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Education

The Clash of Two Cultures

April 26th, 2011 // 8:30 am @

America is in the midst of a major clash of two cultures. Most of the rich world, and the developing world as well, are experiencing the same challenge.

This contest is seldom cooperative, often violent, and increasingly heated. It has the passion of the age-old class debate between the rich and the middle classes, the political angst of Republican versus Democrat, or the intensity of Cold War America versus the Soviet Union. It is much more obsessive than raging sports rivalries which so many Americans have experienced.

This conflict is intellectual in nature, though its results are physical, economic and substantive. There have been such intellectual battles before, such as conservatism versus liberalism. But, given human nature, the conservative-progressive debate seldom gained the zeal or ardor of Democratic fights with Republicans. Somehow having professionals who make their living promoting each opposing side drastically intensifies the natural belligerence of skirmishing viewpoints. In fact, it has been intellectual wars that caused the greatest conflicts of history—from strife between religions to capitalism versus communism.

The sides of this new war are conformity and innovation. This may at first sound less hostile than some struggles, but it would be a mistake to underestimate this issue. It is remaking the world as we know it.

Of course, those who support conformity have been around for a long time. And innovation has always been a rowdy, if lucrative, minority movement. Ironically, the leaders of conformity have typically come from the upper classes—nearly all of whose wealth, family legacy, and status was created by one or more ancestral innovator(s). Innovation breeds growth, wealth, success and status. The old parable of the tree house, as told to me by a partner of a major Los Angeles law firm, is applicable: build the tree house, then kick out the ladder so only those you personally select can ever come up.

Of course, the extreme of either side is—as extremes tend to be—worse than the moderate of either. Pure innovation with no regard for the lessons of history is just as bad as dogmatic conformity without openness, toleration or creativity. When I speak here of Innovation I mean a bent toward innovation within the proven rules of happiness and wisdom, and by Conformity I mean a focus on fitting in but with some open-mindedness in times of challenge. Note that even these two moderate styles are almost polar opposites.

Nearly all of our schools have a hidden, compulsory curriculum of training for conformity, and innovative teachers or institutions are pressured to become like the rest or face widespread official rebuke. The classic movie Dead Poet’s Society portrays this well.

Our universities follow this pattern more often than not, as do most institutions in our society. Entrepreneurship, for example, which is the catalyst of nearly all great business growth, is considered “lesser” by most business students and MBA programs. Many great companies were founded and built by individuals whose resumes would not get past the first glance in personnel departments of those same corporations today. And, indeed, the company’s biggest competitors are likely to be led by innovative thinkers and leaders who likewise wouldn’t get a job at the company (too many Ivy League MBA’s to compete with).

A quick read of the bestselling Rich Dad, Poor Dad shows how these two mindsets sometimes present themselves in families. But these two cultures are found at all social levels and in every geographical setting. Blue-collar working fathers are as likely to spout conforming rules as silver-spoon fathers: “This is just how things are; so you better get used to it!” “But, dad…” “Don’t contradict me. The world is what the world is! I’m telling you how things are!”

Such rigid thinking is a symptom of the widespread doctrine of conformity. It rules in many families, communities, businesses, schools, churches, nations, associations—indeed, almost everywhere. It is, in fact, on the throne in nearly every setting and society. It has the benefit of learning from the best lessons of the past, but it seems to chronically ignore the lesson that innovation is both advantageous and desired.

Futurist Alvin Toffler argued that our schools will not be competitive in the world economy unless we replace rote memorization, fitting in, and getting the “right” answer with things like independent thinking, leadership practice, creativity and entrepreneurialism. Several of Harvard’s educational scholars and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have made the same point—repeatedly.

But our schools are run on conformity, and until we promote innovators to educational leadership such changes will be rare. And when we do put innovators in charge, the attacks from entrenched powers are incessant.

Likewise, our economic experts are those who conform to the “accepted” analyses—economists with divergent, and often more accurate, predictions based on innovative models are given little press by the conformist economics, academic and media professions.

I have long suggested that the way to fix American education is to get truly great teachers in more of our classrooms. But innovative teachers often don’t fit in the bureaucratic school systems. Many of the best teachers leave schools simply because they can’t innovate in a conformist system.

An article by Tim Kane in The Atlantic noted:

“Why are so many of the most talented officers now abandoning military life for the private sector? An exclusive survey of West Point graduates shows that it’s not just money. Increasingly, the military is creating a command structure that rewards conformism and ignores merit. As a result, it’s losing its vaunted ability to cultivate entrepreneurs in uniform.”

This seems indicative of our entire culture right now. Conformity is winning far too often. Companies and organizations which elect to encourage the innovative side of the debate are seeing huge success, but this is taking many of the “best and brightest” away from academia, the public sector and the United States to more entrepreneurial-minded environments in private companies and international firms.

In far too many cases, we kill the human spirit with rules of bureaucratic conformity and then lament the lack of creativity, innovation, initiative and growth. We are angry with companies that take their jobs abroad, but refuse to become the kind of employees that would guarantee their stay. We beg our political leaders to fix things, but don’t take initiative to build entrepreneurial solutions that are profitable and impactful.

The future belongs to those who buck these trends. These are the innovators, the entrepreneurs, the creators, what Chris Brady has called the Rascals. We need more of them. Of course, not every innovation works and not every entrepreneur succeeds, but without more of them our society will surely decline. Listening to some politicians in Washington, from both parties, it would appear we are on the verge of a new era of conformity! “Better regulations will fix everything,” they affirm.

The opposite is true. Unless we create and embrace a new era of innovation, we will watch American power decline along with numbers of people employed and the prosperity of our middle and lower classes. So next time your son, daughter, employee or colleague comes to you with an exciting idea or innovation, bite your tongue before you snap them back to conformity.

The future of our freedom and prosperity depends on innovative thinking, and the innovation we need may be in the mind of your fifteen-year-old son or your husband, wife or employee. This battle will ultimately be fought in families, where youth get their fundamental cultural leaning—toward either conformity, seeking popularity and impressing others or, in contrast, creativity, initiative, and innovation.

Thomas Jefferson Education is naturally pointed toward innovation, but it is up to parents, mentors and teachers to implement this leadership skill. I invite all to join this battle, and to join it firmly committed to the side of innovation. Do whatever you can to encourage innovation and be skeptical of rote conformity. That’s a change that could literally change everything.

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odemille 133x195 custom Obamas EconomyOliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

Category : Blog &Business &Culture &Education &Family &Government &Independents &Leadership

The Freud Doctrine

April 21st, 2011 // 7:35 am @

Freud has too much power in our current world. Those who practice in the mental health fields know that little of Freud is still used in modern psychology; and most others only read Freud, if at all, from a few selected readings in a basic psychology course from college. But Freud’s lasting legacy comes from another source—one that has significantly influenced our modern world in ways little understood.

