depository was there, and he said, “Excuse me; I can explain that. I didn’t send it to you because that book hadn’t been completed yet. There’s a rule that you have to have every entry in by a certain time, and the publisher was a few days late with it. So it was sent to us with just the covers, and it’s blank in between. The company sent a note excusing themselves and hoping they could have their set of three books considered, even though the third one would be late.”
It turned out that the blank book had a rating by some of the other members! They couldn’t believe it was blank, because [the book] had a rating. In fact, the rating for the missing book was a little bit higher than for the two others. The fact that there was nothing in the book had nothing to do with the rating.
Read the whole thing, if you have the stomach for it. Feynman noted many egregious errors and obvious failings in the books that did have stuff in them, so much so that one is lead to wonder if the blank book would not have been an improvement (hint: yes). The rest of the essay is about the corruption of the selection process, where the publishers wine and dine the committee members to get their support, but given the nature and quality of the books, that qualifies as a secondary scandal.
So, to answer the question: who gets to decide what goes in textbooks? it’s ‘educators’ with the ‘help’ of politicians. In the above essay, the recommendations of the committee are largely overturned by the politicians allocating the state budget. The committee was instructed not to look at cost, so they couldn’t recommend a set of books within any budget, or have a hierarchy of which books to cut first if the money wasn’t there. Didn’t matter anyway, as the Education Department simply did what they wanted once a budget was determined. Feynman, a legendary teacher himself, is there just for cover – it’s not like he get to decide, or even have much of a say, despite his expertise.
Two things should be obvious from this story: first, educators, a class of people that did not exist until about 200 years ago (people were teachers, back then) decide what goes into the books. State education departments are and have always been staffed by educators and political hacks.
But the second thing is more perhaps more shocking: it doesn’t matter what goes into the textbooks, so long as it fails to teach! It is not like there are not many people out there who can teach algebra, say, and who could write a good, usable textbook on the subject. I ran across one such book many years ago, and it was night and day. After taking the usual high school algebra courses, I could sort of do the math, but my understanding was limited. Then, in my mid-20s, in a few pages of a book I stumbled across in a library written by a guy who understood and loved his subject, it was a mini Eureka! moment. Algebra wasn’t a series of tricks and rules, but rather a complete logical system. The fragments made no sense; the whole was beautiful.
So, I know they’re out there. Textbooks written by people who understand and love their subjects are never used in the public schools, at least K-12. This is no accident. It’s not just the experts whose opinions are ignored. What parents might wish were in them is worse than irrelevant – it is to be actively shunned.
The compulsory, graded public school system was never envisioned as a means to educate. Fichte, Mann and their spawn hardly cared if the students learned traditional subjects. The system they dreamed up, realized and imposed with the police power of the state was intended from the beginning to form an obedient and docile population. Textbooks that teach real knowledge do not help toward this end, and might hinder it. Better to not run that risk.
Just some quick links. Amusing stuff gleaned from Twitter, where Raw Data gets some comeuppance:
The above seems to be in response to this. Tiny changes either way in tiny states; large changes either way in big states. Per capita numbers might be more interesting, maybe not. Raw data is just that – raw.
Raw data also tells you that Chinese American and Japanese American women, in general, make more money than white men, in general. Adding geography – Are Asian women more likely to live in urban centers? Or do many live among the white males of Appalachia? – or education level – Do Asian women in general get more education than white men in general? – might recalibrate the numbers. Would be interesting. Inquiring minds would want to know.
Wow. If you squint a little, this looks pretty damaging to the argument that innate sexual difference are a factor in the career choices men and women make:
What this purports to show: in the 1960s, a small percentage of women pursued majors in Medical School, Law School, Physical Sciences and Computer Science. Starting around 1970, the percentage of women majoring in these 4 fields started to increase, and, with the exception of computer science, leveled off around 2000. The percentage of women majoring in computer science peaked around 1985 and began to fall, then it leveled out around 2007.
Proposed conclusion: difference in career choices can’t be based on sex, because the sexes were as different in 1970 as they remain in 2000, yet the percentage of college women studying computer science fell even as the percentages in the other listed majors continued to increase or at least held steady. Or, a Twitterer put it:
Here’s a problem for those who say “biological differences” or “innate interest” explain why women hold fewer coding jobs than men.
