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Institutional Failure

I was going to blog more this afternoon but I sprained my damn ankle, and am dealing with a mild mononucleosis relapse, and so am in a rotten mood. I’m going to sit on the couch and read Houellebecq. That should cheer me up, perverse pessimist that I am. If that doesn’t work, then Wodehouse.

Meanwhile, here’s some dystopian delight from the comments section and the mailbag. I’m being comic-snarky about my afflictions, but the things these two readers write about are very serious, and I hope you’ll take them that way.

Reader Heidi comments:

I’ve been contemplating this note to you and your readership for quite awhile now but haven’t had the time to really sit down and hammer out the words in a way that made sense.


Everything that you’ve been writing about with regard to education in America right now has been played out in our family to one degree or another. Our oldest child is in her second year of college. She was homeschooled all the way through high school, but began attending a local community college, with a very diverse student body, when she was 15 in order to fulfill some strict requirements that our state has for homeschoolers. That, in and of itself, was a terrific experience for her and our second child followed suit.

Ditto for her as far as how that played out both academically and socially. The only negative came when a teacher suggested, on the first day of a lower level composition class, that they should prepare themselves for what could be a terribly bumpy semester, emotionally. He said that they should avail themselves of “counseling services” because the material they were about to study could cause them to “self harm”. He went on to say that he was hoping to really “dig deep” into current culture and was planning to have them both watch and intellectually dissect the film Deadpool as one of their assignments. When one of the students protested that the college probably wouldn’t let him do that, the teacher assured them that it *would* be happening.

Needless to say, we pulled our 15 year old from that class and she took a European Lit survey course instead.

Then came the hard part. Oldest child goes to a Catholic university and lives at home where we get full reports on how nominally Catholic said university is and how dismal the social life; fraternities, sports, drinking and sex being the primary activities. She transferred to a public university with the claim, “I can spend thousands less for what might be a better education!”

Turns out that…nope. The public university is filled with classes on how to make up for your privilege, your whiteness, your successful upbringing, how to read history through a trans lens, how to dissect poetry from the literary point of view of black lesbianism etc. etc. Because of her grades she was invited into the honors program where she took classes with African American professors who shamed the white students, especially the white men, about pretty much everything. She was mortified and *left the honors program* because she said she simply couldn’t spend the next two years sitting in classrooms deflecting all the negative garbage that was being thrown at her.

She was very upset over the experience. She said it made her feel, for the first time in her life, that blacks and whites might have zero chance of working out their issues in her or indeed ANY lifetime. The divisiveness was being fed. By professors. In the classroom.

She is also a writer and has a job writing for a university publication with a wide readership and over 500 other writers on staff. The managing editor will often throw out column ideas to the pool of writers in order to generate dialog and a few of them have been…doozies. One, just mentioned to me last night, was “Six Boys You Will Definitely Sleep With Before College Is Over.” Here’s another, “Why I Don’t Have To Tell You I’m Trans Before You Date Me.” Another, “Why You Should Tell Me Your Trans Before I Date You.” And on.

You can’t make this stuff up. It’s really happening. She has backed off on having any kind of “college experience” and is now just waiting for it to be over so she can “live my real life.”

Second child is enrolled at a much smaller Catholic college and will also live at home but we do not have high, or rather ANY, expectations that the college is Catholic in anything but name.

Finally, child number three who was homeschooled through fifth grade and expressed the desire to attend school has spent the last four years suffering (I don’t use this term lightly) at a Catholic boys school under the most un-Catholic conditions I could imagine. We’ve pulled the plug. He’s staying home this year and will homeschool and attend the same community college his sisters did.

We had hoped for a much better experience for all of our children. Hoped that the adults in charge and the children being taught would all have known better than to behave they way they did, they are, they will continue to. It’s shocking in a way that I can’t fully express but I’m telling you that education in America is DEAD and there will be no resurrection. I can’t point the finger at exactly who or what handed it over to be crucified, but they did, and it was.

Educational institutions.

So, how’s the institution of the family doing in preparing the young for a healthy, productive adulthood? A different reader writes:

I’m a caseworker and I see the darkest side of American life. Sometimes I wish Christians, who fail to grasp the depth of collapse in American culture, could spend a day with me. The truth is dark, disturbing, and disgusting.

