How We Think Helps Explain the Culture Wars

Some say the world has gone mad, others that it is only now becoming sane. The disagreement shows that people disagree on what it is to be rational.

It also reflects a widespread and very basic change in how people think. Joe Bissonnette notes that the change is visible in IQ test results. For decades people all over the world have been doing better and better on test questions that emphasize the most abstract forms of reasoning. The accumulated changes from this so-called Flynn Effect are large enough to suggest that most nineteenth century people would be classified as mentally retarded by today’s much higher standards.

Other comparisons, for example between popular literature then and now, make that suggestion ridiculous. But if overall intelligence remains constant or nearly so, any improvement in purely abstract reasoning must be coming at the expense of other abilities. And that appears so. The improvement in scores corresponds to a tendency to think less by reference to concrete narratives and more by reference to abstract analysis. That doesn’t make people smarter, but it does mean they think about things differently. People today are less literary, less religious, and more visually and technically oriented. They view the world less as a complex of concrete functional arrangements like family, community, and a natural order that we are part of and must respect, and more as a collection of resources available for whatever purposes each of us may have.

I’ll call the former view the traditional or Trad view, and the latter the technological or Techno one. The change from the one to the other has important implications for Catholics. It means that in the world at large acceptance of natural law, which is basic to Catholic moral thought, is giving way to a view that makes morality and social order a matter of structuring equal preference satisfaction for everyone. That change is behind the “culture wars.”

Some think the transformation a great advance, a moral Flynn Effect, that indicates growing moral intelligence. Others think it means we’re becoming idiot savants who score well on standardized tests but can’t recognize concrete patterns basic to life, and as a result are unable to understand the human world and the goods to be attained within it.

Such disputes seem too basic to resolve or even discuss. How do you argue about which way of thinking works better, and which is more adequate to reality, when each generates its own view of reality and what it means to work well?

The Techno objections to Trad views are well-known: such views are racist, sexist, homophobic, irrational, oppressive, anti-science, and deeply weird. Those objections are mostly just statements of incomprehension. Nonetheless, they are enough to scare off most educated people, at least when they speak explicitly and publicly, since the Techno view permeates public discussion today.

Trads for their part see obvious problems with their opponents’ approach. It has some connection to the achievements of the modern natural sciences, but leaves out too much to apply to life in general. That principled rejection of essential aspects of human thought makes it radically defective. It explains why socialism and social engineering don’t work, sexual rationalism doesn’t make people happy, and most ordinary people find the arguments of libertarian purists deeply unconvincing: the ways of thought that lead to those things leave out half of reality.

Nor is a strict Techno view—and the view tends strongly toward strictness—adequate for science itself, since the practice of science depends on common sense and an ability to size up situations that goes beyond formal reasoning. So it’s not surprising that the general triumph of the view among educated people has been followed by complaints that scientists have less theoretical acumen than in the past, their work is losing its vision and becoming agenda and money driven, and basic advances are becoming ever more rare.

The situation is all the more difficult because the Techno view makes people unable to understand what they’re missing. It’s more focused and rigorous, and therefore more intolerant. After all, it’s much easier to make a mathematical proof part of a narrative, since anything can be part of a narrative, than make a narrative part of a mathematical proof. The difference makes Trads able to understand and take advantage of Techno thinking more easily than the reverse, and gives them an advantage over their opponents that should be rationally decisive.

All of which raises the question of how to moderate Techno excesses and restore balance and reality to thought. The apparent connection between those excesses and the Flynn Effect, a seemingly relentless movement that has gone on decade after decade all over the world, makes that a daunting proposition. Still, life must go on. We all like to read about battles for a good cause against great odds, and Catholics and other reasonable people today have the privilege of finding themselves in just such a position.

We are also in the fortunate position of possessing overwhelming factual advantages, if not social and rhetorical ones. Our view is more complete and adequate to reality, and we can understand what is valuable in our opponents’ view much more easily than they can. With those advantages, how can we lose in the long run?

