Is the West Doomed?

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At the beginning of a new year, it’s hard to avoid the question: where are we going?  What will our future be like?  Does America, does freedom, does Western civilization even have a future?

I date my career as a professional writer to an op-ed I published in the Los Angeles Times in the early 1980s.  I was a graduate student in English and was also teaching undergraduate composition courses.  One of the challenges I faced in the classroom was this: when, in a search for possible topics for my students to write about, I brought up things that I thought of as falling under the category of general knowledge, I found over and over again that most of my students didn’t know what I was talking about.  They didn’t know history.  Their knowledge of politics, geography, art, and literature was, at best, extremely spotty.

Yes, a few of them were very well informed about some sport or other, or about this or that singer or rock group or actor or TV show, but there was not much overlap between one kid’s knowledge and another’s.  There was, in fact, hardly any knowledge that they all shared – and these were students at what was considered a pretty decent college.  So I wrote a piece about it.

Thirty years later, the situation is, by all accounts, even worse than it was then – not just in America, but across the Western world.  And the problem isn’t just that they don’t know who wrote War and Peace.  It’s that they don’t know basic things that could mean the difference in the future between war and peace, poverty and wealth, slavery and freedom.

In 2007, a study of Swedish young people by a group called Information about Communism revealed that ninety percent of Swedes between the ages of fifteen and twenty didn’t know which foreign capital is closest to Stockholm, and most didn’t know which countries border on their own.

Moreover, most of them had no idea what Communism is.  Ninety percent didn’t know the meaning of the word “Gulag.”  Forty percent thought that Communism had actually brought increased prosperity to the people living under it.

“They lack understanding of basic concepts such as dictatorship and democracy, and this is unpleasant,” said Camilla Andersson of Information about Communism.  Swedish education minister Jan Björklund, asked about the study results, lamented “that Swedish history teaching is so limited.” But the problem, as I noted at the time, was not “limited” history teaching but slanted history teaching.  Kids, not just in Sweden but throughout the Western world, are fed pretty lies about Communism and ugly lies about America, capitalism, and Western civilization generally.

A similar study, performed in 2008 by the think tank Civita, found that “two of three young Norwegians between 14 and 20 years old have not heard of Pol Pot and the Gulag,” while 34.5% thought that Communism had “contributed to increased prosperity in some places in the world.”

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  • PhillipGaley

    I feel like there is a decided cant to this piece: In the nature of all things historical and beneficial, in carrying with them and nurturing the literature which provided the strong building blocks for later times and Societies requiring evolving standard of deceny, "the indispensable nation” was of course, ancient Israel.

    Then, I think that, beside her insistent Leftist slant, Madeleine Albright is most to be remembered for spite shown against a younger woman, one who is actually fair of face—if that is, comfortability to environment done by a woman's presence, is worth anything—and one who has gotten her money by approveable means, as opposed to the general negative impression cast by people of political appointment—and one whose words of positive intent and effect can launch a thousand ships, I mean, as opposed to the vituperation, deminishment and sleight of hand in which Madeleine Albright feels most comfortable. I intend to point up, of course, the vivacious and savvy Sarah Palin, . . .

    Then also, in the context of sense of loss, I found the article to have left out even brief mention of parenting, and then, of the black hole topic of parens patria in which very many individuals combine to use power inhering in governmental office and law-making power, in order to provide full employment for the many anti-social workers of make-shift personality who staff various of the so-called child-protective groups in their dedicated work which is very much against sound practice of parenting, . . .

    One might wonder also, as to why—than the usual rather empty despondency—the article didn't offer some question as to why the educational facilities which the lamented children are being cycled through, costs 2, 3, and maybe 4 times as much as private educational efforts and which produce better results; and, as they say, where do we go from here. As most generally is the case, criticism being offered, it's in best form at the least, to suggest some possible salve, remediation or improvement, . . . which, I get the clear idea that, our author is fully capable of, . . . so, . . .