Well, that’s a big ‘maybe’. What’s wrong with this picture? Let me count the ways:
First, why those 4 fields and no others? As shown here, it’s not too hard to cherry-pick examples to show whatever you want to show. Also, aren’t we talking about very broad fields? Nobody majors in ‘Physical Science’ – they major in geology or chemistry or physics or some such. A better, if harder to read chart or charts would show the male/female differences across many majors at a level of granularity that means something. Does it make a difference to lump them all together? We don’t know, but it is something we would want to know.
Next, and this is the kind of reality check anybody paying attention needs to do: What kind of source data have we here? What do we mean by college students and majors? Med schools and Law schools are dedicated graduate schools attended by students who have presumably prepared and competed to get into them in their undergrad years, while the physical sciences and computer science are studied both in undergrad and grad environments.
Are we talking about majors these students were awarded their degrees in? Or just the ones they declared as pimply 18 years olds? Or something else? STEM fields, for example, have infamously high dropout rates: those 18 year olds, who have been assured for the previous decade and a half that they are the best educated people ever and often have all those Advanced Placement credits from high school to prove it, discover to their chagrin (with possible collateral damage to their self-esteem!) that they cannot in fact hack the math an electrical engineering degree requires – and that it’s a lot of work to catch up to the level of the typical college-bound high school graduate from 75 years ago. It seems the professors in these fields didn’t get the memo:
“A substantial grading differential exists between science and nonscience courses,” said presenter Ben Ost, a third-year Cornell economics Ph.D. student. “Even students who eventually become science majors receive much higher grades in their nonscience courses than their major field courses. This gap in grading standards discourages students from pursuing and completing a science degree.”
(The linked article also mentions that white males stick to it a lot better than women and ‘people of color’ – except for those pesky Asian people of color, both male and female, who do even better than white men but are not mentioned because mumble mumble…)
What difference does this make? As is so often the case, the correct answer is: we don’t know. Such information would be required before we could make much of anything out of this graph; it’s also possible that, given the required information, the point that the graph was concocted to make might become obscured or vanish entirely. Again, we don’t know.
What we do know is that plenty of students do not take ‘pre-law’ (if such a major even exists – didn’t in my day) as undergrads except informally – people with undergrad degrees in English, history, philosophy and maybe even computer science get into law schools all the time. Med schools tend to be more demanding, expecting a solid undergrad degree in some related major such as biology, with chemistry, biochemistry and the like, but still – there’s Group A – graduate students with some undefined undergraduate degrees, and Group B – undergrads and maybe grads in computer sciences and the physical sciences.
Double counting? We don’t know! Seems inevitable, since there’s no way of knowing what the statistics do with a Women Studies/Lawyer or Physics/Doctor or any of the other possible undergrad/grad combos. This would be good information to know.
It’s possible it makes no difference – the graph’s author could have developed a sophisticated and well-defined method that cleared this up and showed the graph to be a perfectly reasonable piece of information. But they didn’t show that information – or, at best, they did and the people pushing this on the web decided to leave it off.
What this does say: the presenter of the graph is much more interested in the particular message he wants to convey than in clear, well understood information.
Next, did anything else interesting happen to the college student population around the 1980s? Why yes, yes it did:
From the Boston Globe[/caption]
First: more and more people went to college. Second, a disproportionate number of those people were women (or are projected to be women – graph commits the sin of not distinguishing projections from statistics – the far right goes to 2023, which hasn’t happened yet.)
So, at least, we’ve spotted one big issue: the graph at the top shows percentages; those percentages are of ever-increasing numbers of women. Thus, for example, the raw number of women in these field could very well be increasing, just not as fast as the total number of women college students – looking at total numbers instead of statistics might flatten out the apocalyptic-looking post 1985 drop-off.