Today, I found out that the brother of one of my kids raped his own grandmother, either before or after, he murdered her. DNA testing confirmed this.

Another boy in one of my coworkers’ care watches ISIS videos on youtube and tells people he wants to cut their heads off. He’s ten.

Methamphetamine use is ubiquitous among parents here and makes up a large percentage of the reason kids are brought into state custody.

The state throws therapeutic fixes at them that don’t work. One mother has been involved with the state since the mid 90s and has done all the classes we recommend. Her kids are again in our care.

What everyone needs is the Gospel. It alone transforms people and gives their restless hearts a place of true rest and peace. If we can see how far Christianity is from the modern secular world and stop courting it, we’d begin to see the need for a “parallel polis.” Since I’ve started working here it has shown me the desperate need of a counterculture that looks at life, from birth to death, in a completely different way than our modern world does.

That’s … powerful. That man sees things that I can scarcely comprehend.

If you choose to respond to either or both of these reader comments, kindly restrict yourself to serious commentary, not snarking. Feel perfectly free to make fun of my medical malaise, however, and the fact that reading Michel Houellebecq honestly cheers me up. My wife thinks it’s very weird. She’s not entirely wrong. I tell her that anything I read that helps me to see the world more clearly cheers me up, in some way.

34 Comments (Open | Close)

34 Comments To "Institutional Failure"

#1 Comment By dfb On August 11, 2017 @ 6:43 pm

“…reading Michel Houellebecq honestly cheers me up.”

In 2003, Julian Barnes wrote about the “insolent art of Michel Houellebecq” in a New Yorker piece entitled “Hate and Hedonism” and observed, “The sin of despair is compounded when the sufferer is a hedonist.”

Your warnings about the effects of pornography have generally apeared to be accurate and timely.

“Cheering up” is an effect of pornography I’ve not seen discussed before.

#2 Comment By Bob Taylor On August 11, 2017 @ 7:21 pm

First, it seems to me that America is being beset by demons in a way unlike anything I can remember. And of course, no politics can solve these horrors.

But I disagree with the gentleman, and with you, Rod, that most American Christians are still banking on a political solution which is certainly an illusion, and need to be slapped back to sense. Certainly, some are. But the really intriguing thing to me is that careful study of Trump voters who self – identified as evangelicals showed that most of them were not churchgoers!

I suppose they clung to an evangelical identity as a 21st century equivalent of the “American civil religion” of the 1950s and 1960s, the way they would have rooted for their high school athletic teams.

But such a statistic reinforces me in my conviction that the real problem, even among a dwindling church, isn’t that so much of that church is asleep, but the church hasn’t dwindled, it’s just about withered away.

For twenty years now, the Barna group surveys have shown that fewer and fewer self identified “evangelicals” can affirm the permanence of distinctions between right and wrong. Someone may well be able to correct me on this, and I certainly hope that’s so, but my recollection is that significantly fewer than 20% of such people can honestly claim to believe in the immutability of God, his standards, and his requirement for salvation.

So, it seems to me that we don’t need an awakened church, we need, with glorious exceptions here and there ( for God is never without witnesses on this Earth and in this country ), a church.

And only the Holy Spirit can germinate that.

Grim, isn’t it? I hope I’m mistaken about the thickness of the darkness, and the extent to which Americans are a godforsaken people, but my sense is that I’m not.

I’m sorry about the ankle and the resurgent mono.

#3 Comment By Deplorable Me On August 11, 2017 @ 7:30 pm

Also try Patrick McManus’s essay collections, and The Lawdog Files, just out. Lawdog is a blogger whose funniest essays were collected in a book.

#4 Comment By ScottA On August 11, 2017 @ 7:39 pm

From the short sci-fi story from the early 1960s “I Remember Babylon” about a Communist plot to have Soviet satellites brooadcast porn and violence on American TVs in order to destroy the US:

“History is on our side. We’ll be using America’s own decadence as a weapon against her, and it’s a weapon for which there is no defence.”

