Encouraged

It isn’t even the return itself that feels so good, although it’s not like I’d say no to money, either. It’s that finally we see evidence that the state comsiders our having a child as a thing to be encouraged. Normally, things in developed countries are set up to discourage the educated, successful, responsible people from procreating.

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Tax Returns

We are getting a massive return on our taxes this year. It’s twice as large than what we usually get. There are two reasons, and both have to do with the Trump tax bill.

The biggest reason is that the new tax legislation finally encourages people like us to procreate. We never qualified for any child credits because we make too much. And the state always does all it can to prevent people like us from having kids. But thanks to this tax bill, we finally do get child credit.

The smaller reason is that it’s less burdensome to make extra cash with our writing gigs that we do on the side.

Of course, once Bernie or Elizabeth Warren get elected, it’s good-bye to all that and hello to shelling out enormous amounts in taxes so that others can procreate more.

Open Borders and Competition

The open borders crowd is almost-exclusively composed of those who do not and never will have to compete with immigrants in the labor market.

Or, rather, they believe they won’t have to compete. But they will. It’s coming for everybody.

I recently had another chance to hang out with my Peruvian colleague who came for a visit to my town. I would love to see all my open-borders-are-amazing colleagues meet with her and consider how they would do if they had to compete with her and the million college professors like her around the world. Because they (we) wouldn’t win that competition. We would all be out in the streets in a flash. It’s just a fact.

It’s not because we aren’t smart or great teachers. But we have no idea how to work and survive in the working conditions our colleagues everywhere else take for granted and deal with daily.

But the reasons why the open border crowd isn’t worried are a) hubris and b) contempt. In spite of all their diversity worship, they are convinced they are oh, so smarter and more valuable than their Peruvian counterparts.

Blank Slates

A great article by the great Patrick Deneen (whom we discussed on this blog in the summer) on why students are so ignorant. I was mentoring a young colleague recently and I said, “To spare yourself needless suffering, just assume they are blank slates. Teach everything like you’d teach extraterrestrials who arrived on this planet 10 minutes before class, and you’ll be very successful.”

Deneen explains that this ignorance is not a by-product of a faulty education system. It’s the desired result:

We have fallen into the bad and unquestioned habit of thinking that our educational system is broken, but it is working on all cylinders. What our educational system aims to produce is cultural amnesia, a wholesale lack of curiosity, historyless free agents, and educational goals composed of contentless processes and unexamined buzz-words like “critical thinking,” “diversity,” “ways of knowing,” “social justice,” and “cultural competence.” Our students are the achievement of a systemic commitment to producing individuals without a past for whom the future is a foreign country, cultureless ciphers who can live anywhere and perform any kind of work without inquiring about its purposes or ends, perfected tools for an economic system that prizes “flexibility” (geographic, interpersonal, ethical).

This flexibility is what I refer to as fluidity fostered in service of globalizing capitalism.

More Deneen:

My students are the fruits of a longstanding project to liberate all humans from the accidents of birth and circumstance, to make a self-making humanity. Understanding liberty to be the absence of constraint, forms of cultural inheritance and concomitant gratitude were attacked as so many arbitrary limits on personal choice, and hence, matters of contingency that required systematic disassembly. Believing that the source of political and social division and war was residual commitment to religion and culture, widespread efforts were undertaken to eliminate such devotions in preference to a universalized embrace of toleration and detached selves.

This is absolutely spot-on. Good teaching is considered to be the kind that produces precisely this kind of self-referential, isolated individuals who don’t see any reason to put any intellectual, moral, philosophical, or religious constraints on the endless desires of an uncontrollably emoting self.

Deneen seems to have only worked at elite colleges, so he has had no opportunity to find out that most students (and young people in general) are not happy with this. They crave knowledge and are desperate for guidance that the existing education fails to provide.

Above all, the one overarching lesson that students receive is to understand themselves to be radically autonomous selves within a comprehensive global system with a common commitment to mutual indifference. Our commitment to mutual indifference is what binds us together as a global people. Any remnant of a common culture would interfere with this prime directive: a common culture would imply that we share something thicker, an inheritance that we did not create, and a set of commitments that imply limits and particular devotions.

The saddest thing in teaching is when you ask things like “what do you consider a good life? How do you define a friend as opposed to an acquaintance? Does it make sense to help people who haven’t asked for help? If you see that a friend is getting himself into self-destructive habits, would you tell him or pretend not to notice?” and see them leafing through the lecture notes in search of the correct answer.

It’s a great article. I recommend reading the whole thing.

How Are You Weird?

I’m weird in many ways but one that almost nobody in the world knows about is this:

I’m a coffee addict. Love, love, love coffee.

But to the best, most high-quality brewed coffee out of the fanciest of coffee-makers I will always prefer a mug of instant Folgers coffee with two pink packets of sweetener.

I can’t explain it. I didn’t grow up with Folgers, obviously. The rare cases we had coffee back in the USSR, it was what you’d call a chicory coffee-like beverage. And we obviously didn’t have sweetener either.

And I have a good coffee palate. I was once at a coffee place where you could do a tasting, and I guessed the most expensive, the second expensive and the cheapest coffee outright. I have an even better palate for tea. But I detest tea packets and prefer expensive loose-leaf teas.

How are you weird?