How We Were Before Night Fell

What are we to feel other than contempt for  these intellectually bedraggled victims, not of their beloved sexism and racism  but of a demented egalitarianism that thinks that pretending that everyone is  educated is better than allowing those capable of it to be so.

SAT scores peaked in 1962 and have been in a steady decline since–and that is even after several attempts to “normalize” the data so it doesn’t reveal just exactly what a miserable failure forced integration has been. The whole system (K through the PhD) is fried, worthless, a farce, a joke and needs to be torn to the ground and rebuilt completely. — jtl, 419

by Fred Reed via Fred on Everything

August 25, 2013

In 1964 Hampden-Sydney College, in Southside Virginia,  was fairly typical of American schools and particularly of the small, good  Sothern schools of the region: Randolph-Macon College for men in Ashland, co-ed  William and Mary in Williamsburg, and Randolph-Macon Women´s College in  Lynchburg among others.

H-S, as we  called it, was entirely male, both as to students and professors. This had the  great advantage that we could concentrate on the job at hand, as for example  learning things, instead of pondering the young lovely at the next desk. These  latter were available at Longwood State Teachers College (now of course  Longwood University), seven miles away.

Hampden-Sydney was not MIT. Average SATs were perhaps 1150 if memory serves. The students were chiefly drawn from the small and pleasant towns of rural Virginia, and would go on to become doctors, attorneys, and businessmen. Yet H-S embodied (and may still) a, by today´s standards, a remarkable philosophy of education, and showed that reasonably but not appallingly bright young can be educated. So did most colleges.           It was then  believed that higher education was for the intelligent and the prepared, for no  more than the upper twenty percent, perhaps fifteen ore even ten percent of  graduates of high school.

At  Hampden-Sydney, “Prepared” meant “prepared.” It was assumed that students could  read perfectly and knew algebra cold. There were no remedial courses. The idea  would have been thought ridiculous if anyone had thought it at all. If you  needed remediation, you belonged somewhere else. Colleges were not holding  tanks for the mildly retarded.

The purpose  of a college, it was then thought was to turn college boys—we were then called  “college boys” and “college girls”—into educated young adults. Part of this  meant that we should act like adults, which meant as ladies and gentlemen. This  concept, currently regarded as odd and even inauthentic, meant deploying good  manners when appropriate, not dressing like the contents of an industrial  dumpster, and avoiding in mixed company the constant use of sexual reference in  words of few letters.

Hampden-Sydney  then provided a liberal education, which is simply to say an education,  everything else being vocational training. A belief seldom stated but firmly  held was that if you didn´t have a reasonable familiarity with literature,  history, the arts and sciences and the like, you belonged to a lower order of  existence. College should provide the familiarity. The faculty believed that teenagers,  which most of us were, didn´t know enough to decide in what education  consisted, or what we needed to learn, so there were a great many required  courses. These varied between BA and BS programs,  but, for example, a student majoring in  history took two years each of two languages, one of them ancient (Latin or  Greek), surveys of philosophy, art, a math course, and two of the sciences.

The latter  were not Football Physics or Chemistry for Cretins. They were the same courses  the science majors took.  The students  were then all white and so could be graded on their academic performance.  Rigor was considerable. I can still read  French after two years with Dr. Albert Leduc who, judging by the workload he  imposed, we suspected of being a sadist who spent his spare time pulling the  wings from flies. Freshman chemistry amounted to P-chem lite, heavy on quantum theory  and endless, endless, endless solution of laboratory problems of the sort encountered  in the real world. It was hard. A  remedial student would not have lasted thirty seconds.   Such was  schooling in 1964. Then came the Sixties, which actually started in mid-decade  and didn´t have their full effect for some time. But everything changed.

A  proletarian egalitarianism emerged across the country, urging that everyone  should go to college. A tidal wave of the dim and unready washed onto campuses.  To facilitate their entry, admission standards had to be lowered and, to keep  them in, academic standards. Colleges, which began calling themselves  “universities,” discovered that there was money in these unstudents, and  expanded to house more of them. (The students ceased to be college kids and  became “men” and “women,” while increasingly acting like children.) To recruit  politically desirable black students, affirmative action arose and, when these recruits  sank to the bottom, “black studies” were instituted, having no definable  standards and teaching nothing. “Women´s Studies” followed, allowing girls who  lacked scholarly interests to enjoy indignation without suffering the  unaccustomed pangs of thought. These quickly became departments of virtuous  hostility to men and whites (for who is more sexist than a feminist, or more  racist than a black?)

Since these  young generally lacked either the curiosity or acuity for genuine studies, they  wanted to be amused. Courses entitled The  Transcendentalists of New England or Europe  from 1926 were too boring, assuming that the purported students had heard  of Transcendentalism or Europe, so they demanded and got The History of the Comic Book in American Culture. Such courses  amounted to Remedial Sandbox, but sounded like college courses. It was enough.

These  enlarged children were paying for college, or at least their fathers were, and  they wanted value for money. That meant grades. Soon everybody was getting As  and Bs. What they were not getting was an education but since they didn´t know  what one was, they didn´t notice. They called themselves men and women, without  behaving as such, but that was close enough. They attended a College-Shaped  Place, so they figured they must be going to college, and they got great  grades, so they must be learning something.

Those in the Victims Studies departments rejoiced  in extended adolescent rebellion against their parents while engaging in disguised  indolence, thus joining the historically comic class of the pampered and bored who  imagine themselves  as being in some  vanguard or other.

Thus died  American education. A few outposts remained, and remain, but very few. Men and  women of my age are the last fully schooled generation.  What are we to feel other than contempt for  these intellectually bedraggled victims, not of their beloved sexism and racism  but of a demented egalitarianism that thinks that pretending that everyone is  educated is better than allowing those capable of it to be so. How much sense  does this make?

(In possible  defense of my alma mater, let me add that I do not know to what extent, if at all,  the aforementioned decay has affected H-S. Less than anywhere else would be my  guess.)

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