The agent leaves the room leaving the protagonist with his final thoughts:

” ‘History is on our side.’ I cannot get those words out of my head. Land of Lincoln and Franklin and Melville, I love you and wish you well. But into my heart blows a cold wind from the past; for I remember Babylon. ”

#5 Comment By midtown On August 11, 2017 @ 7:40 pm

In an earlier thread I said that the ONLY hope I see for the U.S. to remain unbroken is to take back the education system from the liberal chokehold. Adults may quietly tolerate things that they don’t approve of, but if PC intrudes on their children, it will force a confrontation. In this case, not much can be done about the private universities, but the public ones can be confronted. Rules for Radicals says to make the other side live up to their stated ideals. In this case, the white males who are being abused by their professors should file discrimination complaints every single time it becomes an issue in the classroom.

#6 Comment By Nate On August 11, 2017 @ 7:48 pm

Your second letter writer’s comment about the state’s “therapeutic fixes” for cultural rot got me thinking about my own city’s rush to jump on the trend of “safe” injection sites.

It’s absolutely true that the state has no cure for the root problems of family dissolution, substance abuse, rampant depression and squalor, or the rest. I suppose you could argue that these are all spiritual problems at some level, so the state is incapable of handling them, but perhaps the state could at least stop making such problems worse.

With regard to the safe injection site issue, which has rightly been called palliative care for drug addicts, you can see clearly where the state’s priorities are: don’t get about solving the problem, but keep it contained to the uglier parts of town and prevent heroin/opioid users from running up an fatal overdose rate that could be embarrassing to the policymakers. It is the equivalent of throwing up nice paint and wallpaper over your structurally decrepit walls before going to sell a house.

The really sad thing is that we are so far beyond virtue that such “harm prevention” strategies are the best we can envision for humanity. A few weeks ago, there was a controversy about a girl’s magazine teaching anal sex tips. The comments were very clarifying for where we are as a society; mostly, the theme was “well, if they’re going to be doing it anyway, we should encouraging them to do it safely!” As if there is some way to teach one’s barely pubescent daughter how to get sodomized in a healthy, positive way. The idea that, hey, maybe we can encourage and, yes, even *enforce* as parents a moral order that does not include anal sex for teenagers was completely foreign to these people. The idea that it was even possible to live mostly virtuously was seen as an impossibility on par with draining the Pacific Ocean.

Of course, I don’t really need to tell you this, Rod, because I see that every time you talk about restricting smartphones and porn, you are accused at least a few times of unnecessarily sheltering your kids from a world that “they are going to get into anyway.” Again, the supposed impossibility of virtue is sold as one of the few absolute truths of a postmodern world.

#7 Comment By Bernie On August 11, 2017 @ 7:52 pm

If you’re a parent for whom it’s important that your kids grow up and remain practicing, orthodox Catholics, DON’T send them to a “Catholic” university in name only. Regardless of their major, they’ll probably be required to take about 12 hours of coursework in theology, religious studies, or philosophy – all departments in which dwell professors who can rip their faith to shreds by unorthodox teaching. They’ll then feel betrayed by the institutional Church, a wound from which it’s difficult to recover. It’s better if the enemy is clearly not the Church. I know; I’ve been there.

The Cardinal Newman Society has for years researched “Catholic” colleges and universities in the U.S. It has found the following ones to be orthodox, authentically Catholic in both coursework and student activities:


#8 Comment By Larry in NC On August 11, 2017 @ 8:47 pm

I think some of these schools, “Catholic” and secular, need to be named publicly. If nonsense is going on at them, they don’t deserve the protection of anonymity. And people can steer clear of them.

#9 Comment By Adamant On August 11, 2017 @ 8:51 pm

“I’m a caseworker and I see the darkest side of American life. “Sometimes I wish Christians, who fail to grasp the depth of collapse in American culture, could spend a day with me. The truth is dark, disturbing, and disgusting.”

My wife teaches 3rd grade in a Title IX school. 3rd grade is the year standardized testing really ramps up. Last year, one of her really good students, who had done well all year, had the sheriff’s department SWAT conduct a no-knock raid (drugs, of course) on the adjoining apartment. Flash bang grenades and helicopters are not really conducive to a bright 9 year old girl succeeding on a standardized test.

Or succeeding at anything, really. I do wish Christians, and Jews and non-beleivers and Republicans and Democrats and Libertarians and vegetarians would take a minute and take notice at the moral chaos in which we’re raising our children. We’re all responsible for this tragedy.