Another thing that happened in the 1980s, or at least fully blossomed: the idea of college as a Holy Grail/meal ticket for everyone, especially for women. Instead of a college education being something people with certain specialized career ambitions would pursue, or even – *gasp* – something one would do to prepare one’s self for the duty of understanding and protecting one’s culture and Western Civilization in general (colleges being a Western Civ thing, after all), college became more and more exclusively a stepping stone to financial success.A generation of women came of college age who had heard from every direction that to be financially dependent on a man – you know, by marrying him – was demeaning and made a woman less than fully human. Therefore, if a woman was foolish enough to marry, she at least should get a career going first, so that she could walk out on him and maybe the kids if for any reason that whole ‘marriage’ arrangement proved unsatisfactory.
I’m just old enough to remember jokes about women college students – co-eds, they used to call them – attending school to get their Mrs. degrees. That is not a joke one could assume one could safely make on campuses today, nor any that use ‘the ball and chain’ analogy for wives – because in all popular discussions of the evils of marriage, all husbands are assumed to be evil, and all wives innocent, at least, no husband is acknowledged to have taken on the burden of responsibility and no wife is acknowledged to receive any financial benefits from marriage. Because mumble mumble.
But I digress.
If you think you need to have a career to take care of yourself, might you not pick a field that is not too hard and yet promised good job prospects? In my experience, people who study computer science are, well, geeks and nerds. It’s a bit of an obsession, not something someone indifferent to the actual work would choose just because the job prospects are good. Why hang out with obsessives with whom do not share the interest? Why compete with people who are passionate about the work if you are not?
Next, look at this from the colleges point of view: the number of young people who want a STEM-like career and are willing to pay the academic price – actually studying hard, skipping a few parties, preparing themselves in high school – is never going to be too large. So, if all you offer are hard classes – see the quotation above – then you’re going to lose all those students who can’t or don’t want to hack it UNLESS you have easier classes they can take instead. If they leave school, you lose the money those kids bring in, while if they transfer to
an Applied Marxism(1) a studies major of some sort, or just to any other easier major, you keep them and the money they bring in.
Yes, yes, I know that the motives of college administrators are pure and high, and that it only appears that they are money-grubbing vermin indistinguishable in action from the snake oil salesmen they generally assume all business people to be. (Except you, donor with a building named after you! You are not like other men!) Whatever the motives, the effect can be observed: many majors have been dumbed down and a numbers of easy new majors have appeared over the last few decades – and women dominate those majors.
And why not? I myself got a graduate degree in business because A) I had a growing family to support and B) business is REALLY REALLY EASY, at least compared to ‘real’ majors. Once you decide you’re going to college to further your career, why not do it in as pain-free a manner as possible, and leave the specialties to the specialist? I also once signed up for some programming classes at UC Irvine (elite tech school I just happened to be living near) in the mid 80s – and promptly dropped out. I was merely curious – the younger whippersnappers were playing for keeps. No way was I keeping up on the amount of time I had to invest in it. These dudes (almost all dudes) lived in the computer labs. I imagine my experience isn’t all that unusual.
Oh, look! Top majors for women, circa 2010:
No. 1: Business
Degrees awarded to women in 2008: 164,276
Women in the major: 49% of total
Men in the major: 51% of total
Potential career paths: management, sales, consulting, finance
Here’s another. Wow, a lucrative growing field dominated by women!
No. 2: Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences
Degrees awarded to women in 2008: 94,192
Women in the major: 85.4% of total
Men in the major: 14.6% of total
Potential career paths: nursing, physical therapy
Here’s another, a really hard one for brainiacs:
No. 8: Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Degrees awarded to women in 2008: 46,217
Women in the major: 59.4% of total
Men in the major: 40.6% of total
Potential career paths: research, teaching, medical technology
One might imagine a sane person choosing a major based on both personal interest and career prospects; one also can imagine an 18 year old choosing a major because it’s cool (raises hand. Great Books, baby!). Would one have any reason to expect any other behavior from the women who have come to dominate the college student population? Apart from the religious dogmas of Critical Theory, that is?
Conclusion: If there are nefarious forces keeping women out of Computer Science majors, this chart isn’t showing it. Cherry-picked majors, poor or no definitions of key terms, murky data. In fact, it’s misleading to the point of propaganda.