Freud’s view of reality and truth dominates much of the modern world, even among people who have never closely read or studied his writings. One glaring example can be found in Freud’s teachings about science.

He wrote that science:

“…asserts that there is no other source of knowledge of the universe, but the intellectual manipulation of carefully verified observations, in fact, what is called research, and that no knowledge can be obtained from revelation, intuition, or inspiration.

“It is inadmissible to declare, that science is one field of human intellectual activity, and that religion and philosophy are others, at least as valuable, and that science has no ability to interfere with the other two, that they all have an equal claim to truth, and that everyone is free to choose whence he shall draw his conviction and in which he shall place his belief.

“Such an attitude is considered particularly respectable, tolerant, broad-minded, and free from narrow prejudices. Unfortunately, it is not tenable…. The bare fact is that truth cannot be tolerant and cannot admit compromise or limitations, that scientific research looks on the whole field of human activity as its own, and must adopt an uncompromisingly critical attitude towards any other power that seeks to usurp any part of its province.”

In short: In the Freudian worldview, science is the only source of truth for any and all fields of knowledge, and it must take “an uncompromisingly critical attitude” toward any other source of knowledge.  We might call this The Freud Doctrine.

The debates between “science” and “religion” are well known. In fairness, religion has often taken half of the same stance—that God’s wisdom applies to all areas of knowledge—and at times even the second half of the model—that religion should therefore have a critical attitude toward science and other sources of knowledge. Indeed, the injustices heaped upon Copernicus and Galileo, among others, are clear examples of church overreach into the works of science.

But it is Freud’s argument that science is above philosophy that has perhaps had the most negative impact on modern politics and society. Science gets its knowledge through experimentation, and it has become a field dominated by experts and specialists. Most religions claim knowledge through revealed writings, and they are also nearly all subject to the authority of official leaders. Indeed, the professionals of science and religion have long battled each other in many arenas.

In contrast, philosophy, as much as it had accepted leaders in ancient times, is now wide open to the masses. Freud’s attack on philosophy therefore amounts in our day to a decree that the common sense of the regular citizen and the reason of the average person must be overseen by the “true” and “accepted” wisdom of the experts—who, of course, base their conclusions on research, scientific methodology and therefore “real truth” rather than the “inferior thinking of the common man.”

Whether Freud meant by “philosophy” the work of philosophy professionals in the academy or the daily reason of the people is irrelevant; in our time a literal elite class of professionals, experts and officials apply his teaching like a prime directive—without questioning assumptions and with immediate rancor for any who question the dogma of the primacy of scientific research. “The Freud Doctrine” is a reality in our world.

There are a number of problems with The Freud Doctrine, the idea that only the professionals and experts understand the truth because only they rely entirely on credible research, and that the rational thought of non-experts and the non-credentialed (and even those with prestigious credentials whose conclusions are outside the expert consensus) is simply inferior.

First, this idea isn’t even internally consistent. For example, the accepted experts in this model systemically disagree with each other—the top experts in the social sciences, hard sciences and mathematical fields often come up with widely divergent conclusions as they attempt to deal with a given problem. At a deeper level, few mathematical schools of thought agree on many of the basics, and the gaps in agreement between biologists, chemists and physicists are legendary. Add the practical fields like medicine and engineering, and the conflicts are epic. How can we truly trust the experts when so many of them disagree on so much?

Second, on a logical level, the Freudian-based worldview isn’t even tenable. For example, Freud’s insistence that only experimental knowledge has any basis of truth, that everything else is “not tenable” and must be resisted in “intolerant” and “uncompromising” ways, leaves out at least two important fields of knowledge that are highly credible in the modern perspective: mathematics and logic. Put simply, neither mathematics nor logic is experimental. In fact, all the major arguments against using religion or reason to find truth also discredit the validity of logic and math. Yet the modern faith in experts includes mathematics and formal logic along with the hard sciences.

Third, and this is the most significant problem with the modern system of leaving our leadership to the experts, this approach hasn’t worked very well. As David Brooks wrote in The Social Animal:

“Since 1983 we’ve reformed the education system again and again, yet more than a quarter of high-school students drop out, even though all rational incentives tell them not to. We’ve tried to close the gap between white and black achievement, but have failed. We’ve spent a generation enrolling more young people in college without understanding why so many don’t graduate.

“One could go on: We’ve tried feebly to reduce widening inequality. We’ve tried to boost economic mobility. We’ve tried to stem the tide of children raised in single-parent homes. We’ve tried to reduce the polarization that marks our politics. We’ve tried to ameliorate the boom-and-bust cycle of our economics. In recent decades, the world has tried to export capitalism to Russia, plant democracy in the Middle East, and boost development in Africa. And the results of these efforts are mostly disappointing.

“The failures have been marked by a single feature: Reliance on an overly simplistic view of human nature. Many of these policies were based on the shallow social-science model of human behavior. Many of the policies were proposed by wonks who are comfortable only with traits and correlations that can be measured and quantified.”

There are many other examples. Legislatures have trusted experts, the citizenry has trusted experts and legislators, and the results have been less than exemplary. When policy is based on research and experimentation, common sense is sparsely applied and, it turns out, desperately needed.

This is not an indictment of science. Most scientists would observe the limp results of too much Ivory Towerism and alter their hypotheses and policies. The major problem with The Freud Doctrine as it has evolved to date is that our policies give full lip service to science, use the gravitas of “science” to shut down views from religion or art or worst of all common reason, and then ignore science as it becomes entirely politicized in our legislatures and especially in bureaucratic implementation and judicial oversight.

The tragedy is that the whole process flies above the active participation of the common citizen. After all, unless you are a professional scientist or researcher, Freud’s system has discredited anything you have to add. Professional politicians get around this by citing the experts, as do professional journalists. But the citizens—they are relegated to the gallery, where they are told to observe as long as they stay quiet and don’t disturb the process.

The Internet has changed all this, or at least it has started the change. The experts (predictably) complain that much of what is written online doesn’t meet rigorous scientific standards. Thank goodness for that! The shift is evoking the return of a long-underutilized human ability among the regular citizenry—listening to and learning truth from analytical reason. Lots of the online analysis is shallow, misleading or false, which causes readers to turn on their reason and really think things through. A new period of deep-thinking citizens is emerging.

The war between “truth by experts” and “truth from widespread individual reason” (Freud vs. Jefferson) has just begun, but the results seem inevitable. Barring a shut-down of open dialogue, the future of independent thinking and the freedom it usually engenders is bright.

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odemille 133x195 custom Is America a Democracy, Republic, or Empire?Oliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.