  • tanstaafl

    If we fail to pass on Western values to our children, who will? MTV? Matt Damon? John Stewart? Susan Saradon?

    • jacob

      You forgot to add Ms, DEGENERATE

      • WilliamJamesWard

        Hillary Cinton? Michelle Obama? Rosie O'Donnell? Barney Frank?
        Abdullah Snackbar? George Soros? Karl Marx? ………….who?
        It will be who we allow………………………………………….William

  • BewilderedAmerican

    As President Reagan said, "If we forget our history, we forget what we've achieved, and who we are." And we become cannon fodder for the bullies on the block, whoever they might be.

  • Indioviejo

    Yes, the West is doomed, but the enablers will not enjoy the finale. Everyone will pay the heaviest of prices, and maybe the greatest revenge will be A La Pol Pot against teachers and professors. How ironic.

  • jacob

    Some years ago, my daughter took her 7 years old son to Disney World and in the
    tour they took, the guide showed the people a blank map of France and asked
    whether anybody could pinpoint PARIS aproximate position of on it….
    Of the 20 plus grown-up people in the group, the only one who did was my 7 years
    old grandson…
    Any high school graduate from a third world country, at least in my day and age,
    had more general culture that any college graduate of the USA and this is even
    worst nowadays.
    Just watch WANT TO BE A MILLIONNAIRE and you will see how most everybody
    there knows the name of the one who carried in and out the RHYTHM
    ASSASSINS band drums but couldn't tell name of IDAHO's capital or even where
    does ARIZONA sits in the US map but the indoctrination present in school books by
    the leftist and outright communist authors and teachers and now teaching our kids
    the excellencies of homosexuality, is there anything else to expect but outright
    DOOM ??
    And what are the representatives we sent to Congress doing about it ???
    Thanks for asking, anyway…….

  • Rifleman

    It's a shame we pay so much for so little in education, but teaching judgement, common knowlege and our culture, and their value, must be done by parents.

    • Stephen_Brady

      And Rifleman, this is exactly why the Left wants to destroy parochial and home-schooling (especially, the latter). Parents are so important to the education of a child that their value cannot be estimated.

      One of my sons was fascinated by the weather. I encouraged him in this. By the time he was 14, he was attending regional forums intended for meteorlogical professionals. They allowed him to attend because his interest was so high, and his knowledge of the subject was so deep.

      I also brought my children to church, taught them the traditional values of Western Civilization, the origin of our rights,and so on. It didn't matter how busy I was. There was always time for the kids.

      This is something the public school systems of the Western world cannot and will not do.

      • WilliamJamesWard

        The left can want what it wants but to get it we have to roll over and die.
        I would bet the majority of parents do not know what is going on in the
        schools they send their childen to. Home schooling is what I would
        choose but that does not answer the growing ignorance of American
        citizens and allows for zombie denizens of what will be a wasteland of
        birdwatchers. The schools must focus or reading, writing and math,
        the basics and have standards. If morals and ethics with civics are not
        returned to requirements failure is guaranteed. I think of Daniel Webster
        and his appealing to the Surpeme Court in his time warning of the
        removal of scriptures from education and his predictions have come
        exactly true. Today his name is amongst those who have been forgotten
        though his name is on most dictionaries. Conservatives must not stop
        moving for restoration, revival and reform………………….William

        • intrcptr2

          I studied international relations and history as an undergrad. Chatting with friends who had, or soon would have, kids, they all ignored by advice to homeschool because they each wanted their children to be properly "socialized".

          People these days believe for some reason that school is the best way to teach children how to get along with others. Even when I point out exactly what "socialization" means in the modern pedagogical sense, my friends persist in their thinking.
          It is not an issue so much of being igonrant of what goes on in schools these days, as it is thinking that what happens there is truly for the best.