Bonus: here is a fun chart from NPR, which is not an official tool of oppression yet as far as I know, that gives both percentages and raw numbers (if you hover correctly) and the relationships between majors. It could have been improved if the graph were of raw numbers so as to reveal the upward slope of total enrollment, and the percentages showed when you hover. Big caveat: as is almost always the case in these things, the chart assumes a set of categories that existed in 1970 map meaningfully with categories in use in 2011. That’s plausible enough for math or chemistry – but is what they meant by sociology or psychology or cultural studies (?) in 1970 the same as what they meant by it in 2011? Bears thinking about.
- Nothing is easier than Applied Marxism Studies, known as Critical Theory: pick somebody unhappy; ‘discover’ who is oppressing them, because all unhappiness results from oppression; let your imagination run wild as to how awful those mean oppressors are, and how we need to exclude them from even opening their mouths and probably need to kill them. Doesn’t have to make sense or even be internally consistent. Easy-peasy A+
In the early morning of July 20th, 2012, our son Andrew was struck by a car and killed while walking along a rural highway in Indiana while taking part in a Crossroads cross country pro-life walk from San Francisco to Washington D.C. May he rest in peace.
I’m writing today because of something remarkable, something I would never have even dreamt of: a friend of Andrew’s, a retired fireman who taught him as a small child in faith formation classes at Queen of All Saints parish and prayed with him on occasion in front of the local Planned Parenthood, will be filing the paperwork with the diocese to petition to get Andrew declared a Servant of God.
5 years after death is the minimum required waiting period. As his father, I am far too close to make any sort of judgement at all either way. All I know is that Jim – that’s the gentleman doing the paperwork, who is a very good man – seemed to get pretty enthusiastic responses when he talked to people who knew Andrew, and that his confessor for the last few years of his life sought us out to tell us we had nothing to worry about over the state of his soul. So I ask for your prayers that God’s will be done.
Short & Sweet: Buy and read Dawn Witzke’s Path of Angels – it’s fun, cheap at the moment on Amazon, and different. I liked it quite a bit, and it’s a quick read. Support indie. Support superversive.
All in all, a fun read, good characters, and the action both physical and spiritual never stops. It reminds me a little of two very different authors’ works – Jagi Lamplighter and Robert Hugh Benson. Both these authors are very successful in very different ways at portraying the inner workings of their characters’ minds and souls. Witzke is likewise able to describe how things look to a 17 year old girl trying hard to be good in a world set up as an attractive slip-n-slide to evil. Everywhere, her world is ready with both pleasures and pains to push you down the wrong path. Benson derives his force by austere and deep insights into three different souls. Lamplighter puts her lead characters in fantasy world’s emotional and spiritual blender where decisions good and bad have to be made with never enough time or calm. Witzke put her heroine on a journey paced more like real life, with decisions big and small coming at the most awkward and dangerous times. All three capture an essential truth: we can only find our true selves in this world when we are not of this world.
If you had to categorize it – and you don’t – this would be a distopian YA story with a twist: it’s full of virtue, hope and heroism by characters who – gasp! – are Christians. This short (199 pp – in the range of all those 1950’s Heinlein books!) stands all those Post Apocalyptic Preludes I was on about on their heads: After the end of the world as we know it, religion is outlawed because nobody would ever fight and steal and murder and bully if it weren’t for religion. Religion here meaning, of course, not atheistic communism (100 M murders and counting) nor Islam (14 centuries of uninterrupted bloody conquest, slaughter and slavery) but Christianity, specifically Catholicism, which, while hardly violence free, pales in comparison to those last two. Hey, it’s just history.
Back to the book. The characters are hardly goodie-two-shoes. The book opens with some rather shocking violence in the name of Christ – understandable as you read the story, but hardly cricket. As the book progresses, Aadi and Mischa, two young people living under an atheist regime in a partly ruined world, are given a task: bring a relic of Mother Theresa to a priest in a distant town. After many adventures and narrow escapes, and seeing both friends and foes suffer horrible fates, they reach their destination, only to run into their greatest spiritual threat so far. They suffer temptations like those suffered by our teenage children (of all ages) and even fail – but that doesn’t destroy their faith or make them surrender to evil.
The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, because you strongly suspect that they’re not getting away *that* easy! But the story stands.
