tv Book Discussion on The State of the American Mind CSPAN August 16, 2015 2:30pm-4:03pm EDT
governorship. kentucky senator rand paul calls for smaller government in his book taking a stand. in american dreams, marco rubio outlines his plan to advance economic opportunity. bernie sanders, his book, the speeches composed of his eight hour long filibuster against tax cuts. in blue-collar conservatives rick santorum argues the republican party must focus on the working class in order to retake the white house. donald trump has written several trucks books and times get tough he criticizes the obama administration and outlines his vision.
scott walker in on intimidated he argues republicans must offer bold solutions that have the courage to implement them. virginia senator james webb looks back on his time serving in the military. vice president joe biden by announce his presidency and he looks back on his career in politics. chris christie and martin o'malley have not release books. >> coming up next on book tv, publisher adam bellow and mark powerline argue that america's intellectual habits are in decline.
>> can we begin? >> welcome everybody, can i be hurt? may i be heard? amid the herd, the hurt of independent minds. hello everybody. i like a captive audience but this feels like a captive panel. welcome everybody and thank you for coming. am i over amplify? people have been telling me that for years. welcome to our panel discussion
on "the state of the american mind", the fact that you shown up here proves that you have minds whether you have minds american minds proves to be seen. i want to thank the templeton press for commissioning mike kollek mark powerline and myself to edit and compile this volume. i want to say a special note of thanks to mark the passing of our good friend dr. jack templeton, whose whose friend who's idea was to do this book. as you may know he died recently, he was the head of the templeton foundation and a person who i knew somewhat, and it was my great pleasure to know him. he was a person of deep and serious interest in this book came out of a very deep concern that he had about the state of
america as a cognitive and intellectual enterprise. he understood, as many of us do that america's is a nation founded on ideas, that the citizenship depends upon intellectual clarity and engagement and in a sense a grasp of the nation's founding principles. we are born americans but in a sense we become americans through our education and experience, and through the way which we seek to embody the principles of the founding and of the american heritage in our lives in a variety of ways. so i know ten and not of thanks and appreciation to jack. now to the subject at hand. i will begin by reading or quoting a sentence that may be familiar to many of you, it's a sentence i grew up with in my
years, a sentence written by my father, i made hope i am forgiven for beginning this way because yesterday was his 100th birthday in his very much in my mind. i am an american, chicago born and go at things as i have taught myself, freestyle. now the sentence goes on, i won't put the whole paragraph in reason i bring this up is that sentence was written by an immigrant, somebody raised in montréal speaking russian, yiddish, yiddish, french and english as an afterthought. he became an american and he became a writer, he was a jewish writer, he was a 20th century writer and above all he considered himself to be an american writer and in his breakthrough novel he crafted a statement of what he considered
to be the quintessential. he spent the rest of his life elaborating upon that and exploring what it meant to be an american, to have an american mind, and to increasing in the latter part of his life, when i came along and became not just his son, but in a way his student, which is a privilege i enjoyed. he shared with me, and i shared with him his concern about the direction of the country and was happening to america. was america still america? the focus for him, because he was a writer was on the state of reading. did american story? what did they get out of it? it wasn't just a question whether the novel would survive, and any recognizable form but whether the literary public would survive. for him there was a real connection real
connection between the idea of an literary public and the idea of america as a republic, as a self-governing society in which every person had a responsibility to think through certain foundational issues and questions for themselves. i want to turn to the introduction to this volume which is co- edited by myself and mark powerline and i want to thank mark for carrying the ball on much of this. some of the sentences i read are his, you can decide for yourself whose are better. hector st. john wrote the american is a new man who acts upon new principal, you you must therefore entertain new ideas and form new opinions. tocqueville can visit to accept
tradition only as a means of information and existing fact only as a lesson to be used in doing otherwise and doing better. he sees the recent of things for oneself and to oneself alone. we go onto say that say that emerson called itself alliance at nothing at last is sacred but the integrity of your mind. i can't help feeling that the event. what is the american mind? in her introduction we acknowledge that the american mind to something with a history. it wasn't fixed and static, it has certain characteristics that we have just identified but some of the major themes that we find are consistent and the american mind, the american mentality, includes independent thought and action. these are models on ben franklin
who we fill is the epoch on of the american mind and its original manifestation, independent independent thought and action, industriousness, delay gratification, equal opportunity but as well the american mind possesses a you must remember the declaration of independence, along with the bible and the stories of the pioneer experice. we find religious and economic liberty, fundamental, substituents of the american mind. but american mind. but there 70, the idea of limited government, the reference for local control, individualism balanced by commitment to civic virtue and participation. these are all qualities of the american mind. >> so these are the ingredients
of the american mind. and character, now we skip ahead to the question of who are we, are we still americans in the way we think and if not why not? what's happened. our point of departure for this discussion is the wonderful book, the closing of the american minds polish by adam bloom in 1987 in which bloom summarized the threat. it's a good thing this is a live yes that i've been given restrictions with my like. what should i do, should should i stepped to the podium? should just go and speak. you see the integrity and the industriousness of the american
mind. [laughter] which i do not exemplify hardly. i was a student available and i was privileged to him very well personally. he wrote "the closing of the american mind" and my father's kitchen table and vermont fueled by bottomless cups of espresso and french cigarettes. i had been his student and was familiar with his argument point of view. when he was preparing to publish the book, which i had read, i said what will happen when this book is published question mark to think will pay attention? he settled just be like this trial of socrates, i'll be accused of disrespecting the gods and corrupting the youth. and that's exactly what happened. i never saw him enjoy himself more. he had the entire country at his feet as though he was teaching a national seminar, he put himself forward gladly and bravely to engage and do
battle on behalf of what he considered to be essential in american outlook which he identified. the book was about the threats to the american mind in this way of thinking and being that is american and primarily he found the threat in european materialism, multicultural movements which questioned the value of the western and the value relativism that dissents from the european materialist tradition. what was clear was there is an interesting reaction to me and i have to say was the reaction to bloom's book that started me on my career as an editor, someone who is been publishing books for 27 years and has eyes been interested in bringing out these
issues. there is a lot of simple incomprehension, what is this man talking about? that in itself was very revealing, it showed how far we had come from the integrity of the common culture and the common educational heritage. now it's years later and bloom's concerns have been worn out. we we are farther and farther away from anything that most of us in the room would recognize as a unitary culture, something that is recognizably connected to the founding of the american tradition, the american literary and traditional and philosophical heritage is practically loss. so we come as sort of a rearguard, which is where more conservative is like to be