Such considerations are encouraging, but they don’t tell us anything specific about how to restore common sense, natural law, and a sense of functional patterns, implicit goals, and natural functioning, especially as applicable to human beings and human society. To do that we have to pound away at our opponents’ weak points and develop our strong ones.

The obvious place to begin is to highlight situations where Trad ways of thinking are necessary because the Techno view just doesn’t work. An example is dealing with complex evolved functional systems, like human societies or living organisms, which are impervious to mechanistic analysis in many practically important respects. You can’t rely wholly on molecular biology when you play with a cat or run a political campaign. Even people who say they reject Trad views rely on them in such settings, for example when they distinguish theory and practice, or appeal to experience and to habits that work.

After dramatizing the issue at the specific practical level we need to develop it more generally so that it becomes part of the background of all public discussion. People are willing to admit that abstract reasoning and scientific analysis have limits, and we need to develop the admission into a general sense of what those limits are. Here any number of lines can be pursued, some of them perhaps unexpected. The arts are much more Trad than Techno, for example, and Techno thought is specifically Western and masculine, so objectors can appeal to legitimate concerns lying behind multiculturalism. See, for example, Rod Dreher’s discussion of Dancing With a Ghost, a book that gives an extraordinarily clear description of ways of thought among Canadian Indians that are based on intuitive pattern recognition.

To cover all bases we also need to develop the theoretical aspect of the situation. Here we can call on thinkers such as Pascal, with his distinction between the geometric and intuitive mind, Cardinal Newman, with his Traddish illative sense, and Edmund Burke, with his analysis of politics as an evolved system, developed in response to the Techno rationalism of the French Revolution.

Most of all, perhaps, we need to demonstrate the superiority of a more balanced view in action by recovering natural law and other aspects of classic Catholic thought. If we can pursue the good, beautiful, and true more effectively than followers of Richard Dawkins it will give us a huge advantage, and people will eventually notice. To that end we need among other things a reform of education: less social science and more history, literature, and the arts, and less emphasis on “critical thinking,” a goal that never seems to go anywhere, and more on learning about how the world works concretely in all its variety. There’s lots to do, everyone can get involved, and the project is personally rewarding, so why not get started?

Editor’s note: In the graphic above, from left to right: John Henry Newman, Blaise Pascal and Edmund Burke.

James Kalb


James Kalb is a lawyer, independent scholar, and Catholic convert who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (ISI Books, 2008), and, most recently, Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It (Angelico Press, 2013).

  • St JD George

    Knowledge and reasoning to me are hardly correlated. Lots of people are running around with facts and information in their head and really don’t know how to process it, and so have become programmed to regurgitate the talking points they hear. Is that a sign of increased intelligence? People say they put their faith in science but yet somehow don’t have the capacity to ask the most fundamental questions about existence and being. The ultimate neurosis of the mind starts with putting all one’s faith in man and abandoning their faith in God.

    • GG

      That is true and I would add people place blind faith is science. They have no formation in science to evaluate whatever “study” gets thrown around. They are blind sheep.

  • Tradition is what you need for sustainability. The Techno outlook is resource wasteful and is not sustainable.

    • Paddy

      On a lighter note: I mistakenly typed Isis Magazine instead of Crisis Magazine and will likely be followed by drones, wireless taps and geeks from the FBI for life.

      • St JD George

        I hate to tell you this Paddy, but that is already happening because you are a site for what has been labeled heresy here at Crisis. Somebody once called it a digital tattoo.

        • Paddy

          Thanks, St.JD. Proud to wear it. Damn the torpedoes and all the Marxist-Democratic Party apparatchiks. We know they’ll lose.

    • Dion F Kendrick

      Tradition is the DNA of culture.

  • JP

    The techno outlook is for slaves and conformists. On almost every subject those who pride themselves on being modern, hip, and technically oriented are slaves to government and corporate conformity. They dress, speak, and think like a heard of lemmings. Whether it is their theology (Mercy, Love, Tolerance), Climate Change (we’re killing Mother Earth), healthcare (It should be free and available to all), gay rights (give us gay marriage!), etc… they all follow the party line. But, at the same time, these people pride themselves on their credentials, academic accomplishments, and high intelligence (Charles Murray dubs them as a group, the Cognitive Class).