Category : Blog &Culture &Education &Generations &Government &Leadership &Postmodernism

The Social Animal

April 20th, 2011 // 7:31 am @

A review of the book The Social Animal: A Story of Love, Character and Achievement by David Brooks

There are at least three major types of writing. The first might be called Shakespeare’s method, which includes the telling of stories with deep symbolic and archetypal lessons. Many of the great world religious texts used this approach. The Greeks referred to this as poetry, though the meaning of “poetry” is much more limited in modern usage. In the contemporary world we often call this type of writing fiction, though this is a misnomer since the stories used are not actually untrue—they are, many of them, literally true, and nearly all of them are symbolically true. This could also be called the Inspirational style of writing.

A second kind of writing can be summarized as Tocqueville’s method, or the philosopher’s style. Called prose, non-fiction, or editorializing, this type of literature consists of the author sharing her views, thoughts, questions, analyses and conclusions. Writers in this style see no need to document or prove their points, but they do make a case for their ideas. This way of writing gave the world many of the great classics of human history—in many fields of thought spanning the arts, sciences, humanities and practical domains. This writing is Authoritative in style, meaning that the author is interested mostly in ideas (rather than proof or credibility) and writes as her own authority on what she is thinking.

The third sort of writing, what I’ll call Einstein’s method, attempts to prove its conclusions using professional language and appealing to reason, experts or other authority. Most scientific works, textbooks, and research-based books on a host of topics apply this method. The basis of such writing is to clearly show the reader the sources of assumptions, the progress of the author’s thinking, and the basis behind each conclusion. Following the scientific method, this modern “Objective” style of writing emphasizes the credibility of the conclusions—based on the duplicable nature of the research and the rigorous analysis and deduction. There are few leaps of logic in this kind of prose.

Each type of writing has its masters, and all offer valuable contributions to the great works of human literature. This is so obvious that it hardly needs to be said, but we live in a world where the third, Objective, style of writing is the norm and anything else is often considered inferior. Such a conclusion, ironically, is not a scientifically proven fact. Indeed, how can science prove that anything open to individual preference and taste is truly “best?” For example, such greats as Churchill, Solzhenitsyn and Allan Bloom (author of The Closing of the American Mind) have shown that “Tocqueville’s” style is still of great value in modern times—as do daily op eds in our leading newspapers and blogs. Likewise, our greatest plays, movies and television programs demonstrate that the Shakespearean method still has great power in our world.

That said, David Brooks’ new book The Social Animal: A Story of Love, Character and Achievement manages to combine all three styles in one truly moving work. I have long considered Brooks one of my favorite authors. I assigned his book Bobos in Paradaise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There as an undergraduate and graduate college text for several years, and I have recommended his book On Paradise Drive to many students and executives who wanted to understand American and modern culture. In one of the best descriptions of our society ever written, he outlined the new realities experienced by the “average” American citizen, who he called “Patio Man.” I have also enjoyed many of his editorials in The New York Times—and the ongoing, albeit unofficial and indirect, “debate” between his columns and those of Thomas L. Friedman, Paul Krugman, George Will and, occasionally, Peggy Noonan.

The Social Animal is, in my opinion, his best work to date. In fact, it is downright brilliant. I am not suggesting that it approaches Shakespeare, of course. But who does? Still, the stories in The Social Animal flow like Isaac Asimov meets Ayn Rand.  It doesn’t boast deep scientific technical writing, as Brooks himself notes. Indeed, Brooks doesn’t even attempt to produce a great Shakespearean or scientific classic. But he does effectively weave the three great styles of writing together, and in the realm of philosophical writing this book is similar to Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. The content of the book, in fact, is as close as we may ever see to a 21st century update to Tocqeville (1830s) and Bryce (1910s).

I know this is high praise, and in our modern era with its love of objective analysis, such strong language is suspect in “educated” circles. But my words are not hyperbole. This is an important book. It is one of the most important books we’ve seen in years—probably since Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World or Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind. This book is in the same class as Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, Strauss and Howe’s The Fourth Turning, or Philip Bobbitt’s The Shield of Achilles. It is as significant as any article in Foreign Affairs since Richard Gardner’s writings. It reads like Steven Pinker channelling Alexis de Tocqueville. The language is, well, beautiful, but beautiful in the modern sense, like the writings of Laura Munson or Sandra Tsing Loh.

The book also manages to bridge political views—I think liberals will find it moving and conservatives will find it convincing. It is not exactly Centrist, but neither is it patently Right nor Left. It will appeal to independents and people from all political perspectives. If it has a political leaning, it is the party of Common Sense—backed by meticulous research.

Moreover, The Social Animal clouds typical publishing stereotypes. I’m not sure where big bookstores will shelve it. It is a book on culture, politics, education, and career. It is a book about entertainment, marriage and language. It is about the upper, middle and lower classes in modern American society, how they interrelate and what challenges are ahead as they clash. It is about current events and future challenges. It is, above all, a book about success. It goes well beyond books on Habits or The Secret or even “Acres of Diamonds.”

As Brooks himself put it:

“Over the centuries, zillions of books have been written about how to succeed. But these tales are usually told on the surface level of life. They describe the colleges people get into, the professional skills they acquire, the conscious decisions they make, and the tips and techniques they adopt to build connections and get ahead. These books often focus on an outer definition of success, having to do with IQ, wealth, prestige, and worldly accomplishments.

“This story [The Social Animal] is told one level down. This success story emphasizes the role of the inner mind—the unconscious realm of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings….

“…we are not primarily the products of our conscious thinking. We are primarily the products of thinking that happens below the level of awareness.”

Brooks argues:

“The research being done today reminds us of the relative importance of emotion over pure reason, social connections over individual choice, character over IQ, emergent, organic systems over linear, mechanistic ones, and the idea that we have multiple selves over the idea that we have a single self.”

The book deals with such intriguing topics as:

  • Modern dating and courtship
  • Today’s marriages and what makes them succeed—or not
  • The scientific versus popular views of child development
  • Cultural trends such as global-warming awareness assemblies in high schools
  • The scientific foundations of violence
  • The kind of decision-making that leads to success versus mediocrity and failure
  • A veritable manual for success in college
  • The powerful leadership techniques of priming, anchoring, framing, limerance, fractals, metis and multiparadigm teams, among others (it is worth reading the book just for this)
  • How to “ace” job interviews
  • The new phases of life progression
  • Effectively starting a new business—the steps, techniques, values and needed character traits
  • Leadership in the modern corporation
  • How to win a revolution by only making a call for small reforms
  • The effectiveness of a talent for oversimplification
  • The supreme power of a life’s viewpoint

The Social Animal struck a personal note with me because it brilliantly describes the true process of great mentoring that more of our teachers need to adopt and that I wrote about with Tiffany Earl in our book The Student Whisperer. I have seldom seen truly great teaching described better.