#10 Comment By Ken’ichi On August 11, 2017 @ 9:06 pm


In an earlier thread I said that the ONLY hope I see for the U.S. to remain unbroken is to take back the education system from the liberal chokehold.

What makes you think such a thing is possible?

not much can be done about the private universities, but the public ones can be confronted.

Really? How?

the white males who are being abused by their professors should file discrimination complaints every single time it becomes an issue in the classroom.

And after their complaints are not only dismissed, but they are punished, officially or unofficially, for “abusing the process” by filing them, because such discrimination complaints are meant only for women and (non-East-Asian) minorities against white men, and never, ever, ever the other way around, because discrimination against white (and East Asian) men is at once impossible (because “privilege”), and morally praiseworthy and deserved by the targets (because “privilege”), what then?

#11 Comment By OMM 0910 On August 11, 2017 @ 9:20 pm

Feel perfectly free to make fun of my medical malaise, however, and the fact that reading Michel Houellebecq honestly cheers me up. My wife thinks it’s very weird. She’s not entirely wrong.


When I was twenty-one, I was reading Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed. And it was real funny, because my wife Kleo was going to Cal at the time, and she came home one day and she said, “Did you tell me you were reading Moses Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed?” and I said, “Yep, I’m reading it.” She says, “I talked to one of my professors and he says there’s probably not another human being in the United States who’s reading Moses Maimonides at this moment.” That’s a very obscure book, you know.

#12 Comment By Rebecca On August 11, 2017 @ 10:12 pm

Just a quick comment on education: The parallel educational polis has been and is being set up. See St. Constantine School in Houston, and New College Franklin (TN). See Classical Christian schools (Orthodox ones are especially on my radar) popping up all over the place. See homeschoolers really beginning to get support from the church (the Antiochian Archdiocese now has a Department of Homeschooling, the St. Emmelia homeschool conference has expanded to 3 locations nationwide) and from institutions beginning to reach maturity (Circe Institute and the Charlotte Mason Alveary for a couple of example). From where I’m standing (outside the educational mainstream for my entire life barring 4 years in a private college), things are looking promising.

#13 Comment By Matt in VA On August 11, 2017 @ 10:58 pm

There comes a point, after certain experiences in this world we live in, and what it is today, that you simply look at a picture of Houellebecq and you get a feeling that you are seeing the soul of our culture embodied in a single man who has found a way to channel and concentrate it. I can almost imagine certain undergraduates hanging his picture in their dorm rooms the way so many used to hang pictures of James Dean or Jimi Hendrix.

[NFR: He is hard to look at, that’s for sure. A ruin of a man. — RD]

#14 Comment By Ed realist On August 11, 2017 @ 11:01 pm

I can’t speak to Catholic schools but I know hundreds of kids at public universities, honor and otherwise in multiple states.

At best your emailed is shamefully exaggerating or has raised princess pea snowflake. At worst she’s lying. Her daughter seems to have inherited the overreaction gene. Quitting an honors program is just silly.

In any case it’s pretty clear her decision to homeschool didn’t lead to desirable outcomes. Maybe send your kids to public schools where they’ll just roll their eyes at the privilege nonsense when someone tried it on, instead of wilting.

I’m sorry if I sound harsh but you really do a disservice to everyone by publishing emails. Let people start their own blogs.

#15 Comment By Diane On August 11, 2017 @ 11:37 pm

I earned a degree from and now work at a small (5,000 students) regional public university in a town (12,000) only 70 miles from the state capitol in a rural state. The tuition is very affordable, and the degree offerings are mostly meat and potatoes. However, an ambitious student can have some wonderful opportunities. For instance, four years ago, I and another student completed internships with NASA, and a third did a stint as a White House intern. I am sure we have a wide range of political opinions on campus, but for now at least people are cordial and respectful. I would recommend concerned parents check out similar schools in their own state.

#16 Comment By Tex Austin On August 12, 2017 @ 2:06 am

I’m glad I’m not the only one cheered up by reading Houellebecq. Wait ’til you get to the end of The Possibility of an Island — you’ll be positively giddy.

