I just finished two books helpful (I might almost say, “essential”) to understanding the plight of American culture. The first, I’ll Take My Stand is the classic Agrarian manifesto. In the last essay, Stark Young writes that we cannot, nor should we try, to recover Southern culture. But, there was much good in it that we should not jettison in our wild pursuit of modern technology, decadent fashion, and frenetic individualism.
We live in a peculiar part of the South, south of Raleigh, where the South and the North flow into each other like the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Reading this book helped me understand the virtues and weaknesses of both cultures.
Living in an area dominated by computer technologies, I found this incisive: “Motor-cars, talking pictures, the radio, labor-saving devices, possessed amazingly great potentialities for the extension and enrichment of the leisure one might devote to humane pursuits. At some point, however, one would commence to regard these things not as means, but as ends in themselves, to become dependent upon them to be one’s leisure and social activity; beyond this point it could be reasonably expected that one would only become progressively enslaved to them” (Henry Blue Kline, “A Study In Individualism”). How many people work at jobs which only exist to keep all our labor saving technology running? How many people are required to run computers which make our life “easier”?
The other book was a random find, a college text-book. Normally, I avoid text-books like CCM, but this one was quite good. It’s brief, the author’s credentials are unassailable, and he doesn’t have a Christian agenda. This is all the more interesting because his book is a history of how Americans have placed faith in schools to solve all of society’s woes. Henry J. Perkinson, in The Imperfect Panacea, demonstrates how this faith has failed throughout our history. Beyond giving a brief, but comprehensive, of American education, Perkinson also provides additional evidence for R.J. Rushdoony’s thesis in The Messianic Character of American Education.
Although Perkinson offers a post-modern answer to the problem (since there are no Ultimate Answers, the only thing we can do is teach kids to be critical thinkers), he does show that the Titanic is sinking: “But in the twenty-first century perhaps the only way Americans can shore up their lagging faith in education is to move beyond the public schools” (302).