Monday, January 27, 2014

Stay-at-home moms: you don’t owe the world an explanation

Matt Walsh writes:

To stay-at-home moms:
Once, several months ago, I wrote this post about you. It was a simple expression of gratitude for stay-at-home moms, particularly my wife.  Actually, it reads more like a diatribe against people who don't adequately appreciate them, rather than an expression of gratitude.
It got some attention. It was viewed around three million times in two days, in fact.  Thinks Matt Walsh, "Hmm. If I write about this again, maybe I'll get another 3 million views..."
Truth be told, I never intended to be an official spokesman for SAHMS across the nation. You do not require my services, nor am I equipped to provide them. Plenty of you can eloquently defend your vocation, and because you have experience in the arena, you can do so more richly and convincingly than I ever could. This is an appropriate caveat. Good work, Matt.
I’m just a guy who loves his wife and appreciates the sacrifices she makes for the family. That’s really the entirety of my insight into this subject.
So it’s with appropriate hesitancy that I offer just one suggestion to all of you.
Here it is: don’t pay any attention to people like this.
In fact, don’t even click on the link. Then why did you give us the link? It’s a blog post, from a website called Thought Catalogue, entitled, “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry.”
It’s about as enlightening as it sounds. The gist: this woman has no kids, she’s never been married, she has zero understanding of what goes into raising children or maintaining a healthy marriage, yet she’s decided to degrade you because, presumably, the poor girl is hard up for cash and needs to get a ton of cheap hits so she can collect on the ad revenue. Says the man who supports himself financially with his blog, and chose to repeat a subject that got him tons of hits last time. Seriously, Matt, sometimes I don't know if you are even trying to have an honest discussion. "She doesn't have any experience raising kids or maintaining a marriage" - that is a valid point. "She's greedy and just trying to make money" - not  a valid point. You don't know what her motivation is, and personal attacks do not constitute an argument. Even if she were just trying to make money (which you presumably are as well), that fact in itself wouldn't invalidate her arguments.
I don’t usually take to reading incoherent, half baked, inflammatory trash [insert requisite troll-comment about how my blog is nothing but incoherent, half baked, inflammatory trash A glimmer of Matt Walsh realizing that personal attacks are a dime a dozen, but so ironically unaware that personal attacks form the basis of many of his posts ] so I wasn’t aware of this “writer” more personal attacks or her site until an hour ago. I only became aware when dozens of my own readers, mostly stay-at-home moms, sent the article to me, asking for my take.
And what is my take? Well, she raises some interesting points and we should all pause for a moment to reflect upon her observations.
Just kidding. She’s an obnoxious cretin begging for attention. Sighhhh. This is exactly the type of attitude that makes productive conversation in this country impossible. Once again, Matt falls back on his traditional "I'm not going to listen to you because you're a stupid doody-head" approach. (By the way, I'm envisioning a Matt Walsh Greatest Hits collection, with a compilation with all of his insults. "She's an obnoxious cretin begging for attention" is track 4.) 
I’m giving it to her, mostly because I’m a hothead and I’m easily baited. At least you have some self-awareness.
But also because my one experience with wading unwittingly into the “Mommy Wars” taught me something. It taught me that our broken, confused society has convinced many stay-at-home moms that they need to justify or apologize for their choice to opt out of the hallowed ”job force” in favor of full-time mothering.  One of my least favorite of all of your non-arguing tactics - emoting tactics, if you will - is your false generalizations about "society" or "progressives." You are implying that society at large would predominately oppose women's choices to be SAHMs. I do not believe that is true. I have not encountered any evidence that is true. What is your evidence, Matt? (A lone blog post, even comments on blog posts, does not count.)
But they don’t.
You don’t. You really, really don’t.
If you read the comments under that ridiculous more emoting, more insulting article, you’ll see women expressing outrage (understandably), but also offering explanations as to why they decided not to outsource their mom-duties. It pained me to see this. You’re raising your kids, it’s as simple as that. You shouldn’t have to give a reason, anymore than you should have to give your reasoning for drinking water or walking on two legs. In some sense it is true that women don't need to explain their choices. However, there are definitely circumstances where it is productive, therapeutic even, for women to discuss these matters with other women. I have taken part in these discussions myself and have found them helpful. When you are struggling with how best to live your life in a way that maximizes your potential as a human being, in a world where the potential of women is generally degraded, it is nice to hear the opinions and experiences of other women. So let us be, Matt.
I think motherhood should be promoted but not fatherhood because ewww diapers, and the institution of the family should be defended, but you do an excellent job of that simply by being moms.
The disrespect for SAHMs stems from ignorance. The only cure for ignorance is truth, and there are two ways to administer a dose of it: you can say it, or you can demonstrate it.
All I do with this blog is say it. As moms – out in the world, against the odds, against the grain, giving of yourself, dedicating your lives to you children — you are demonstrating it. You are living it.
Many of your critics just haven’t done it. They haven’t been in the trenches all day, every day, shaping children into respectable adults, and doing it themselves, by hand, with sweat and tears and heartache. They haven’t sacrificed everything for another person. They don’t know what that is — what it feels like. They don’t know what it’s like to be in charge of another human being’s entire life. All day. Every day. They don’t know what goes into running a house. They’ve never been there. They live in a civilization built by people who put in the sort of work and made the sort of sacrifices that they themselves would never be willing to make. And, in their comfort, in their arrogance, in their brokenness, they mock.
They mock you.
But they don’t know what they’re saying. They just don’t know.  Oh, once again, the ol' "my opponents don't know what they're saying" trick. It never gets old. Except for always.
And what is this argument about, really? Is it better to have a job or take care of your family full time? Is that the controversy? What a twisted point of view we have in this culture. This is what happens when you buy into the notion that mankind, and especially womankind, achieved emancipation through industrialization. Ok, I totally agree with you here. The Industrial Age and the advent of consumerism gave birth to the modern idea of a “job,” and the pinnacle of freedom and self fulfillment is to have one of them. Matt, you are very much on-the-mark here. How long will it last?