#17 Comment By Fiestamom On August 12, 2017 @ 6:25 am

Heidi, I’m right there with you! Our oldest, was homeschooled thru high school, and went to Community college, senior year. His English 101 class textbook was a compilation of articles previously published in magazines like Newsweek, The Nation, The Atlantic. Every article had reading comprehension questions at the end. It’s in textbook form, so it must be in wide use. I guess asking kids to read The Odyssey, Herodotus is asking too much. Maybe they get to read those when they get their doctorate. It’s hard to fit in the classics, when the kids have to take “Fat Studies” like they are now offering at University of Oregon.

Another child is now a senior at a well regarded Catholic high school. But here comes the full court press from the school that these kids HAVE to go to (first choice) expensive private college, or (second choice) state college. I wish the administration of this school would read Rod’s posts on what goes on these days at colleges. I’m not all that eager for my child to go into lifelong debt so they can feel lifelong guilt about their white identity.

Bob, I am Catholic, not evangelical, but I agree that America is beset by demons. I believe that Roe v. Wade decision unleashed Hell on Our country. No nation that allows infanticide can expect any of God’s grace.

#18 Comment By JonF On August 12, 2017 @ 7:10 am

Re: He went on to say that he was hoping to really “dig deep” into current culture and was planning to have them both watch and intellectually dissect the film Deadpool as one of their assignments.

Huh? What’s so objectional about a b-list superhero movie? I’ve seen episodes of “Game of Thrones” that left me more disturbed than that movie. (Though, yes, why waste class time on something like that? The terrible pretension of presentism I guess)

Re: Today, I found out that the brother of one of my kids raped his own grandmother, either before or after, he murdered her. DNA testing confirmed this.

Ghastly beyond belief. But any more so than the tales told by an ancient culture we admire about a son killing his father and marrying his mother; or a wife who kills her husband and is later murdered by her son? And while we can dismiss those as myth, that same culture did produce a real son who murdered his mother and was them killed by his brother (the victim was Alexander the Great’s youngest sister whose youngest son killed her in a dispute over throne of Macedonia in the Succession Wars. Her name though survives inthe city of (Thes)Saloniki Greece that was founded for her.) Humans have always been capable of great and terrible horrors,since Cain slew Abel.

Hope you mend quickly!

#19 Comment By Gromaticus On August 12, 2017 @ 8:49 am

Deplorable Me says:

Also try Patrick McManus’s essay collections


I grew up reading the exploits of Rancid Crabtree and Crazy Eddie Muldoon. Some of the most underrated American journalism comes from outdoor magazines like Field and Stream, and Sports Afield in the 70’s and early 80’s; as well as Gray’s Sporting Joirnal today.

A 15 year old who loved both literature and the outdoors could pick up a copy of SA and be exposed to a writer like Jim Harrison and realize that you didn’t have to choose between the life of the mind and loving the deer sand and the trout stream (the fact that Bob Dylan won a Nobel Prize for literature and Jim Harrison didn’t is a crime against humanity).

There was a question going around Twitter and Facebook last week asking people what their most unpopular, benign, opinion was. The first two that came to my mind were:

1. In retrospect the Kinks were the best British band of the 60’s and 70’s, and

2. Gene Hill was the greatest American magazine essayist of the 20th century.

At home a friend will ask, “Been bird hunting?” You will say that you have, and when he asks,” Have any luck?” You will think of what you have held in your heart instead of your hand, and then answer that you certainly did—without a doubt.

And what will we take from November? To some of us, the pheasants will seem smarter, the quail and grouse faster, the ducks a little higher than we remember. It is not important that we do especially well; it is important only that we went.

A hunting camp is one of the few places left to us where we can dream of a near-perfect tomorrow. Where the harsh realities of lost riches and faded glories can be forgotten and the dreams of what might be come down to a delightful day with not too much wind, a crisp morning silvered with frost, and find us—at long last—with the right gun, shells, dogs, and friends who will be pleased forever to remember the day we “did it all.”

If in a single day we smell coffee, dawn, gun oil, powder, a wet dog, woodsmoke, bourbon, and the promise of a west wind for a fair tomorrow—and it’s possible for us to reek “happy”—that’s just what we will do.

But the truth, to my way of seeing it, is that those who love the bits and pieces of being there—the sweetness of a singing lark, the way one whitetail can suddenly fill up a clearing, the fearsomeness of a sudden storm, and the almost unbelievable sense of relief when we’ve gotten out of a very sticky situation—have to have a sense of the magic of it all, a belief in the intangible and unknown, and no small degree of unquestionable wonder.