If you decide to give it to your kids to read, be advised: there are some scenes that will make anybody under, say, 15 or 16 blush. They’re done tastefully enough, but I’m just thinking how *I* would have blushed reading these scenes to my kids, and – no.
So, good book. Yard Sale of the Mind says: check it out.
Short and sweet: Read this book. It is available free through Project Gutenberg. It’s only a little over 100 pages – a long essay, really – in which the conventional presentations and meanings of many central European historical events as understood by those educated in the second half of the 20th century – me, for example – are convincingly challenged. Think you understand the Fall of Rome, the Dark Ages, the Saxon and Norman conquests of England and the Protestant Reformation? Even if you disagree with Belloc’s take, you’ll never think of them the same way again.(1)
His main premise: Europe is the Faith, the Faith is Europe. What he means – and here’s where conventionally educated Americans of the 21st century are likely to recoil – is that all those things, those institutions, habits of thought, habits, indeed, of soul, that make Christendom special and – hope you’re sitting down – superior to all other civilizations are features of the Church, of the Faith. What positives we see in Protestant and decayed nominally Catholic Europe are the embers of that fire that welded the lands of the Roman Empire into a Civilization, the greatest the world has ever known.(2) Belloc, being Catholic, understands greatness to necessarily include the welfare of the weak. He argues that the fracturing of the Faith and Europe lead to the peasants getting a much more raw deal.
Hillaire Belloc might be remembered today more for his friendship with Chesterton than any of his writings. Based on the small sample of his works I’ve read, there is a lot more of fire and less of that pervasive good cheer that characterizes Chesterton’s works. He sees and cries doom, and is ready to take up the sword to die defending the good, the beautiful and the true. It’s not that Chesterton is any less willing to defend the Truth that is a Person, it’s just that in his mind he sees banners, knights, and glory even in defeat – and that cheers him, and comes through in almost everything he writes.
Published in 1920 immediately after the first World War, Hillaire Belloc’s short Europe and the Faith is, most simply, a defense of Europe’s fundamental Catholicism. Such a defense necessarily must often take the form of a counterargument to the way history has been told or mis-told for the last 4 centuries. The long essay covers the period from Rome to the fall of England to Protestantism, with a concluding chapter describing how this history has shaped the choices faced in Belloc’s day.
While Belloc makes no effort to hide or soft-pedal his Catholicism, his most pointed criticisms are most often launched from his position as a scholar. One recurring theme is how it is always wrong to read history as if what happened next, and especially what is happening now, is inevitable, and that the past is to be understood as merely a preface without much meaning independent of those modern inevitabilities. Thus, the great Reformers must have intended to fragment the Faith (and thus fragment Europe) because that is what happened. Belloc points out that there is no contemporary evidence they thought anything of the kind. Rather, the Reformers imagined the uniform and united world in which they found themselves to be a sort of permanent state, not something made by men as the very broad and universal philosophy of the Catholic Church informed their lives.
He denies that Rome fell in the sense of being overrun and replaced by barbarians, and makes the point that the transition from central Imperial rule to decentralized rule under kings was a gradual and to a surprising extent superficial change. The procedures, organization, political assumptions, and most important the Catholic spirit remained Roman even as small numbers of already Romanized peoples – the barbarians of history – fought over who got to be the local king.
He goes into no detail here, but Lafferty’s description of Alaric comes to mind: he was a Roman general of largely Romanized Gothic troops, who, when he was crowned king of the Goths, became the first Catholic king ever so crowned. He followed in the footsteps of Stilicho, in many ways his model and teacher, another Romanized Catholic ‘barbarian’ general whose life was dedicated and spent to preserve the Catholic Roman Empire. Even as far back as the sacking of Rome in 410, the ideal of a Catholic Empire given the divine duty to preserve and promote the Faith had taken hold – and nothing that happened in the next few centuries changed that. Rome gradually became the feudal society ruled by kings, governed through a complex hierarchy of personal relationships and obligations, and animated by the Catholic faith.
