Saturday, April 28, 2018

A Very Typical Social Conservative Narrative

I've liked Rod Dreher for years. I think I have an intuitive understanding of what his Benedictine Option means, and that was very similar to the ethos my two older children were raised in.  At least, until they went to private Christian schools that had some ill-considered approaches, and I had to start balancing the discussion by leaning in a different direction.  I think Dreher has some brilliant insights and important reminders.


You saw that "but" coming, I imagine.

I think he oversells the effect of culture enormously.  I would have agreed with him in 1979, and maybe 1989. There are too many things I can shoot down now, and too many claims that certain cultural practices have a high success rate - and we used to do those things in the Good Olde Days - that we can't really provide good evidence for.  And as a person who has been reading and writing social histories of psychiatric patients for forty years, I can assure you that we did not do in the Good Olde Days what we think we did.  I had some advantage in that to begin with.  When other parents would rail about the terrible environments and temptations that children were exposed to in the 1980's and 1990's that we didn't have to face in our day, when children were polite and minded their teachers, I would wonder how their memories were so bad. Or wonder if my upbringing had been particularly horrible and dangerous.  My children were far more sheltered than I (though less sheltered than my wife). On purpose.

And yet...

Those who have long read here saw the "and yet" coming as well.

Dreher makes points that I strongly, shoutingly, fist-poundingly agree with here, in his The Therapeutic Is Our Ultimate Terrorist essay. If he makes them amidst some other things I don't entirely sign onto, that's just the price to pay.  BTW, I can read his mind what CS Lewis books and essays he is tracing some of these ideas back to, though others are not reminiscent of Lewis at all.


james said...

Does recording the histories of psychiatric patients introduce some sampling bias in measuring what happened in TheGoodOldDays? My personal history certainly did: a large chunk of my youth was spent overseas. The parents were brighter than average and if children misbehaved dramatically enough the family might be deported. The Westerners around me were a somewhat restricted sample.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

It does, yet it does offer a window into the rest of the world. A basement or attic window, perhaps, but still real. One gets to see the story behind the story of prominent and respectable families: school principals, mayors, clergy, titans of industry and the like.

Also, it reminds us that the less-respectable have always been with us. People's memories of what their childhood schools and towns were like, contrasting them to what they read about today, are themselves a sampling bias. I have a friend who insists that children were much more obedient and motivated in her day. She hung with the AP and church-youth-group crowd at a suburban highschool. They likely were much more obedient and motivated than the average kid today.