The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties, by Christopher Caldwell
Caldwell, a Senior Fellow with the Claremont Institute, has spent many years analyzing and reflecting on the liberal uprising of the 1960s and its unforeseen consequences, and this book is a survey of that work. To understand the points he makes about where we have been for the past half century is to understand the underpinnings of the cultural divide that has polarized the country. Put simply, he attributes this divide to the divided political loyalties of two groups of opinion leaders–those whose loyalties rest with the founding U. S. Constitution of 1788 and those whose loyalties rest with the “Constitution of 1964”, given life by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The former of the two is primarily ordered by liberty and the latter is ordered toward equality.
Most of the unforeseen consequences he identifies stem from the radical implications of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, which greatly undermined the principle of “freedom of association”, along with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which drastically altered the nation’s demography. In fact, one of the key quotes in the book is from John Stuart Mill: “Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities”, and Caldwell notes that whites in particular failed to foresee the radical implications of these revolutionary changes, which to some extent color almost every cultural issue of our time, wrapped as they often are in the battle between liberty and equality and the two constitutions.
The Lost History of Western Civilization, by Stanley Kurtz
This book is a report for the National Association of Scholars on the effort in American higher education, primarily from the left, to discredit and essentially eliminate studies in Western Civilization from the core curriculum. The battle reached high relief at Stanford University in 1987 when then presidential candidate Jesse Jackson led a rally in the university’s central plaza with students marching and chanting “Hey hey ho ho, Western culture’s got to go”. By 1988, Stanford had cancelled its very popular Western Civ course and the battle was engaged. Another spark had been provided 1n 1985 by Allan Bloom’s very popular book, The Closing of the American Mind, a scathing indictment of the undermining of the traditional curriculum across the country, the centerpiece of which had been Western Civilization studies. The fight rages on, and the traditionalists have not won many battles, but there is still hope on many campuses who refuse to throw in the towel. Kurtz tells the story well and I don’t think one can read this book without coming away with the conclusion that the undermining of Western Civilization studies in our leading institutions over the past several decades is a primary cause of the lack of depth of our college students’ education and the hollowing of their souls.