Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lost World

We visited alma mater back in the blue Northeast this week, returning child #1 to school after spring break. We met with one of our honored old teachers. Mrs. G. and I reminded him that he has said in an interview that country music seemed to be about a lost world, in which people married, raised kids, went to church, worked hard, honored America, and grew old together. Given a chance to talk about it, we offered that we lived in that world in small-town Kentucky. Our daughter, who is having a wonderful time and learning a great deal, nonetheless feels the loss of ideological diversity compared to her high school. She said she is used to having Republicans to argue with; now she is at a school where even the head of College Republicans is a Democrat. The political argument there is intra-left, as for example when the five different homosexual organizations fought over how sexually explicit the "coming out day" chalk drawings should be.

I have learned to like country music since moving here, in part because it includes the stories of people over 25, especially the great majority of people who marry and have kids. Small towns are not really conservative - they have the range of views that we find in the country as a whole, as the letters to the editor section of the local paper can attest.

Swarthmore, and academic world in general, are not a lost world, so much as an artificial world, a bubble even within their own counties. Danville, and the thousands of small towns like it, are not a lost world – they are the regular world. And much as I love alma mater, and always will, I am glad to be home.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. I listen to a lot of country music and I am not sure I recognize your desciption of it. The country music I know and love is very often dark and brooding. It takes stuff like sin, death, broken promises, and even the possibility of redemption very seriously. Yes there are the love songs but often they are right next to a murder song.

I have a live album by Ray Wylie Hubbard from about 10 years ago where he makes the point that Ralph Stanley killed more people in song than Ice T (I may have the rapper wrong) ever thought of putting in his stuff.

Or take Loretta Lynn's last album, Van Leer Rose. There is the title song which is an upbeat love song. But there is also a song about a one night stand in Portland. And "Women's Prison", a song told from the perspective of someone strapped in the electric chair. I think for killing her husband and his lover.

Gruntled said...

Sure -- the lost world is not utopia, but reality. A reality for grownups, not just people the age of pop/rock/rap singers. And actually my professor's main point was that he lives in a social world in which marriage, kids, work, country, and faith are not discussed, or are even disparaged. He was drawn to a genre that treated such subjects, because most popular genres don't.

Anonymous said...

What does this say about the nature of academia today? If the "top" colleges in the US have very little ideological diversity, should they be/are they really the top colleges in the country?

This calls for affirmative action: recruit conservatives at the "top" colleges and universities. See how "liberals" like that.

Gruntled said...

I favor hiring more conservatives. I think ideological diversity on the faculty is a good thing for students. Student diversity, though, depends more on which students want to come. I am confident that Swarthmore does not discriminate against conservative student applicants, but I would guess that most self-select out.

VP said...

Our college hosted an panel discussion on "Is there room for diversity at Scholastica?"

It seemed an odd question. The region has very little ethnic diversity; there's more of it on campus than anywhere else. Our school's policy and practice is to the left of the teachings of the Church that sponsors the school. Whence the question?

A colleague jokingly said that the answer was, "Sure, as long as you're not to the right of the leftists." Unfortunately, I think that's true. At least among Catholic colleges, one has the choice of teaching at the small number of very conservative schools where the lack of diversity is purposeful and formalized, and the large number of liberal schools where the lack of diversity is covert and enforced through social norms.

Gruntled said...

Yes, in most of academia "diversity" means "different colored liberals." I think students would benefit from a wide range of views held by people who insist on being civil to one another. Any school that institutionalizes this well should make it their main selling point to prospective students.