Or so we’re told. Ironically, this is a traditionally left-wing point of view what is? the valorization of career? The idea that self-fulfillment comes through a job? I think that pretty clearly cuts across the entire political spectrum, and is quite frankly a little more right-wing, but hating capitalism is also a traditionally left-wing point of view. It is, if you define "left wing" in such a way that it excludes many people that you typically place under that umbrella. The free market is evil, they say nope this is wrong; the idea that capitalism = free market has its origins in early Cold War Era propoganda, but that is neither a traditional nor a useful definition of capitalism; critics of capitalism do not say free markets are evil and often contend that capitalism limits the freedom of the market more than any other economic system, but the ultimate expression of female liberation is to participate in it. Well, this is a VERY good point. For those people who are critical of capitalism and feminist (a tiny minority of the American population, to be sure) it is a problematic idea indeed that female liberation occurs through participation in the system of capitalist exploitation. However, many anti-capitalist feminists are already aware of that, and are capable of discussing the topic in a much more nuanced way than you realize. I have seen such discussions, and I can tell you, Matt, that there are plenty of anti-capitalist feminists who do NOT criticize SAHMs nor think that careerism is the best expression of feminism.
What a dizzying philosophy these people profess. These people are much more thoughtful than you give them credit for. The opponents with whom you dialogue in these posts are imaginary beings that you yourself have conjured up.
And with this philosophy we haven’t just put the cart before the horse, we’ve severed the cart from the horse completely, and now we’re sitting in the cart waiting for it to gallop off into the sunset. Get to the point. The point is, jobs exist as a means to care for your family. Some jobs are meaningful in their own right, but most, when separated from family, serve no great purpose other than as vehicles for personal advancement. Replace the word "family" with "community" and I agree with you.
What’s the point of personal advancement? The answer is either A) to amass wealth and material possessions for your own enjoyment or B) to be in a better position to use your abilities to serve others. Still agreeing with you. Last time it lasted about 2 paragraphs. Let's see how long it takes you to say something rash and uninformed again.
You, stay-at-home moms, are using your abilities to serve others true, and you’re doing it in the most direct, purest way possible: motherhood.
Beyond all of this, the worst thing about trying to convince women that there’s something wrong with “staying home” is that it fools young girls into being ashamed of their feminine instincts.  AHHH. And this is where it all breaks down. Most of the blog post was a somewhat poor exposition of a reasonable point of view, supported by emotionally-driven personal attacks and mischaracterizations of other people's beliefs. Per usual. Now we've just slid into pure, pure sexism (also not out of character for you, unfortunately).  Most girls are not naturally competitive and ambitious AHHHHHH — at least not competitive and ambitious in the sort of way that men tend to be AHHHHH, the sort of way that has always made men into fighters and hunters and conquerors. AHHHHH
Ok. There is so much I could write to disprove the claims in the previous paragraph. One could easily spend 6 years in graduate school reading all of the relevant biological, psychological, sociological, and anthropological studies. Some of the most interesting come from anthropological observations that gendered behavior is culturally specific. What is considered "masculine" and "feminine" behavior varies across cultures, and of course, there is a lot of variation among men and women within cultures. Also, there is the whole biological complexity of sex and gender, which makes it physically impossible for simplistic binary behavioral divisions to exist apart from socialization (and in pretty much every way possible, human variation is much too complex to be accurately described by a fixed set of categories or binaries). In fact, there is no compelling biological evidence that there is any natural basis for "masculine" and "feminine" traits. I am quite familiar with the science because I have read many of the valid studies. 
But all of that is not as relevant to me as one single question: I am competitive; I am logical; I am more practical than sentimental; I am pretty certain I'm better at math than Matt Walsh; and I wouldn't even be surprised if I am physically stronger than him; does this make me any less fundamentally a woman? (Am I more of a man than Matt Walsh?) This is a question I have struggled with my whole life, and has shaped my views on gender more than anything else. If womanhood is defined by a list of traits that have never in any way applied to me, am I not a woman? Do I have to forget about math and logic and let my muscles atrophy to be a proper woman?
Should Matt Walsh be less emotional in his blog posts to be a proper man?
If we answer "no" to these questions - if I am just as much a woman as someone who fits all the stereotypes - then, in reality, these traits do NOT define the essence of womanhood.
It is a very good thing that women are not this way.
Women naturally desire to love others and sacrifice themselves. They care about relationships. They aren’t as concerned with getting ahead as they are with elevating those around them. Barf. This just sounds like a license for men to be selfish and expect women to always do what they want for them.
None of those characteristics will serve you well in many jobs. They won’t help your “career advancement.” They will only make you vulnerable, and put you at the mercy of your less scrupulous competitors. This is why it is dangerous to see “the professional world” as an end in and of itself. OMG! Women can't handle the workplace!
Thank you, Matt Walsh. You are reminding me exactly why some women want to prove themselves in their careers: men like you tell them that they can't.
But you know all of this. Nope, sorry, don't. The people who don’t know probably won’t be convinced by anything I have to say. Probably because your mix of personal insults and unsupported assertions is not compelling to anyone outside of the choir you are preaching to.
Pay no attention to them.  Never listen to people who disagree with you, Keep yourself in an ideological bubble. They don’t deserve to be taken seriously. People who disagree with you are clearly not good people anyway. They are doody-heads.
Besides, you’ve got better things to do with your time. I probably do have better things to do with my time than read and comment on your blog posts... *shame*