This book is primarily about success—specifically success in our complex modern world—but at a deeper level it is about happiness. Brooks writes:

We still have admissions committees that judge people by IQ measures and not by practical literacy. We still have academic fields that often treat human beings as rational utility-maximizing individuals. Modern society has created a giant apparatus for the cultivation of the hard skills, while failing to develop the moral and emotional faculties down below. Children are coached on how to jump through a thousand scholastic hoops. Yet by far the most important decisions they will make are about whom to marry and whom to befriend, what to love and what to despise, and how to control impulses. On these matters, they are almost entirely on their own. We are good at talking about material incentives, but bad about talking about emotions and intuitions. We are good at teaching technical skills, but when it comes to the most important things, like character, we have almost nothing to say.

The book, like any true “classic” (and I am convinced this will be one), is deep and broad. It includes such gems as:

  • “The food at their lunch was terrible, but the meal was wonderous.”
  • “For example, six-month-old babies can spot the different facial features of different monkeys, even though, to adults, they all look the same.”
  • In his high school, “…life was dominated by a universal struggle for admiration.”
  • “The students divided into the inevitable cliques, and each clique had its own individual pattern of behavior.”
  • “Fear of exclusion was his primary source of anxiety.”
  • “Erica decided that in these neighborhoods you could never show weakness. You could never back down or compromise.”
  • “In middle class country, children were raised to go to college. In poverty country they were not.”
  • Jim Collins “…found that many of the best CEOs were not flamboyant visionaries. They were humble, self-effacing, diligent, and resolute souls who found one thing they were really good at and did it over and over again. They did not spend a lot of time on internal motivational campaigns. They demanded discipline and efficiency.”
  • “Then a quiet voice could be heard from the other end of the table. ‘Leave her alone.’ It was her mother. The picnic table went silent.”
  • “Erica resolved that she would always try to stand at the junction between two mental spaces. In organizations, she would try to stand at the junction of two departments, or fill in the gaps between departments.”
  • “School asks students to be good at a range of subjects, but life asks people to find one passion that they will do forever.”
  • “His missions had been clearly marked: get good grades, make the starting team, make adults happy. Ms. Taylor had introduced a new wrinkle into his life—a love of big ideas.”
  • “…if Steve Jobs had come out with an iWife, they would have been married on launch day.”
  • “Epistemological modesty is the knowledge of how little we know and can know.”

There are so many more gems of wisdom. For example, Brooks notes that in current culture there is a new phase of life. Most of today’s parents and grandparents grew up in a world with four life phases, including “childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age.” Today’s young will experience at least six phases, Brooks suggests: childhood, adolescence, odyssey, adulthood, active retirement, and old age.

While many parents expect their 18- and 19-year-old children to go directly from adolescence to the adult life of leaving home and pursuing their own independent life and a marriage relationship, their children are surprising (and confusing) them by embracing their odyssey years: living at home, then wandering, then back home for a time, taking a long time to “play around” with their education before getting serious about preparing for a career, and in general enjoying their youthful freedom. Most parents are convinced they’re kids are wasting their lives when in fact this is the new normal.

The odyssey years actually make a lot of sense. The young “…want the security and stability adulthood brings, but they don’t want to settle into a daily grind. They don’t want to limit their spontaneity or put limits on their dreams.” Parents can support this slower pace with two thoughts: 1) the kids usually turn out better because they don’t force themselves to grow up too fast like earlier generations did, and 2) the parents get to enjoy a similar kind of relaxed state in the “active retirement phase.”

Most odysseys pursue life in what Brooks calls The Group—a small team of friends who help each other through this transition. Members of a Group talk a lot, play together, frequently engage entrepreneurial or work ventures with each other, and fill the role of traditional families during this time of transition. Even odysseys who live at home for a time usually spend much of their time with their Group.

This book is full of numerous other ideas, stories, studies, and commentaries. It is the kind of reading that you simply have to mark up with a highlighter on literally every page.

Whether you agree or disagree with the ideas in this book—or, hopefully, both—it is a great read. Not a good read, but a great one. Some social conservatives may dislike certain things such as the language used by some characters or the easy sexuality of some college students, and some liberals may question the realistic way characters refuse to accept every politically-correct viewpoint in society—but both are accurate portrayals of many people in our current culture.

The Social Animal may not remain on the classics list as long as Democracy in America, but it could. At the very least, it is as good a portrayal of modern society as Rousseau’s Emile was in its time. It provides a telling, accurate and profound snapshot of American life at the beginning of the 21st Century. Reading it will help modern Americans know themselves at a much deeper level.

This is a book about many things, including success and happiness as mentioned above. But it is also a classic book on freedom, and on how our society defines freedom in our time. As such, it is an invaluable source to any who care about the future of freedom. Read this book to see where we are, where we are headed, and how we need to change. The Social Animal is required reading for leaders in all sectors and for people from all political persuasions who want to see freedom flourish in the 21st century.

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odemille 133x195 custom Is America a Democracy, Republic, or Empire?Oliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.


Category : Blog &Book Reviews &Community &Culture &Current Events &Education &Entrepreneurship &Family &Generations &Leadership &Liberty &Mission &Postmodernism &Service &Statesmanship &Tribes

Quantity. Quality. Method.

April 12th, 2011 // 6:45 am @

How much?

How well?

How?

These three aspects of success in any endeavor can teach us a lot about government, freedom and prosperity. Most importantly, they can teach us about government for freedom—since most governments in history have had different goals than liberty.

Good government—which maintains freedom and opportunity for all citizens—must meet the tests of quantity, quality and method. We naturally use all three in governmental analysis, often without noticing it. For example, terms such as democracy, aristocracy and monarchy emphasize the quantity of leaders—many, few or one. In contrast, we emphasize the method of governance in terms like communist, capitalist, commercial, and limited governments—these all describe the process which drives their respective societies. Words such as oligarchy, confederation, socialist, mercantile, militarist, federal, national and empire deal with the qualities of a nation’s governance, the attributes that make it what it is.

Quality, quantity and method are different ways to analyze any governmental institution, power, program or proposal. All three are important. Before we tackle how this applies to government, let’s learn a little about these three perspectives using a few examples. In the Great Books, for example, the discussion of quality centers on primary versus secondary qualities: attributes that cannot be separated from a thing are primary qualities, while attributes that can be changed without changing the thing—like color, taste, number or temperature, etc.—are secondary.

As for quantity, a big debate through written history has been the question of why mathematics doesn’t directly apply to the real world. Engineers, inventors and others who use math in the real world have to calculate for various non-mathematical realities in order to apply math to real things. This has caused many arguments among the great thinkers, from Aristotle to Buckminster Fuller. Newton invented calculus in order to bridge the gap between the mathematical and physical universes.

Perhaps the most interesting point about all this is that the discussion of method, as opposed to quality and quantity, runs through the Great Books and great conversation of history at nearly every turn. Almost every topic covered by the great thinkers and leaders from ancient, medieval and early modern (1800s) times deals extensively with competing ideas of method. Amazingly, this significantly slows in modern times, especially after 1900. Somehow the general acceptance of scientific experts as the true authorities on almost everything caused, or at least coincided with, a reduction of the common people asking questions about method.

