Saturday 20th October 2018

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Laboratory Rats And Their Masters

May 25, 2018 Featured Today No Comments


I recently heard a story which upset me more and more the longer I thought about it. It concerned a young man getting ready to go off to college. The young man’s father is a very successful executive, and his son has been accepted for admission to his father’s alma mater, a very prestigious (and expensive) university. Now, when I was getting ready for college, back in the dark ages, getting admitted to the college of one’s choice was enough.
Not anymore. Now, I’m told, you need to get into “advanced placement” in your field in order to get a head start and have an advantage over others, so this young man signed up, at his local high school, for a class to prepare him to take the university’s advanced placement exam. An excellent teacher was in charge, and all was going well, until one day the students learned that their teacher had been killed in a car accident. Soon after, it was further learned that his death was a suicide. There was no one immediately available to take over the class.
Now, you would think the first reaction any human being would have to all this would be horror and sadness at this appalling human tragedy. But the first reaction of the young man’s mother reportedly was, “Oh no, now I might not be able to get my son into advanced placement! His whole career could be down the tubes!”
The mother, by all accounts, was known for trying to live through her children, rather than getting a life of her own. If so, she will doubtlessly be micromanaging her son’s college career, then go on to do the same with his post-college life. One hopes for some healthy rebellion here. Otherwise, I can see some grim possibilities ahead.
When I hear about things like this, the image that comes into my mind is that of laboratory rats frantically trying to find their way through a maze, wearing themselves out and making themselves sick. The human laboratory rats put themselves through all this because they have been fed lies by our elites — first, about the meaning of life (it’s all about amassing as much money and power as you can), and second, about the rewards for obedience (jumping through all these hoops will get you money and power). And what if there is actually no piece of cheese waiting for the rat even if it manages to find its way through?
This kind of thing is very hard for someone of my generation (I started college in 1960) to truly comprehend. The closest I ever came to advanced placement was during freshman orientation when I had the opportunity to try to get into the honors freshman comp class. It involved writing an impromptu essay. On the day it was scheduled, I was exhausted from running around the campus engaging in orientation activities, and I decided that, rather than sit in a classroom, trying to stay awake and write an essay, I preferred to go back to my dorm room and take a nap.
The results of this misguided decision were devastating! I had to take the regular freshman comp course, taught by an excellent professor, Dr. James Lucier, who, I feel quite certain, taught me far more than I would have learned in the honors course.
But today, things like this are taken with deadly seriousness. Kids apply to many, many schools (I applied to one). They and their parents are obsessed with getting into a prestigious school, even though there is solid evidence that, for every prestigious school, there are many less prestigious ones that are academically on a par with them, sometimes better (usually cheaper, too).
The reason people want to get into prestigious schools is so they can make connections — i.e., so that they can learn to see other people, not as friends or neighbors, but as means to one’s own advancement. Eventually, in such an environment, using, rather than cherishing, people will become second nature.
All of this is, of course, closely tied to the “higher education” industry’s enormous expansion and its increasing control over the American people. When I was in college, only a minority went there. Others finished high school, found jobs, got married, and started families (having children had not yet become a “life-style choice”), and got on with life.
We were only beginning to suffer from the problem of protracted adolescence and its devastating effects on the social order — such as young people who took an inordinately long time to make the transition to adulthood and often never did. But somewhere along the line, “someone” decided everyone, or nearly everyone, should go to college.
As the supply of people with college degrees increased, it became possible for employers to insist on a college degree as the minimum requirement job applicants had to meet in order even to be considered. The result is that many, many young people spend years in college being bored to death when they could be beginning their adult lives as members of communities and families.
The idiocy of such practices is underscored by the reality that the typical bachelor’s degree today in what is laughingly called “liberal arts” has no relevance for any jobs the students might seek. In addition, graduates end up saddled with crushing debt. The result of the latter is that they don’t feel they can afford to start families and end up living with their parents — hence adulthood is put off even longer, years beyond graduation and maybe never happening at all.
And the universities prosper. They multiply and expand, because an artificial need for their product has been created. Not only do they create many jobs for the parasitical entities known as college administrators, but they make their unfortunate students captive audiences for political indoctrination by left-dominated faculties. And the money keeps rolling in. When college loans became the norm, one of the first things these corrupt institutions did was to raise their tuition, which just keeps going up, year after year.
Another thing that has changed since I was young is that parents did not generally, in those days, put the kind of pressure on their children that they do now regarding college and careers. For one thing, they usually had too many children to have the time or the money to do the kinds of things they now do (I am thinking especially of Catholics, but even Protestants then had bigger families than they do now).
But they did, I believe, genuinely want their children to live their own lives, and didn’t feel as much the need to run their lives as many parents do now. They were satisfied, more or less, with their own lives, and were kept busy enough with these lives so as not to feel the need to live through their kids.
When I told my father, lo, these many years ago, that I was going to major in philosophy, he, being of a practical cast of mind, made it clear that he was less than thrilled. What he did not do was try to stop me from majoring in philosophy, perhaps even forbidding it. He wanted me to live my own life, and, in truth, as I spend my life doing philosophical work proper (publishing in journals of philosophy), as well as doing the work of a Catholic journalist, which is closely allied to it, I would have to say that it has turned out well.
I have never made much money in the process, and have had to live by other kinds of employment, but it has been worth it. When the love of being, which is the source of philosophy, possesses you sufficiently, it is a joy and a vocation which surpasses any career.
To all this, I will add one more thought, related to the above. I have never believed in careers as such. To my way of thinking, work should be about, not self-aggrandizement, but service. That means, not careers, but vocations. St. Augustine said that there are two loves, in radical opposition to each other — the love of self and the love of God (from which love of neighbor flows).
Careers are based on the former, vocations on the latter, summed up in the Great Commandment: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength,” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31). As we have shifted away from the Christian vision of life, we have come to see work, not as service to God and neighbor, but as service to self.
What the parents who obsess about their children’s future are really seeking for them is that they will be able to make bundles of money and lord it over other people. That is not what Jesus taught:
“You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).
(© 2018 George A. Kendall)

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