Saturday, January 25, 2014

If I can’t accept you at your worst, then maybe you should stop being so horrible

Matt Walsh writes:

I remember the first time I was awarded the “game ball” in my Little League. I don’t recall the details exactly, but I’m pretty sure my stat sheet looked something like this:

Zero RBIs, zero home runs, zero hits, zero stolen bases, zero plays made on the field, seven errors, four innings spent sitting on the bench.

Most of my team probably performed similarly, but I know we put a few runs on the board, so SOMEONE must have done something notable.

Alas, that kid — whoever he was — got jobbed this tragic afternoon. They gave the game ball to me. You can only imagine how I felt.  Oh. Ok. I know exactly where this is going. I've only heard this discussion 10 million times before, so I suppose I can listen to it again...

That is, confused.

We capped off the season with a trophy ceremony in the local middle school auditorium. One by one, they called every team up to receive their participation awards. You played a game for a few weeks and achieved no amount of success at all! Congratulations on your mediocrity, kid! It was a plastic gold-colored figurine of a guy hitting a baseball. Ironic, really, considering I hadn’t actually made contact with a ball all season.

I still have my pity-trophy, it’s right up there on my pity-mantle, next to my pity-game ball and the mandatory Valentine’s cards I only received because elementary school rules required every child to give one to every other child.

When visitors come by, I show it to them and proudly say, “Look at all of the mandatory recognition showered upon me as a matter of routine policy!”

Then my guests will often cringe and weep, and the evening ends early and uncomfortably.

See, I think all of this nonsense – this “everybody is special, everybody gets to have a trophy, everybody gets a card, everybody gets recognition” idiocy – can produce only two possible results, neither desirable. One, it can make perceptive, self-aware children even more embarrassed and insecure. They know that they are undeserving of these accolades, and they’d rather not be patronized.

If a severely impoverished child wore a burlap sack to school, he would be utterly humiliated if his teacher, with all good intentions, decided to award him the honor of “best dressed.” That’s how many kids feel when their mediocrity is put on a pedestal and treated like it’s something exceptional. They aren’t fooled, as much as they’d like to be.

Then there’s category 2. These kids, perhaps not equipped with the same critical thinking capacities as the first type, will eventually buy into the hype. They will look at those trophies and gold stars, unearned and undeserved, and begin to develop an inflated image of themselves. What is born from this is not confidence, but narcissism and arrogance. These are the kids in possession of the much-heralded “self-esteem.” Indeed, they hold themselves in high esteem. Why? Because they are themselves. They are spectacular, beautiful, athletic, and brilliant, all by their very nature. Whatever they do is the best thing anyone has ever done, simply because it was done by them. Whoever comes in contact with them ought to be grateful for the privilege. Success and happiness is what they are due, and the entire universe is in their debt. They are the people who expect the Lord to descend from heaven and hand them a game ball and a participation trophy every day.

I’m sure you’ve met this type. Actually, no, not really. Maybe you’ve voted for this type. Maybe you work with, or under, this type. Maybe, God help you, they are in your family. Maybe you’ve been in a relationship with them.

Sheesh. I've been surrounded by so much insecurity. Especially in the adolescent and teen years, people around me were starving themselves to lose weight and doing just about anything possible to fit in. Quite frankly, the people I've encountered who have seemed over-confident and egotistical are actually the most insecure of all. It is a defense mechanism of sorts, and it is pretty easy to uncover.

In fact, it seems statistically likely that you have been in a relationship with them. The divorce rate speaks for itself.  I come from a family with several broken marriages, and one really strong marriage. I can say from personal experience that your explanation of the divorce rate is way too simplistic. Beyond that, although there aren’t any statistics (as far as I’m aware) for non-married break ups, it appears obvious that we are experiencing a crisis of failed relationships at every level and in every form. People don’t know how to be in relationships anymore, and I think this epidemic can be traced, at least in part, to the delusions of grandeur we instill in our little snowflakes from an early age.

Shielded from failure, insulated from criticism, covered in emotional bubble wrap, our kids are venturing out into the world with little discipline and even less humility. You can see this manifest in many arenas, but I think it’s most pronounced in the way we approach relationships.

Here’s one example. It’s minor, probably insignificant, but it represents something quite serious. I was perusing my Facebook Newsfeed today and I came across a status that said this:

"Yea I’m a b*tch but deal with it. I wont be with anyone who cant accept all of who I am!!!”

This was a grown woman. Apparently college educated. Older than me.

Here's something to remember about women: we are judged according to stringent but superficial criteria (physical appearance and body type being number one) and historically have been encouraged to be passive and to subsume our entire personality, our entire personhood, into that of our husbands. Keep in mind, that there are millions of reported cases of domestic violence each year. It is often hard for women to leave abusive relationships because they do not believe they are worthy of anyone else.  So, for a woman, "accept me for who I am" often means: treat me like a human being; don't require me to look perfect at all times; let me eat like a normal person; let me be an intelligent person capable of making my own decisions.

It reminded me of a meme we’ve all seen a thousand times. It has a few variations, but it usually goes something like this:

If you can’t accept me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best.