Consider some examples that most moderns have experienced. Let’s say you decide to lose weight or get in shape. One diet approach, the most frequent in the United States, is to focus on “how much” food you eat. The formula is simple: Cut Calories + Exercise More = Lose Weight. This view attempts to change your body by decreasing how much food you eat and increasing the amount of exercise you get. Quantity is the focus.

Another viewpoint emphasizes the quality of what you eat (e.g. no sweets or fats, more raw vegetables, fewer carbohydrates, etc.). This perspective holds that if you eat the right kinds of foods and cut out the “bad” foods you’ll get your desired result. Likewise, it suggests effective exercise, like certain weight-training routines, interval cardio workouts, or changing your exercise to keep your body constantly adapting. The emphasis here is on “how well” you eat or exercise rather than how much.

A combined perspective emphasizes both how much and how well you eat, exercise, study, sell or whatever you are trying to do. Most modern “how to” literature combines these, and there are many thousands of management, sales, health and other books and programs in many fields of life.

Only a few programs exist from the third perspective: method. This viewpoint cares less about “how much” or “how well” than about “how”. For example, it might recommend eating whatever you want, as much as you want, but chewing each bite 20 times and fully enjoying each mouthful. The fact that those who do this tend to eat a lot less (you get full with less food) and better food (when you really taste them, many junk foods lose their appeal), isn’t the point. The focus is on process or method. Again, this is less common than the quality and quantity approaches.

Another example is provided by college sports. One team might focus on getting the most fans (quantity), and consider this the measure of a successful sports program. More fans often means more money for the school, more donations, better community relations, and so on. Another school might emphasize getting the best, most talented, coaches and players (quality). A third might focus on the process of great practices, training, conditioning and preparation—trusting that doing the right things will bring the desired outcomes (method).

The most successful programs—like the most effective sales techniques, educational systems, and governments, etc.—will encourage all three: quantity, quality and method. If a team becomes the best recruiter in the nation but puts very little work into conditioning or practice, it will likely not win very often. On the other extreme, teams which ignore recruiting probably won’t flourish either. All three perspectives are needed.

Two more quick examples: Imagine a school or church which focuses only on numbers without regard to knowledge or truth, or exclusively on truth while refusing to share it with anyone. Few modern institutions seem to focus on greatness—on the methods and processes of, say, being a great student, a great teacher, or a great believer. The scientific method lends itself to experts, and it seems that in the wake of accepting this reality our society has decided to leave most issues of method to the specialists.

There are many examples of all three perspectives in business, science, art and beyond, and method remains a small minority in most fields. Quality and quantity rule the day. As stated above, this is the opposite of nearly all recorded history.

Let’s consider how these concepts apply to government. One way to measure the effectiveness of a government is how big or small it is (quantity). If it is too small, it is naturally weak, and it if it is too big it is naturally tyrannical—so argue the authors of The Federalist. A second viewpoint asks how “good” our leaders are, or how “effective” a government program is (quality). Both of these are legitimate ways to analyze our government.

A third perspective is to analyze government by process (method). For example, does it have a written constitution? Does this constitution separate the legislative, executive and judicial powers in a way that all three are independent, generally equal with each other in power, and effectively checked and balanced? Does this constitution separate (or fit into a separation of) national, provincial and more local governments—with most sovereign powers left to the lower governments and the people? Was this constitution ratified by the people? Do the regular people deeply understand this constitution today? Does the government always follow the constitution?

Any nation that does not follow these methods will not long maintain widespread freedom or prosperity. Free citizens who expect to remain free must carefully analyze and lead their government utilizing all three of these perspectives.
Unfortunately, nearly all current discussion of government centers around one thing—debates about the quality of our elected leaders and the effectiveness (or not) of various government programs. The quantity and method questions are seldom mentioned by anyone.

There are many examples of how this drastically impacts our freedom and prosperity. Consider taxes. Following the modern trend, most current debate about taxes centers on quantity (e.g. How much is too much?, How can government tax the people more?, or, Don’t we need to raise taxes to pay down our deficit?) or quality (e.g. Should we tax the wealthy or everyone equally?, or, Are income, sales or other kinds of taxes best?).

In contrast, the American founding generation used a method approach to taxes: Many kinds (quality) and levels (quantity) of taxes were constitutional, but the federal government could only assess taxes from the state governments—never from individuals or households. When we changed the method, we saw the rise of government that is too big, too inefficient and increasingly out of control.

This same argument (that we are mostly ignoring the method approach to government and that all three approaches are important) can be applied to many of our most pressing current issues, from education or health care to energy policy, immigration, fiscal and monetary decisions, the national debt and deficits, etc.

Quality government matters, certainly, but the quantity and method questions (especially method) are ultimately more important to the freedom and prosperity of the people. If the regular people want to remain free, they must understand and act on this.

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odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.


Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Citizenship &Constitution &Culture &Economics &Education &Entrepreneurship &Government &Politics

The Marriage Plot & the End of Men, Part II

December 21st, 2010 // 8:26 am @

This is a follow-up article to this article.

The Rise of Women

In 2010 America saw more women than men in the paid workplace for the first time. In the wake of this major development, business is evolving in several significant ways.

For example, columnist Jennifer Braunschweiger has outlined many changes ahead, including the following:

  • The growing popularity of replacing flextime with “Customized Career Lattices” where employees can increase their work responsibilities for a time or scale back to emphasize family or other life events for a time.
  • The widespread growth of home offices. This is a huge trend, and according to Braunschweiger, some companies (such as IBM) have as much as 40 percent of their labor force working off-site.
  • A move from face-to-face to results-based evaluations which downplay the “old-boy network” and emphasize actual performance on the tasks assigned.
  • An increase in parent-friendly laws that allow employees the latitude to care for family needs first.
  • Another author suggests to women employees: “do your most important task first thing” and schedule your day so you can leave work early. And it is now considered okay for women to wear the same exact outfit on Tuesday that they did last week.

These represent a growing mental shift in America’s corporate culture, but the office isn’t the only place changing in order to accommodate the rising influence of women. The newly popular buzzword “femivore” is defined as: “A highly educated opt-out mom who stays home to raise the kids, vegetables and, increasingly, chickens.”

More and more such women are having an impact on society in the home and beyond, and numerous publications provide on-going advice, recommendations and tips for the femivores and the millions of work-at-home women careerists. These include Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Country Living, Whole Living, Better Homes and Gardens, Real Simple, Redbook, More, and many others.

For example, each month “The Careerist” column in Marie Claire gives advice on work.

The November 2010 focus is on “The Careerist @ Home,” and provides a number of guidelines for work-at-home women, including how to best show off your books to visitors and keep all electronics in one area to increase floor space5 — and perhaps also to separate work from private life. The next page provides guidelines for an efficient and effective wardrobe for those who work from home.

