Learn English Online Forum Index

?FAQFAQ? ?SearchSearch? ?MemberlistMemberlist? ?UsergroupsUsergroups? ?RegisterRegister?
?ProfileProfile? ?Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages? ?Log inLog in

Renewing American Civilization

Post new topic Reply to topic Learn English Online Forum Index -> LEARN ENGLISH -> American Civilization Culture and history
Previous topic :: Next topic
Author Message
derbal

Offline

Joined: 31 Mar 2007
Posts: 86

PostPosted: 31st March 2007, 19:34 Post subject: Renewing American Civilization

Renewing American Civilization
Class One -- American Civilization January 7, 1995 Adjunct Professor Newt Gingrich Reinhardt College

The following is a special program produced by RCTV, Reinhardt College television, in Waleska, Georgia. From Reinhardt College in Waleska, Georgia, this is "Renewing American Civilization." In this, the first of 10 class presentations, Congressman Newt Gingrich, an adjunct professor at Reinhardt College, will begin his course, which presents the foundational principles necessary to the renewal of American Civilization. This week's lesson gives an introduction and overview of the course and lays the building blocks for a solid understanding of how to rejuvenate and strengthen the fabric of America.

Good morning. Let me welcome you to Reinhardt College for the very first session of "Renewing American Civilization." Let me start by introducing two people who are absolutely invaluable and without whom this course simply wouldn't exist. First of all, a man of great courage who stepped in and who gave us the opportunity to teach and to continue developing ideas, President Floyd Falany of Reinhardt College. And, Floyd, I just want to say thank you for allowing us to be here. And then my co-teacher here on campus, a fellow historian, Dr. Kathleen Minnix. And, Kathleen, again, she'll be teaching -- for those who watch this later on videotape or those who might be seeing it through Mind Extension University, Dr. Minnix actually teaches the second half of this course in terms of the Reinhardt College students and experience here. I also do want to take a moment to welcome the students of mind extension university, which is a satellite system that's available on many campuses across the country, and which is now offering "Renewing American Civilization."

But what we're doing here today where we are both live on videotape, on audio tape, connected by computer, by fax, and by e-mail, as well as by U.S.. mail and the telephone, gives you some sense of the sophisticated world of the 21st century that we're just beginning to invent. Now, today we're going to talk about American Civilization, and we're going to lay out the premise of this entire course. And what I want to talk about, I have to give credit, frankly, to Dr. Everett Carl Ladd at the University of Connecticut, who's one of the leading students of what he calls "American Exceptionalism." And he uses the term "American Exceptionalism." I think it's a very helpful term, because it gives you a sense of where we're going.

And so we're going to today spend our time on the introduction, the overview, and the outline of the entire course. So I'm going to introduce the course, give you an overview of what we're going to try to do in the course, and then give you an outline of what will actually happen in the course. And what I want to suggest as a starting point is that the concept of American Exceptionalism which Dr. Ladd developed, in essence, that there is a unique American Civilization. Now, on a lot of college campuses, we could have some terrific debates -- and I'd be willing to debate this topic -- a lot of people will say to you: first of all, are we really a civilization? Well, there's a wonderful book by Max Lerner called "America as a Civilization." Lerner was an anti-communist liberal writing in the 1950s, and it's his arguments. It's a massive book. I'm sure you could go look at it. It's about 1500 pages. But his whole argument is that there's a way of being that is called "American." That you learn to be an American.

Now, the key to this is to understand -- and I think this is the distinction. This is what confuses those of our friends who are into multi-culturalism. American Civilization is multi-ethnic, but it is one civilization. Now, this is the central assertion of the course and something you'll have to think about. In other words, you may be Korean-American. I serve with a Congressman Jay Kim from Southern California who's a first-generation Korean-American, born in Korea and now lives here. You may be European-American. I obviously am. You may be African-American. I serve with J.C.. watts of Oklahoma. You may, in fact, be blended from a lot of different racial stocks. You may be Hispanic. I serve with henry Bonilla from San Antonio, Texas. And yet each of them would describe themselves as an American. They know what they are descended from, they know their background. And of course, if their children met at a congressional social event and married, then you'd start having to say, "well, I'm a European-Korean-American African-American-Hispanic." It's easier to just say, "I'm an American."

It's a very core question, because what I'm suggesting to you is: we are multi- ethnic. We are the first world civilization in that sense. Because everybody on the planet can show up here, and did Tuesday. I mean, go to Disney world and stand for a half hour. Or go to any -- frankly, north Atlanta. Go to any one of our major malls and just stand for an hour. This would be -- I'm not recommending it for this course, but if somebody's trying to teach the course and drive this home or if this was being taught at a high school level, just send students out to stand somewhere at a busy mall and write down the number of nationalities that walk by in a half hour.