This is such a popular sentiment that it has its own Facebook fan page with over 150 thousand “likes.”
It shows up all the time on memes and illustrations like this one:

untitled (5)

Of course, the original quote is from Marilyn Monroe. It’s even more vapid and nauseating when taken in its full context:

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

Out of all the profundities ever uttered, what does it say about our society that THIS is the quote we’ve decided to take to heart?  Honestly, I don't remember ever hearing this quote before.

It says that we need to read more books.

Also, it says that we are horrible at relationships.

Yes, it’s true that, in a marriage, we must love our spouses in spite of their flaws. It’s also true that we all have flaws. But it’s ALSO true that only an infantile, spoiled, egotistical brat would ever treat a loved one with “her worst” and expect them to deal with it because her “best” will somehow compensate for it.

Newsflash: It’s not OK to be selfish, impatient, and out of control. These traits, while common, are UNacceptable. They should not be accepted, least of all by the people you claim to love. The onus is on YOU to change your behavior and your attitude, not on them to “handle it.” Are you such a gem that they should thank God for the opportunity to be emotionally abused by you, if only it earns them a chance to bask in the glow of your superiority?

Perhaps that’s how you see it, but I’ve never met anyone quite that charming.

This philosophy is poison, and it stretches beyond one offensive quote from a 20th century Playboy Bunny. Often I read or hear people whine that they ‘just want to find someone who will accept them, no matter what.’ But being “accepted” should not be our relationship goal. Healthy relationships are loving, but also challenging, edifying, and even occasionally painful.

Accept. Definition: to receive with approval or favor, to agree or consent to.

Should our selfishness, impatience, and weakness preclude us from being loved? No. But should these traits be “accepted”? Should they be “received with approval or favor”? Should our loved ones “consent” to them?


Big no.

Enormous, loud, screaming no.

Should we scoff at our husbands or wives or boyfriends or girlfriends and flippantly tell them to “handle it,” as we behave in ways that will hurt and offend them?

Good Lord. We must really live in different worlds. Yours sounds terrible. Thank goodness the world I live in has large doses of guilt and remorse.

No. And if you think that — if you REALLY think that — then you shouldn’t be getting into relationships at all. You aren’t ready.

Further, does our “best” (which probably isn’t as great as we imagine it to be) make up for, or negate, our “worst”?

No. Your worst is your worst. Fix it. Be better. Nobody should have to put up with it. Least of all the people you love.

Love is a transformative force, and if you want to experience it you better be ready to change in every way imaginable. My wife does not “accept me”, and thank God for that. She challenges me. She makes me better. In other words, she loves me.

What kind of a pathetic and dreary goal is that, anyway — just wanting to be “accepted”, tolerated, put up with? That’s not why we’re put on this planet. Life is not about gaining “acceptance.” Life is change. It is not static and stagnant, do you really want your relationships to be?

We don’t emerge into the world as eternally entitled princes and princesses. We come into it as naked, crying, helpless babies. Our job is to grow out of that condition. And that will take a lot of changing and a lot of learning about what parts of us are unsuitable and insufficient and unacceptable. Sadly, some of us are unwilling to endure that process, so we never grow, and in failing to grow we fail to live. It’s a tragedy.

Don’t ask anyone to “accept” the bad parts of you. Instead, strive to improve those parts. Put in the effort. Make yourself worthy of the love they’ve offered you.

Forget what you learned in elementary school. The only ”participation trophy” you’re awarded from life is death. That’s the one thing we all get just for showing up. In the meantime, if you want something better, you have to earn it.

That means if you want better relationships, you have to earn them, too.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thank God I wasn’t college material

Matt Walsh writes:

I remember when I first learned that I was destined to be a failure. When you first read one of your blog posts?  Sorry, sorry, couldn't resist...

I think it was ninth grade, or maybe tenth, and I was sitting in afterschool detention. I’d been sentenced to hard time for being late to class, even though I had a valid excuse. See, I was only late because I hated school with a burning passion. I dreaded every class, every assignment, every test, every worksheet, every mound of busywork, every shallow and forced interaction with peers I couldn’t relate to or connect with or understand; every moment, every second, every part, every inch of every aspect of my public educational experience. I hated it. I hated all of it. I was suffocating. You weren't fond of using your brain or trying to understand others? So that's where it all started.  Sorry, sorry, sorry.

It had been ten years of public school up to that point and it wasn’t getting better. It never would, and I knew it. I was able to hang on for a long time, managing adequate grades, even an ‘A’ here and there. I was “passing,” at the very least. But in high school that changed. I started failing and failing miserably. We’d take tests, I’d try my hardest, but often I’d still get zero answers correct. ZERO. Fifty questions — all wrong. It was humiliating. Eventually I earned a reputation. I was the kid who “didn’t care” and “didn’t assert himself.” I decided to go with that image — false though it was – because I’d rather be seen as the smart slacker than exposed as the moron who actually tried and still failed.

So there I was in detention. Stupid me. Lazy me. Disappointing me. The teacher assigned to guard duty tried to rope me into a conversation about “my future.” She asked me about my goals and what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I had no talents or abilities — I’d learned at least that much through ten years of school — but I thought about the one subject that actually came naturally to me: writing. I couldn’t pass a test about the rules of grammar or the parts of speech, or the logical construction of arguments but I could write. I didn’t know HOW to write, but I could do it. Other kids, even the smart kids, struggled to express themselves in written form. I didn’t. It was the only thing I could do. The ONLY thing.

