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Long Read of the Week: Undoing the Dis-Education of Millennials By Adam J. MacLeod

I teach in a law school. For several years now my students have been mostly Millennials. Contrary to stereotype, I have found that the vast majority of them want to learn. But true to stereotype, I increasingly find that most of them cannot think, don’t know very much, and are enslaved to their appetites and feelings. Their minds are held hostage in a prison fashioned by elite culture and their undergraduate professors.

They cannot learn until their minds are freed from that prison. This year in my Foundations of Law course for first-year law students, I found my students especially impervious to the ancient wisdom of foundational texts, such as Plato’s Crito and the Code of Hammurabi. Many of them were quick to dismiss unfamiliar ideas as “classist” and “racist,” and thus unable to engage with those ideas on the merits. So, a couple of weeks into the semester, I decided to lay down some ground rules. I gave them these rules just before beginning our annual unit on legal reasoning.

Here is the speech I gave them.


Before I can teach you how to reason, I must first teach you how to rid yourself of unreason. For many of you have not yet been educated. You have been dis-educated. To put it bluntly, you have been indoctrinated. Before you learn how to think you must first learn how to stop unthinking.

Reasoning requires you to understand truth claims, even truth claims that you think are false or bad or just icky. Most of you have been taught to label things with various “isms” which prevent you from understanding claims you find uncomfortable or difficult.
Reasoning requires correct judgment. Judgment involves making distinctions, discriminating. Most of you have been taught how to avoid critical, evaluative judgments by appealing to simplistic terms such as “diversity” and “equality.”

Reasoning requires you to understand the difference between true and false. And reasoning requires coherence and logic. Most of you have been taught to embrace incoherence and illogic. You have learned to associate truth with your subjective feelings, which are neither true nor false but only yours, and which are constantly changeful.

We will have to pull out all of the weeds in your mind as we come across them. Unfortunately, your mind is full of weeds, and this will be a very painful experience. But it is strictly necessary if anything useful, good, and fruitful is to be planted in your head.

There is no formula for this. Each of you has different weeds, and so we will need to take this on the case-by-case basis. But there are a few weeds that infect nearly all of your brains. So I am going to pull them out now.

First, except when describing an ideology, you are not to use a word that ends in “ism.” Communism, socialism, Nazism, and capitalism are established concepts in history and the social sciences, and those terms can often be used fruitfully to gain knowledge and promote understanding. “Classism,” “sexism,” “materialism,” “cisgenderism,” and (yes) even racism are generally not used as meaningful or productive terms, at least as you have been taught to use them. Most of the time, they do not promote understanding…..

Read the Whole Thing at Undoing the Dis-Education of Millennials | NewBostonPost

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ghostsniper November 18, 2017, 11:59 AM

    Good stuff but.
    These young people have entire lives wrapped in the matrix including the very institution the author works in and the student are now imbedded. His gesture is noble, but probably futile. It has to start with the parents, and it seems they are getting scarcer all the time.

  • Howard Nelson November 18, 2017, 1:28 PM

    MacLeod is a genius at his job! In his last two sentences he summarizes the semester-long effect of his speech on his ignorant and miseducated students. Only two students, once each it appears, “chickened” out. All apparently absorbed the teaching respectfully and assimilated them into heart AND mind.
    MacLeod’s genius was his challenge to each student’s ego, emotions, belief in their know-it-all attitude. This internalized shaming of faking forced these otherwise decent kids to think about the unreasonable, detrimental nature of their malbeliefs and then to Choose whether to change in a well-considered beneficial way.
    In this world of blunder and wonder, MacLeod deserves our applause for showing a way to adapt and emulate.
    Yes, teach the children well and remember that until the day we die we are someone’s or two’s child capable of yearnng and learning.

  • Donald Sensing November 18, 2017, 2:08 PM

    Notre Dame Prof. Patrick Daneen wrote (much more here):

    My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture. …

    At best, they possess accidental knowledge, but otherwise are masters of systematic ignorance. It is not their “fault” for pervasive ignorance of western and American history, civilization, politics, art and literature. They have learned exactly what we have asked of them – to be like mayflies, alive by happenstance in a fleeting present.

    Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts — whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about — have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings. The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school. It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide. The end of history for our students signals the End of History for the West.

  • Howard Nelson November 18, 2017, 3:56 PM

    In addition to bemoaning the serious problem how about proposing practicable solutions for near and long term implementation?
    1. Offer simple education methods ( 1- page instructions) and materials (durable, reusable library books) to parents of young children.
    2. Instruct the parents as part of parent-teacher meeting(s).
    3. Generate incentives, from students and others, for learning. Establish solution- seeking teams to work on logic and neighborhood problems and improvements of all sorts. Reward (special
    field trips…), all teams with practicable solutions.
    4. Regularly remix membership in teams
    5. Have classes discussing age peers’ experiences in successes and ‘failures’, as worthwhile learning experiences.
    6. Hold interschool ‘solutioning’ competitions on common problems/improvements sought.

    What say you?
    Will you discuss such ideas at your next school board meeting? Would you hope your parents had done so for you?

  • Fan November 18, 2017, 5:50 PM

    Yeah Alabama may be ok because there are students who actually understnad the need for morality and respect but he would be tarred and feathered in California.

