Who knew? Rod Dreher’s soul mate — the kid who wanted to race ahead academically, and go to college, and make something different of herself — is from Covington, Indiana, known for a restaurant called “The Beef House,” retired Judge Vincent Grogg (who I never could reverse on appeal), and little else:
I returned to Covington Middle School that fall with a pit in my stomach. No one talked about AP classes anymore, because no one in my hometown knew what AP classes were. No one discussed their plans for college, because most of my friends’ parents had never earned any kind of degree past their high school diploma. No one encouraged me to take harder classes or do extra homework that would challenge me, because my teachers didn’t have time or resources to devote to a student who needed extra help. My teachers told me to stop raising my hand in class, because I was an annoyance to them and a distraction to the other students. No one wanted to hear what I had to say anymore.
My dad and I chattered over our dinner for several minutes before I noticed that my mother had said nothing. Her eyes were cast down as she pushed a pile of mashed potatoes around her plate, sitting in stony silence. I fell silent.
“You’re not going,” she said simply.
I didn’t understand, not right away. I looked at her, perplexed. “What do you mean?” I finally asked. I looked over at my dad, his mouth agape, staring across the table at my furious mother.
Her voice rose to a fever pitch. “You’re not going! No other kid does this—goes off and leaves when everyone else goes to a normal school and does normal things. It’s only you! You’re the only one who does this. You’ve only thought of yourself and you are not going.” Her face was red, and her tone was murderous. “You. Are. Not. Going.”
I’m more interested in what this pattern tells us about these smaller working class communities.
There’s been a lot written about the plight of working class towns, and how that fueled the rise of Trump …
Today I want to isolate one attitude that seems to underlie many of the experiences of people like Dreher and Cronkhite. It’s something that Cronkhite heard over and over: “What makes you think you’re better than anyone else?”
In Crohkhite’s story more than Dreher’s, I heard echoes of another toxic sentiment: “Stop acting white!” If you want Dreher’s story, it’s best told in The Little Way of Ruthie Lemming.
Class traitors. “Better than everyone else.” “Stop acting white.”
Closer to home, I know a blue collar father who never could fully accept his son doing basic research at one of the most prestigious universities in the world rather than capitalizing on his degrees in, say, the pharmaceutical industry.
I know it’s got to be scary when university sucks the brains out of your community (Cronkhite went to Carnegie Mellon, then to San Francisco for her career). But Renn is right:
These towns need to find a way to move beyond that. Because people want different things out of life. They also have different skills, aptitudes, personalities, etc. So they need to be able to respond to those in building their life without being seen as a Judas. A one size fits all model is just not going to work in the modern economy
Parents need to find a way to move beyond that, too.
But the people who need that message won’t read that message, and they’ll probably never hear it on Fox News, either.
But wait a minute. I read that. And blue collar families aren’t the only ones who have trouble dealing with children who follow a different path.
I detest the idea that you’re a failure if you stay in, say, Covington, Indiana. I detest the idea that working with your hands is for dummies. I detest the idea that bigotry is something that only lower social classes engage in.
Those are the bigotries of people who do read guys like Aaron Renn. And Renn’s article has overtones even he may have missed.
Dear white collar snob:
What makes you think you’re better than anyone else? You, too, put your pants on one leg at a time. And your shit does stink.
Get over yourself. If you’ve got a kid who inexplicably loves tinkering or getting greasy hands, stop carping at him (or her) and read Shop Class as Soulcraft.
Very truly yours,
Callista Gingrich as Ambassador to the Vatican? That seems rather tone-deaf:
Ms. Gingrich, a member of the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, played a critical role in Mr. Gingrich’s conversion to Catholicism. But she also played a role in breaking up his second marriage, according to Mr. Gingrich’s ex-wife and former adviser, Marianne Gingrich. The couple divorced in 1999.
She told ABC News, during Mr. Gingrich’s run for president in 2012, that her husband had sought an open marriage so that he could keep seeing Callista Bisek, then a congressional aide. (Mr. Gingrich denied the accusation at the time.)
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Men are men before they are lawyers or physicians or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers and physicians. (John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address at St. Andrew’s, 1867)
“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)