ultimately. to look back into look squarely at where we are and because market, and i and susan on how to do this project it was important to get an accurate picture of where we are as a society, as a culture. we wanted the book to be based on fact, knowledge, quantifiable information to the extent it can be quantified. to begin by giving an accurate picture of "the state of the american mind", so we gather together a wonderful group of contributors, all deeply versed in the field of specialty and we asked them to contribute from their perspective and essay explaining what they see happening in their field of specialty. one of the great privileges and fun part of doing a book like
this is the opportunity to bring people together and actually talk. have a conversation about our common concern and what were trying to get at here. what we're going to do today, we have four of our contributors inc. including dean mark r editor going to introduce each of our participants, they will will each give a short presentation, we'll have a conversation amongst ourselves and then we'll open it up to questions from the audience. i hope people will be engaged, i'll begin with mark. for those of you who don't know him, mark powerline has a phd in english from ucla, he has taught at emory university and has served as director of the office of research and analysis, he is senior editor at a magazine and
author of a number of books including the dumbest generation how the court don't trust anyone under 30. you don't even have to read the book now. so mark marks contribution is after an essay and what every american needs to know. we asked prof. hirsch to look back on his publication of that book and a reaction to that and give us a sense of where we are today, i will ask mark to give us a sense of what dr. hirsch had to say but i also want to ask him to talk about the subject of his essay, cultural iq, a provocative provocative formulation. i would like to know what you mean by that. >> thank you, and thanks to for
hosting this. i came to ai many times and sat in the chair in the back and is an education so what is cultural iq? it is simply the amount of knowledge you have in the world, past and present. things beyond your immediate circumstances, your personal lives, your social lives. it is not abstract reasoning which we often identify with iq and the iq tests are often question such as when you get a series of four or five numbers and then you have to pick the next number based on some numerical pattern. cultural iq has to do with the content of your minds. what are the things you're familiar with, again beyond your
immediate circumstances and for the american context it becomes how much american history do you know. how much do you know about the structure of government? how much how much do you know about current events. how often do you find your mind drifting beyond your personal circumstances to address a bill pending before congress? how much much do you know about the history of american literature? and so on, these things are measured by the exams that we have for example exams in u.s. history and civics, it is also measured by reading exams such as the sat, and the act. these are for 12th graders who get passages and you have to answer questions about those passages and they often contained knowledge and information about faraway things, the more you know about the subject matter of that sub
passage, the better you will perform. that. that said, where are we on this? i imagine i don't have to rehearse the disappointing scores that we get every time it is administered to 12th-graders and in particular, whereby they take the u.s. history exam, roughly 50 to 55% of 12th graders score below basic, which let's just call that nf on that exam. on civics were not as bad but still to get to proficiency scores we have to go up into roughly the top one third of the people. when we will get reading exams, the, the sat with all those passages the reading scores now are the load is low as they been in 50 years. the writing scores where you been given a topic and you're supposed to write about it, sat
added the writing exam in 2005 and ever since then scores have gone down every single year except two years when they were flat. so we find in the measurements of that cultural knowledge, cultural literacy where we are seen no improvement in spite of all the money that has been poured into primary and secondary education. we look at iq tests, the iq scores have been going up during the 20th century. the test test began in 80 or 90 years ago there administered by the u.s. army in order to pick out those who are intellectually talented to be leaders, to be officers. they're transferred over to the schools where they were used and the sat was used as a scholastic aptitude achievement test, but aptitude became a bad year over the 20th century so it's now
just the sat. they were used in college admissions to try to pick out those intelligent students who might not have the advantages of other students. iq scores have been going up so that if you took an iq test in 1950 and he scored 100, which means half of the people who took it are higher and happy to get our lore, so it's a norm exam if you scored a hundred then, today you would score 85. so roughly a 15-point gain. if you scored 100 today you would have been about a hundred and 15 back in 1950. so the american mind is getting better, more intelligent. the. the thing about the iq scores is the test is actually part of many subtests. so you get subtests with one is coding, what is similarities, and you
might get some questions that show you pictures of different patterns, some are shaded summer white, you have you have to pick the next picture, right. so you have those abstract reasoning questions and there we see gains for children and adults of 15 to 24 points. huge gains huge gains there. when we go to the areas in which there is cultural, historical, real-world knowledge involved, such as information because one of the subtests information, how much do you know about the world? how much have you retained from what school has taught you, there we see a bar see a bar lower gains taking place. in vocabulary, we see much lower gains for children. we want to know why so many children going to remediation when they go to college? why they flunk those first-year courses in freshman composition and basic english, it's because
they're gains are very low. they have gained but when we look over the last 50 years were not seen a big 15 to 20-point gain. for children we are saying that vocabulary has going only gone up four points. think about how much more early childhood schooling we have, how how much more money is pumped into education, this has to be a huge dissident appointment. now adults have gained a lot, they're up to 15 points, that's because they go to college. it it only happens after they become adults. so there we see some progress. although just a quick note, on arithmetic, not abstract reasoning but basic calculations, adults have grown three points you won no white math literacy is so low, this is
a measure of that. children have only gone up two points in math and math iq. in terms of information here information is the biggest measure of cultural on the iq. adults have gained a points so that's not too bad and we can attribute that to all of the media, the news, all the websites in the digital age which is poor and it pours information into adults. children have only gone up two points over that time in spite of again, all the media and better education. this cultural iq, the more more we move away from abstract, hypothetical reasoning, critical thinking skills and towards knowledge that has to do with your country, your history, the, the literary and artistic, the
political past and present we are seen more game but the bar is going up slightly. we have to put that in the context of all of the money and technology, and access that we have today over 1950. this is a sore disappointment i would say. thank you. >> so in hirsch's essay he makes a point that the shift toward a skill-based -based education curriculum and moving away from a knowledge-based curriculum has produced several generations of students who neither know anything or can think. how does this make you feel about the future of the country question mark. >> the critical thinking skills approach to the curriculum says we want to teach again the
capacity to analyze, to evaluate, to reflect, it really doesn't matter what materials we are applying this to. shakespeare, okay critical thinking, tv commercials, you could do critical thinking upon that too. what. what is the advantage of this curriculum? it ends all of the old troubling culture wars questions of the 1980s and early 1990s. we don't have to talk about dead white mail written works of literature. we don't have to have the old traditional versus contemporary debate which everyone came out of feeling tired and distressed over. were going to neutralize content of what we teach. were were going to neutralize our media, we are not going to say some things are good, some things are garbage, were not going to get into that. no 11 came out of that debate happy.
