IT'S QUITE A PUZZLE

Posted in Rants on January 25th, 2011 by Ed

Heather Wilson bemoans the failings of the pool of Rhodes Scholar applicants in Sunday's Washington Post:

Unlike many graduate fellowships, the Rhodes seeks leaders who will "fight the world’s fight." They must be more than mere bookworms. We are looking for students who wonder, students who are reading widely, students of passion who are driven to make a difference in the lives of those around them and in the broader world through enlightened and effective leadership. The undergraduate education they are receiving seems less and less suited to that purpose.

An outstanding biochemistry major wants to be a doctor and supports the president’s health-care bill but doesn’t really know why. A student who started a chapter of Global Zero at his university hasn’t really thought about whether a world in which great powers have divested themselves of nuclear weapons would be more stable or less so, or whether nuclear deterrence can ever be moral. A young service academy cadet who is likely to be serving in a war zone within the year believes there are things worth dying for but doesn’t seem to have thought much about what is worth killing for. A student who wants to study comparative government doesn’t seem to know much about the important features and limitations of America’s Constitution.

I think Cecil Rhodes himself would be impressed with the extent to which the foundation that bears his name appears to be stuck in the Cold War. I was not previously aware that today's young people were big on nuclear disarmament and the dilemma of "nuclear deterrence."

The real core of Heather's lament – it only gets dumber beyond this excerpt – is a simple question in every sense of the term: Why aren't any of the smart kids wingnuts? Can't we get more kids with outstanding grades who think Bill Kristol is right about everything? Why don't today's high achieving students conform to our bizarre, quasi-anachronistic conception of "leadership", a nebulous concept traditionally relied upon to favor the boarding-schools-and-Ivy-league crowd with their trained and perfected manners over the intelligent ruffians of the public school set?

It's quite a mystery, H-Dawg. Quite a mystery. I wonder if every Rhodes scholar applicant is a straw man of what the Ivory Tower Libruls are doing to today's kids – Buzzwords! Touchy-feely cultural studies! Can you believe Latin is no longer required in most colleges!?! – or if the ones she used as examples in this column just happened to fit that profile.