A grown man walking in the rain with a sodden bird dog at his heels who can smile at you and say with the kind of conviction that brings the warmth out in the open, “I’d rather be here, doing this, right now, than anything else in the world,” is the man who has discovered that the wealth of the world is not something that is merely bought and sold.

Remember when time was cheap? The songs we sang about it told us that we had time on our hands, that time stood still, that tomorrow would be time enough. And now we find it was not. Suddenly times to come have become times past, and we must hoard it and spend it cautiously as the tag ends of a small inheritance . . . which is what it really was all along—except no one told us.

#20 Comment By Gromaticus On August 12, 2017 @ 8:51 am

My kingdom for an edit feature.

#21 Comment By Franklin Evans On August 12, 2017 @ 9:39 am

Rod, I celebrated learning how weird you are, and was even happier when Julie corroborated my impression… so there. 😀

There can be no doubt that our education system per se is stumbling at best. It is becoming harder every year to find a “fit” for one’s children according to one’s standards — in which I include those issues and points dear to homeschoolers — but I want to reassure the parent-author of the first reader post: dear fellow parent, by your descriptions you have succeeded in the most critical task. You’ve prepared your daughters for the obstacles and pitfalls of life, and they are proceeding over and around them. I fully expect your son to follow suit.

This is so very much critical in the discussion of education, I have to restrain myself from several hundred more words about it. I will share with you one of my “success” stories. Our youngest, confirmed by professionals in her being a gifted artist, was finishing middle school and about to make a choice of high school, being also well qualified for any of the magnet schools. We expected her to choose the creative and performing arts school, but instead she chose one of the two college-prep schools instead. When asked why, she said, “I can get art anywhere. You showed me that. I want all of the other stuff.” She’ll be 25 in November, and her horizons well surpass mine at that age.

#22 Comment By Ben H On August 12, 2017 @ 9:40 am

The key to breaking up the education cartel is to break their monopoly on credentials. The way to do is is for government at the federal and state levels to start accepting alternative credentials (from credible online sources or other non-traditional education) as equal to certain college degrees.

This can be justified on the basis of increasing access to certain professions: if you don’t get an expensive 4 year degree where you have to show up in class everyday when you are 18-22 then it’s hard to get into certain well paying fields.

Education can and should be done a lot cheaper, its a scam the way it is.

#23 Comment By Ben H On August 12, 2017 @ 9:51 am

Check this out: [4]

apparently Google did an internal study, they found some people that sailed through the interview process didn’t turn out to be as impressive employees as thought. For ‘underrepresented minorities’ of course that sort of thing is a problem, blah blah blah there’s a huge demand for such people.

The other group that failed was: Ivy Leaguers.

(obviously this would have to be for plum, track jobs, no one goes from the warehouse to the front office nowadays) So Google is discriminating not only ‘positively’ for non-whites, but also very strongly against middle class white people.

The ‘best’ Ivy people are going to silicon valley now remember, the ‘best.’ And these people are failing.

The best thing about the internet is that we can watch the degeneration of our society in real time.

#24 Comment By Franklin Evans On August 12, 2017 @ 9:52 am

Re the caseworker’s story.

I had to force myself to “step away” from it. What everyone needs is the Gospel. It alone transforms people and gives their restless hearts a place of true rest and peace.

I had a nearly road-rage level reaction to that. I was quite prepared to violate Rod’s no-snark admonition. Instead, I will with respect and sincerity offer this response instead.

No, sir. That panacea has been tried many times, notably by institutions established to “assimilate” populations across the U.S. and in other nations. You have the best seat for the horror show, I do agree, but you are missing something as well. There are many things people need, there’s no accurate way to summarize them or to abstract them. In short, no institutional approach will work, because as you have noted there can be no such thing as one size cure fits all problems.

I beg you to keep to a key point in your training: every individual needs an individualized treatment. If, in your professional opinion the Gospel is indicated as beneficial, by all means use it. I take from your writing that you are a man of compassion, that you readily employ empathy in your practice. I fully celebrate your commitment, and I wish you well in both your practice and your ability to avoid burn out.

