When a military veteran gets to teach, both school and vet experience culture shock.
“Federalism and civil society are dying in practice because they are dying in our social vision, unnoticed and unmourned,” Chris Bray writes in The American Conservative. “My long-simmering sense of this loss became clear as I recently did that most frightening of tasks: grading history exams.”
“I was teaching a class on the Gilded Age, a course that traces the decline of what the historian Robert Wiebe described as a nation of ‘island communities.’” Students ignored the largely successful efforts of private voluntary associations to address problems that arose during the age and gave credit for their resolution to the federal government. But there’s more.
“Pick a story, any story, and that’s how a growing number of students hear it, no matter what the professor at the front of the room says,” Bray avers. “New York’s Bakeshop Act of 1895—the state law limiting bakery work hours that was famously challenged in Lochner v. New York—becomes an act of Congress.”
“Early college football was a bloodbath, with players dying on the field, so universities formed the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States—the roots of today’s NCAA—to make new rules and control the mayhem. But in our history exams, it was the federal government that implemented new football regulations.” The ultimate irony of this last example is that NCAA is one acronym at least half the student body should be familiar with.
Nor does the problem end there. This tunnel vision remains with graduates for years to come, no matter what political views, and parties, they adopt. “A politically active family member recently spent an evening reading position papers from Republican candidates for the California Assembly,” Bray remembers. “He wrote to them to ask why, while running for state office, they were mostly discussing federal issues.”
“Candidates for legislative positions, they simply don’t know the difference.”