Back to top
Administrateur
Publicité





PostPosted: 31st March 2007, 19:34 Post subject: Publicité

PublicitéSupprimer les publicités ?
Back to top
derbal

Offline

Joined: 31 Mar 2007
Posts: 86

PostPosted: 31st March 2007, 19:36 Post subject: Renewing American Civilization

And it's astonishing. Or walk -- go to the Atlanta airport and watch who goes through the airport. So we -- now, we have to focus on: why is it worth studying American Civilization, other than the fact that we're Americans who want to know about our past? I have an argument, and the argument is that American Civilization, when you compare it to other civilizations, it has certain very positive characteristics. It has empowered more people from more backgrounds to pursue happiness. In the process, our people created greater opportunities to pursue happiness. If I were to summarize it into one phrase, it would be that America is a great country with good people. And I would argue that American history has more people getting more rights and more opportunities. We started out with only wealthy white males who could pay a poll tax being allowed to participate, and we've added layer by layer until we now reach out to virtually every person with a disability, every person of every ethnic background, every person of every racial background, every person, you know, males and females.

You think about the degree to which we now reach out to try to be an inclusive system. That that has been a hallmark of 300 years of American government. In addition, American history has led to more prosperity and property for more and more people. Now, what I want to do, let me just take a minute, because I really think it's important to drive this home, because it's one of the basic building blocks of why I'm teaching the course and where I think you've got to decide for yourself whether you intellectually agree. Part of the argument here is that for most of American history, from the -- and I am -- when I talk about American, I'm not talking about the north American continent, because you could argue that the history of the north American continent begins when Asians crossed the Bering strait about 11 to 15,000 years ago, and you could -- there's some wonderful books. Peter Farb's "man's rise to civilization as shown by the Indians of north America" is a good example, because he tries to go into that very long history of the geographic site.

When I talk about American Civilization, it essentially begins with the arrival of the English-speaking peoples in Virginia in 1607 and in Massachusetts around 1620, and then spreads across the continent. Now, it's a very important distinction. We can talk about it later. But I'm not arguing about a geographic term. I'm arguing about the rise of a civilizational pattern of behavior which became multiethnic over time. What I'm suggesting to you is you can go back and you can take from 1607 till 1965 and you have certain long sweeps that are more and more positive. We go from slavery to segregation to integration. We go from empowering wealthy white males to giving women the vote to eliminating the poll tax and then giving women the vote, then making sure everybody can vote. We go from the -- right from almost the very beginning to acquire property. Free blacks as early as the 1740s and 50s could acquire property not only in the north, but in new Orleans. And you actually had an entire class of people in new Orleans who were of African-American descent but who were free and owned property and businesses and could buy and sell and were part of the commercial environment.

Racism is not only anti- black. You not only have anti-catholic racism and anti-Mediterranean. That is, people who were Italian or Spanish or Greek had more hostility than people who might be catholic but were German or Irish. You then had very bitter anti-Asian hostility, particularly in California, but in many ways across the country. If you go to Augusta, Georgia, today you see a Chinese community that is now, I think, seven generations old that originally came to build railroads in the Augusta, Georgia, area. That is, their great, great, great, great, great grandparents did. And yet what happens over time is -- and this is a very important question. It was part of, I think, a big debate in this country in the last 25 years. Dr. Ladd would argue, and I think that people who believe in American Exceptionalism would argue, that America essentially -- and I used the phrase a while ago -- is essentially a great country with good people. That on any given day, most Americans are decent. Most Americans care. Most Americans want to raise their children. Most Americans would like to be good neighbors. It's part of how you can have this very free society with all the different things that go on where you get to go out and choose what you want, how you want to live your life, what kind of clothing you want to wear, what you want to learn, how you want to earn a living, how you want to spend your money. That there's an enormous level of trust in each other and that what's been happening, we would argue, is that from 1965 to 1994, that America went off on the wrong track.

Now, that's a very important distinction. There's a large block of intellectual thought that would argue America was really a sexist, racist, repressive, vicious society, and we need government to correct the bad habits of the American people. Those people basically took power around 1965 and increasingly tried to redesign America. And my argument in this course is going to be that after 1965, the government and elite culture adopted ideas that are dramatically different from the traditions and principles of American Civilization. That if you look at the first 300 years of American history, we're going in one direction, and then all of a sudden around 1965, with the rise of the great society, the counterculture, et cetera, you suddenly have a tremendous burst in a direction which is different from every other period of American history, and that there's one core critique, and this is a very -- you're going to see me come back to this concept a number of times in the course, because this is at the heart of being American. The critique is not ideological. It's not, "I'm a conservative, they're a liberal." The critique is: these ideas don't work. That it's pragmatic.