    Underneath this facade however lurks fear and anxiety. To not toe the party line 100% results in immediate chastisement. In many if not most cases, one bad move can result in loss of reputation, loss of job, and public humiliation. In extreme cases, the full weight of the federal government is thrown against the heretic. The Twitter and Social Media firestorm directed against a tiny pizzeria in ditch weed Indiana served as a warning.

    Even in Catholic circles this rigid, heavy handed conformity exists. The case of the CCD teacher in Scranton Pennsylvania as well as Catholic High School teacher, Patricia Jannuzzi serve as warnings. Best to keep quiet and join the Amen Chorus then to actually teach the Truth.

    • Paddy

      The Marquette U. professor who questioned the judgment of a pro-Gay instructor and is in suspension is also worth noting. a debate about the pros and cons of bestiality at Fordham undermine any thoughts of Cardinal Newman on education, too; of course, what can one expect from Jebbies these days?

    • ColdStanding

      Cognoughtive class would be better.

    • eallen

      I’m doing a video in class, it has to be experimental and convey an idea. Can I use your comment? This sums up what I want to say.

      • JP

        Sure, go for it

  • Paddy

    We have our “elites ( the Bushs, Clintons etc.) and those whom they serve. Fifty years ago, the populace was pretty smart. 8th grade graduates often read a newspaper or two. Now, college graduates often read at a low high school level as ignorance is rewarded through Affirmative Action grifts put in place by our “elites”. They then reward illegitimacy ( and everything that erodes the natural law) and force two earner households, or what’s left of a household to allow for taxation to benefit the illegitimates. Then, They open the borders, here and in Europe, to dumber people who can’t stand Flynn!

    We’re left with a Leftist-Democratic Party World that defines deviancy downward and re-enforces negative behavior. Church leaders could care less, as they ally themselves with the “elites”.

  • Fidelity1

    “A little
    science estranges men from God, but much science leads them back to Him” –Louis

    • ColdStanding

      But which science? Why that would be the science of the saints. Few people realize the extent to which this sorely neglected science was developed before the rise of the illiterate technocracy.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    “In a 1946 debate on the subject of “Science and Rationality” Teilhard shocked the French Catholic philosopher Gabriel Marcel by refusing to permit even the appalling evidence of the experiments of the doctors at Dachau to modify his faith in the inevitability of human progress. “Man,” he asserted, “to become fully man, must have tried everything …” . . . since, unlike the lower animals, man no longer acted purely out of instinct, he would presumably abandon every new experiment the moment he saw it did not lead him to greater personalization…..

    “PROMETHEUS !” Marcel shouted in horror, articulating the astonishment of most of the audience.”

  • hombre111

    One way of explaining this is the split between the right brain, which thinks holistically, and the left brain, which thinks abstractly. Some would put this down to the invention of writing, with its linear perspective. I know you want to preserve natural law thinking, but it is also very rational, and could be very partial (left brain) and abstract. For instance, Humanae Vitae. Pope Paul explicitly rejected any effort to appeal to the bigger picture of a marriage. He reduced it all to an abstract biological reality.

    • GG

      Fertility is not some instrumental good to be toyed with for hedonistic purposes.

      • hombre111

        Your remark, so disrespectful of the married couples I know, is a perfect example. You have reduced the dynamics of a loving marriage to the presence or absence of “hedonism,”

        • GG

          Because that is the issue at the most fundamental level. You can deny it, but it is true. Like every other issue facing this culture it comes down to the same thing every single time.

          The god people chase above all else is orgasm. You can deny it but that is what all these articles are about.

          We have placed that one pleasure as an absolute right above all else and to deny that is to be a hater, phobic, pharisee, physicalist, or whatever silly descriptor is in vogue.

          The nonsense about those in perpetual adultery seeking communion without stopping their sin is about orgasm. The “gays” calling truth hate is about orgasm. The need to fornicate and call it luv is about orgasm.

          I could go on but honest people already know it.