          Many Americans no longer think that the role of schools is passing on academic knowledge.
          Morals never were the purview of public schools, the Spartan model died long before Western Civilization was. Without parents teaching their own children how to be moral individuals (And pre-emimently this requires Christian morality), schooling is nothing more than programming, following whatever scheme the intellectual elite deems appropriate.

          • WilliamJamesWard

            I would not concur with "Morals never were the purview of public
            schools" and for the reasons Churches opened the first public
            schools and the Scriptures were used to teach people to read.
            The question comes down to "did the Scriptures give a moral
            lesson"? I forget the exact year that the removal happend off hand
            but the prediction of decline is graphically accurate with the
            date and time predicted by Webster, check it out. If parents
            send their children to public school the results will be unacceptable
            with some exceptions. Socialization can take place in other areas
            of human concourse. All of my friends that teach homeschool and
            unless a student is well motivated I can not see much of a good
            outcome in the declining venture. Progamming or what you make
            of it can have a wide road of difference in the end………..

  • mrbean

    All jihadists are motivated by the core principles of Islam with the goal of converting, killing, or subjugating all non-Muslims. Unfortunately, too many non-Muslims have reverted to a pre-9/11 mentality and do not see the necessity of an offensive war with the Jihadists, or even of a defensive war at home. All of us as non-Muslims are going to have to decide to fight for our cultures, freedoms, and values or we are going to lose them. It is our killer instincts which must be harnessed if we expect to survive in a war with the Jihadists. Our weapons are only tools. It is a hard heart that kills. If our killer instincts are not clean and strong we will hesitate at the moment of truth. We will not kill. We will become dead Americans and Jews. And then we all will be in a world of trouble. Why? Because there are a billion Muslims and on a few million of us who will actually fight! Do you understand?

  • Brujo Blanco

    I was at the American Legion one day and the commander sat with me and started talking about the way that things should be. This man was a union official in my state. He started carping about how things should be equal. That if someone needs something it should be provided among other concepts. i asked him something to the effect, "Then you mean to each to his needs and to each to his ability?" He agreed and I told him that that was communism. He did not believe in making profits and that all corporations are evil and need to be done away with. He was really agitated when the whole bar commented that it was communism. One really patriotic man actually called him a communist.

  • Ben

    I`m sure the West is not a geografic conception but the way of thinking and an action.Once upon a time the Phoenicians and Minoans and Sumerian trade colonies where the West.After that the European Imperialistic West have made the great civilization though based on that previous "West" but it`s arrogance created the numerous enemies within and on the peripherya."The West" entangled its own roots with the backward imperial racial roots forgetting the base of freedom.International enemies of the freedom cought it and fight the West under it`s own banners!

  • John

    Most important people in British History:

    3. William the Conqueor. Founder of the English monarchy (also a Frenchman).

    2. William Shakespeare: Author of the second most read book in the world, "The Complete works of William Shakespeare," First is the Bible.

    1. Isaac Newton: His equations and laws of motion and heat transfer are the core of all human technological progress. He invented calculus because the math of his time was didn't match observable data. Everything made since his life is derived (calculus joke) from his work.

    • kafirman

      Sir Winston Churchill is both history's greatest Brit and the one recognized as such.

    • FriendofGaryCooper

      You forgot Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Drake, Queen Victoria, Sir Charles "Chinese" Gordon, Benjamin Disraeli, and Sir Winston Churchill.

      • Atikva

        You got them all. I would only add Sir Thomas More to your list.

        • PAthena

          What about Queen Victoria, with her husband Albert!

    • PAthena

      Alfred the Great was the founder of the English monarchy.

  • tarleton

    Mankind can survive struggle …but can he survive affluence ?..the decadance and degeneracy of the Roman Emperors has now been mainstreamed by affluence to the common folk …educated folk in the Third World have more ''culture '' than their counterparts in the West …here in the West ,civilisation is petering out in an orgy of hedonistic nihilism …moronic celebrity worship , mindless game shows ,binge drinking and souless sex

  • joy52

    The Left got control of education and it has been downhill for fifty years. It will not change until that changes and it will take decades.