He denies that England was invaded and conquered by Germanic tribes – Angles and Saxons – pointing to the complete lack of historical evidence that such a thing ever happened. Instead, he notes that historian, backfilling from their own biases about what they’d like to have happened, fill in a 150 year gap in the written record with an invasion that never took place. Belloc instead appeals to what we know about what was happening in the neighboring areas, what the people wrote before and after the gap, and how things proceeded after St. Augustine of Canterbury arrived and the writing of history resumed. He asserts that, just as in all of the rest of the Empire, auxiliary troops made up of barbarian recruits were settled in England prior to 410 AD, and remained behind after the Legions left. Then, constant piratical raids along the coasts and navigable rivers of England’s east coast drove the native populations westward, cutting them off from commerce and communication with the mainland and allowing for some settlements of the pirate peoples. But in no sense did these ‘invaders’ conquer – when St. Augustine arrived, he found Germanic pagan peoples in tiny kingdoms along the coasts and rivers, and more Celtic Catholic peoples inland. In one of those historical quirks, St. Augustine and his missionaries worked with the Germanic peoples they converted to re-evangelize the rest of Britain, leading to the oddity of Germanic languages coming to dominate, instead of Celtic or Latin.
And so on, through a number of other critical events. Belloc wants us to understand what Rome was, how it became Catholic, how it fought off would-be invaders throughout the Dark Ages, how it flowered in the Middle Ages, how it has persisted to this day, and what price we pay for rejecting it. He aims to provide a framework within which to understand the history of Europe and the world. There can hardly be a more noble and needed goal for a historian.
It also helps that Belloc includes philosophy in this discussion, both from an historical perspective, and by including basic metaphysical and epistemological considerations in the discussion:
There are three forms in which the human mind can hold the truth: The form of Science, which means that we accept a thing through demonstration, and therefore cannot admit the possibility of its opposite. The form of Opinion, which means that we accept a thing through probability, that is through a partial, but not complete demonstration, and therefore we do not deny the possibility of the opposite. The form of Faith, where we accept the thing without demonstration and yet deny the possibility of its opposite, as for instance, the faith of all men, not mad, in the existence of the universe about them, and of other human minds.
When acknowledged and defined Faith departs, it is clear that of the remaining two rivals, Opinion has no ground against Science. That which can be demonstrated holds all the field. Indeed, it is the mark of modern insufficiency that it can conceive of no other form of certitude save certitude through demonstration, and therefore does not, as a rule, appreciate even its own unproved first principles.
Well, this function of the isolated soul, inquiry and the necessity for demonstration for individual conviction through measurement and physical fixed knowledge, has occupied, as we all know, the three modern centuries. We all are equally familiar with its prodigious results. Not one of them has, as yet, added to human happiness: not one but has been increasingly misused to the misery of man. There is in the tragedy something comic also, which is the perpetual puzzlement of these the very authors of discovery, to find that, somehow or other, discovery alone does not create joy, and that, somehow or other, a great knowledge can be used ill, as anything else can be used ill. Also in their bewilderment, many turn to a yet further extension of physical science as promising, in some illogical way, relief.
There is much more worth discussing in this book, and resistance to the temptation to write a comparision of it to Lafferty’s Fall of Rome is only possible due to crushing time constraints at the moment. But do go read this if you wish for more knowledge of European history and a much needed antidote to modern critical theory style ‘history’.
- I am reminded of the aha! moment I had when discovering that Sir Francis Drake, never discussed without the ‘Sir’ here, is considered a bloodthirsty pirate in Latin America – because he was. Don’t remember where I finally read about his raids on coastal towns, a la Pirates of the Caribbean, but it wasn’t in any mandatory California History class. Here, if any mention of Drake’s piracy comes through, what we hear is how he spared the civilians. Very comforting for the soldiers charged with protecting the ships he plundered, I’m sure.
- After reading this, it’s hard not to see the EU as feeble dream inspired by the half-remembered unity of the 15th century. Feeble, because that primitive unity was won by the sword against foes external and internal, forged in fire and loved with passion. The EU, attempting to rise from the ashes of twice-burned Protestant Europe, is built more on fear than fire, and is as feeble as fear in the face of fire. A Europe which held Islam at bay for a thousand years and more with the sword has now convinced itself that no slaughter of the innocents is too great an offering to make for ‘peace’, which only means to the weakened European mind the avoidance of war at any cost.