Diversity and Empire

Which is better?  A society characterized by cultural diversity?  Or a society in which its many different kinds of people are assimilated into a single nation characterized by cultural unity?  Today, the former view dominates, but the goal through most of history throughout the world has been the latter.  More to the point, cultural diversity has always been the characteristic of an empire.  Republics have always been built around national unity.  The Claremont Review of Books discusses a new book on diversity, William H. Frey’s  Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America, delving into these topics and other provocative questions:  such as, how will affirmative action laws work when white people become the minority? [Read more…]

It’s the family, stupid

Before Robert Putnam there was Patrick Moynihan, the social scientist and later Democratic Senator from New York, who pointed to the dire social and economic consequences when children are not raised by intact families.  His research to this effect came out 50 years ago.  He was studying African-Americans, who back in 1960 had a birthrate to unmarried mothers of 23.6%, which Moynihan believed kept them trapped in poverty, crime, and bad schools.  Today, the unmarried birth rate of all races is more than twice that.

George Will discusses Moynihan’s findings and gives some striking quotations. [Read more…]

Not secularism but pluralism

Several decades ago, sociologists were writing about how modernization was accompanied by the rise of secularism.  Today, so-called “secularization theory” has been abandoned, including by its former advocates such as Peter Berger.  I came across a trenchant quote from him that defines the new issues.  From Eboo Patel in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The 1960s-era academics who advanced secularization theory confessed their errors long ago. As the sociologist Peter Berger told The Economist in 2007, “We made a category mistake. We thought the relationship was between modernization and secularization. In fact it was between modernization and pluralism.”

[Read more…]

Class, children, & the social costs of nonjudgmentalism

There is a growing chasm in our society.  It isn’t so much between the wealthy and the middle class, though it does have to do with social classes, a major demarcation seeming to be between the college educated and those who just finished high school.  But it isn’t an economic gap so much as a cultural gap, or, more specifically, a child-raising gap.  It’s between children who have been raised by both parents, who have been cared for, given lots of attention, and taken care of.  And children raised pretty much on their own, often with a single mother and serial boyfriends, with very little supervision, and with very little protection from abuse, sex, and their own impulses.  This is the thesis of Robert Putnam’s new book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.  Putnam, the author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, is a very important social scientist, a Harvard professor whose insights have been very influential across the spectrum.  That he is pointing to this crisis in childraising–which, in turn, leads to young adults poorly equipped for a successful life–will get attention.

Thanks to Larry Hughes for pointing me to a New York Times column by David Brooks, who reflects on Putnam’s findings, which he summarizes this way:

Roughly 10 percent of the children born to college grads grow up in single-parent households. Nearly 70 percent of children born to high school grads do. There are a bunch of charts that look like open scissors. In the 1960s or 1970s, college-educated and noncollege-educated families behaved roughly the same. But since then, behavior patterns have ever more sharply diverged. High-school-educated parents dine with their children less than college-educated parents, read to them less, talk to them less, take them to church less, encourage them less and spend less time engaging in developmental activity.

Brooks goes on to describe some of the heart-breaking profiles of children growing up that Putnam gives, from descriptions of abuse and neglect to this statement of a young man who said he would like to grow up to be a preacher:  “I just love beating up somebody and making they nose bleed and just hurting them and just beating them on the ground.”  Then Brooks considers what the problem is and what is needed to address it. [Read more…]

“Wizard of Oz” and the Indians

The Oneida tribe has been leading the charge against the Washington Redskins’ name.  But now that tribe is itself caught in a controversy over its plans to open a casino in Chittenango, N.Y.  That was the home of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.   Plans for the casino, to be named “Yellow Brick Road,” would honor the local author.  But it turns out, Baum, as a newspaper writer in 1890, advocated the extermination of all Indians, including, presumably, the Oneida. [Read more…]

Whatever happened to the working class?

When I was in college, I worked on a construction crew, and it did me a lot of good.  I developed a lot of respect for the guys I worked with, who worked with their backs and their hands with skills that were far beyond me.  Politicians used to talk quite a bit about “the working class,” also known as “blue collar workers.”  But no more.  Even liberal democrats are pushing policies that are supposed to help “the middle class.”

Part of the problem may be that the working class considers itself middle class.  And with good reason:  A factory or construction worker may well own his own home, have a car or two, and have other accoutrements once associated with the middle, college-educated class.  Such are the wonders of the modern economy.  And yet, unemployment, the decline of American industry, stagnant wages, and other economic woes are hitting blue collar workers hard.  But hardly anybody is speaking for them or about them anymore. [Read more…]