At its core, America-Lite seeks an answer to the question of how we arrived at a point in American history where a man who has, at best, a rudimentary understanding of American and world history could be elected president.
“It’s hard to believe,” David Gelernter writes, “but the man we have elected president of the United States doesn’t know what he’s doing. … He has so often spoken and acted as if he didn’t know what he was doing, hadn’t mastered the minimum job requirements, that at last we have to face the truth. The man doesn’t know enough to be president.”
From mentioning “Polish death camps” to banishing Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office to claiming that the Supreme Court hasn’t overturned a law on economic grounds since the end of the Lochner era to pronouncing that the “private sector is doing fine,” Obama’s gaffes are more than just that. They betray a basic ignorance of the ways in which the world works and the fact that undergird reality.
But President Obama has all the necessary credentials. Certainly Obama himself—who claims more knowledge of Judaism than any president ever and once told a reporter that he could do his staff’s jobs better than they can—would disagree. An Ivy League education confers some semblance of authority, even still.
As Gelernter points out, that line of argument is what’s balderdash. The “Imperial University,” as he terms it, is no more interested in educating the populace than Obama is interested in acknowledging his failures. As Gelernter notes in this examination of the evolution of the modern university system, the Imperial University exists to indoctrinate, not to educate.
“Conservatives believe that today’s liberals are ideologues,” Gelernter writes. “They have not grasped the colossal, terrifying truth. The words and actions of President Obama, and of many in his administration, don’t even rise to the level of ‘ideological.’ Older liberals are ideologues, but modern Airhead liberals from Obama on down base their worldview, their political shtick, and all their intellectual bookings on ignorance.”
The modern progressive—indeed, the modern progressive movement—rarely stops to think why their goals are right. Whether it’s government-provided healthcare, mandating “diversity” while shunning intellectual competitors, or believing in the primacy of the international order over leading first and letting other nations fall into line, they brook no arguments. If you disagree with the left, if you point out their intellectual weakness or the way in which their means undermine their goals, you are to be, at best, ignored.
More likely, you’re to be destroyed. Just ask Naomi Schaefer Riley, who dared question the legitimacy of “black studies” as a university subject and was hounded from her post at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Or the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which was subjected to a barrage of attacks after it dared to not renew funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.
It has become easier for the left to ignore hard truths and cover up inconvenient facts than acknowledge how wrong their vaunted theories are. “This game of we-all-know-but-can’t-say sounds like harmless fun, but it leads to the kind of automatic self-censorship among younger people that’s characteristic of police states,” Gelernter writes. And it’s only going to get worse: “Every year [sees] a new group of students emerge for whom the message of revolution seemed less like radical left-wing politics and more like simple truth.In Modern America, the left gets its way not by convincing people but by indoctrinating their children.” (Emphasis Gelernter’s.)
Gelernter has a one-point solution for reversing this tide—and a one-point plan for accomplishing that solution. “American education is in the hands of liberal airheads. Take it away from them.” How to do this? “Focus on Internet education!”
“True, the top schools will continue to wield huge influence,” he writes. “But reborn grade schools will produce students who are not the ignorant, half-baked pushovers of today. And the [education] schools will steadily weaken.”
This plan is fine enough, though perhaps still a decent distance in the future. As an intermediate step, local districts should strip ed schools of their economic justification: take away the pay bump that teachers receive for earning their master’s degree in education. Most school systems automatically bump teachers with a master’s degree onto a higher track of pay despite the fact that there is no statistical correlation between a teacher’s performance and their earning a master’s degree.
Remove the economic incentive for attaining a graduate degree in education, and teachers will stop getting them. Decrease attendance and eventually the schools will shutter. Shuttered education schools means fewer elementary school teachers indoctrinating their students with nebulous ideas of social justice and more students learning reading, writing, and ’rithmetic (not to mention science, history, and other oft-neglected subjects).
Wittily written and provocatively, muscularly argued, Gelernter’s book ends on a note of optimism that America can regain its footing after losing its way under the sway of the Imperial University. If his optimism is to win out, change must come soon: Universities are churning out far more Barack Obamas than the union can bear.