          • Veritas

            True. Why is orgasm the god?

            Because an afterlife is not believable to them. Orgasm is the next closest thing.

            • GG

              I am sure you are correct, but my point was to show what a farce we live. Just talking about Catholics for a minute does anyone think it is true mercy to tell people who abandoned their marriage they can commit adultery because they desire sex? They can stop right now if they wanted. They could place their desires below God’s will and pick up their cross.

              Our pal Hombre thinks that married people can contracept because why? Because he defines good in some way other than our Lord does that is why.

          • hombre111

            Here, I can’t help you, being a celibate. Maybe you need to talk this over with a married person? Ask them if orgasm was their god, But as I read your post, I sense you are revealing a lot about yourself.

            • GG

              Do you really think that is a refutation. Really? And is being celibate really an impediment to grasping what is obvious?

            • ForChristAlone

              “I sense you are revealing a lot about yourself.”

              Uncalled for from a priest

    • ColdStanding

      Surely he was constrained to do so as all these “big picture” types you are so fond of, denigrated the humble biological truth so they could foist the constellation of sophistries that destroy the family and Catholic truth upon those to whom they have been given the task of teaching all Jesus Christ commanded.

      • hombre111

        The people I know who must be practicing birth control because of the size of their families–Catholic and non-Catholic–seem to be raising wonderful, gentle children, are mostly deeply religious, and are celebrating 25+ years of marriage together. Their very existence denies your thesis.

        • ColdStanding

          It does not.

        • GG

          Do deeply religious people disregard the commandments?

          • hombre111

            As I said, they live good lives.

            • GG

              So, they keep the commandment regarding contraception?

              • hombre111

                Commandment? Which one of the ten?

            • ForChristAlone

              And you are able to judge this how?

        • ArtND76

          I disagree with your premise, although it may be statistically likely. I know those who have limited the size of their family to 2 children using NFP from marriage to menopause. In one case I am thinking of there were health issues that made them make the choice between their children continuing to have a mother or having more siblings.

          Simply having a small family is not a reliable indicator that church teaching concerning NFP is being violated – especially in the case of conservative Catholics who are serious about their faith.

    • It seems to me natural law thinking is a way of making implicit natural goals and ways of functioning explicit, so they can be brought into the general system of thought and discussed. So it’s necessarily more abstract than reality itself..

      That effort always has some difficulties, because framing, which question is asked first, what’s included in the system, and what is treated as primary and what as secondary can make the method give us whatever we want. Hence Gary Gutting’s recent comments on natural law and homosexuality, and hence the need for tradition, good judgment arising from good character and upbringing, and ultimately revelation and an authoritative interpreter of same.

      As to Bl. Paul VI and HV, it seems to me he was right that if you say contraception is legit then the system of sexual relations that mean what they seem to express eventually falls apart and you end up pretty much where we are now. So he came to the right natural law conclusion.

      • hombre111

        One of the difficulties I have is distinguishing the natural law thinking of John Locke from the natural law thinking of the Church. Locke was the ultimate enlightenment rationalist. So, they surely are not the same. Maybe you have some thought on this?

        • Entirely different. JL’s natural law is based on a stripped down version of man’s natural functioning–we want to stay alive, satisfy our physical needs, get what we want etc. And we live in a world in which others have the same equally legitimate goals. The Church has a more substantial anthropology.

          • Suburbanbanshee

            Locke did build his work on the work of folks like Suarez and Bellarmine, but he basically stripped out” a lot of things that were “too Catholic” for his purposes.

          • hombre111

            Been busy doing Church stuff. A priest died day before yesterday and my diocese has finally come down to the moment when we have to start shutting parishes again. Won’t get another new priest for a year or so, unless we return to Africa, India, or the Philippines and get some more priests from there. I thank God I am just the old guy looking on. At age 76, I work half-time, and let the young(er) guys do the heavy lifting.

            Anyway, I was looking through Charles Taylor’s “A Secular Age,” trying to find a comment he made about the Church’s natural law thinking and rationalism. I remember underlining the point and, if I remember correctly, he included it among those elements within Christianity itself that helped usher in the age of Secularism.