[NFR: You never snark, Franklin, even when you vehemently disagree with me or with a commenter. That’s the reason you are one of the best commenters on this site. — RD]

#25 Comment By scotchmeg On August 12, 2017 @ 10:07 am

Depending on where you are, affordable options in education can be quite limited. Where I live (Boston area), there are many Catholic grammar and high schools – but I have coached friends through protests against English reading lists at two different boys’ high schools, and I am familiar with the general (though not universal) culture there. It’s not pretty. Can a child be educated through this system and come out with faith? Yes. Is that the likely outcome? No.
Likewise, there are many public universities and partly-Catholic colleges where faith can be sustained, but it takes an effort and desire on the part of the student, and also a willingness to go against the culture of the college/university. College students are simply not likely to want to fight against the tide, especially not living at home.
Thus, if faith is central to your family and you are trying to save money (and perhaps save faith!) by sending your children to the local public university so they can live at home, you will run into the dilemmas described by the mother in her email.
FWIW – my own experience has been that my oldest child went to public high school and Very Prestigious University. We thought her only chance of a return to faith was to see that our comments about the university were true. Well, she saw them and embraced them. Next two went to Partly Catholic University – one lost her (fervent) faith to the ambient culture, and the other still has his. Fourth kid is at a Newman List College, which he loves. He is happily ensconced in a faith environment and is also getting a good STEM education. Fifth kid’s college experience awaits. Guess what kind of environment we’ll be seeking for him? And yet, we can only consider the best option because we can afford it (assuming some merit money). Many don’t realistically have that choice.
Rod, hope you feel better.

#26 Comment By Gromaticus On August 12, 2017 @ 10:19 am

It’s hard to fit in the classics, when the kids have to take “Fat Studies” like they are now offering at University of Oregon.

Hard to believe, but the class in question is offered at Oregon State University (Engineer Scotty’s alma mater) not that hotbed of crackpottery, the University of Oregon (mine).

#27 Comment By Franklin Evans On August 12, 2017 @ 10:21 am

Thank you, Rod. You bring out the better in me, and that’s no easy thing to accomplish.

Ben H., there’d be no monopoly on credentials if the “market” demand didn’t create it, to wit employers who are increasingly lazy about the application process and vetting of potential employees. It is a simple point of failure: making a degree shown on a piece of paper a deciding attribute for getting to the next phase of the application process.

The rest is the increasing “value” put on speed to market, and how schools are trading quality and breadth for churning out degree-holders with atrophied critical thinking skills. The entire notion of a category called STEM gets me boiling, as if one or two of those and nothing else makes for an employee who can do more than churn out stuff every day.

#28 Comment By Irenaeus On August 12, 2017 @ 10:55 am

No place is Eden, but there are faithful, sane, Catholic colleges and universities out there:


#29 Comment By Beer and Hummus On August 12, 2017 @ 11:58 am

I work in administration for a medium-large public school district. I don’t have children yet I would be reasonably alright with sending them to our schools–although Rod has and continues to have good points on the issues with/challenges of “government” schools.

Students and parents have resources today that were unheard of when I was in elementary and secondary school (the 1990s) in a relatively well-off public school district. Although our district isn’t by any means rich every student has access to psychologists, tutors, a career office, clubs and after-school programs, etc. Growing-up the only activity (sports excepted, which you had to be talented to participate in) was band, with drama and yearbook being new and part-time. Classroom and other infrastructures here are so nice that I only thought schools in Europe had spaces this nice when I was a kid.

If a student’s defined as low-income they get free or reduced school lunch. If they show up early they get free breakfast. If they participate in latchkey they get free dinner. Couple this with activities, the polite thing to say is we’re outsourcing parenting to our schools. More accurately, government schools can raise our kids if we let them.

Any teacher anywhere will tell you parents are the problem if they’re apathetic or worse. Teachers are underpaid because they’re overwhelmed, although they have resources too (technology, classroom aides, etc.) that were unheard of not too long ago.