  • LindaRivera

    America's students are being deliberately dumbed down by their teachers. They are being brainwashed in our schools and universities. And history is being REWRITTEN. Muslims are now the most powerful group in America — school texbooks are pro-Islam, anti-America, anti-Israel, and whitewash Islam.

    • SpiritOf1683

      Being brainwashed – more like being poisoned.

  • LindaRivera

    Institute for Global Jewish Affairs
    The Trouble with Textbooks: Distorting History and Religion,

    "we find that many children are very anti-Israeli. They have been very much brainwashed by an extremely anti-Israeli educational establishment."[1]

    On October 2008 one which took place at the Parkway West Middle School in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield… Students there announced a "Hit a Jew Day," on which they struck Jewish classmates.[2]

    Many books used in schools are a major source of biased anti-Israeli teaching. Fifteen years ago Mitchell Bard published a study on eighteen of the history textbooks most widely used in American high schools, Rewriting History in Textbooks. He found them "full of factual errors, oversimplification, omission, and distortion, consistently to the detriment of Jews and Israel. This inevitably leads to the conclusion that the authors are prejudiced."[3]

    Bard added that "high schools are, as far as anti-Israeli teaching is concerned, even worse than universities. This problem has grown since the Arab terrorist attacks of 9/11. They prompted a desire to better understand the Muslim world. The people who are producing the information about it in textbooks are largely funded by the Saudis. They are presenting a version of Islamic history that is often very selective, to put it mildly. We have tried during the last couple of years to produce texts on the history of Israel and found it surprisingly difficult to get them into public schools."[4]

    These organizations attempt, sometimes successfully, to push the Palestinian narrative. Their discourse promoting a whole array of lies has permeated American textbooks. Several of them obfuscate or minimize Palestinian terrorism, or even justify it. One book tries astutely to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state (92).

    The myth that Jesus was a Palestinian is also presented. On the refugee issue, one text falsely says that Israel put the Palestinians in refugee camps (125), when in fact this was done by the Arab states who occupied parts of the former Palestinian Mandate and those to which the refugees fled.

    • SpiritOf1683

      Sounds very much like the textbooks of Nazi Germany in attitude to the Jews – instead of Chesterfield 2008 it sounds like Berlin, Munich, Breslau and Konigsberg in 1936. The sight of Jewish children being held to ridicule in front of the class in Nazi Germany was very common, and Jews were dehumanized at every level. Germany was denazified in 1945 starting from the classroom – it seems like the West needs denazification almost 70 years on.

      • LindaRivera

        "Several of them obfuscate or minimize Palestinian terrorism, or even justify it."

        Yes. It does sound like Nazi Germany. It is unforgivable for the State to be indoctrinating America's students with LIES and HATE. It is profoundly EVIL.

        • SpiritOf1683

          It's not just American students who are being taught to be antisemitic – it applies to students throughout the West.

          • LindaRivera

            Yes. Very terrible and very evil.

  • kafirman

    There is not a single nationally elected political leader openly questioning the wisdom granting 501(c)3 tax-exempt status to Islam. Multiculturalism has replaced natural law and The Constitution. We are slouching towards Gomorrah.

  • Stuart Parsons

    For most people with money in their pocket, the pursuit a knowlege for its own sake is something from a bygone age.

  • chris fokine

    Many years ago my father gave me a book written by Ayn Rand, called, For the New Intellectual. Her main point was that we become whom we worship as heroes. Through the years I have seen or children worship sports figures,rock stars and the bizzare. Instead of Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Jonas Salk, and too many others to list.

    To all parents and grandparents starting telling the stories of our people those we have created our culture and the West

  • myohmy

    " And the grim truth is that freedom stands very little chance when those who are supposed to be fighting for it are so innocent of history that they can’t properly appreciate" What? "innocent of history"? More political correct balderdash…. The writer should have said "ignorant of history", not innocent of history. Ignorant people shouldn't be called innocent, they should be called ignorant… Stop with the political correct insanity and tell it like it is.