so the critical thinking i'm saying this was a tactic for getting out of old cultural debate that teachers didn't like , critical thinking gives teachers freedom to do it they once. we would make standards that don't say and demonstrate knowledge of the early colonial history, no we are going to say demonstrate the capacity to evaluate historical materials. that shift is a very apolitical approach to knowledge. that i think is the genesis of the critical thinking approach. in the larger context of the book there's a good deal of focus on repeatedly on youth and american youth because they are
in my many ways been informed by changes in educational policy, changes in general culture, technology and general social and cultural attitudes. so we keep coming back to this again and again. the shorthand conclusion is the situation is not good. "the state of the american mind" is not good. it's incompetent but upon us as social observers said to be very frank about this. i have to confess, were not long on solutions. we will try to engage bad and it is our hope will be able to engage this group of people and beginning a conversation about where to go from here and what
we can do. one of the things that mark raises in his essay on cultural iq, this will come up again, and again is the parents and children need to engage with each other more. parents should sit and read newspaper with their children, there needs to be more dialogue and discussion between the generations rather than allowing children to just pay attention to themselves and their peers. we will come back to this in a later section of this discussion. i want to shift and introduce danielle who is professor of public affairs at american university at washington. he his research interests focus on religion, politics, and, and law in the founding era and he is the editor of a books including thomas jefferson and the wall of separation between
church and state. his essay is is on the decline of biblical literacy. again i will mention my father, he was first exposed to the new testament at the age of nine when he was in a tubercular award in montréal. he was given a copy of a new testament by some missionaries and it had a tremendous impact on him. later in life when i knew him, he always had a copy of the king james bible open on the coffee table and he read from it continually. he read to me from it all the time. so i grew up with a very good sense of the importance of the bible to american culture, my father was a jewish writer, he true inspiration from the debt libel and from the language of the king james edition as it is
well-established. so i will ask daniel to talk to us a little bit about the significance of the bible in the american founding, in american history and what its loss or displacement means for us today. >> i would just say in response to what you just said i will speak generally about the english bible but in the sense it really is the kings james bible that really had a cultural impact. i've been teaching college students now for a quarter-century and i'm not very good at picking up on big trends among my very small sample of students. there is one trend that seems a very clear to me and that is, over the course of
my 25 years in the classroom my students and the students i encounter as i travel around the country are increasingly, religiously and biblically illiterate. long gone are the days that i can mention in class something like a damascus road experience or a coat of many colors and assume my students would know what i was talking about let alone know the source of these allusions. those days are gone and my experience. let me just say biblical literacy is not only and a malady of our students it afflicts cultural beliefs as well. here's an example. on april 1, 2013 the new york times issued the following correction of an article on pope francis easter message. an earlier version of this article mischaracterize the christian holiday of easter, it is a celebration of jesus's resurrection's resurrection of the dead, not his resurrection into heaven. ". well that's not reassuring about where we are among the cultural
elites. >> : : : >> and where we come from, i thinke as americans must know something about the bible. let's recall that the pilgrims, followed by the puritans, came to these shores in order to build bible commonwealths, bible commonwealths. that is to say polities that were based on protestant reform theology and biblical law as they understood and interpreted that idea.
they were a people whose beliefs, their values, their culture was shaped by the book. and perhaps more important, informed how they and subsequent generations of americans have thought of themselves and their place in the world. the first laws that were crafted in british north america -- and this is true both in virginia as well as in new england -- drew extensively on mosaic law. and lest there be any doubt, these codes often included references to specific biblical authority for the legal provisions that they were writing into their laws. for centuries the bible was a central text in american education. take a look, for example, at the new england primer. it brims with biblical content. the bible, especially the king james bible, was a highly effective tool for literacy education, and the bible reading culture this british north america enjoyed the highest literacy rates in recorded
history. and increased literacy rates in turn promoted education more generally. and an educated citizenry was essential to the founding generation's bold experiment in republican self-government. given the impact of christianity and the bible in western civilization, an educated mind must be acquainted with the stories, the themes, the claims, the symbols of christianity and its sacred text. in advice to his son, john quincy adams had to say, and i quote: to a hand of liberal education, the the study of history is not only useful and important, but altogether indispensable. and with regard to the history contained in the bible, it is not so much praiseworthy to be acquainted with it as it is shameful to be ignorant of it, end quote. adams knew well that the bible had informed the language, the letters, the arts and other components of western culture. absent the king james bible in
particular, the english-speaking world would not have known at least in the way that we think of it today, would not have known milton's paradise lost or handel's messiah or lincoln's gettysburg address. from the pilgrim fathers to the founding fathers and even to the present day, the bible's played a foundational role, i would argue, in shaping american national identity, in crafting a sacred national mission and defining the nation's place in the world. let's look in particular at the old testament accounts of bondage, exodus and liberation, a promised land and, ultimately, nation hood have acted as powerful formative metaphors on american self-identity. americans have embraced a specific narrative about themselves. this is a narrative rooted in the bible, a narrative about a chosen people who, like israel of old, were led miraculously out of bondage into a promised land, a promised land flowing with milk and honey. and this is a narrative that was
