Welcome to RedMom-Bluestate.org, featuring commentary by conservative columnist and Massachusetts resident, Jennifer C. Braceras. In addition to an archive of Jennifer’s published articles from the Boston Herald, Boston Globe, and other news outlets, this site contains occasional blog posts, a recommended reading list, Jennifer’s favorite political cartoons, and links to some of the best political commentary on the web.
Conservatives and the liberal arts
The article noted that, at many colleges, the percentage of humanities faculty members far outweighs the percentage of undergraduate students majoring in such disciplines as English, history, languages, or philosophy.
Anyone who has spent time on a college campus recently can sense the shift. At the University of Massachusetts (where I served as trustee for five years), the focus has long been on the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math).
There are some good reasons for this.
Our nation needs more scientists, engineers, and inventors in order to stay competitive. We need innovators of technology to boost our economy and help strengthen us militarily.
STEM jobs are the “jobs of the future,” and, particularly in a weak economy, parents and students want to know that the money they spend on college is a “good investment”; that students will be prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation.
But the exodus from the humanities isn’t just economic or utilitarian. It is also political.
It is no secret that the humanities long ago became a bastion of the far left. No longer are these departments places that encourage the discovery of universal truths that transcend cultures and connect students to generations past and present. Today, the humanities are balkanized pockets of multiculturalism — women’s studies, Latino literature, black power philosophy, queer history, etc. (Classes on “diversity” utterly lacking in diversity of thought.)
As a result of all of this, conservatives might instinctually react to the decline of the humanities by clicking their heels and mentally chanting, “ding, dong the witch is dead!”
But conservatives should pause before breaking out the champagne, as the study of the humanities fosters many conservative values.
A classical liberal arts education is the only non-coercive equalizer. Bringing students from different cultures and backgrounds together to study and debate great works opens the pathways of intellectual discourse to all, teaches students to see the interconnectedness of humanity, and increases economic mobility by educating for life. By contrast, highly specialized education creates social stratification and locks people into career tracks that, in the long term, limit mobility.
A classical liberal arts education encourages community and civic virtue. Whereas education aimed at workforce readiness encourages students to look inward, a liberal arts education encourages students to look beyond themselves to that which we share in common. It prepares the next generation for good citizenship — a life of civic participation, the pursuit of truth, and the cultivation of personal qualities important to the success of the social order.
A classical liberal arts education teaches valuable skills, including critical thinking and logical reasoning. It teaches skepticism of that which is trendy in favor of that which is true — today, a politically conservative notion.
To be sure, it is difficult, on many campuses, to find a course on the Great Books of Western Civilization that doesn’t spend most of the syllabus ”deconstructing” the texts as instruments of white oppression. But such courses are still worth taking as they at least expose students to the ideas that shaped our world and challenge students to stand up for universal principles.
College professors, therefore, aren’t the only folks who should worry about the death of the humanities. Political conservatives should too. Those who are ignorant of history, literature, and political philosophy will inevitably cede the culture to the far left. To some extent, they already have. If we give up on the humanities altogether, we might as well raise a white flag.
Our Boston Massacre
“He’s just like me, Mama.”
Those were the words of my son when he heard about the tragic death of Martin Richard at the Boston Marathon last Monday.
In many ways — in the ways that matter to little boys — Martin was just like my son.
He was 8; he loved the Bruins and the Sox; he enjoyed riding his bike; and, like my son, Martin recently received his first Holy Communion.
And yet, my son is here — and Martin is gone.
There are no words to explain to an 8-year-old boy why he is alive, but another – just like him — is not.
Until last Monday, my son believed in the intrinsic justice and inherent order of the universe. Despite my frequent reminders that “life isn’t always fair,” he often insisted that it is — or at least that it ought to be.
But now he knows that it is not. He has lost his innocence.
Before Monday, attacks like these were images on the news. Now they are personal.
That my son did not know Martin Richard makes no difference.
When I tell him not to worry, that he is safe, my son looks at me in disbelief and says, “That’s what that boy’s mother probably told him. And then they went to the Marathon.”
Before the bombings, I had planned to take my kids into the city over school vacation. A stay-cation to see Boston and its revolutionary history, complete with a trip to the Boston Tea Party Museum and the Paul Revere house. On Wednesday, the day of our planned outing, they didn’t want to go. They were scared. But I forced them to face their fears and go into Boston as planned.
Two days later, on April 19 (the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord), my son woke to news that one bombing suspect had been killed and that a search was underway for another. For 10 minutes (an eternity for an 8-year-old), he sat transfixed by the coverage.
Then he abruptly donned his tri-corner hat, grabbed his toy rifle, and ran outside to watch men and women in Revolutionary garb on their march from Sudbury to Concord’s North Bridge (as they have for decades) to commemorate “the shot heard ’round the world.”
As I followed my son outside, I worried that it seemed frivolous to be watching a historical re-enactment while Bostonians and residents of nearby communities huddled in their homes in the midst of a massive manhunt.
But then an older Minuteman marched by and instructed my son, “Pay attention, this is important.”
And it became clear. The lesson was obvious: The fight for freedom and liberty that began more than 200 years ago still rages today.
Like Crispus Attucks, who died at the first Boston Massacre, Martin Richard will live on as a symbol of our freedom and a reminder that there are those who seek to take it away.
Terrorists may have killed Martin Richard, but they won’t stop other 8-year-old boys from following his path — celebrating life at the Marathon, at the Boston Garden, and at the North Bridge.
Martin Richard will live on in the souls of all the other 8-year-old boys celebrating their First Communions this spring.
He will live on in hearts of every 8-year-old Bruins or Sox fan.
And he will live forever in the minds of boys with tri-corner hats and pretend muskets who look at the picture of the boy in the newspaper and think, “he is just like me.”
A few days ago, I stumbled upon this beautiful poem by Edward Mulholland in the National Catholic Register and thought it was worth posting.
The New Pheidippides by Edward Mulholland
Martin Richard bleeds like Boston
Blood red socks strewn on the ground
Massacred like Crispus Attucks
Hardly time to hear the sound
Bombs, ball-bearings, flying razors
Slashed the crowd on Boylston Street
Police, officials, random strangers
Drank death’s whiskey served up neat
Missing teeth at First Communion
Martin’s smile on my TV
Tears from neighbors missing Martin
Wordless, senseless tragedy
Too young to have seen the Towers
Crumble that September blue
Not too young to take, a victim,
Shrapnel meant for me and you
Now a family’s torn asunder
Flags half staff, as Ashmont weeps,
Face the Pesky Pole at Fenway,
Silently while Martin sleeps.
Pheidippides gasped out his message
“We have won a victory”
Fell to earth. His death for many
May Martin’s death inspire many
Fighting terror to fight on
So that freedom reign forever
Faneuil Hall to Marathon!