  • Robert A. Hall

    Unfortunately, while conservatives and defenders of freedom were working in the private sector, we allowed the pabulum-brained left to seize the media and education. They grow very comfortable, at our expense, "teaching" irrelevant multicultural mush. And every year college graduates grow less able to reason cognitively to step two. Yes, I fear we are very near fiscal collapse fueled by endless appetites with no grasp of basic economics. This will be followed by political and social collapse. I will link to this from my Old Jarhead blog.

    Robert A. Hall
    Author: The Coming Collapse of the American Republic
    (All royalties go to a charity to help wounded veterans)
    For a free PDF of the book, write tartanmarine(at)

  • Ellman

    Education is the one arena of life where Big Brother is definitely in control. While the Left continue to work on implementing "1984" completely, our public schools and the unions they are in league with have already succeeded in producing mindless and ignorant robots. Those of us who think Obama is a disaster cannot imagine someone even worse than he is. Yet our school system may very well one day produce a bigger inept moron.

  • Fearless

    "…34.5% thought that Communism had “contributed to increased prosperity in some places in the world.”

    Um, what about in China?

    • Kevin Stroup

      China is not a pure communist excercise anymore. It is more in line with crony capitalism or fascism. They allow "private" property and for people to own businesses, profit, etc; things not allowed under communism. But since it allows only one political party, the Communist Party, then I would have to say it is more like Nazi Germany. Fascist.

      • mrbean

        Kevin, Mao was a Communist and killed 60 million of his own people. Statism in any form – pure or impure is still statism regardless of what you call it where there are no individual rights,

  • intrcptr2

    You are absolutely correct that parents (Ultimately ALL adults) have an obligation, I consider it a moral one, to seek the truth and teach children to value it above nearly all else.

    I have just finished my student teaching here in PA, and on the last night of my practicum, we got into a brief discussion about the academic needs of children and our standards for gauging success (I was the only high school teacher in the bunch of seven). I am of the opinion that we are hamstringing our children by avoiding the basics, in nearly all fields. My classmates largely agreed with our professor that kids these days have so much more to learn that any comparisons to our own educations is unfair. Even when I pointed out that 5×5 still equals 25, and the great bulk of Americans seem not to know this (Much less the factual nature of those men on our money), he maintained his position.

    Your nephew has been brainwashed, as most people in the modern educational system are. The relativeness of truth is today a major presumption of education. The problem is that teachers are themselves products of a system which today denies the concept of absolute truth, so they tend to be incapable of recognizing the fallacies of such thinking.
    The vogue in American education is the teaching of "higher order thinking skills". I find it nearly imposible to have discussions with students merely because they have no knowledge around which to form arguments or rational opinions. I also find college students and graduates even harder to talk with, and I feel it is because the various slips of paper showing they've been educated carry more weight than objective facts and reality.
    I know from many of your comments here, that you've seen this dynamic in a few of the trolls hwo visit.

  • ziontruth

    Horrifying story, Chezwick. It's Aldous Huxley's scenario come true—Brave New World, where the populace is kept subservient not through repression (what George Orwell wrote of) but through dumbing down by means of bread and circuses.

  • ziontruth

    There was this thread on American Digest where I first read about this, Neil Postman's thesis in his Amusing Ourselves To Death. One of the commenters said, to contrast with Postman's line that "it may not be Orwell, but Huxley who was right," that they were both right.

    The Islamics favor skipping the Huxleyan phase and going straight to Orwellian governance. In Europe, however, they can only rejoice at the Marxists having smoothed the way for them through the Huxleyan route. Without that, they'd have found their quarry in the same state as it was in 1683, steadfast, resilience, with a strong will to survive. Thus, to call Marxism the political equivalence of AIDS is no exaggeration.