Another article proclaims that

“…women are on a tear right now, shrinking the wage gap and even out-earning men at the entry level,” and then outlines various tips for wise female financial planning in challenging economies: don’t use debt; freelance on the side; sell yourself; plan for retirement; sell your old and unused books, dvds and cds online; be upfront about your goals; scale back; and sell overpriced gadgets like your iPhone.

The trend of the “two-half-income household” is returning — where partners both work half time and take care of the home half time, and participants say such an arrangement reduces stress and increases the quality of life for both men and women.

Another significant trend is the growth of “Intentionals,” who sometimes call themselves “non-moms” for their choice to not have children. There are over 1.5 million American Intentionals, and the non-mom fashion is articulated in books like Two is Enough, The Childless by Choice Project, and Childfree and Loving It.

These trends show that women have more options than ever. At home and in the workplace, the status of women is rising across America. Some would say, “It’s about time!” and most men and women agree that increasing opportunities for women is a great accomplishment in the modern United States.

On the world scale, some major philanthropic organizations, including the Carter Center and Buffett’s NoVo Foundation, emphasize donations that empower women and girls. A donation to a woman, according to Peter Buffett, “ripples out in ways that it just doesn’t when you give the dollars to a man.”

As for women in business and government, when asked if they are generally different than men, French Finance Minister Christine Lagard said:

“Yes…I think we inject less libido, less testosterone, into the equation….It helps in the sense that we don’t necessarily project our own egos into cutting a deal, making our point…convincing people, reducing them to, you know, a partner that has lost in the process….

“I honestly believe that there is a majority of women in such positions that approach power, decision-making processes, and other people in the business relationships in a slightly different manner.”

She noted that there are male and female exceptions to the rule, but that these generalizations are usually accurate.

Gender Roles in Pop Culture

Popular culture is alive with changes in this Rise-of-the-Women era. Women, whether at work or home, are bonding in increasingly high numbers via e-relationships. The old cliché that when men stress they go somewhere alone and when women stress they meet together and bond is being leveraged by the Internet.

On average, women visit a social networking site 5 times a day, 64 percent of women consider themselves a bit addicted to such sites, and most women have between 100 and 300 friends on their sites. The average young working woman spends over 2 hours a day surfing the Web and another 90 minutes a day emailing. Surfing the web at work is good for your career, women are assured.

Women’s clout is on the rise at home too. With over thirty years of the pro-choice/pro-life debate putting women firmly in charge of pregnancy, some men now complain that they want more children but their wife has the uterus and all the power.

A heralded new book, Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, reintroduces perhaps the greatest classical feminist of Western Civilization, and the movie “Easy A” takes The Scarlet Letter to a new generation — with a very different cultural spin.

As for men, this year’s pop culture is rolling out Boardwalk Empire (an HBO series about male-dominated 1920s Prohibition culture), Lonestar (about a con artist lying to the two women in his life; critically acclaimed by the experts but cancelled after just two weeks), and Michael Douglass as the iconic man at his worst in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (where he and others play the Wall Street “fat cats” storyline right out of the White House’s worst nightmares).

The stereotypes are captured in the comedy Running Wilde: responsible, capable woman meets playboy, self-centered man. It’s the same concept as the hit Cougar Town.

This theme is repeated often in each week’s primetime television: Castle, The Good Wife, Psych, Lie to Me, The Mentalist, Modern Family, Bones, Parenthood, Life Unexpected, House, 90210, 30 Rock, and many others. In Glee and Desperate Housewives the stereotypes are epic.

The overall message? Men are flawed, and women are strong and responsible but need several good friends to make everything all right. Book titles cited in recent women’s magazines include:

  • Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend ;
  • Best Friends: the Pleasures and Perils of Girls’ and Womens’ Friendships ;
  • The Decision Tree: Taking Control of Your Health in the Era of Personalized Medicine (features guidelines for including your online network of friends in your health choices);
  • The Positive Power of Negative Thinking (celebrating the idea that venting to friends can help women in many ways)
  • The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Relationships.

Girls’ magazines also offer articles on dealing with your BFF, BGF, and ongoing “Friend Maintenance.”

For any guys who don’t know these terms, they stand for Best Friend Forever, Best Guy Friend (not a boyfriend or involved with the girl in any kind of romantic relationship), and the ongoing necessity of working on, planning, fixing, and sustaining relationships with close friends. The to-do lists are long and impressive.

Women work on average nine hours more per week than they did in 2004, 20 while still doing as much non-employee work in the home. Men, on the contrary, do less housework when they are unemployed or underemployed. And as a result of the Great Recession and high unemployment, this is impacting a lot of households.

Pop culture does have a few men who are “the good ones”—like Chuck, Smallville’s Clark Kent or “McDreamy” on Grey’s Anatomy. But good men are rare, the current plot assures us, as most males are selfish, uncommitted, cheating and a lot like “Mad Men” characters.

Fortunately, in the new post economic-collapse culture, women have their group of friends to depend upon. Such friends are mostly other women, but can also include a close, platonic guy friend like on “Hellcats,” “Stargate Universe” and nearly all reality shows.

New Rules

In the entire top-tier movie and primetime schedule it is rare to find functional, happy, supportive married couples. Instead, the following rules seem to guide our current entertainment culture:

  1. Marriage is the end of romance, or at least the end of high ratings (this has a long history in primetime television);
  2. The exception is where marriage is a place of cheating or other major conflicts (e.g. Glee, Life Unexpected, Private Practice, The Good Wife, Desperate Housewives, Brothers and Sisters, Modern Family, Parenthood, Stargate Universe, Undercovers, Covert Affairs, etc.).
  3. If a marriage is working, some big problem — usually secret to all but the viewer — is lurking or exploding the relationship (e.g. Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Undercovers, No Ordinary Family, Friday Night Lights, Covert Affairs, Gossip Girl, 90210, One Tree Hill, etc.)
  4. Single life is more romantic, a lot more fun, and, frankly, better than married life (see Desperate Housewives, Brothers and Sisters, all the CSI and NCIS programs, Hawaii Five-O, The Event, Gossip Girl, 90210, House, Chuck, Chase, Castle, Bones, Parenthood, Life Unexpected, and pretty much every reality show).

These themes are reinforced by nearly all primetime programs. In wikinomics terms, the overwhelming presence of these themes and the rareness of counter examples is a major message. In short, primetime television has adopted the culture of daytime TV. We are way past the “nudge” or “tipping point” which sways culture with little things. The trend is now the culture.

The men and women in Bachelor Pad, Jersey Shore, The Apprentice and Survivor seem to have it all figured out — just be selfish. Or even more profound, the lead character in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” talks about money like it is a lover. He refers to money as “she,” and describes the challenges of making relationships work.