I told her that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be or what I wanted to do with my life, but maybe I could be a writer. She asked me what sort of writer. I told her I didn’t know.

That’s when she dropped the bombshell: “Well, that sounds like an amazing goal, Matt. Get those grades up and go to college for a degree in creative writing!”


I have to go to college to do the one thing I’m kind of halfway good at doing? I have to finish high school and then go through FOUR MORE YEARS OF THIS? Impossible. I’m not college material. I’m not even high school material.

And I have to get a DEGREE in CREATIVITY? Wait, WHAT? Your creativity comes from your own mind and your own heart — you can’t learn how to be creative. Except that creativity hinges on your command of existing cultural productions.  If I can write things, and people want to read the things that I write, shouldn’t I be able to market that ability, regardless of my college experience?

I guess not. People go to college. It’s what people do. Why do they go? Because they need to. Why do they need to? Because there are so many jobs that are only open to people with college degrees. Because it’s what people do. Why? Because they need to. And so on.

I was distraught. I figured I’d better get used to wearing a name tag and working a cash register.

I don’t think I ever mentioned my writing goal to anyone again.

That was about 13 years ago. I never got a writing degree, or any other type of degree. I never went to college. Now the quality of your blog is starting to make sense to me. Now I’m the single wage earner supporting a family of four — by writing.

This is my story. There are millions just like it. Sadly, some of these tales follow a slightly different path. Many times, that kid who’s being choked to death by “formal education” will eventually get suckered into going to college. He’ll go, not because he needs to be there, nor because it’s the best thing for him, but just because. In college you might have learned about gender-neutral pronoun usage. Because because, and that’s all.

So he’ll amass a gigantic debt, miss out on four or five years that could be spent honing his specific skillset, and end up exactly where he could have been, and would have been, without college. Only now he’s 28 thousand dollars in the hole and half a decade behind the curve.  True for a plumber or a musician, perhaps, but a very significant number of jobs require a college degree, and people with a college degree earn almost twice as much as those without one.

Something has to change. Listen to me on this one. Something HAS to change. This can’t continue. It is not a sustainable model. There are millions of kids with no assets, no plans, and no purpose, taking out enormous loans to purchase a piece of paper they’ll likely never use. It can’t go on this way. Most of this is true.

While student loan debt, already over a trillion dollars, continues to set new records every year, so too do college presidential salaries. They essentially dupe gullible young adults into purchasing 90 thousand dollar cars that will sit in the garage and never be driven, and they make out like bandits. Yes, many college presidents get paid an absurd amount of money. But it only accounts for a small fraction of each student's tuition. It is only a symptom, not a cause. Moreover, you are asserting that college graduates do not benefit in any tangible way from their time in college, and that simply isn't true. For example, see above stats about earnings.

I hear plenty about the corrupt hucksters on Wall Street, why aren’t we talking about the wealthy con artists in academia who turn absurd profits by convincing broke kids to bankrupt themselves? Oh come on. Do you seriously think this is all a plot of the billionaire university employees?

I have some news for you: most people in academia don't make all that much money. The number of adjunct professors (people who are underpaid and often don't receive benefits) has risen sharply and is getting closer to matching the number of tenure-track jobs. And tenure-track professors usually don't make all that much, especially for the number of hours they have to work per day.

There are, in fact, a number of reasons why tution is rising. Number one is competition - your beloved invisible hand of the free market. Colleges want to stay up in the rankings and to attract new students - both of which require enormous expenditures on new facilities. (Students just seem to like the state-of-the-art rec centers and higher-cost food services.)  People running colleges and universities are not con artists - they are just trying to keep up with everyone else. Now, I agree, this must stop. It is unsustainable. But there is a whole system at work here.

Furthermore, you have to look at the people who directly benefit from student debt. There are a lot of people outside academia involved in the student debt business. And then there are credit card companies and retailers who specifically target college students, who will spend their loan money on all sorts of crap. A lot of people are preying on college students, and the students themselves are to blame as well.

Obviously it ought to go without saying that some people do need college: doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. Nobody disputes that. But the rest of us must radically rethink our attitudes towards “higher education.”

Too many people are choosing more expensive schools, when lower-cost, lower-prestige schools would suffice. Also, I do agree that some people benefit from not attending college. I have advised a number of people not to attend graduate school for similar reasons. If you have a good job with a bachelors, don't jeopardize things. (Of course, one time my advice turned out to be very wrong.)

Having much experience with higher education, however, I do believe it is beneficial for most people, even when it does not directly impart the knowledge and skills for a specific career. I have taught college freshmen. I have also seen the work of college freshmen taught by other people I know at other universities. While I do believe public schools do their jobs, I also think it is true that the vast majority of students are not equipped for the workplace when they graduate high school. High school is designed more as college prep than preparation for the workplace.

There are 2 key areas in which students are deficient when they graduate from high school. Number one is writing. Many students can't write with any finesse when they start college. (Maybe that is partly the fault of high school education.) Even for those who are stylistically adequate, most cannot lay out a logical argument effectively and do not understand what constitutes valid evidence. In fact, Matt Walsh exhibits these deficiencies on a daily basis. Hence, the reason for this blog. Maybe it is possible to learn these skills outside of college, but it definitely requires guidance of some sort, as well as regular exposure to high quality academic writing. It is much less likely that a person will be an effective writer if they do not attend college. (Matt Walsh is lucky in that he only has to write to an audience of a similar level of education.)

