Posts Tagged 'the conservative intellectual movement'

What does the term “educated class” actually mean?

In an exchange on Facebook yesterday where I outed myself as a godless commie pinko (I think that noise was Owen White blowing beer through his nose onto the library computer screen) because I think FOX is ridiculous in claiming that the Muppets are radical leftist propaganda, I mused that being part of the “educated class” (which, so we’re clear, I put in scare quotes and qualified by saying, “whatever that actually means”) seems to automatically place one to the left of most who publicly identify as “conservative”.

So what does the term “educated class” actually mean? About a year ago I was having a conversation with a friend about NPR as a source for news. I expressed appreciation for what seemed to be, on the whole, a lack of FOX News-style hyperbole; my friend said, “Well, it’s certainly the news outlet of choice for the educated class.” I’m sure that I had encountered the term “educated class” before, but not in a way struck me as being a discrete, identifiable category, and I’ve been chewing on it every so often over the past year.

Of course, in the past year, I’ve finished a Masters degree and completed doctoral coursework, so that makes me part of the so-called “educated class,” whatever that actually means, right…? I don’t know. Some initial poking into how the term actually gets used in public discourse turned up some not terribly conclusive references — it seems to be a term that neo-cons and moderates and “RINOs” use to pick cultural fights with each other more than anything. I’m half-tempted to see it as one of those terms like “moderate” where really it’s a label that allows for self-identification apart from distasteful extremes and is another way of saying “people like me”. It still seems, to me at least, that members of the “educated class” follow gut instinct as much as anybody else does, it’s just that we can back up our gut instinct with books you can’t find at Wal-Mart. Is that actually any better? I don’t know.

Since I’m not really sure whether or not to take it seriously, here is a half-serious/half-not look at what I think makes me part of the “educated class” (whatever that actually means):

  • I have multiple degrees and am still trying to get more.
  • I mostly hang out with people who have multiple degrees and/or are still working on more of them.
  • I am married to somebody with multiple degrees who is still working on more.
  • When I move (and remember I’m married to another academic), the single most expensive part of the move will be figuring out what to do with all of the books.
  • I belong to more academic societies than I will have degrees.
  • I assume that the people who write the books I read don’t make any money off of them.
  • I travel for conferences.
  • I actually attend conferences.
  • There are conferences for people in my field.
  • I have a “field”.
  • When I think of “conservatives” I think of people like David Gergen, Russell Kirk, and Rod Dreher. Names like Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney come to mind when I think of “angry and/or creepy white people”.
  • I get frustrated that what is presented as conservatism today seems to ignore its own intellectual history.
  • I think conservatism has an “intellectual history”.
  • I think there’s such a thing as “intellectual history”.
  • I think it’s weird that it’s spelled “conservatism” rather than “conservativism”.
  • I’d like to think that public discourse doesn’t have to be lowest common denominator in order to be effective.
  • I’ve read all of Ayn Rand’s major works (including some of her “non-fiction”) and I still think it’s not only intellectual garbage but bad literature.
  • I have to concede, with regret, that conservatives, at least in the last few decades, tend to produce lousy art.
  • I tend to agree with Paul Krugman that Newt Gingrich is a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like. I also think that tends to apply to Ayn Rand.
  • I think that “What do you read?” is a friendly, getting-to-know-you question. I’d love it if Katie Couric asked me that.
  • I’m weary of Republicans claiming that their willingness to eat their own is what separates them from the Democrats, when it is obvious to me that it isn’t true.
  • I’m aware that NPR isn’t free of bias but it’s nice to hear rational adults talking like rational adults, rather than watching either plastic people trying to buddy up to me over the anchor desk or angry white people yelling at me or each other about how a president who is to the right of Nixon on some points is a radical socialist.
  • I can tell you that Theodosius, not Constantine, made Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire.
  • Even as an Orthodox Christian, I don’t think that science is a secular conspiracy theory, and as such I think science has implications and consequences for my behavior and choices — much as Christianity does.
  • I actually want my hypothetical future kids to learn languages other than English.
  • I actually believe there’s a connection between what academics do and what happens in the real world.
  • I don’t see being articulate (read: “being able to string a coherent sentence together”) and being authentic as diametrically opposed qualities. I’m a both/and kind of guy.
  • When I’m given the opportunity to donate a book to a children’s group, I instinctively grab a single-volume copy of The Lord of the Rings and hope that it inspires some kid somewhere to think, to believe, to wonder, and maybe to be interested in the stuff that made Tolkien want to write the story in the first place.
  • To think, to believe, and to wonder are the things I learned to do best as a little kid and they’re what I’ve tried to figure out how to make a living at doing ever since.

That’s all I can think of for now. Yeah, it’s kinda SWPL-ish, isn’t it? Maybe that’s inescapable. I’d be curious for anybody to come up with their own list.