  • ghostsniper November 18, 2017, 6:17 PM

    Howard, you ignorant slut.
    It seems everything in your world is gov’t oriented.
    THAT is the very problem with the school system.
    There is no incentive to do better for the employees rake their profit no matter how badly they fail.
    We did ALL of the things you suggested with our son’s school from K thru 8 and at that point we couldn’t stand it any more. He did the next 4 years in 3 and he did them at our dining rom table, as well as many other places, and none of it was done under the supervision of gov’t idiots.

    Since then we have helped thousands of caring parents worldwide to do the same.
    Now, what have YOU done?

  • Howard Nelson November 18, 2017, 8:09 PM

    gs, thank you for your homeschooling suggestion. For families where both parents do not need to work outside the home it can certainly work well.
    My emphasis for improved thinking was with local participation of students, parents, and teachers doing the program guidance for learning how to think critically and to test their abilities with real world situations.
    Your experience with failure of this kind of approach can serve others as a guide to what to do differently and better. May be charter schools would be more successful than mismanaged public schools with little involvement of parents. Not all schools or school districts are of equal quality. Likewise, all local community efforts in education are not as useless as the government programs you have experienced.
    You are to be commended for the education systems you have developed and promoted.

    You have, however, demoted yourself by violating the Merton Norms. Your bluster does not meet muster, sir. I do not accept the insult you offered. You may keep it for yourself if you wish to, as a learning experience. It will make you a better man than you already are.

  • Leslie November 18, 2017, 8:13 PM

    I cannot tell you how important it is for people to deinstitutionalize themselves. Take a huge step back. You are responsible for your children. Period. If you love them. get them out of government schools. K-12 and most universities are Marxist. Or worse. I once told a fearful new homeschool mom, if she did nothing more than read good books to her children a couple of hours a day, they would be way better off. It is not brain surgery or rocket science. Everything one needs to educate kids is available, and easy to do. Do it. But, only if you love them.

  • ghostsniper November 19, 2017, 4:33 AM

    Howard, sorry about the insult as it didn’t come out as implied due to the format of the board.
    After the insult I wrote, inside carets, snl, a reference to Dan Akroyd to Jane Curtain in the old saturday night live joke.

    Anyway, Leslie is 100% right.
    You, Howard, are looking at the issue of teaching ones children through the eyes of a defeatist, rather than that of a succeedist. It’s not about the obstacles, for there will be many in any endeavor, but rather the goals of which there will be many as well.

    Look, what makes any business enterprise work?
    The profit motive, and that is what is lacking, among other things, in every gov’t organization.
    Without a profit motive the people involved have no incentive to do better, to provide a worthwhile product or service. People are naturally lazy and like water will always try for the lowest state. Profit motive is like the whip to the horse – keeps it moving forward.

    Gov’t employees do not care about your kids, the number one thing they care about is their jobs.
    No one cares about kids more than their parents themselves, but unfortunately many parents talk the talk but refuse to walk the walk. They just don’t care. For them, the public schools serve as very costly day care centers to house their charges while they do other things.

    Lastly, the amount of potential learning that takes place in any given public school is so low that and average homeschool kid easily outpaces public school students in all criteria and it takes no where near the 6-8 hours per day the schools require. A normal everyday kid, when starting homeschool at 1st grade – age 6, can easily do 2 years worth at a time and “graduate” 12th grade at the age of 10-12. Easily. But most homeschoolers do much more than that – while doing 1-12 they also do college level courses to get a jump on that whole thing. Our sons did a 4 year degree at a local community college in less than 3 years and before he was even done had received over 200 offers from major corporations for job placement. His degree was in STEM/TECH.

    Cost is mostly a non-issue and when weighed against the enormous amount of opportunity.
    Public schools offer 1 choice, homeschoolers have that choice as well and hundreds of other venues.

    2 things keep more students from being homeschooled.

  • Kauf Buch November 19, 2017, 9:49 AM

    The article’s very good…BUT:
    THAT STILL PHOTO comes from
    my favorite Bollywood film in the last 20 years, “3 IDIOTS”.

    Ignore this “Howard” troll. It seems he’s trying his best to come off as some sort of “Larry The Liberal, Wiser Than Thou” A$$H*LE…and succeeds with mediocre results.

  • wmprof November 19, 2017, 4:43 PM

    “gs, thank you for your homeschooling suggestion. For families where both parents do not need to work outside the home it can certainly work well.”

    Both parents DO NOT need to work outside the home. My wife and I homeschooled the yougest three of five. We didn’t have nice cars, we didn’t move to a nicer house every five years, we didn’t go out all the time. We SACRIFICED for our children!

    It’s amazing how many excuses people use to justify their laziness in letting the government control their children and their lives.

    GS is too nice. Howard, you are an idiot!

  • ghostsniper November 19, 2017, 7:23 PM

    @wmprof, back off on Howard, he knows not what he speaks.
    Working outside the home is a cheap excuse.
    It’s all about priorities.
    Do you want to drive a new car (keep up with the Joneses) or provide for your family?
    Do you want that 4k TV or do you want to educate your kids?
    An enterprising person can make homeschooling “pay”.
    Yes, you can earn benefit for doing good by your kids.
    Grow balls!
    Be an American!

  • ghostsniper November 20, 2017, 4:02 AM

    Disregard entire last comment.
    Did someone slip my ass a mickey or sumfink?