            • It’s hard to keep everything in balance and prevent one concern however legitimate (e.g., the desire to make things clear and rational) from tyrannizing over all the others. That’s the difficulty establishing and maintaining orthodoxy. It’s why we need tradition and an authoritative Church.

              • hombre111

                Agreed. Even though I argue with Church authority on some issues, it is why I stay a Catholic.

                Found that place in Charles Taylor’s “A secular Age.” He always gives a huge historical background and, in this case, he would trace some of the problems we face today back to the 13th. century and the rise of nominalism. I garner this out of his dense prose: The four causes and the essential form of Aristotle/Thomas disappear. This seems to have been born of an effort to preserve the freedom of God, who could not be trapped within any law. God will do what he wills, unfettered by limits imposed by unchangeable essences.

                He uses the example of art. The icon represented a kind of idealized figure. But a new kind of art began to appear, which emphasized the uniqueness of the individual. This new stress seems to be behind the “haeccitas” of Duns Scotus. It was the individual’s responsibility to become the self God wanted, but this uniqueness was not based on the unfolding of any essential form. Then you add in the scientific revolution which destroyed the authority of tradition, the individualism of the enlightenment, and the emergence of the all powerful state, the theory among the elites that it is possible to create a perfect society that reaches down to the masses. Society was no longer guided by the eternal verities, but by the will to create. At first, it was the will to create the world God wanted, but eventually, someone would say, “We are rational human beings. Why do we need a god to guide us?”

                I am still trying to sort this out, but it seems that the Church failed to meet the challenge posed way back then, and this challenge remains today. Five hundred years’ worth of history passed between St. Thomas and nominalist philosophers like Occam and the world of St. Leo XIII, Along the way, Theology based on nominalist philosophy could not rescue Luther from his anguish. We had the reformation, followed by the great religious wars, plagues, the scientific revolution, the enlightenment, absolute kings, the search for democracy, revolution, and huge wars between nations. I don’t know what happened to St. Thomas in the middle of all this, but some sort of nominalism seems to have ruled much of theology. The day finally came when Pope Leo tried bring order to chaos by imposing Thomism as the ideal philosophy. This brings me back to my own days studying philosophy and my fight with substance and accidents, which seemed to understate uniqueness, which gives spice and energy to life. Maybe I was an unconscious follower of Duns Scotus and his notion of “haeccitas.”

                • Sounds like a reasonable account of what’s happened. It seems that some of these issues, like the exact relation between universals and particulars, can’t really be solved. Still, we have to have some way of talking about them so the big problem is to maintain our balance and find a way of doing that that doesn’t go haywire.

                  I think philosophers need to pray a lot.

  • Vinny

    Techno thought will wane when, like the alcoholic, we hit bottom and finally understand that we’re NOT really in control. So, the trad view needs to be there at that time to save us.

    • Veritas

      Very true. How long until we hit bottom? How long will it take once we’ve hit bottom? How many lives will be sacrificed or wasted? Looking at history, it could be a very long time and involve many lives.

  • ColdStanding

    Perhaps our greatest resource is the communion of the saints. Well, if not the greatest, for that is God, then to be deeply cherished for the saints are the greatest of God’s works, namely, the work of His Grace. The saints are conformed to God. This means that they are no longer bound by the constraints of time and space. When we pray as they prayed, we pray with them. Mind that to pray as they prayed, we must, hint hint, actually pray as they prayed. Yes, Latin prayers are a must. If you want your private prayers in your tongue, you can keep your private prayers in your tongue, but there must be time set aside for the making of prayers in the language of the Western Latin rite: Latin. Yes, I think I will also set myself to learning it in Greek, too. At least one or two.

    The point of this is, contra hombre111, that the revival of Catholic life consists in the actual practicing of recognizably Catholic traditions. Honestly doing what was done and accepting that this is enough or certainly better than what we ourselves can come up with. Will this appeal to everyone one? By no means! It never has. Never. If it did everyone would be Catholic. Having said that, the Catholic faith must be capable of eliciting a response from a wide range of people.