not only a part of the puritan culture, as we're well aware, but it remained in the american founding era and the last third or so of the 18th century. this national heritage has imbued americans with a sacred purpose, the inescapable implication of being god's new chosen people in a new, promised land was that there was something extraordinary, exceptional, if you will, about america's place and role in god's unfolding providential plan for humanity. america's role as god's new israel has carried with it both blessings and burdens. among them, a responsibility to be a model polity for the world, a shining city on a hill. the themes of bondage and liberation figure prominently in the abolitionist campaigns of the mid 19th century and similarly in the civil rights movement a century later. the late police call theorist wilson kerry mcwilliams had this to say, and i thit i
captures the point i want to make. he says the increasing unfamiliarity with the bible makes it harder and harder for americans to understand their origins and their mores, or to put words to their experiences. lacking knowledge of the bible, americans are likely to be literally inarticulate, unable to relate themselves to american life and culture as a whole. >> let me just say in conclusion, in an increasingly fragmented society in which citizens lack a common language to engage in social discourse, there's an apparent need for shared points of reference and a common cultural vocabulary that will facilitate meaningful communications across various social divides, especially on
volatile issues like religion and politics. religious and cultural literacy lifts barriers to communications in a plural u.s.ic and democratic -- pluralistic and democratic society and helps conversations on how best to govern ourself. the continuing influence of christianity in the modern world and the often-contentious nature of religious controversies, bubbly call literacy is vital for effective and efficient communications and valuable social engagement in a pluralistic society. thank you. >> thank you, daniel. one of the passages in your essay that i think is most relevant and important, and as i sit and listen to you, you know, the question that comes to my mind is, well, in an increasingly secular society, you know, how do we make the case? i, i read the bible in the old testament in hebrew as part of
my jewish education. i then read it again many times and had to go back to it and also to the new testament in the course of my literary education. as you point out, you cannot read milton or really any of the great western works of the canon without knowing some knowledge of the bible, without having some knowledge of it. even a song like "turn, turn, turn" by pete seeger draws upon ancient biblical text. so it's not a partisan issue that, you know, the civil rights movement -- largely a leftist movement -- drew inspiration from the religious, substrait of religious belief in the sense that, you know, everyone being created equal in the eyes of god. but you have a passage here that a i thought was very instructive, because it goes beyond the sphere of literary
concerns. and you say there are many movements, developments and conflicts at home and abroad, although not exclusively or even primarily about christianity, are difficult to come reprehend without an awareness of biblical christianity. this involves just war, civil rights, abortion, definitions of marriage, homosexuality, origins of life and blasphemy. without the biblical framework underlying those issues, people will not fully understand each other. so how, you know, this isn't a question that you have to answer alone, but i think it's a question we must take up. in a society, in a culture that has increasingly at least in our culture increasingly secular, in what -- how -- in what world could we bring back some primacy of the bible as a secular, in effect, as part of our secular education? >> yeah. well, i think it's essential to
an ongoing civil conversation, because, yes, we're an increasingly secular culture, but there are certainly large segments of the population that are still very much a biblical culture -- and for which biblical ideas inform their world view. if we could broaden the conversation beyond american shores, christianity is exploding in certain parts of the world, especially in the global south. and if we want to have conversations on these highly-contentious issues, we're going to have to be aware of the source and origins of some of the ideas that these people bring to the table. >> uh-huh. >> and so it's incumbent on, i think, on us as educators whether we're religious or not to be aware of biblical ideas and to teach them this our classroom. -- in our classroom. not as an exercise in prosthelytizing, but simply as part of the mission of education. >> uh-huh. thank you very much.
i'm going to turn to introduce nicholas eberstadt who i think is well known to people here. nick is one of the pillars of this institution, one of the grown-ups around aei. [laughter] he tries. he holds the henry went chair in political economy at aei. he's a senior adviser to the national bureau of asian research, a member of the visiting committee at the harvard of public health, he's a busy person. his books include "the poverty of poverty rate" and "a nation of takers: america's entitlement epidemic," a subject he will elaborate with us today. the title of his essay in this volume is dependency in america, and to sort of prompt you, my question is how has the rise of the welfare state affected what we think of as the traditional american mind, and what habits of mind have been lost, what new
habits have been substituted for them? >> okay. adam, thank you very much. and adam and mark -- can you all hear he? okay. thank you very much for including me in this volume. i'm really happy to be in with this all-star cast of intellects you've put together. because i think this volume is going to have legs. i think this is a keeper, and i'm really happy to be a part of it, so thank you. >> thank you. >> when i was a young man, i was a little, tiny bit of an authority problem. and, oh, one of the things that i was skeptical about when i heard my olders and betters talking was how things were when they were young. and so i suppose i had a little bit of an intuitive suspicion of the sort of what we might call
the good old days argument. what i am going to try to share with you in in the next few minutes are some empirical facts about the way that life in america has changed during the period since i was a boy. since i was a young man. because i can show you that things have changed with respect to the relationship between the citizen and the government in a truly revolutionary fashion. revolution in the literal sense meaning overturning the old, previous order. and i think i can also suggest by some of the homework that i'm going to share with you that in our quest to deal with poverty and need, we have also inadvertently created some new problems that people didn't have
to contend with back in the good old days. okay? so to start with kind of, like, a very schematic comparison of myths. myths may have some truth in them, but they're kind of myths. there's a european myth about poverty, and there's an old-fashioned american myth about poverty. and the european myth about poverty is that people are poor because they are trapped this the station of their -- in the station of their birth because of the class-ridden, mobility-lacking nature of the sorts of places that a lot of americans wanted to get away from, or at least their ancestors wanted to get away from to come here. the american myth about poverty is very, very different.