Maybe drawing conclusions about male or female roles from the entertainment industry is dangerous, but even Napoleon knew that a nation’s music and stories are more powerful than its armies. These movies and TV programs are popular for a reason, and even if most Americans don’t adopt the values they enjoy watching, certainly some things do rub off on the culture.

The End of Marriage

Why then is marriage portrayed as so unromantic? Undesirable? To be avoided?

We have to ask ourselves if this is a new feminism: “We don’t need men in our lives. We get more degrees than men do, we have more jobs than men do, and more of us are managers.

Many of us get paid more than our men, and eventually as a group we’ll get paid more than men in general. So, men have a choice: They can be what we want them to be, or they can hit the road.”

The story is frequently repeated in our entertainment: see Private Practice, Cougar Town, Fringe, Human Target, Eureka, No Ordinary Family, Desperate Housewives, 90210 and so many others. Repetitive, perhaps; but these are our prime time. It is what it is. We watch what we watch.

But, on the other hand, could the marginalization and vilification of marriage be a new paternalism of some sort? Is it men saying, “Fine. You want to be equal? Well, why don’t you just be in charge? We never liked responsibility anyway. We’ll just make money and play — through our twenties, thirties, forties and, in fact, always. Good luck with that equality thing…”

Historically many analysts felt that marriage tamed men, made them less selfish and more helpful to the women and children in their lives. It had its share of structural problems too, most obviously from dominating men who were tyrants in the home or at work.

But is the new view of romantic and married culture rewriting the ideal for man as well-funded playboy? And if so, is this new version something women (or men) really want?

Popular entertainment portrays flirting as romantic, dating as romantic, and even weddings as romantic. But marriage after the wedding is rarely depicted as a romantic endeavor.

And how about the commercial advertisements that appear in between scenes of the programming? In fact, very often marriage is represented on screen as the end of romance. Marriage is rendered as full of problems, hard, and more often than not just plain bad.

In the male/female debate, it seems we’ve lost the main point. The older version of equality feminism, whether you liked it or not, at least had the merit of believing that a woman could “have it all.” It was at the very least adult: Men had responsibility and power, and women wanted the same opportunities.

In contrast, today’s model says a woman can have a career, money, power and friends, or kids, vegetables, friends and chickens, but why on earth would she want the complication of a husband?

And as for men, well, “boys will be boys” — let them play, spend away their money pursuing fun, and depend on them for nothing. Men may “want to be in relationships,” but marriage is another issue.

This is a sad brand of feminism indeed! If men and women have lost the dream of marriage as the ultimate romantic love, if real estate, promotions, more money or even raising the kids have become the ultimate ideal, then our society has truly lost something of great value.

According to the new values, there seem to be three great overarching rules for women: 1) never date someone who ever dated your best friends, 2) your girlfriends are the only ones you can really depend on, and 3) you have to be selfish in romantic relationships to avoid getting hurt.

The result? Pretty much everybody gets hurt. A lot.

So where are we heading in modern male/female relations? The trends seem to indicate that men will be even less inclined toward or committed to marriage, and women will earn more.

Men and women will expect less and less from each other, except in marriage — where the expectations will be unrealistic, unfulfilled and frequently short-lived.

What an irony! Even as feminism seems to be obtaining many of its most cherished goals, the male/female debate may just be starting.

The next natural step for women [having progressed through A) underprivileged, B) seeking equality, and C) increasingly equal] is to D) Demand that men be a certain way in order to fulfill women.

For example, there is a growing push by some women for states to enforce laws against infidelity.

The culture is increasingly centered on getting, taking, having, receiving. The debate seems to assume that romance, love and marriage are all about what “I” can “get” from someone else.

Children and youth are raised to think about what kind of boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife they want to have — with little attention to what kind of girlfriend or husband they will be.

We are trained to approach romance and marriage for what we can get out of it — not for what we can give.

Our popular culture reinforces this self-centered view every night in primetime and on the big screen in theaters and homes across the nation. The youth are watching; and so are their parents.

Ironically, the many books and articles on how girls and women should treat their BFF are mostly about giving. Indeed, if women and men just applied this same advice to how they treated each other, some significant male/female conflicts might quickly disappear.

But such advice is about friends, not romantic interests. In the latter, self-centeredness is the name of the game in our current pop culture.

Personally, I do not believe that the “typical man” as portrayed by our modern entertainment accurately reflects the many hardworking husbands and fathers across the nation. Nor do I accept that the Real Housewives are a true portrait of America’s wives, mothers or single women.

These are just shows and movies. Unfortunately, they do have a major impact on how we view our spouses, friends and ourselves.

And more to the point, where are the other true role models, ideals and icons which we should idealize and seek to emulate? Can we aspire to an ideal we do not even imagine?

Earlier generations studied and debated (as part of the culture, not during a two-week segment in high school) the romances and marriages found in Shakespeare, Austen and Bronte, among others. They compared the good with the bad, and contrasted the various types of romance, marriage, male and female relations and roles.

These things were seen as entertainment, and were compared and contrasted with the numerous real-life relationships children witnessed in their community.

Little of this exists today. The entertainment relationships are those on TV and in movies, and we seldom see other romantic or marriage relationships outside of our own home.

Children and youth very rarely directly witness their teacher, coach, church leader, mayor or even neighbor in a relationship with her spouse. All relationships seem single — or at least detached.

In short, we may be facing less the end of men and more the end of marriage. For example, where Austen ended Pride and Prejudice with a discussion of the Darcy/Lizzie married life, the movie versions nearly always end at the wedding or even the engagement.

This is “formula” for many movies and television programs now. It is also the plot of nearly all contemporary teen literature — it ends well before or at a wedding.

Over and over, in many ways and from numerous directions, the message is repeated: romance is fun, but marriage is a bundle of problems and should be avoided or at best endured.

Divorce is often portrayed now as the beginning of freedom, romance, happiness and wisdom. Rare exceptions to this plot (like the functioning marriages found in White Collar, Chuck, Covert Affairs, Undercovers, Parenthood, Friday Night Lights and No Ordinary Family) notwithstanding, marriage is out of vogue in America’s pop culture.

Is this just entertainment, or is it real? The rise of reality television has boosted the popularity of tabloids which tell us the “real” stories behind our favorite reality shows, but if reality shows are real, why do we need tabloids to tell us what is really going on?

Round-the-clock sports channels tell us what the athletes are doing, tweeting, and thinking at all times, and our cell phones are set to chime whenever someone in our social network has a new thought.

But American couples spend less than 16 minutes a day talking to each other — and over half of this time is spent on scheduling and finances. Clearly marriage is facing challenges.

The Newest “New Feminism”

The gains of feminism are many and have blessed today’s woman with a lot of opportunities barely dreamed of three generations ago. Nothing should take away from this positive progress for women, and we should praise the pioneering women who struggled and sacrificed to bring these changes.