    But Mr. Kalb is most right. There is lots to do and more than enough work for everyone.

    • JP

      You have do have great ideas. But, the problem with the young, hip, techno weenies is their compulsion to conform and their anti-intellectual bent. There will be no grand debates with them for the obvious reason that they think debates are sexist. Reason is a Human Construct used to keep women, racial minorities, and the transgendered enslaved. Additionally, these people have no sense of irony. Reminding these people, who pride themselves on their intellectual individualism, that they are all just lemmings that conform to the latest fad goes right over their heads. Their ignorance of the Bible, History, simple theology, foreign languages (Dead or otherwise) is taken as liberation. They are really pretty ignorant. They may be able to data mine, or put together an impressive multi-media presentation, or program in Ruby. But, as a group they beyond repair.

      • ColdStanding

        If Adam had kept God’s commandment then all of humanity would have shared in the confirmation of the preternatural gifts God had endowed Adam with. As it is, the salvation Jesus Christ won for mankind is available to all, but will only be applied individually upon the basis of an individual asking for it. Therefore one should not look be concerned with saving groups of people but with founding and maintaining an outpost of the Kingdom of Christ, He reigns eternally, which becomes the narrow door through which men of good will may pass through to the Heavenly reward. That many people insist on ignorance is no reason for you to do the same.

        When it comes to those assertions by which, as you have rightly observed, so many are held in bondage to sin, the first thing to do is look upon those ideas which bind and laugh. Then one sets them aside because they do not matter for they are not from God. When you learn to do this, you can model it for others. Those of good will you encounter in your life you will help win their salvation.

  • Veritas

    Mr. Kalb, I enjoy your writing, especially when I have the time to concentrate on it. Much does come down to education. I am a very troubled public school teacher and might someday write of my experience as contrasted to my time in Catholic–or I might really say–private, education.

    There are Catholic schools that are taking the classical approach, but they are not in large numbers and they can only reach a small, and perhaps elite, portion of the population. Hillsdale College, I have discovered, has a program that wishes to create classical charter schools that are not religiously based. Charter schools need to show results if they are ever going to shut down public schools and divert public funds in their direction and thereby expand. As I see it, scrapping the college and career ready curriculum and returning to the classical curriculum, (scrapping common core), is the only way we can make otherwise lazy and unmotivated students desirous, if not animated, about becoming educated. I’ve seen way too many other reforms and they will not touch the human heart the way a classical curriculum can. I did not receive this type of education in K-12 and have been behind ever since. Fortunately, my undergraduate experience, for which I was ill-prepared, at least got the ball rolling towards life long learning. Crisis Magazine and other blogs also serves this purpose as well.

    But getting to something else you wrote: ” If we can pursue the good, beautiful, and true more effectively than followers of Richard Dawkins it will give us a huge advantage, and people will eventually notice.”
    As I read your article, I read that people, perennially, have different perspectives and so many of these perspectives are definitely incorrect. These so-called “incorrect” people don’t get the fact that they are incorrect, and they most likely believe that the Trad is incorrect or that there is NO incorrect, just “your views and mine.”
    I’ve often wondered why, seemingly, poor people, radicals, progressives, liberal Democrats, and a host of other “types”, don’t seem to cherish the good, beautiful, and the true. It’s almost as if Aristotle and all classical philosophy is unappealing or irrelevant to them. Even if all people were exposed to the foundations of truth and beauty, would they accept it? I don’t think so. So, I ask God: Did you create this polarization? Do you enjoy the battles that occur every day–my wife is from Venus and I am from Mars. What gives? I think it is insane that people actually believe our Republic will stand without virtue, civic responsibility, responsibility prior to rights–in short, all of those things that Conservatives cherish.
    That’s sort of a question; and I cannot get my posts to show double spacing between paragraphs, even though I am double spacing.

    • Miseducation works. Lots of things can go wrong when people arrange their lives and understandings of things. If showing people the good, beautiful, and true made them snap to attention the world’s history would be very different.

      On the other hand, such things catch people unawares, and they have their effect. And the effect is cumulative, since most people don’t want to go back when they experience something better.