s that we have a land -- it is that we have a land of self-reliance, we have enormous opportunities that people with will power and gumption and grit and courage can rise from any station to any other station in life. and that poverty has something to do with what we could parse out as the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. the deserving poor were to be helped, and the undo deserving poor might be -- undeserving poor might be pitied or encouraged to change their ways. but there were very different approaches to looking at the poverty question. so the important thing to know is that our modern welfare state in the u.s. traces its origins back to europe. its grandparents and antecedents come from bismarck's prussia and from interwar sweden with its third way policies and from the
thinking of lord, later baron, william beverage and his social insurance report in the middle of world war ii to promise a welfare state to the british be they'd keep on fighting -- if they'd keep on fighting, to have something to fight for. and we have this transplanted onto our soils. we kind of came late to the social entitlement party. we had a smaller welfare state in 1930 than we had in 1890, 40 years earlier. but we did join the party, and we joined it with abandon. and i'm going to show you a little bit of homework on this and also see what some of the implications might be. okay, so this is a little map which tries to show the proportion of income coming from entitlement programs by county, for populations by county. where the color is darker, the
proportion of entitlement, social welfare program in personal income and overall personal income is higher. you can see where appalachia is, you can see where some of the native american reservations are, you can see where the deep south is. the darker the color, the higher the proportion of total income coming from social welfare programs. so this is 1969, and i'm going to show you -- i'm going to fast forward 40 years. just look at the contours and the colors. '69, 2009. '69, 2009. so part of what we're seeing here is a revolution in government. when i was a boy, back when i was a boy, the federal government devoted less than $1 in 3 to social welfare programs. it devoted over $2 in 3 to
things like national defense and the post office and retiring the federal debt and things that you might see in the constitution and also things that more traditionally might be described as government. today the federal dollar goes 60 cents out of the dollar to social welfare rams. so -- programs. so we have had, literally, a revolution this in the financind attention and priorities of our federal government and of our governmental system. but if we look a little further, and we're not going to do an eye test here, just -- [laughter] trust me. it's in the book. buy the book, you'll see the chart. over the, over the last 30 years, there has been a 20 percentage point jump in the percentage of americans living in homes that get one or more government benefit. and almost all of this jump has
been due to recipients of means-tested benefits; which is to say, benefits that one quaffs quaffs -- qualifies by didn't of being declared needy or eligible for poverty-related programs. as of now over one person in three is receiving at least one government benefit predicated upon being poor or impoverished. and this is quite striking when one considers that over the intervening 30 years the unemployment rate has not gone up, the educational level has gone up, and the overall income level has gone up. so we have twice as many people proportionately being qualified as poor today as we had 30 years ago despite these trends. we have defined poverty and need upwards.
so in theory, public benefits are supposed to deal with poverty. public, means-tested benefits are supposed to deal with poverty. so is one might, perhaps, think that there would be some correspondence between the ups and downs in means-tested benefits recipients and the poverty rate. but if one thought that, one would be very wrong. because as you can see here, when the poverty rate goes up, the proportion of americans getting means-tested benefits goes up. when the poverty rate goes down, when the poverty rate goes up again, you see where i'm going on this. this is just the poverty rate. hook at unemployment also -- look at unemployment also. when the rate goes up, the proportion on americans on means-tested benefits goes up, when it goes down, the benefits goes up. if you put these all together and do a little bit of simple
statistics, you'll see that we have virtual hi no -- virtually no information value given to us by the business cycle with respect to the recipients of means-tested benefits in america. there is one wonderful predicter, however, of how much of america will be taking and accepting means-tested benefits, and that is the calendar year. with every additional calendar year, the predicted number of americans on means-tested benefits goes up between .3 and .4%. and on this trajectory, we are on path to have a majority of americans on means-tested benefits in the not too distant future. so there are consequences of this revolution in our country. and i'm not going to make immediate connections there, i'm just going to make correlations here, and correlations can be mischievous.
but one bug trend that has -- big trend that has coincided with the explosion of means-tested social benefits has been the exit of men from the work force. you will see up here that this blue line, this blue line indicates the proportion of prime working age men, 25-54, who are completely out of the work force. neither seeking work as unemployed or employed. it's quadrupled since the beginning of that fraction of american prime male work force, has quadrupled since the beginning of the war on poverty. a very striking change. one thing also to note, these trends have been true for all ethnic groups in the united states. the exit from work for african-american men has been higher than for non-hispanic white men, but the trends are
exactly in the same direction, and by the way, the proportion of white men who have opted out or are not part of the work force today is higher than it was for african-american men just 40 years ago. forty years ago you could have made the argument about racism and discrimination for african-american men seeking work. it's harder to make that argument for white men today. and by the same token, we can look at how the u.s. compares to some of the welfare states. i've got greece and the u.s. up here for prime working age men in their late 30s, and i cut it off in the 2008 crash, because things got pretty snake key after that. but there was a big gap. there were twice as many, twice as large a proportion of prime working age men in the united states who are completely out of the labor force in the '80s,
'90s and 2000s. we talk about the five and six-week vacations people have in europe, and it's great. but an extremely large group of american men have 52-week vacations. [laughter] finally, one thing which hay be a temptation and a corruption for some is to take disability benefits. what this chart shows and what the blue line is the risk of dying during working ages between 18 and 65. we're healthier than we've ever been before. the red line is a proportion of the work force that is accepting disability benefits. that's higher than ever before. what is wrong with this picture, please? maybe this can tell you something about behavior and norms and how this has changed. to conclude, we've talked in the public square over the past, over the past many years about our end dangered -- endangered middle class in the united states. we've talked about
globalization, and we've talked about skills, and we've talked about public policy and how ungenerous it is and about many other things. one thing we haven't talked about is the phenomenon of applying for and accepting benefits that are supposedly based upon be need and poverty. with 35% of the american population accepting poverty-based, need-based government social benefits at this point, do we see an additional threat to the middle class mentality? i submit to you that it is probably very difficult at one and the same time to maintain the notion that one is a traditional tocquevillean, self-relying member of the middle class in good standing and also to go out and seek poverty-based benefits. thank you. >> thank you, nick.