The second area has to do with one's understanding of the world and one's ability to evaluate sources of information. Despite the presence of some groupthink and intra-departmental homogeneity in academia, when one samples courses across disciplines, as liberal arts degrees generally require, one will encounter different ways of organizing human experience and understanding the world. Different areas of higher education have quite different perspectives. Colleges and universities also offer excellent access to the arts, studies abroad, and interactions with peers from different geographic regions and walks of life. I had no interest in theater when I started college, but my roommate was a theater major and all of the plays were free, so that opened up a new world to me.

I have personally experienced in my own life and personally witnessed in others' lives a totally transformed understanding of the world as a result of the knowledge and new experiences acquired in college. When I think back to how limited my perspective was as a high school senior, I laugh, and cringe.

Is it possible for the same thing to happen if one learns outside of college? Maybe. But the research available to students is often not accessible to the general public. There is a big difference between the books in public libraries and university libraries. Books written for public audiences are generally not representative of the fields from which they emerge (there is lots of concern about this in academia) and tend to reinforce commonly-held perspectives rather than challenge them.

Finally - and this gets to the other point - to be able to learn on your own, you need to know how to evaluate sources of information. With the internet, we are totally bombarded with information. If you are just choosing things willy-nilly on your own, you have no idea how to place arguments in theoretical and historical context. You will probably not know the reputation of particular authors or the criticisms of their work. You will not be familiar with the broader principles that have shaped the array of theoretical positions in a discipline. You will likely not understand the material implications of particular points of view.

Being able to evaluate sources of information is actually a very, very difficult skill that college educators spend a great deal of time teaching to their students.

Total student debt has gone up by 275 percent in the last decade. How far will it climb, how many more kids will be thrown to the wolves, before we change direction? Since I was born, college tuition rates have gone up by 500 percent. FIVE HUNDRED PERCENT. Why do we send guys like Bernie Madoff to prison while the academic elite get away with gouging an entire generation to death? Well, let's see. Bernie Madoff was jailed because he broke the law - he took people's money and LIED about investing it. He just took it. Despite what you think, colleges and universities are actually doing things with the money they receive.

This is madness. And there’s only one way to stop it: don’t go to college.

Don’t send your kids to college.

If they aren’t actively pursuing a career that fundamentally requires a college degree, don’t encourage them to go.

We set up an artificial construct in college you would learn the actual meaning of the word 'construct' whereby degrees were suddenly “needed” for things like business, sales, and even writing. This house of cards is beginning to tumble, as employers are realizing that, shockingly, they need people who can actually DO the job. They need talent — not paperwork. New college graduates are left unemployed because they often expect too much and offer too little. No. Trust me. New college grads don't expect much at all. They are unemployed because the economy sucks. And nowadays employers are looking for people with masters degrees to do simple administrative work.

And, all along, whatever society says, and whatever direction the schools push our kids, one fact has always remained: if you want to be successful at something, you must do it and do it well. That’s what I’ll tell my kids when they’re old enough. That’s what I’d like to tell all of my fellow young people. It’s not enough anymore, and I’m not sure it ever was enough, to simply follow the well-traveled roads, accumulate your grades and your degrees and then emerge into the world, waiting for wealth and prosperity to rain down upon you from heaven.  Once again, most of us educated people are just hoping to support ourselves.

You have to put some skin in the game. You have to find your niche and master it. You have to be the best. Conquer it, whatever it is that you want to do. Be better than everyone. Be a visionary while everybody else is checking the handbook. Take risks while everybody else stays cozy and comfortable. Be good at something. Then, once you’re good, become great.

It’s that simple. What world do you live in? It sounds nice. Was it ever more complicated?

Yes, I suppose, but only because we made it so.

Now is the time to unmake it. A lot of kids aren’t college material. And they need to know what a wonderful thing that can be.


An additional note:

Judging from some of the comments, I think this needs to be said: I love learning. I learn new things every day. I read ferociously. Yet you appear incapable of evaluating sources. I absorb information on a wide range of subjects. Yet you appear incapable of critically analyzing that information. One can criticize college without criticizing the concept or act of learning. If you’ve been to college and you think that you can only learn inside the walls of a college, then I pity you. What have you been doing since you graduated? Not learning anything, I guess. I have been learning so much because I acquired the tools I need to learn on my own... in college. Someone below made a snarky comment about how I must think that you can be a writer without reading older writers.

Yes, sir, because you have to go to college in order to pick up a book and read it.

Come on. Obviously I’m not anti-learning. In fact, I think formal education can stifle learning in some cases, for some people. True. We don’t all learn the same way. True. I, for one, learned more in my first three years out of school than I ever learned in school. That’s not the school’s fault, that’s just how I operate. And I’m not alone. That’s the point. That was the point of this whole thing. Thanks for reading

Monday, January 20, 2014

Parents are lazy, uninvolved, stupid, selfish, cowardly jerks. Except for me, of course.