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Things you think about when you’re trying not to fall

This morning was the first frost in Bloomington, Indiana — or, at the very least, the first at our house. This is a relatively early first frost; I’m more accustomed to it staying hot until sometime in November, at some point during which God hits a switch and the temperature drops fifty degrees in a week. Given that my ancestors, centuries ago, were roaming the frozen wastes of Scandinavia wearing fur loincloths and swinging battleaxes, and that I’ve inherited their programming to stay perfectly comfortable in cold temperatures while wearing shorts and a t-shirt, as well as having to face the unpleasant corollary that above 75 degrees Fahrenheit I tend to be very uncomfortable no matter how little I’m wearing, I am very, very, very much okay with an early frost. The nice thing about cold weather is that you can always put more on. Hot weather… well, not so much. There’s only so much you can take off. (And trust me, you’re thankful for that — very very very thankful.)

What I emphatically don’t like is getting to the top step of my front porch on my way out to the car and realizing, in rapid succession, a) the first frost has arrived very much unannounced and b) I need to grab onto something very quickly. I am not one normally given to quoting John Mayer, but gravity, stay the hell away from me. Otherwise, I will be in repair (again).

For those who have asked — I do not, as of yet, have any information on the outcome of Fr. John Peck’s 16 October meeting with Metropolitan Gerasimos. All I know is that Fr. John is still listed here on the Prescott Orthodox Church website as the priest. Once I hear something I will post it (if I can).

A couple of links to pass along — Anna passed along the article “Keeping the End in View” by James R. Payton, Jr., over at Christianity Today. Prof. Payton, a Protestant, is also the author of Light From the Christian East: An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition, a book which I have not yet read myself, but I have heard Orthodox say that it is a better introduction to Orthodoxy than some books by Orthodox authors. (One hopes that he has less in common with Daniel Clendenin than with, say, Met. Kallistos Ware.) The article is an examination of the Orthodox Christian understanding of “theosis,” comparing it to how Protestants understand conversion, justification, and sanctification as “phases” of salvation. In general, Prof. Payton treats the Orthodox position quite favorably, but there are two points I’d like to mention.

In Orthodox teaching, “image” and “likeness” are not the same: the first is gift, the second, goal.

This is a matter of some imprecision; it’s not called “Orthodox teaching,” it’s called “the Greek language.” εἰκών and ὁμοίωσις are the words in question, and as even a cursory examination of their entries in either Liddell-Scott or BDAG shows pretty quickly, these are different words with related-but-different meanings, and authors do not use them interchangeably. This has nothing to do with “Orthodox teaching” except insofar as Orthodox teaching reflects how the Greek Fathers use the words. “Policy” and “law” are English words which have related but ultimately different meanings, for example. If a German author wrote that “In American politics, ‘law’ and ‘policy’ are not the same…” it would be a similar situation. It’s an issue of what the words mean, not an issue of how they’re treated by a particular group of people.

While evangelicals can learn from the Orthodox, it is fair to note that Orthodox believers can learn from us, too. The Eastern presentation of salvation can smudge the distinct steps of salvation. Justification and sanctification often get folded into the broader concept of theosis, and they become so blurred that Orthodox believers often don’t know what to make of the terms. They would be well served by an explanation of how the steps of salvation as presented in apostolic teaching fit into the larger package of divinization.

While appreciating Prof. Payton’s open-minded, open-armed approach and thus being willing to lay aside concerns about how patronizing this paragraph might be, I will suggest that he fails to mention that the issues he brings up are addressed by the participation of the Orthodox Christian in the sacramental life of the Church. I assume he knows this, and that this is a concept which probably will sail right over the heads of most CT readers, so I can understand why he doesn’t go there, but ultimately the picture he paints is misleading.

I would also direct your attention to the paper, “Approaching the Educated Person in the Post-Christian Era” by Abp. Lazar Puhalo (ret., OCA). I don’t necessarily agree with every point, but I think it’s worth reading and discussing. I might have more to say about it later.

Current reading: The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, by George H. Nash. Whether one agrees with everybody he describes or not, the story he tells is fascinating. I may have more to say about this later.

By the way, I’m considering participating in NaNoWriMo for purposes of finishing a first draft of a particular writing project of mine. I’m not sure I’d quite hit 50,000 words, but I’d have a draft finished finally, after four years of picking away at something.

I’ll wrap this up for now by saying that my application for West European Studies has been submitted, and that now it’s just a matter of my letters of recommendation rolling in. Hopefully I’ll know something soon. In the meantime, another option has come up in terms of a departmental home, and the person who suggested it did so unprompted. I don’t want to say much more about it for the time being. For right now I’ll just say that I’m flipping two coins, West European Studies and this other possibility, and we’ll see what comes up. Maybe both will come up heads, in which case I’m decidedly not opposed to leaving IU with more rather than less. Maybe both will come up tails, and I really will have to leave here with 30+ worthless graduate credits. We’ll see. Meanwhile, a near-annual conversation with a particular faculty member about said options has led to this person dubbing me a “professional applicant.” I suppose he/she isn’t wrong.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be prepared for the frost.


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