so what would ben franklin say about the state of public virtue in this country? >> well, i have to not say the first thing that i thought when you asked about ben franklin and public virtue. [laughter] >> something -- >> i think we're pretty -- yeah, do what i write, not what i do. [laughter] when poor richard, poor richard and his almanac would have had some pretty woeful writings and wonderful aphorisms about the wayward american dependent today. now, of course, the american myth that i mentioned was a myth. i mean, it's partly true, and the european myth is partly true. but as a way of kind of, like,
organizing norms and precepts and aspirations and objectives. and one of the things i think poor richard would probably bemoan the most is the death of the concept of deserving and the undeserving poor, the idea that everybody could qualify for public assistance simply on the basis of a judgment-free eligibility criterion. i think it would have been absolutely anathema to ben franklin. and not just to ben franklin, to all of the puritannist traditions that we've found in our heritage each among people who weren't -- even among people who weren't protestants. there's a very, very strong streak of protestanttism even among american catholics. that probably, i think, would be my guess. >> i'm sure you're correct. i would just mention that, what i think everybody here knows, which is that in the founding generation and for at least a century or more thereafter,
there was a clearer sense that the health of our society and of our government depends on a certain amount of virtue in the citizenry. that's the idea of a republic. and so what we're really talking about from the point of view of the founders, using their moral vocabulary, is corruption. the corruption of the body politic. and i think, you know, one of the things that you touch on in your essay that you didn't really bring out in your talk is the corrupting tendency of a massive state bureaucracy that views the citizenry as a clientele, a body of clients. and they measured the effectiveness of how well they're doing their job by how many people they serve like mcdonald's. and it's all very well for mcdonald's to serve two billion hamburgers, but for hhs or the well tear bureaucracy to
serve me as a client as opposed to, you know, helping me to learn how to fish, let's say, that has a corrupting tendency. it gives me -- it has a moral effect. and so, you know, the question is, is there any way to, at this point you don't seem very hopeful in your, in your essay. it seems, to you it seems that we've gone too far. is that how you feel? >> um, i think that the, i think the inadvertent consequences of the, of the attempt to alleviate need are very, very stark is in america today. and if you look at how other modern social welfare states have been, to some e degree, reformed or have their, had their characteristics
overhauled, usually that has happened when the government has run out of other people's money, right? so it happened that way in new zealand, and it happened that way in sweden, and there are a couple of other examples we could mention. we're a very, very rich society. the government's going to have to run through an awful lot of our wealth before we hit the wall, i think. i fear. and to, you know, whether it's good news or bad news, in addition to our fantastic national wealth, we also for now have the dollar as the sort of the international means of exchange. and as long as we do that, we've got additional lines of credit that we can call upon before piper finally has to be paid. unless we as citizens wish to do something different from what has occurred in other social
welfare states and preclude or begin reforms before they are only forced upon us by exigency. we're going to have to have a national discussion and a national consensus about that. >> so we have to go broke, in other words. >> that's the way it's happened everywhere else. but if you believe in american exceptionalism, we can do it differently. [laughter] >> a note of hope, how to uncharacteristic. [laughter] thank you very much. i want to introduce jean twenge, professor of psychology at san diego state university, author of numerous scientific publications and books entitled "the narcissism epidemic: living this the age of entitlement" and "generation me." a parade of cheerfulness. [laughter] the title of jean's essay is "the rise of sell and the
decline of individual and civic interest." i am particularly interested in this. i have children in their 20s. i will refrain from commenting on what i might think about that. what interests me, jean, and i want to hear everything that you have to say about this subject, but i was very struck by the contrast between what we meant by -- what americans meant by individualism in the past and what they mean by individualism today. i think that's a very interesting focus for our discussion, but i want you to go ahead and just talk to us about what your findings are. >> okay. all right. so that's the cover of "generation me." no, that is not my stomach. [laughter] that's the narcissism book that was reflected in this mirrors. you could see yourself in the coffer of the book about narcissism, so that was fun. yes. so how has our culture changed? we do have increasing individualism, more focus on the
self, less on social rules -- more on social rules, less on the group. however this is, perhaps, a different type of individualism than we had in the past as adam just mentioned. it doesn't seem to be the rugged, independent individualism that we may have associated with the past such as good old john wayne here. that's, sadly, maybe not what we're doing now. what we're doing now is more like this; twitter, reality television. that's paris hilton wearing a shirt with paris hilton on it. [laughter] >> is she taking a selfie at the same time? [laughter] >> well, we have the selfie right underneath her. you get the idea. one way to put this is that this is kind of delusional individualism. the idea, which is very common now, but thinking you're great is just as good as actually being great. or the idea that self-belief is
enough. and if you think, oh, i've heard that, well, believe in yourself and you can do anything, just one example of a phrase that's very common now. or very common in children's sports leagues, everybody gets a trophy, the participation trophy. you show up, you get the trophy. you sit on the bench, you get the trophy. you suck, you still get the trophy. my nephew has one that says "excellence in participation. ". [laughter] how that is affecting individuals, there's a really great survey that's been done since 1966, it's enormous, nine people. and on the questions, they say rate yourself compared to the average person your age. so so we are particularly interested in things that dealt with skills. and around kind of individualistic characteristics.
so well known social-psychological effect here that these are going to vary in how highly people rate themselves, how inflated or not inflated the views are, so you're going to see a lot of variation based on traits. things that are considered to be easy or subjective tend to be rated higher. but what i want you to focus on is the change from entering college students, the boomers in 1966, compared to the millennials or generation me, and that data's very recent, just from this past fall in 2014. so what percentage believe they are above average in their intellectual self-confidence? well, a lot more now. social self-confidence, drive to achieve, leadership ability, public speaking ability, writing ability -- which many college faculty would challenge -- [laughter] right, mark? math ability, artistic ability and general ability. some change more than others, but they have all gone up. okay. what about actual performance? mark mentioned some of this.
the s.a.t. verbal is down. it only looks small because of the scale there. that's about a half a deviation or more. math hasn't changed a whole lot, mark mentioned this too, national progress, they really haven't changed very much in spite of all the money we've poured many. point here is actual performance, unchanged or down. self-belief, way up. okay. thought maybe is there a way to quantify this cultural belief in thinking that you're great and positive self-use. we realized that the more subjective feedback that students get from their teachers might be a good way to look at that. so this survey asks about their high school grades. well, here's the percentage who were coming into college with an a average. used to beless than 20 -- be less than 20%, and now it is more than 50.