Matt Walsh Writes:

I wrote a post about sex-ed on Thursday. I don’t want to rehash the subject — suffice it to say that I am not a huge fan of “comprehensive sex education.” My reasons are many, but the crux of my argument in this instance rested on the basic principle that government schools have no role in a child’s sexuality. I thought, naively, that such an argument might resonate with many of the left-leaning folks who constantly and loudly proclaim the government to have “no business in our sex lives.” Oh come on, you did not think that. I agree with them, yet it would seem they do not quite agree with themselves. When you have constructed their opinions for them, rather than listening to their actual arguments.
I’d like to show you a quick sample of some snippets of response comments on my blog and Facebook page. See if you can notice a common line of reasoning between them:
Joanne: Too many parents are complete idiots and neglectful in teaching their children basics…
Tobi: It’s more like “hey parents: do your job so schools don’t have to”…
Phanie: Parents should step up to the plate, however many don’t.
Austin: Sex, gender, sexuality, etc all have complexities far beyond the grasp of many parents.
Mary: What about the countless parents that don’t talk to their kids about sex at all?
Nicole: Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world, and there are many negligent and ignorant parents out there.
Amber: Parents often don’t know the facts themselves and pass along inaccurate information.
Pamela: I am public education and I couldn’t agree with you more…one small problem. Parents don’t want to take the responsibility.
Tarcy: …BUT as a teacher who teaches middle school and has dealt with 14 year old pregnant girls it’s sadly needed because many parents don’t talk to their kids at all! Ever!
Jennifer: The assumption is that parents DO their jobs, and as a teacher I am here to let you know……..sadly most don’t :(, including feeding, washing, providing, and yes educating them about sex!
Melody: I agree that this is a topic that parents should be addressing. The problem is parents aren’t willing to talk to their kids.
Brenda: Due to the lack of parental involvement children today are not getting factual information.
Amanda: That would be great if parents were actually responsible for their children!
Gavin: The parents might be the ones who are supposed to be educating the kids, but in most cases they arent…
Alec: I think the problem is strictly with the parents. Schools are stepping up because a large majority of parents try to push their problems on the school.
Toni: Maybe if all parents were responsible even to properly educate their children I would agree with this. But we have public school for a reason.
2nihon: Unfortunately, most Christian parents either ignore the topic entirely or treat sex as a dirty thing and warn their kids against sex before marriage
Leo: Do you ever wander why they teach that? Heck, why they have school and people send their children to school? Because the parent didn’t want to do the teaching.
SRB: Many times it is a parent who is acting inappropriately and these kids need to be armed with the information they need to keep themselves safe and get help if necessary.
In order to evaluate Matt Walsh's claims, I found it necessary it do one thing that I never, never want to do:  read the comments. It was painful and there were a lot of them. What I noticed, however, is that the samples above were cherry-picked and not representative of most comments I saw.
First and foremost, I noticed that the responses did not fall neatly along liberal-conservative lines, as Matt Walsh would have wished and has claimed, especially related to the "bad parents" issue. When it was even possible to tell a person's political leaning, many apparent liberals did not make a "bad parent" argument and instead disputed statements/facts crucial to Matt Walsh's argument (all of which Matt Walsh chose to ignore in this post). Many apparent conservatives/Christians, in fact, made "bad parents" arguments, and plenty supported some version of sex-ed in schools.
So things are more complex than Matt Walsh is willing to admit. More than that, though, Matt is distorting and exaggerating many of these comments (especially in the ensuing analysis). A number of commentors (many of them teachers or others with actual experience in this area) simply pointed out empirical facts that they have observed - for example, that parents aren't talking to their children about these matters, even when given the opportunity, or don't have all the technical knowledge - but not implying that this makes them "bad parents." The biggest reason noted is the honest, well-intentioned desire of the parents to uphold their moral values. It just happens to backfire. Matt Walsh argues, "Please, just give me [as a parent] a chance!" These commentors are saying that parents have the chance, and from their own experience, sex-ed in the schools is more effective. This is an empirical reality that Matt Walsh can't brush away so easily.
Parents are idiots, they don’t take responsibility (in fact, in ”MOST cases” they don’t take responsibility), they can’t understand concepts like sex and reproduction, they don’t talk to their kids, they don’t care, they’re lazy, they don’t do their jobs (“MOST” don’t do their jobs, in fact), they aren’t involved, in MOST cases they won’t teach their own children, they act inappropriately, a LARGE MAJORITY of them push their problem onto the schools, they’re ignorant about the facts of a subject like human reproduction, and they don’t even wash or feed their own kids.
Most of them also pistol-whip puppies and steal from the homeless, presumably.  Exaggerationnnnnnn...
And this is all, for the most part, according to other parents. Other parents who clearly must be the exception to the rule they’ve fabricated out of thin air.
Listen, we have to stop this. It’s insane. We’ve fallen so deeply into this parentphobic mania that some of us are even under the absurd delusion that the public school system was designed to address widespread failures among parents. If parents were any good, we wouldn’t need public schools. Convenient perspective. The very existence of public schools proves the need for the existence of public schools.
Yes, of course, some parents fit these criticisms, but we’ve gone beyond “some” to “most” or even “all” (with the exception of whoever’s making the statement at any particular moment). We are leveling indictments against parents as a whole (again, excepting the specific person who levels the indictment — they’re totally great, the only great parent left in the universe). Actually this directly contradicts what I saw many people saying.
It’s offensive and egotistical, and also untrue. Every culture has its fables. Ours is the one about how parents are largely uncaring, lethargic dimwits.
I’ve never been accused of being optimistic. I’m the last person to put on the rose colored glasses and chase rainbows through flowery fields. I could never be that sort of person. I’m Irish, after all. But even I can look around me and see that most parents are capable. Most parents love their children. Most parents would do anything for their children. Most parents know what’s best for their children.
Show me the parents who do not love their kids — who are absolutely incapable of raising them — and I will show you not the rule, but a tragic aberration.