  • DrollDog

    Wonderful article. As an engineer and a consultant, I see the described behavior everywhere I’m sent. Using some Techno lingo – the greatest linear programing and non-linear programming computer ever invented is right between your ears.

  • Mike W

    What you call the techno view I call the naive, spoiled-brat view – simply viewing the world as resources to be exploited based on bright colors and blinking lights – it is more obviously becoming a recipe for injustice every day. The fact is the i-phone is meaningless to monkeys, its the astounding computing power between our ears and the capabilities of our given senses that make it functional. The fact that the new views go against the handed down wisdom is just a function of people increasingly not living in the real world and getting their “facts” from twitter or TV shows.

  • Ruth Rocker

    Part of the problem is how early this thinking starts. Children are no longer encouraged, much less taught, how to read the “big picture” or to think critically about anything. So society just laps up whatever the “experts” say like a cat with a saucer of cream. Logic and philosophy are rarely, if ever, taught as part of the earlier educational years. I was lucky enough to have attended an excellent public school system from 62-75 during which time I learned to do all the regular stuff like reading, writing and math, but I also was expected to think and determine the answer to questions myself. We did this in social studies, reading and many other subjects.

    I listen to my children and just shake my head. They are those cats I talked about earlier. I hope and pray for them regularly. Lord save your people!

    • Veritas

      Ruth, I am a high school teacher who has been studying the classical model for education. Classical liberal education is non-existent in the public school system and has been absent in our lifetime. Students will have a hard time thinking critically without the proper background in factual knowledge. I am referring to the “grammar” phase in the classic sense. Thanks to the progressive influence in public schools, kids often do not receive the tool kit which they need to first evaluate, and then opine thoughtfully.
      Please send donations to Hillsdale College Online since they are courageously addressing this problem.

      • Paddy

        We have John Dewey, friend of Leon Trotsky, to thank for our dismal public education structure, don’t we? everything’s on schedule with the Rockefellers financing the miserable contraption with help from Gates.

      • veritasetgratia

        Thanks Veritas for sharing what you are doing at Hillsdale. In our Catholic scripture classes in a government high school, I find myself having to also
        spend some time laying some groundwork using accessible language dealing with philosopical questions about God and the soul and what is a human being as the students need something solid to “hang” their religious knowledge on. I am not saying in the ancient world atheists did not exist – they obviously did – but there was no large scale educational program teaching hundreds of people about why they ought to be atheist and promising them freedom. Maybe I am oversimplifying things but in the times when the bulk of people lived on the land, they were closer to a realisation of their dependence on God or the gods so they were more open to the reality of another world with its powers existing, whereas now, life is centered in the cities which hound people with distractions and overstimulation till they drop from exhaustion evenings and then do it all again the next day.

  • crakpot

    Past a certain point, there’s no sorting out a head full of bad wiring.

    The voice of conscience is the only one that can reach everybody. Libs spend a lifetime building a shell around it. They have a complusion to silence us, control us, and deride us with their own counterfeits of conscience – why? To me, it’s just proof of the existence of conscience, therefore God.

    You want to help them? Put a crack in that shell – bother their conscience – and let God do the talking.

  • a fool

    The world has always being divided since the Day when Adam and Eve partook the Forbidden fruit. Two kingdoms within one soul ~ the holy and the evil. “Where God is there Satan also pitches a tent.” that is why Jesus said: “One can not serves two masters, for he will loves one and hates the other.” This world has two sides for each one of us to pick~ the Gift of Free Will from God. Those pick Good that is to enter the kingdom of God – Heaven. When one is not picking God, then, one is picking Satan. This is the reason we will never find peace on earth, unless, we all seek to do Good and to love our Neighbor without even the slightest Selfishness. Any Selfishness is present within one’s heart, then, there is already a problem getting building up, fear of losing what is “MINE!” Thus: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” To enter heaven demands self sacrifice as Jesus lived. If everyone can do that, then, there would be no more evil, thus, no more human problems. To love without any form of selfishness, other than to do what is to be the best that one can do for one’s Beloved? Will the Beloved appreciates it upon receiving it? Relationship between Husband and Wife, parents with their children… hardly! Christ died for all, how many Appreciate what He did? How many are cursing Him? He is LOVE! He gave LOVE! Every fibber within His Being is LOVE for our Souls, He died to save us all! What is the world fighting over? Not LOVE, but Selfishness! The reason the world will never find Peace! if one can’t have peace within oneself, how can one gives Peace to others? One can’t gives what one has not!

