The Post Millennial Opinion: Newer generation requires discipline, moral agency and maturity

The Post Millennial - Tuesday October 17th, 2017

Last August, two law professors, Amy Wax and Larry Alexander, wrote an op ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer arguing that the 1950s prescription for success – get an education before you marry; marry before you have children; try to stay married for the sake of your family – was still the best recipe for success.

As well, they said, young people should “work hard and avoid idleness,” and “eschew substance abuse and crime.” They pointed out that indifference to these positive behaviours is linked to low rates of workforce participation, declining educational achievements and widespread substance abuse.

There should be nothing contentious in these conclusions, which many credible sociological studies have confirmed. In my own research, for example, which has focused on the importance of fathers to children and the deleterious effects of their absence, I have seen a solid peer-reviewed consensus emerge of a causal link between father absence and poor social outcomes in children, including greater likelihood of quitting school, substance abuse, promiscuity and gang affiliation.

Moreover, as a product myself of these “bourgeois norms” which I have successfully transferred to my children, I see nothing controversial in them. These are precepts that anyone, rich or poor, of any race or culture, can follow. In fact, immigrants from other cultures, such as India and China, adhere to these behaviours as a matter of course, which doubtlessly contributes to their rapid rise to prosperity and general success in their adopted western countries.

Nevertheless, the op ed aroused visceral anger amongst what we might term by now the “usual suspects,” with action to drive it home. At the University of Pennsylvania, where co-author Wax teaches, the Penn Law School dean, responding in the school’s newspaper, characterized Wax’s views as “divisive, even noxious.” A full half of Wax’s law faculty colleagues denounced her in a public letter, encouraging her students to report any instances of “bias or stereotype.” She was accused of white supremacy, misogyny and homophobia. There were even demands she be fired.

Co-author Alexander teaches at what is, allegedly, the less-politicized University of San Diego, a Catholic institution. But even at USD, a campus-wide memo issued by Stephen Ferrule, the dean of USD’s law school, circulated expressing harsh disapproval of the article, with offers to step up measures to combat “racial discrimination and cultural subordination” experienced by “vulnerable, marginalized” students.

“Vulnerable” and “marginalized” is code for students of colour. In their article, Wax and Alexander had written something true, but nevertheless bound to get them into trouble: that not all cultures were “equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy.” These are highly triggering words for progressives, who hew to the multiculturalist party line that all cultures are equally worthy and none may be judged by western (white) standards.

The authors had not said and did not mean that “white” culture was superior to black culture, though. By “culture” they meant lifestyle habits: The inner cities are not reflective of the entire black population of the U.S.

Middle class blacks practice bourgeois norms and achieve goals commensurate with their white middle-class peers, while many underclass whites, more dispersed throughout the general population, demonstrate the self-limiting habits that prove to be obstacles to success. The authors were deliberately misunderstood by ideologues that see racism in every well-intentioned reference to the “underclass.”

The impulse to condemn and to punish any and all social observers who call for some degree of discipline, moral agency and maturity amongst a demographic mired in cyclical dysfunction – disproportionately black, to be sure, but that fact should not preclude honest exchange on remedies – may embellish anti-truth activists’ satisfaction in their personal righteousness. But it does nothing to help those who truly are vulnerable and marginalized to break the cycle of immiseration they are trapped in.

And above all the hypocrisy of this elite academic mob is what is so depressing. Those denouncing Wax and Alexander the loudest are those who hold positions of influence because their parents, and they themselves, made the traditional lifestyle choices the alleged miscreants endorse. Yet, by their actions and words, they discourage those who could most benefit from adopting them. This is the very epitome of the soft bigotry of low expectations from blacks by white progressives. In a word, racism.