Sunday, August 2, 2015

"Big Brother"

Although Orwell's book 1984 was popular and influential years ago, I don't think younger generations are very familiar with it. I've mentioned how my students are unaware of it; they haven't studied it in high school, at least. They have heard the term "Big Brother" but they don't  associate it with a totalitarian government; now it's the popular TV show in its 17th season. A google search of "Big Brother" produces pages of hits based on the TV show with no mention of Orwell's character. While I find it fascinating to see Orwell's dystopian vision become reality, kids nowadays seem oblivious to what is happening to them.

Many people write about this, of course, but I came across a review of Mark Levin's book that seems to explain it pretty well, so I'll post that here:

Plunder and Deceit mainly concerns itself with the rising generation of young people. Although they are the victims being fleeced, they are, the author observes, a “generation . . . wedged in its own contradictions.” That is, they vigorously support the very policies that are bringing them to ruin, surrendering their fate to the increasingly autocratic government they claim to distrust. For this reason, Levin’s chapter on the education system’s role in destroying the rising generation’s prospects is worth the price of admission. Why do American schools produce such poorly educated adults while spending vastly more per student than virtually every modern industrialized nation? Because the money is not being spent per student. The universities now employ over 400 percent more people than the 850,000 who worked on campuses a half-century ago, but well over half of them (2.3 million) are administrators and support personnel, not teachers. Schools spend a king’s ransom on capital improvements that are unrelated to academic improvement. The government has essentially taken over the student-loan business, resulting not only in tuition and fee increases to soak up the available dollars but in a burgeoning crisis of debt and non-repayment — a crisis exacerbated by Obama’s policies. And dominated by instructors from a small circle of elite schools, the campus becomes a bastion of “progressive” groupthink, inexorably rendering the classroom a center of indoctrination.

The system has thoroughly undermined the traditional education mission of cultivating critical thinking and the search for truth. It has substituted Marxist economic determinism and oppression narratives for the ideals of freedom, inalienable rights, individual dignity, courage, and the overcoming of hardships that formerly featured prominently in the teaching of American history — the themes that rightly fostered patriotism. This is a major problem, not just for the country but for a book that primarily appeals to the young on the basis of their self-interest. What if they don’t know what their self-interest is? The very concept of self-interest has been stigmatized, and the young have been conditioned — on campus, in the media, in the popular culture — to prioritize abstractions and purportedly good intentions of government officials over the real-world consequences of government action. For example, Levin points out that experience teaches that the best guarantor of peace is a strong defense, and that if we have war because our enemies are emboldened by our weakness, it will be the young who will be called on to fight and die. Yet the young have been inculcated to believe that military strength causes, rather than prevents, trouble. They support deep slashes in defense spending in order to prop up entitlement programs that are robbing them blind. They support sharp increases in the minimum wage notwithstanding that these unavoidably result in increased youth unemployment and a future dimmed by the failure to acquire basic job skills. They are sympathetic to arguments for open borders and amnesty for illegal immigrants who compete with them for jobs in a stagnant economy. And so on. This is why the task of appealing to the young is such an uphill battle. Levin nevertheless takes heart. The burden is not to persuade every young person that the path to saving the country lies in our civil-society tradition and the Constitution’s limits on government. It is to persuade a critical mass — not just to the point of conviction but to activism. That is how an effective movement starts. The author, in fact, demonstrates this point in a chapter on the machinations of the environmental movement and its “degrowther” shock troops who wage war against prosperity itself. A great deal can be accomplished, and a great many minds moved, by a small, determined minority. Mark Levin has hope because the liberty activists he seeks to inspire will be on the side of the angels. And he has made certain that they will be armed with the facts.

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