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Christians, too, have sometimes allowed themselves to concentrate on the notional, rather than the real, the abstract rather than the concrete, on the ideas, notions and reflections that Revelation produces in us, rather than on what Bl John Henry Newman called the “supernatural facts and actions, beings and principles” disclosed in the New Testament.

    We should heed the words of Erasmus, in the Preface to his Greek Testament : “These holy pages will summon up the living image of His mind. They will give you Christ Himself, talking, healing, dying, rising, the whole Christ in a word; they will give Him to you in an intimacy so close that He would be less visible to you, if He stood before your eyes.”

    • We don’t experience everything concretely in every possible connection, so we need the abstract to complete and make sense of what we do experience. Both are part of how we come to understand things. You’re right of course that we don’t always maintain the balance. That’s one reason we need tradition and the Church as a setting for our own efforts.

      The point of the piece, really, is that modernity has treated the difficulties of maintaining the right balance as a reason to get rid of necessary aspects of how we come to understand things. When the project takes hold sufficiently, as it now has, the result is insanity.

  • Gail Finke

    Common Core — sorry to bring up a flashpoint — exemplifies the “view the world…. more as a collection of resources available for whatever purposes each of us may have” way of thinking. The English standards teach pupils, from the earliest grades, to make arguments based on a text and to defend their “opinions” (which are defined as anything that is not a concrete fact — ie, “the American Civil War was a good thing” is only an opinion that can be argued in various ways; there is no ultimate right or wrong way to judge it or anything else).
    I have found it very, very difficult to get across to people why this is even a problem! But if you teach children that everything is a matter of opinion and simply to make an argument from a text without comparing it against other texts, deciding whether the text is correct or not, or mastering the subject you have an “opinion” about, then what you’re doing is teaching children to be sophists — and to be unable to realize when other people are being sophists rather than actually saying that something is true or false.
    It’s difficult to convince people that there’s anything wrong with this, because so many people already think that way.

  • blablabla

    I think we live in the most interesting of times. I like being Catholic and visiting Catholic sites to read what others post. I think the information Catholics and non-Catholics post are quite valuable. With the aid of technology, people get to express their religious views without persecution. So to a certain extent, I disagree with the author, but this article makes an interesting read. I must say I learned so much from Catholic Blogers as well.

  • veritasetgratia

    One of our friends who works in archaeology at our City Museum said he sees a time – it may be decades away (!) – when ‘knowledgeable people who valued past learning’ will set themselves inside little booths at different points all over the cities, and anyone will be able to knock on the door of such a booth and ask for information about anything they need to know because by that stage of course librarians will have thrown out all the old books (which no one had looked at for the requisite minimum of 5 years and on that basis, had been jettisoned as being of no further relevance and use). It further struck me through your wonderful article that your Archbishop if he is nominated to attend the Synod, could benefit from your going along because just reading today some of those wonderful books which have been written by the ‘good’ Cardinals it is clear that some lateral thinking and insightful brainstorming would not be amiss in Rome this October. There are so many factors which have converged to produce the individualistic hedonism we are surrounded with. If the solution for humanity lies in the Divine then it is likely that the demise of humanity has been caused by the demonic in various subtle forms replaying the same choices and hints of distrust about authority which first occurred in the Garden of Eden. Causes seem to be in every direction. And yet, the Church itself, in the thoughts of its hierarchy seem to be split. When we start speculating about early Christian communities and how they grew, we also need to look at probably a series of coincidences which coincided with politics and immigration and wars, none of which the “Church” had control over. James, I think you are definitely the man to go to the Synod!