I think most people today want a nation where husbands treat their wives as true equals, and where wives do the same with their husbands. I doubt many moderns feel that women shouldn’t enjoy truly equal treatment in business, compensation, promotion and other career opportunities.

These gains have been a great blessing to our society. But what kind of society are we creating when many women and men no longer seriously idealize “having it all?” What is the future of a nation where the following phrases are common:

“I’m too busy with my career to get married. Besides, I’m having so much fun!”

“Why would I get married? I have all I need, including children, without it.”

“All my married friends are overworked, fight all the time, never have enough money, and hardly ever have sex. I’ll pass.”

“Marriage sucks everything good out of the relationship.”

“Divorce is the best thing that ever happened to me!”

“I love the single life! Why would I give up my freedom?”

“Don’t put up with that crap! Just get divorced! Being single is so much fun.”

“Marriage is so hard. Why bother?”

Note that each of these could have been said by a man or a woman. A feminist, anti-feminist or even a chauvinist could easily utilize any or all of these phrases. Certainly there are many who do want marriage and are actively seeking it. Still, these contrary views are not limited to a rare exception.

Perhaps we aren’t at a new age of male/female conflict at all, but at the beginning of a truly post-feminist era where the “enemy” is lasting marriage.

Of course, as I said above, weddings are still popular fare among women and pop culture, but the years and decades after the wedding — not so much. Young women have long called their wedding “the best day of my life,” which makes one wonder how they feel about the many years which follow.

For a lot of people in our society, the new mantra could well be: “I am single, hear me roar!”

If this is the new divide of male/female relations, it doesn’t bode well for women or men. As for children, they had better get used to being raised by a society of single parents.

During the decline of Rome, and later just before the French Revolution, upper-class women delegated nursing the baby and tending children to others in order to spend their time in society.

Men and women during these eras routinely slept around, emphasized increasing their power and wealth, and spent little time with their children. As family naturally collapsed under such traditions, the nation soon followed.

Interestingly, as family connections failed and fidelity within marriage was considered quaint and even ridiculous, national leaders took the same view of their responsibility and fidelity to the national treasury.

Without deep loyalty to spouse and family, little was left to the nation as a whole. Leaders spent nations into bankruptcy, weakness and collapse. The most important lessons are taught — or not — at home. This simplistic truism is a reality in all of world history.

Still, the ideal of effective marriage remains popular in many circles. The several, albeit few, good marriages on television and at the movies show that many still idealize great marriage.

Indeed, outside of Hollywood and other entertainment enclaves, I think it likely that a majority of people still hope for a terrific marriage at some point in life.

A Proposal

With all this said, I’m convinced that it is time for two major revolutions in America: 1) a deeper feminism and 2) a return to real manhood.

I’m probably not qualified to take the lead in promoting whatever the deeper feminism should entail. Personally, I think my wife Rachel’s essay “Steel to Gold” and the writings of Anne Lindbergh and Laura Munson are a good place to start a deeper feminism; but I’ll leave the topic to women.

As for men, a return to real manhood might start with the following characteristics:

Restraint

Compare Jane Austen’s Colonel Brandon to Willoughby. Or consider the hero of Wister’s classic book The Virginian. Real men, according to these and other examples, have self-control and “self-possession.”

The real man doesn’t have to show off, because he knows who he is and is comfortable with himself. He has no need to impress, bolster or try to make an impression. As needed, he takes action. But he lets his actions speak for themselves.

His “moral vision is of men who struggle with and eventually master” themselves and take a stand to improve the world. He doesn’t need “to compensate for anything.” He is “his own man.” And that is enough.

Strength

The real man knows that his greatest challenge and the true measure of his valor is to conquer himself, to overcome his own weaknesses, temptations and fears and choose to be the man he really wants to be.

In this process, he has the courage to learn from others and also to take a stand alone when it is right.

As part of this, he learns from his mistakes and changes himself — no matter how hard this process is — making his life an uphill path of progress and improvement. He uses this inner strength to do good in the world.

Action

A real man is great at something. He doesn’t try to be great at everything, and he doesn’t make excuses for his areas of weakness. But he does develop true excellence in something that really matters to him. And he uses it to improve the world.

Open-minded and creative and daring and still hold[ing] on to the old virtues.”

The real man blends what works with exploring the new. He believes deeply in the small and simple things which are often called common sense, but he is always looking and seeking.

He equally loves the little comforts and great adventures which make life great.

Caring

The real man cares. He cares about his deepest goals, about those he loves, about other people in general. He cares about freedom. He cares about fairness and opportunity and ability. He cares about the future.

He cares about a lot of things, and he considers simple caring a personal call to action. He doesn’t expect everyone else to care about the exact same things he does, and he doesn’t require anyone to care about him specifically; but he does demand of himself that he face his cares and live by them. And when someone else does choose to really care about him, he is profoundly touched.

None of us live up to these ideals enough, I think, but they are all worth pursuing. After an Esquire survey of 20- and 50-year-old American men selected Clint Eastwood as the coolest man in our nation (for both age groups), Stephen Marche wrote:

“And now that we are supposedly entering the next crisis of masculinity — this time the world doesn’t need men because we can’t listen, we can’t sit still in kindergarten, and so all society will shortly be a massive gynocracy in which men’s primary role will be as the problem children of successful mothers and wives — we need Eastwood more than ever.

Whatever else has changed over the past fifty years, self-mastery and control over our lives are still what we want more than anything.”

Marche further suggests that many Eastwood movies show examples of manhood. For example, he “drives around the country with an ape, brawling for money and seeking for love.”

What could be more manlike? In other words, men sometimes grunt like monkeys, or Tim Allen, but they daily put themselves on the line working to support those they love, hoping to be loved in return.

Above all, I’m convinced that a significant part of a return to real manhood includes seeking romance, love and marriage less for what we get out of it than for what we can give.

Men who go into the marriage relationship mainly for what they can get usually fail. Only those who truly love their partner, who are willing to give their heart and soul to helping and serving, to giving rather than getting, become great husbands.

In short, men who are in a romance, love or marriage primarily to get something for themselves probably won’t be happy with the result. The same is true about fatherhood.

Being a man is about freedom and the responsibility that naturally attends it, and about using one’s freedom well by committing to the right things and giving our hearts and lives to them.

When we are real men, we’ll work to build great marriages, great families, important daily work, a lot of happiness, and a great nation. It’s time for a focus on real manhood in our world, measured at least in part by the quality of what we give to our marriages.

So in addition to restraint, strength, action, daring, creativity, open-mindedness, courage, self-possession, caring and selflessness, I add commitment to the beginning list of how to be a real man.

I have no idea how the feminist debates of the 21st Century will shake out, but I do know that if more men (married and single, of all views and types) work on becoming truly great husbands, the whole world will greatly benefit.

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Oliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Culture &Education &Family &Featured &Mission

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