The problems Heidi writes about exist but they don’t exist because of teachers or principals or even students. They exist because of parents not realizing what’s going on and giving their kids smartphones. The kinds of problems she talks about can’t be solved by in-school suspensions or giving teachers raises. (Chris Christie was 110% correct when he said no kid ever blamed bad grades on poor teacher pay.) Again, I don’t have kids but I’d imagine if little Billy is acting-out or in trouble it’s because he doesn’t understand the virtues of patience, chastity, etc. but I totally get that the number of parents who preach this is nil. I’ll also admit that if the “resources” offered by a school are lacking it can be a problem–e.g., having a sex-positive school psychologist, or a classroom where the teacher spends half their time keeping order.

I agree with ScottA that we’re something like Babylon, but I think with the right solutions like the Benedict Option it could be something like a Land of Milk and Honey.

#30 Comment By Suzanne Nussbaum On August 12, 2017 @ 1:57 pm

I was struck by Heidi’s description of the courses at the public university that her daughter was presented with–which I hope she was able to avoid!

They all sounded like what passes for “humanities” these days. It left me wondering whether she had any information about science and math courses at this place–were they left more or less intact?

I’m a Latin teacher, and I wonder if it’s possible that students who study a language as part of their humanities work (maybe, who major in an ancient or modern language and its literature) will have more growth from courses with actual rigor and content (it’s hard to master another language!), and less exposure to the ‘read this, kids, and give me your immediate reaction to it, and be sure to keep in mind the point of view I’ve been feeding you all semester’ stuff.

I’m very lucky to have been educated long ago; in fact, I remember when postmodernist stuff started seeping into the graduate courses in the early 80s. But the way I was taught allowed me to receive a legacy handed down from the past.

I’ve been thinking that students who go into STEM can avoid the rot that’s affected the humanities; but I guess we see, from James Damore’s experiences this week, that that’s not quite the whole story!

#31 Comment By Heidi On August 12, 2017 @ 11:33 pm

Ed Realist. ..lying? I wish, pal.

#32 Comment By Stefan On August 13, 2017 @ 4:12 am

Houellebecq’s description of Paris, Europe’s northern capital of the pagan poetry of sexual desire, under peaceful assault by Islam convinced me that the noopolitical microclimate was right to go fully alt-punk and start commuting to work by bike (20 miles one way) every day. Western governments care vastly more about forcing their citizens to perform belief in the indefinite continuation of the sad spectacle of multicultural globalism than about actually protecting them from Islam’s peaceful assault (I stress Islam’s peaceful nature because I don’t want people to mistake me for an “islamophobe”, that would devastate me). Avoiding trains, busses, and major cities is a way of avoiding suicide by willingness to participate in the aforementioned totalitarian kitsch. Oh don’t lecture me on how I am 100000 times more likely to die from mishandling this or that common household item or to get hit by lightning. The difference is that when you die in a peaceful Islamic terrorist attack, your soul suffers a second metaphysical death because the institutionalized far left will claim that you had it coming because you were a westerner (Sykes-picot partitioning of Syria, Iraq invasion, so-called labor market discrimination, racialized policing,…). That puts suicide by performing belief in multicultural globalism on a qualitatively different level.

#33 Comment By JonF On August 14, 2017 @ 1:59 pm

Re: Ben H., there’d be no monopoly on credentials if the “market” demand didn’t create it, to wit employers who are increasingly lazy about the application process and vetting of potential employees.

To be fair even to HR departments, Franklin, the Internet has expanded the pool of potential applicants for almost any middle class (or better) job by orders of magnitude. Once upon a time (and a time I can even remember) all but the most rarified or unusual of jobs were advertised locally, and maybe through the placement office of some nearby colleges for entry level jobs, and the applicant pool was maybe a few dozen to a few hundred. And applying meant either a resume in the mail with a stamp on it, or hieing on down to the personnel office to apply in person. These days what with (inter)national job posting websites there may be thousands or even tens of thousands of resumes flooding in via email or maybe a company application site. This has forced HR to apply all manner of filters to boil the deluge down to a few interviews, even if, admittedly, the filters may well be weeding out gold amid the dross.

#34 Comment By Franklin Evans On August 15, 2017 @ 10:35 am


I have no sympathy for the volume argument, valid as it may be in practical terms. I work for an international company based in the U.S. with 15,000 employees and a large and fully automated HR department. Their record for transparent, merit-based hiring practices is one of the best on record.

I regret I cannot name the company, and if you know it please don’t post it.