Kathryn (Actually your e-mailer): — It’s not the dumbing-down that bothers a lot of us fogeys so much, it’s the loss of interest in things and stuff.
The other evening Bill O’Reilly had a segment on the old Cheers! sitcom of the 1980s. He brought in John Ratzenberger (“Cliff Clavin”) as a guest. As well as being an actor, John is founder of the Nuts, Bolts, and Thingamajigs Foundation, “dedicated to raising awareness of skilled trades and engineering disciplines among young people.” I can’t think of a more worthwhile project, and I salute John for what he’s doing.
In the discussion with O’Reilly, John registered his unhappiness at the fact that young Americans don’t tinker any more. This bothers me too, much more than kids not reading or going to art galleries.
To anyone under forty, a garage is a place to keep your car, and a basement is a rumpus room for the kids. Yet the U.S.A. sprang up out of garage and basement tinkerers, small workshops, teen boys fixing up their cars on a Saturday morning. Everything from the aeroplane to the personal computer started in someone’s garage.
Take a walk down your street on a Saturday morning. See any young guys fixing up their cars? No, they’re all indoors playing Grand Theft Auto and texting each other.
If no American ever again paints anything as good as Cole’s Garden of Eden, my guess is that the republic will survive anyway. If we give up tinkering, we might survive, but only as a bureaucratic empire of paper-pushers and lotus-eaters.
And this is the poison pill in the left-liberal cookie. Everybody must go to college! Never mind that tinkering stuff. It’s not worthy of full-fledged Americans, who have grander destinies as lawyers, doctors, and … community organizers … hospital diversity consultants … professors of literary hermeneutics. That’s where the future lies! Throw away that wrench — hit the books!
This cast of thought, utterly dominant among liberals, and by no means unknown among conservatives, scares me much more than Iran’s bomb.
[It scares Charles Murray, too. I understand he has a book coming out this summer that touches on these things.]