The more we insist on this idea that millions of parents would flounder and fail without the guiding light of government or the incessant interference of the yammering village, the more we collectively will such a reality into fruition. Can’t you see the vicious cycle here?
First, society yells, and screams, and announces into a bullhorn how woefully inadequate the nations moms and dads have been, are, and will be. Next, other institutions and governmental bodies move in to “pick up the slack.” They cast a wide net, and all of our children are caught in it. Now the vast majority of parents who have the ABILITY and DESIRE to raise their own children are less able to do so, because they have to compete with all of these other forces, with alleged “good intentions,” who are pulling their kids in a thousand different directions.
The problem is this: in order to effectively raise your kids, you have to maintain a special relationship with them. They have to be attached to you, to a certain extent, and they have to look to YOU for guidance, reassurance, and love. They have to be oriented towards you and by you, their compasses have to be set according to you. You must be their North Star, their light in the darkness, their trail in the woods. The more the government, the schools, the media, the peanut gallery, and their peers intrude, the more difficult it is to maintain that relationship. These other entities, whether they want to or not, will inevitably dim the light and alter the compass. The autonomous, sovereign unit of the family will be usurped, and your voice will become just another, lost in the chaos and the noise.
So, here's the thing about the sovereignty of the nuclear family: this idea is not ancient. It cannot be traced back to the Bible (patriarchal, nomadic, tribal societies did not operate on such a basis... as you might guess from the injunction for men to marry their dead brothers' widows). The idea that the nuclear family is the basic unit of society is, in fact, a modern conception, in every sense of the word modern. It is primarily the result of the emergence of new economic, political, and other institutional domains that eroded the importance and functioning of the community as a social unit. In fact, this erosion of community effectively shifted burdens, particularly related to child-rearing, and concenrated them into smaller units. This isn't sooo bad if that smaller unit happens to be financially well-off, but god help any that aren't.
The whole concern with the "traditional family" - bringing this into the conservative Christian agenda - was part of the process of the political Right coopting and manipulating evangical Christians to expand their power base, which began in the 1970s.
From an anthropological perspective, the nuclear family is not equipped to be the primary social unit in most situations. (The one exception is small family farms. Even here, extended family situations are more likely.) Although this is true even in hunter-gatherer societies, it is especially true in societies with a very complex division of labor - i.e. OURS.
Let's limit this discussion to education, though. Most (yes, most) parents are not qualified to provide a comprehensive high school education for their children. This is not because they are stupid. Even a single teacher or two teachers could not provide an entire high school education. Specialization is necessary because the knowledge gets technical and complex. My parents are intelligent and they were terrific parents, but I would NOT have wanted to learn calculus or AP physics or any foreign language from either of them. My dad could do a great job with AP psychology, and a pretty fair job with the humanities and history. My mom could handle biology and chemistry. Neither of them could teach me math. (As it happens, my knowledge of high school math helps support me financially.)
Parents can't do everything, not because they are incompetent, but because society is far too complex, technical, and specialized. Also, because, except for the very well-to-do, both parents have to spend a significant amount of their time earning money. Placing more responsibilities and burdens on parents hurts poor children the most.
So, society, you want me to take care of my own kids? Great. Sounds like a plan. Now back off for five seconds and give me a chance, alright?
It’s a daunting thing to be new parents, trying to find a footing in this world, to stake our claim, to shelter and care for our children, to raise them as we think they ought to be raised, while seemingly everyone, from every corner, takes advantage of every occasion to remind us how helpless and impossible the task is, and how likely we are to fail.
Parenting is a minefield these days. It’s harder now than it’s ever been. I feel confident in saying that because there has never been a time in human history when parents have been made to deal with this level of competition for their children’s hearts and minds. Every time our kids walk outside, turn on the TV, go on the Internet, take the bus to school, they are immediately bombarded with a million voices, from a million places, trying to change them and use them and influence them in a million ways. Buy this! Do this! Wear this! Eat this! Try this! Say this! Listen to this! Believe this! Think this! Be this! Become this!
It’s relentless.
It never ends.
It never stops.
They never shut up.
I’m sure it wasn’t a breeze raising kids on the old frontier, but at least you knew that YOU would be the one raising them. Sure, you’ll all probably die of cholera next week, but until then you’ll be a unit. Together. A family.
Now, the entire deck is stacked against the family. There are powerful agents out there that want nothing more than to drive a wedge into the middle of our homes, undermining our authority and distancing us from our sons and daughters.
This is the landscape. It’s hazardous, dangerous, and difficult. And how do we react? By cannibalizing each other. Parents are the problem! Really? I don’t think we even give the parents a chance to be “the problem.”
There’s a lot behind this epidemic of parent-blaming. Projection, for one. Arrogance, another. Also collectivism.  Wha??? We are suffering from this collectivist disease hahahaha yeah, America is soooo collectivist that leads us to blindly accept the great lie that our children should all be of a certain, useful sort. We’ve concocted The Standard, and children who fall short are defective, while their parents are incompetent. Ohh, I understand now. Matt Walsh doesn't know what 'collectivism' is. Having a vibrant community support system does not entail conformity.
Many — the “bad” parents, I guess — don’t accept The Standard. We have our own goals for ourselves and our kids. Mine, for instance, is to raise my children to love God. That’s all I want for them. Everything else is either a distant second or completely irrelevant.  Good for you, but the rest of society has an objective interest in ensuring that your children don't, say, contract and spread around a bunch of infectious diseases. What you choose to do with your children does impact the rest of society, as much as you would like to believe your family exists in a vacuum.
But I don’t owe an explanation to anyone. And neither do you.
Parenting is a rough enough sport already, without the entire country jumping on the dog pile. It would be a much less "rough sport" if you had more community involvement, actually...
So lay off the parents, everybody. We’re trying our best out here, and you’re only making it harder.