We don’t call it “decadence” so it’s different…

There’s a lot that’s begun happening in the past few days, namely the French invasion of Mali and the explosion of cissexist polemics and excellent responses in the UK. Unfortunately, I think both of those stories need more time to develop before I can write about them. So, as an interlude, let’s point and laugh at David Brooks’ syllabus for the class he’s been invited to teach at Yale.

First off, let’s all chortle over the fact that Brooks has including his own work in the assigned reading courses, both as part of the initial, introductory readings and at the end. Not only is that an academic faux pas, it’s also unbelievably funny, since the course is so ‘wittily’ titled “The Humility Course.”

Secondly, let’s get serious and note the fundamental core of Brooks’ argument is essentially no more sophisticated than screeching “DECADENCE!” at people he views as his political antagonists. His point I think is most succinctly expressed in the second and third weeks’ summaries, which explain, “We will explore the cultural shift that took place between 1950s and today against the character code of the old elite, including the thinking of Carl Rodgers and a more meritocratic system […] What have been the effects of this cultural shift? Has there been a rise in narcissism?”. Yes, Brooks is seriously arguing that the modern culture of the US became “narcissistic” because of the meritocracy that the New Deal and other reforms established. Pay no attention to Reagan, that object of cultic fixation who began dismantling the safety net, apparently.

Third, let’s laugh a little at realizing that this is the best he’s got. I think David Brooks is many things, but I doubt he’d go into teaching at Yale without as much preparation as he could. No, this is the fruit of his labors, which asks, “How was MLK and the civil rights movement influenced by Niebuhran thought?”. The obvious answer is very little, other than Martin Luther King once saying that Niebuhr had made a good point that “groups tend to be more immoral than individuals”. Meanwhile, Niebuhr was busy avoiding involvement in the civil rights movement, since the philosophy he developed is basically “screw it all, I’ll just let the world be terrible.” There’s also the added ‘hilarity’ of a White man teaching about how another White man supposedly informed and influenced the civil rights movement.

(Undergraduate tuition in Yale has begun increasing exponentially. Graph from here.)

Glad to see that’s going to such good use.

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