Surrounded by moral quandaries and crises, we look up from fast food containers unable to ponder greater questions beyond the value menu. Did these questions sneak up on us, or have they been there all along and we just eliminated the practice of engaging them? Cornel West and Jeremy Tate bring light and a bit of heat in the WAPO on the removal of classics at Howard University:
Academia’s continual campaign to disregard or neglect the classics is a sign of spiritual decay, moral decline and a deep intellectual narrowness running amok in American culture. Those who commit this terrible act treat Western civilization as either irrelevant and not worthy of prioritization or as harmful and worthy only of condemnation.
Sadly, in our culture’s conception, the crimes of the West have become so central that it’s hard to keep track of the best of the West. We must be vigilant and draw the distinction between Western civilization and philosophy on the one hand, and Western crimes on the other. The crimes spring from certain philosophies and certain aspects of the civilization, not all of them.
The Western canon is, more than anything, a conversation among great thinkers over generations that grows richer the more we add our own voices and the excellence of voices from Africa, Asia, Latin America and everywhere else in the world. We should never cancel voices in this conversation, whether that voice is Homer or students at Howard University. For this is no ordinary discussion.
Howard University is not removing its classics department in isolation. This is the result of a massive failure across the nation in “schooling,” which is now nothing more than the acquisition of skills, the acquisition of labels and the acquisition of jargon. Schooling is not education. Education draws out the uniqueness of people to be all that they can be in the light of their irreducible singularity. It is the maturation and cultivation of spiritually intact and morally equipped human beings.
So much of higher education has folded in the face of market pressures, political interference, and fraud that it finds itself all but unrecognizable to former guises. Not wanting to be recognized as what you are can leave you paralyzed when you’re unwilling to defend against impotent charges like teaching social justice. Such charges are softballs and should be parked deep in the cheap seats. But lack of engagement – reading, writing, arguing – makes us afraid of politics, and bullies. We abandon the classical education model at our peril, leaving everyone unable to navigation complexities and only further clearing the path to the bottom-line. Only 99 cents!
Trade school is not an admonition.
Image: Cardinal Sin by Banksy
I’ll admit this is one collision of green I had not [truly] considered, but Is the human race too dumb to survive?
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) questioned Duffy on the factors that contribute to sea-level rise, pointing out that land subsidence plays a role, as well as human activity. Brooks then said that erosion plays a significant role in sea-level rise, which is not an idea embraced by mainstream climate researchers. He said the California coastline and the White Cliffs of Dover tumble into the sea every year, and that contributes to sea-level rise. He also said that silt washing into the ocean from the world’s major rivers, including the Mississippi, the Amazon and the Nile, is contributing to sea-level rise. “Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up,” Brooks said.
Most everyone who has reckoned with the possibilities seems to understand that, whatever the fate of humans, the planet will eventually survive. So when we talk about the destruction of the planet, we’re thinking of our own, rather than that of the 3rd Rock itself. I’ve been grappling with this in a different but very related context recently – that is, how to best communicate with the public (industry, citizens, local governments) about the solutions to the challenges wrought by climate change, when the posture of state leaders more resembles that of Congressman Brooks. The stock response is: Stop talking about that! Despite the best efforts of Rembrandt, Descartes, Heisenberg, Jessie Owens and Emily Dickinson, maybe we’re just too dumb. Perhaps we can set a date at some point in the [near] future when we can begin talking about sea level rise, erratic weather, internal displacement, clean water, energy… but maybe that’s just negotiating with stupid. In which case, stupid has already prevailed and Groundhog Day is a truck that drives around town all day, picking up the same cabbages that fell from it earlier this morning.
As public investments go, there’s one and then there’s the other. Let’s compare this:
Minnesota soon could see at least a sevenfold expansion of solar power.
In an unprecedented ruling, a judge reviewing whether Xcel Energy should invest in new natural gas generators vs. large solar power arrays concluded Tuesday that solar is a better deal.
If the finding by Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman is upheld by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Edina-based Geronimo Energy plans to build about 20 large solar power arrays on sites across Xcel’s service area at a cost of $250 million.
“It says solar is coming in a big way to the country and to Minnesota,” Geronimo Vice President Betsy Engelking said of the ruling.
Geronimo’s Aurora Solar Project would receive no state or utility subsidies, but would qualify for a federal investment tax credit. Engleking said it is the first time in the United States that solar energy without a state subsidy has beaten natural gas in an official, head-to-head price comparison.
“The cost of solar has come down much faster than anyone had anticipated,” she said in an interview. “This is one of the reasons solar is going to explode.”
Revel has been, to put it lightly, a disaster. Originally imagined as more of a resort than a casino, Revel cost $2.4 billion to open. Even before Revel opened it was considered a high risk investment in a city already on the decline due to gambling competition from Delaware and Pennsylvania. Progressives opposed state investments in the project which came during the same time Governor Christie was cutting education and healthcare services for women. Christie invested $261 million of New Jersey tax money via credits as Morgan Stanley backed out of Revel fearing it was a loser.
Not soon after Revel opened it became clear the resort idea was as dumb as many thought it was and “Revel Atlantic City” went into bankruptcy. The bankruptcy put the State of New Jersey on the hook as Revel announced that the casino’s value had dropped from $2.4 billion to $450 million. Ouch.
So these arguments about public infrastructure and investment as economic development are all just gas baggery if actually beneficial projects aren’t part of the calculus. And even that argument aside, solar’s ascendancy seems clear. But we shouldn’t leave it to the side at all – that’s the point. Hydrocarbon energy production will begin to loses its privileged place regarding public support (and hopefully casinos as well) and the howling will be intense. But make no mistake about how we’ve been explicitly supporting senseless gambling/retail fiascos for so long. A turn toward making sense might someday actually feel like it does.
This is a crucial point – also crucial, too, is that it does not undermine capitalism but does expose its chief weakness, which itself eerily resembles it’s great strength. Funny that.
Green does not equal smarts or vast expertise, and probably should denote rougher trade qualities like foolhardy gumption. The minute we get too sensible about things is the minute we turn toward convention. The rich we have now are bold mostly in the outlandish links they’re willing to go to protect their winnings, in common parlance. Of course our new billionaire overlords, who believe in nothing so much as their own genius, know nothing but to go into a crouch, expand their fortunes and spend millions to save their billions from the gov’mint. Acute failure of imagination. Symptomatically nouveaux riche – the only question is will they be able to hang onto their green cushions long enough to learn to doubt the perfection of its comfort?