you see the same exact pattern -- >> skew down that. >> yeah, exactly. high school students, you see the same thing. in fact, more students go to college now, so these numbers should go down instead of up. okay, maybe they're working harder to get those good grades, but they're not. that's pretty much unchanged, the percentage who do ten or more hours of homework. so here is the question: has that inflated sense of self in thinking above average crossed over into something that not necessarily clinical narcissism, but there's a personality trait called innated sense of self, or as my daughter defines it, narcissism is when you fart and say i rule. it is a more toxic form of positive self-views. it tends to be correlated with problems in relating to others. so we did an analysis of about a
hundred samples of college students with 25,000 of them who completed the standard measure of narcissism, the nbi. just -- npi. just so you get atist, here's a -- a taste, if i ruled the world, it would be a better place. i love that, because there's always a few people who laugh, and the rest of room is going, of course it would be. why is that funny? [laughter] i can live my life any way i want to. notice, this is something that's very common many our culture, to tell kids you're special. presumably to build self-esteem. it's actually narcissism. i like to be the center of attention, i have a natural talent for influencing people, manipulativeness as well. we're working on updating this, so we've got it through 2009. here is how college student scores have changed since the early '80s on narcissism. back in the '80s, about 17% answered the majority of the questions in the narcissistic direction, and thousand it is about 30%. -- now it is about 30%. so it's not most of them, but
there's almost twice as many who do. and that makes the change look even bigger than it actually is because those are the ones who end up in their office. and they're ones who when you tell them you're not as great as you think they are, will tell you you're wrong and go to the dean. and that's usually where the problem begins. all right, thank you very much. [applause] >> so i will, i just would like to add something to what you have said, because as a participant, i find this very -- as a parent, i find this very interesting. and also somebody who works in business. i've encountered and heard from many people of my generation that the young kids coming out of college today kiss play these generational tendencies. what doesn't seem to get mentioned is, you know, whose fault is this, if not ours? s. >> exactly. and i think that's a really crucial point because people say this to me a lot, they're saying, well, why are you blaming this generation? it's not their fault, it's their
baby boomer parents. i don't know, in my view, i don't think we need to assign fault or blame at all. this is a cultural change, and it's very pervasive. it could be now that 50-year-olds think they're better than everyone else more than 50-year-olds used to. that's very, very possible. so this is a generational shift, but it has really permeated our whole culture. no, i don't think we can necessarily point fingers at the youngest generation. the great inflation is an example of, yeah, maybe students were arguing over their grades, but so were their parents. >> i have one hopeful note to add to this. my younger daughter, who is a year out of college and is living with me and preparing to move on with her life, has -- she brought all this stuff back from college and high school and all this stuff we're going through it. and she opened up a box of her trophies, you know? she was always very -- she was a dancer, a gymnast, she did all
kinds of things, and she starts to go through these things, and she says these i'm throwing away. because they're just, you know, for participation. i'm keeping the ones that are for real accomplishment. and so to come back to alan blume, if i may, what i think is, you know, as we worked on this book and we worked with our contributors and now we listen to this sort of litany of bad news, there's one thing that i take away from this encounter with my daughter that i think is hopeful, and that is that there is a human instinct, and this is something that blume focuses on, to honor and appreciate excellence and greatness. the -- our culture which has the emphasis on equality which has, you know, moved through american history with great power as any
profound philosophical principle will do, has eroded or undermined respect for genuine greatness, and we don't see it reflected in our education, in our culture, in our, this our daily conversation -- in our daily conversation. and yet the human being still retains a respect for it. and so if there's, as i said, we're not long on solutions, but i personally feel that this is something that can be built upon, can be appealed to and is something that we as conservatives of various stripes really should make a consistent focus of our speaking, our writing, our teaching. and so with that, i would love to open floor to questions. please. >> question for mark. >> we're going to bring a microphone to you.
>> thank you. jeff steele with the american legion. question for mark. whether any of your graphs could be seen as a function of measuring rather than a function of what's being measured. in other words, were the number of people measured significantly larger over the time period, or were they always same number of people? >> jean's graph? >> no, yours. [inaudible conversations] >> you didn't speak about graphs. i think you did it verbally, but i -- >> okay. no, i don't think that it's a function of the sample size. i think that that's roughly consistent and i would -- also about the n.a.p.e. exams, the s.a.t. has gone up, actually, in recent years, the s.a.t. number
has gone down a little bit. in fact, and the same trend holds for the sliding scores. so i think we're good on the n. >> thanks for kicking the tires though. [laughter] please. can you bring the mic? thanks. >> first of all, thank you. it's been very, very informative. the title of this got together today was anti-intellectualism, and i wonder when in the country you're sensing almost a hostility towards intellectualism, towards thinking whether that's now viewed as elitist, as coastal just a general feeling. >> yes, please. >> oh, i can tell you if you look at some of these big surveys that have been done or of young people, high school and college students, there's an
enormous decline in the percentage who say they read books on a regular basis. so that's just one example which i'm sure the rest of the panel can build on. >> and it's not just among the kids, it's among everybody. and it's a threat most immediately to newspapers and publishing houses, but it's a threat to our common ability to have a civic society and a political system that functions. >> and i'll just add one quick survey figure. in 2000 half of american adults said that they read a newspaper the previous day. that could be print or digital. that number's down to 23% now. >> i think there's also a sense in which a couple of things occur to me. first of all, intellectualism is hard, and we have a culture today that really shies away
from that kind of, from the kind of effort. i mean, you know, again, i have to say i grew up among people who were really intellectuals and intellectually-accomplished people, and i understood that in order to participate in a conversation with them, i had to to know something. my opinion wasn't valued just because i was there. and that's gone now. >> sir? >> the adoption of religious normals, would the adoption of religious norms help address this question of political correctness and moral relativism? and, actually, a little -- and also maybe the extolling the individual because of their pure mind without these cultural norms. so do we have to go back to the old time religion? should we go -- yeah, go back to the old time religion? [laughter] >> i don't know how we would do
that. does anyone have an idea? daniel, you're the -- yeah, we've done it before. these things do tend, do happen. they go -- i guess my, my personal response, i come back to the story that i told about my daughter. i think young people naturally want some guidance, structure, authority, a sense of grown-ups being in charge and allowing -- and sort of living, coming into a world that is ordered and run by mature people. i don't see a lot of that today myself, but i have some hope that that may, that may work itself through. >> i would, i would welcome a third great awakening. >> i would add i think that
religion does face certain obstacles in our current culture that perhaps are not the same obstacles faced by other forms of information, because there is a sort of government policy arising out of what i would call a crabbed intreeption of the establishment clause that seeks to exclude discussions of religion from the public square. so i think it's a little bit of a unique circumstance when it comes to discussions about especially try christianity and the bible. >> such a wealth of interests. please, over here. >> so bernard rico, world bank. 26 years ago i was a senior in college, business major, and i read the book "closing an american mind," and your father's introduction was probably just as good as the book. one of the things that really struck me and almost wanted me to change my major, and my father said if you change your major to philosophy, i'm going to bring you back to community
college. [laughter] and that's the dichotomy between american statussousness -- industriousness which is in line with american conservative thought and the teaching of classics. the panel was fantastic, but that was kind of the resounding message to me anyhow when i read the book 26 years ago. i'm just wondering how much of an impact that kind of dichotomy, how do you think it will play out going forward, american conservatives who go to business school but don't necessarily have an opportunity to learn the classics, do it themselves on their loan later on and just the general teaching of the classics and the dumbing of the american mind in that sense? >> we need to spread j. paul getty's policy of hiring a lot of classics measures. when getty was asked why do you do that, he said, they sell more oil! [laughter]
>> in the back, all the way. >> yeah. i'm cole aaronson, i'm an intern at aei. so a number of scholar -- somebody, i think it may have been mr. bauerlein, is that how you say your last name? -- listed a series of sort of principles of american society, civic virtue, individualism, limited government, etc. a number of scholars, probably most famously alistair mcintyre, in recent years have suggested that these, the principles of classical liberalism are actually not particularly reconcilable with the sort of christian view of the natural north korean -- that mr.-- sorry, i can't read your -- dreesback, i think, may have been alluding to.
