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For some time, I have been troubled. I’m sure some readers would attest my writings reveal ample evidence of that, but I speak of my students, of the current generation of teenagers. I’ve thought long and hard. Am I merely engaging in the all too common comfort of thinking those that lived the good old days more responsible, intelligent, moral and capable than the current generation?

I’ve much more thinking to do, more observations to make before writing on the subject, but in the meantime, let us consider the observations of Adam MacLeod, published in The New Boston Post:

I teach in a law school. For several years now my students have been mostly Millennials. Contrary to stereotype, I have found that the vast majority of them want to learn. But true to stereotype, I increasingly find that most of them cannot think, don’t know very much, and are enslaved to their appetites and feelings. Their minds are held hostage in a prison fashioned by elite culture and their undergraduate professors.

Remember, gentle readers, MacLeod is speaking of law students, people in their early twenties, people already possessing at least a bachelor’s degree, people seeking to become lawyers. He notes they actually refuse to understand western civilization’s foundational texts, considering them “racist” or “classist.” So he gave them a tone-setting lecture:

Before I can teach you how to reason, I must first teach you how to rid yourself of unreason. For many of you have not yet been educated. You have been dis-educated. To put it bluntly, you have been indoctrinated. Before you learn how to think you must first learn how to stop unthinking.

Reasoning requires you to understand truth claims, even truth claims that you think are false or bad or just icky. Most of you have been taught to label things with various ‘isms’ which prevent you from understanding claims you find uncomfortable or difficult.

Reasoning requires correct judgment. Judgment involves making distinctions, discriminating. Most of you have been taught how to avoid critical, evaluative judgments by appealing to simplistic terms such as ‘diversity’ and ‘equality.’

Reasoning requires you to understand the difference between true and false. And reasoning requires coherence and logic. Most of you have been taught to embrace incoherence and illogic. You have learned to associate truth with your subjective feelings, which are neither true nor false but only yours, and which are constantly changeful.

The pathologies MacLeod describes are not nearly so far advanced in my students, some six years younger than his. Nor have my students have four or more years of intensive progressive indoctrination under the guise of higher education. However, I can see the origins of what MacLeod decries.

In fact, ‘isms’ prevent you from learning. You have been taught to slap an ‘ism’ on things that you do not understand, or that make you feel uncomfortable, or that make you uncomfortable because you do not understand them. But slapping a label on the box without first opening the box and examining its contents is a form of cheating. Worse, it prevents you from discovering the treasures hidden inside the box. For example, when we discussed the Code of Hammurabi, some of you wanted to slap labels on what you read which enabled you to convince yourself that you had nothing to learn from ancient Babylonians. But when we peeled off the labels and looked carefully inside the box, we discovered several surprising truths. In fact, we discovered that Hammurabi still has a lot to teach us today.

My kids, many of who consider themselves very intelligent indeed, are not quite to the level of reflexively rejecting the great thinkers of the past, particularly white males. Their pathologies are somewhat less developed, and require a bit of what passes for thought to squirm to the forefront of the brain and out the lips–when they aren’t face down in smart phones.

Prof. MacLeod well obliterates the concepts of diversity and equality, but I particularly appreciate his take on feelings:

…you should not bother to tell us how you feel about a topic. Tell us what you think about it. If you can’t think yet, that’s O.K.. Tell us what Aristotle thinks, or Hammurabi thinks, or H.L.A. Hart thinks. Borrow opinions from those whose opinions are worth considering. As Aristotle teaches us in the reading for today, men and women who are enslaved to the passions, who never rise above their animal natures by practicing the virtues, do not have worthwhile opinions. Only the person who exercises practical reason and attains practical wisdom knows how first to live his life, then to order his household, and finally, when he is sufficiently wise and mature, to venture opinions on how to bring order to the political community.

By all means, take the link and read the entire article. It will put a smile on your face, while simultaneously making you wish there were more like the good professor in academia.

In the meantime, I’ve more reflection to do.