It seems to me something happened. There was a historical event, which needs to be understood and recognized more clearly than it is. The cultural revolution in the United States, which people take for granted. If I tell people there was a cultural revolution, yeah sure, there were a lot of changes in the 60s. But it’s more than that. It’s a double change.
Colleges and universities. Let’s look at the generation after the Second World War. This is a cultural revolution, it seems to me to extend roughly from 1945 to 1970. So in 1970 everything is different. Things are radically different. And what happened during those 25 years? Colleges and universities became vastly, vastly more influential on American culture.
Journalists didn’t use to go to college. I mean, they could have if they wanted but some of the very best did not. A lot of highly intelligent people in highly influential professions, in the movie industry, people didn’t go to college. Loads of people didn’t go to college. You didn’t have to go to college to be a businessman. Some businessmen did obviously but lots of people did not. So the influence of colleges was limited to the upper classes. The upper-middle classes.
But in the generation after the Second World War there was an academicization; suddenly everybody had to get a bachelor’s degree. It was just self-evident that everybody had to go to college. And professional schools, journalism and education. Teachers didn’t have to go to ed school. Journalists didn’t have to go to J-school. Businessmen didn’t have to get an MBA. But suddenly all these professional schools. Not suddenly — they had existed before the war. There were journalism schools and education schools, but they were not terribly important. They were theoretical centers.
But after the war, suddenly, you had loads of journalists going to journalism schools so what Yale and Harvard teached them, Columbia, you know, matters a huge amount. Loads of teachers going to ed schools. Loads of businessmen getting MBAs. And so in this generation, American’s colleges and universities become much, much more influential than they’ve ever been before. And during the same time, I think the hardest kind of historical phenomenon to grasp are ones where there are two parallel processes working together.
At the same time, the universities were taking over by the intellectuals. The leadership of Yale is a dramatic example. Harvard, too, slightly less dramatic. But Yale and Princeton were created by WASPs, by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Most of them wealthy or at least wealthy-ish. They sent their children there. And they were run by WASPs who also built them. Who built the built the buildings, who donated the money, who donated the time to meet trustees.
They were WASP institutions, they were run by WASP businessmen, basically. But the idea suddenly that the professors at Yale and Princeton and Harvard should not be just generally WASPS with an occasional Jew but should be absolutely world-leading superstar thinkers. The best scientist. The best historians. This meritocracy, which we got very excited about and speaks very well for us as a nation, obviously.
But intellectuals are abysmally bad at running institutions. The idea that the President of Harvard or Yale should be a professor would have struck the WASPs of the 1920s as idiotic. I mean how, unless it’s really a socially serious professor who’s a member of the club, who gives his daughter a wedding in the right Episcopalian church.
These people were prejudiced but they knew what they were doing. They knew how to run an institution. I as an intellectual am an idiot at running institutions. Not my field. My field is to think and to write and to do whatever. But not to run institutions. I’m not a businessmen, I’m not an organizer. I’m a lousy person to run an institution. Now, I never will but the people who are running Harvard and Yale and Princeton are unfortunately too much like me. Are not as different from me as they ought to be.
They’re running the university down. They’re turning them into political instruments, as we all know. Now, the universities were always to the Left of the general population, at least throughout the 20th century, but they never used to be hard Left, and they never used to be propaganda sellers.
I mean, in the Second World War, America looked to Harvard and Yale and Princeton for its officers, obviously. Undergraduates were — there were close relations with Yale, particularly the State Department and the CIA, and Harvard, of course, had all sorts of political connections, and Princeton, too. But this idea of what you owed to the country. What you owed to the country, a Yale man, a privileged — he has all sorts of white privileges, male privileges, WASP privileges. What the hell. On the other hand, he also has obligations and duties; when the country’s in a war, he feels an obligation. He feels an obligation in general to the country, to — it’s his country. Wants to do his best for it.
The Yale — there was a book published — I don’t know a long time ago now — Harvard Hates America. We all know it’s true. Yale hates it worse. Princeton worse. Berkeley, Stanford, you know.
Well, I think you saw these two processes just during the generation in which the Yale’s and Harvard’s and Stanford’s became vastly more important than every before, because now everybody has got to get a BA. And journalists have to go to journalist school, and businessmen and teachers and all these guys. Law’s a bigger profession than ever before. Medicine, suddenly doctors are making much more than anybody else — there was a period during which going to medical school was a frenzy.
And during this same period, universities were being taken over by intellectuals and moving hard to the Left. Intellectuals have also been Leftist, have always been hard to the Left. So the dramatic steer to the Left coincides with a huge jump in the influence of American universities. We have a cultural revolution. And the cultural revolution is that we no longer love this country. We no longer have a high regard for this country or for the culture that produced it. We no longer have any particular feelings for Western Civilization.
The Judeo-Christian tradition means nothing to us, except in terms of hostility. And we have a generational shift so that when we start in the 1970s and 80s, suddenly public schools’ and college teaching went way down. Deteriorating. There was that famous report in the 1980s, mediocrity, saying mediocrity in the schools. In 1983 or something like that.
So the schools were failing to teach but at least the parents had been educated before the cultural revolution. You know, they’d been educated in the 60s and the 50s, some by the 40s or the 30s. So they — When their children were taught garbage, when their children were taught nonsense, when their children were taught outright lies, at least the parents could say, “Hold on, not so fast, are you really sure about that?” Or “You know, there are Republicans in this country, too.” Or, “You know, we’ve tried those policies, and they created catastrophes. Are you sure we should do this all again?”
But what happened in — as we move out of the 90s and into the new century — the children educated in the first generation of the cultural revolution in the 70s, in the 80s, in the 90s, those children are now the young teachers. And then the not-so-young teachers. And they’re the parents.
And so the children who were being taught nonsense and garbage and lies in school, instead of going home and having the parents say, “Well, wait a minute, this is really idiotic, by the way.” The parents say, “Yeah, that’s what I was taught, too.” You know, the same.
So we have second-generation ignorance is much more potent than first-generation ignorance. It’s not just a matter of one generation, of incremental change. It’s more like multiplicative change. A curve going up very fast. And swamping us. Taking us by surprise.