Jon D. Schaff is professor of political science at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota where he teaches courses on American politics and political thought. He is author of Abraham Lincoln’s Statesmanship and the Limits of Liberal Democracy (SIU Press) and co-author of Age of Anxiety: Meaning, Identity, and Politics in 21st Century Film and Literature (Lexington Books). He lives in Aberdeen with his wife and four children.
All education programs enculturate students. There is no neutrality here. The question is not whether education will form our students, but how they will be formed. Proverbs (22:6) says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Any curriculum and set of standards will base itself on certain ideas about the nature of the human person, how persons are shaped, and what kind of person society needs.
Beneath these critiques of the American medical system and the biological mysteries of the human body throbs a more existential question: How does one deal with suffering? These are some of the most moving parts of Douthat’s book. He finds himself literally prostrate before the altar seeking some meaning in his suffering.
As a new school year begins, Jon Schaff takes stock of the effects of Covid on education. Learning is relationship, and, if the point of college, as the very term “college” implies, is to come together for the enterprise of learning, that coming together has to be more than a name or face on a screen.
We do not need reminding of how bitter, partisan, and polarized American politics is today. In order to have a community, people need to hold some things in common. America in 2020 is increasingly a nation of people who share a geography while holding wildly differing values.
The global middle class of Kotkin’s subtitle must unite with the working class for a new Magna Carta for the 21st Century, one that will, in Lincoln’s words, make us “independent of crowned-kings, money-kings, and land-kings.”
Let us not, however, in our haste to condemn Reno for his imprudent practical advice, ignore the truth of the underlying point. Religious believers hold that there is more to existence than this material life.