do we have to sacrifice classical liberalism in order to recover a sort of view of the person as having a moral place in the world that can answer this kind of relativistic view that i think professor blume was talking about in the closing of the american mind? and how does -- what does that mean for american conservatives, many of whom are classical liberals? >> anybody want to take that one up? would you like to write a book on that subject? [laughter] maybe you should answer that question. what do you think? >> i don't know. [laughter] >> well, why are you looking at me? [laughter] well, it's an excellent question. i'm afraid you've sort of stumped us. but it's a very profound question. i'm not -- i honestly don't know the answer to it. but it's, it's definitely worth thinking about, and maybe there should be a book on it. down here, please. >> clay ramsey, program for
public consultation at the university of maryland, and this is directed to professor twenge. and it's in the category of you mentioned earlier that you're perhaps a bit short on remedies, and this is in the remedy area. i read in the financial times of research, which i believe is business management research, about the term "competence" as opposed to more high-flown kind of language about excellence in being a champion and so forth. and there's an entire lucy callaway piece about this piece of research. as i recall it, they found that those who aspire to being competent at something rather than checking the box that they were aspiring to be the best at
something wound up performing the tasks better than the people who were trying to be, you know, extremely good. so i'm wondering whether competence is a value that can be pushed forward in the pantheon of american values in a way that it hasn't been in a long time, because we are trying to be all these other things. you can't get hired by saying you're competent. you don't write in your resumé that you're competent. but i think there are a lot of people or that are feeling there's often a dearth of e competence now in american life. and so i'm, i'm really asking you whether you might have run across this in the literature that you look at, and then more broadly, whether you think this might be an interesting angle. >> yeah. i mean, it suggests we still have a lot to learn about
motivation because, yeah, there are psychological studies suggesting, for example, if you go into something and is say i just don't want to fail as opposed to i want to do really well, those who say i want to do really well are usually doing better. but it is true that if you think of excellence as perhaps being the top 1% or the top 5%, we do have to accept as a society that not everybody is going to be excellent, and that's okay. so to have an acceptance for being average, being average isn't always bad. and i would, you know, also put out there that competence is a much better bar than participation. and it's a much better bar than you're special just for being you. so it's a good place to start. and if that is more motivating, all the better. >> michael dukakis would be very happy to hear that. [laughter] yes. >> i'm bothered that our panel offer a response to cole aaronson's excellent question, and so that we don't have
anti-intellectualism in america up here on the panel, i'm a numbers boy, not a committee on social thought boy, but i've got to take a crack at your question. [laughter] you know, i think that the distinction or contradiction between classical liberalism and a more biblical interpretation of the virtues may be a little overblown. it is true that if you talk about objectivism and you mean classical liberalism by ayn rand, then you have a little bit of problem with the text, that is true. but objectivism is a freak show. [laughter] you know, if you want to talk about -- >> welcome to aei. >> -- if you want to talk about classical liberalism and get back to the texts and get back to high yak or -- hayek or get back to adam smith or get to john locke, you see much more of a consonance between the moral
presumptions that, you know, i think underlie those texts and those ways of thinking. and so, of course, there's a tension there. but there's notes a war -- there's not a war. >> yeah. you mentioned adam smith. remember that adam smith does the economics, also he writes a theory of moral sentiments, okay? please. >> oh. i'm juliana pilon, i have three degrees in philosophy from the university of chicago, so i could say that this is music to my ears with a caveat that it's more like a requiem. [laughter] i also want to the say that your father was one of the best professors in the committee on social thought in addition to being a novelist. and those of us who had the pressure of listening to him -- the pleasure of listening to him, he wouldn't lecture, he would just talk. it was extraordinary.
i do want to not continue a critiquing session, although that would be very, very easy. the idea that there are some positive lights at the end of this very distressing tunnel appeals to me. and i want to say that among my most enjoyable experiences as a professor -- oh, i should have said i'm with the alexander hamilton institute for the study of western civilization, so there has to be some hope here. [laughter] ..
trends spreading worldwide and is there a preventative for that? >> certainly indications seem to suggest that this particular brand is spreading. a lot of other countries are starting from a much lower bar which is probably why they are occasionally hitting the economic launch. so it does seem to be spreading area just like mcdonald's and coca-cola into this idea of thinking highly of yourself and the social rule, which has some advantages as well, like equality does seem to be spreading to the rest of the world reasonably quickly. >> i suppose the fact that an awful lot of other countries see the u.s. as having a stingy
where welfare state some countries have had premature welfare states like argentina and other latin american countries kind of like time off from the world economy as a consequence of that. it's the american experience other countries will emulate but i don't think that for better or ill the social entitlement state is going to be foremost among these. >> thank you all very much and thanks to the panel. [applause]