Back to top
Administrateur
derbal

Offline

Joined: 31 Mar 2007
Posts: 86

PostPosted: 31st March 2007, 19:37 Post subject: Renewing American Civilization

Do you think the inner city's better than it was? Do you think American Indian reservations are better than they were? Do you think being poor in west Virginia works more? Do you think our schools produce more people who know calculus and can speak Latin? Or do you think, as measured in the real world, things don't work? Now, it's a very important question, because intellectually, you can get into terrific course about: what does the word "work" mean and why is Gingrich being judgmental? And I want you to understand up front in this course that I am arguing that there are obvious objective judgments. If you turn on a water spigot and no water comes out, it doesn't work. If you turn on a water spigot and the water comes out, you can't drink it, it doesn't work. If you have a school and the people who leave it can't read, it doesn't work. If you have a public project, housing project, and the people in there are likely to be killed, it doesn't work.

Now, you have -- this is a very important test question in your own head; not in the course, in your own head. Can you objectively measure something very simple in result but very sophisticated in measurement? Is it working or not? Of course, this means judgments, rights and wrongs, yeses and nos. It's not situation ethics. I mean, who are we to say that if you never studied in your whole life and you haven't learned a single thing and you're totally illiterate, that you're somehow less than those of us who read and studied and learned? That's judgmental, to which my answer is yes, and you can't have a civilization without judgment. You're just talking about chaos. To have a civilization is to judge. You can't avoid judgment. Because that's how civilization tells you what you should do. I would argue, and Dr. Minnix will later on cheerfully argue, knowing history is better than not knowing history. Now, that's a really -- that's a very core question. Knowing math is better than not knowing math. If you don't know math, you are at the prey of every person you buy something from the rest of your life, because you can't check whether or not they cheated you. So let's just start at the basics.

That's what should be said to every first grader: if you don't learn math, you will be cheated the rest of your life. If you refuse to learn math and you're cheated, it's your fault. You are not a victim. Zebras that run up to lions and beg to be eaten are not victims. They're dumb. Okay? So that's a very important concept. Now, why do I say the elite ideas have failed? Well, let's go through it. The elite ideas of the last generation have failed, and in failing, have left America with more poverty, more violence, more red tape, more bureaucrats, more litigation, more power in Washington. And ironically, after all those mores, with less ability to actually get problems solved and less ability to get opportunities developed.

Now, those are all measurable. Are there more lawsuits or less? Is there more violence or less? I mean, these are not random observations by somebody who has an ax to grind. Go out and measure them and you tell me. Are more families broken down? Are more one-year-olds likely to suffer child abuse? These are measurable, documentable facts. And yet I think the system has had a hard time dealing with it. And one of the reasons I really wanted to teach this as a course is that moving from the wrong track to the right track is largely a cultural and an intellectual problem. I want to take a minute and explain what I mean. The problem in America today is not money. We have plenty of money. The problem in America today isn't even courage. People will say, "oh, politicians are gutless." That's nonsense. You've just had the courage to run for office and take the beating you take from the press corps. The person I disagree most in public life, who I will not name, but would say something to the congress I would disagree with, I respect the fact that they have the courage to run for public office. It's not absence of courage. It's absence of sound ideas. We don't know what to spend the money on. We don't know how to structure the spending. We don't know what rules to set up. And I spent years trying to sort this out. Why are we having such a hard time helping people get off poverty? Why are we having such a hard time establishing safety? Why is it so difficult to get schools where kids are learning? And we came up with for what was for me one of the great breakthroughs.

I was spending part of an afternoon actually at a hotel near the Atlanta airport with Dr. Jeff Eisenach of the progress and freedom foundation and Dr. Steve Hanser, who's a historian and good friend of mine. Eisenach is an economist, but we still talk to him even though he's not a historian. And we were trying to wrestle with why is it -- and this was back during the bush administration. We were trying to figure out: why is it that American governmental bureaucracy doesn't work? I mean, you can make a good argument that outside of elite groups like the FBI and the national park service, and outside of the military, where failure means you die, so you have a very high incentive to change, that if you take those away, that American bureaucracy has an astonishing pattern of decay that is almost universal. You build a big bureaucracy of Americans and it fails. And this is what we came up. I'm going to walk you through a challenge you can take back home and check with people. In fact, if you would this week, this will just be a fun thing for you to do just to see what happens when you tell your friends.

We're going to talk for a minute about the cultural challenge of speed limits and Americans. This is the heart of the course in terms of the core ideas. Have any of you ever been to Germany? You have, you have, you have. About a third of you. In Germany, there is no speed limit on the autobahn outside of congested areas, right? You get on the autobahn, you rent a car, you're doing 100 miles an hour, you think you're really something, and a Mercedes goes by at 160. You want to pull over and cry. You know you don't have the guts to do 160 miles an hour, so you just think, you know, "I'm just ruined here." But you know that tomorrow, if the Bundestag adopted 100 kilometers, or 62 miles an hour, as the speed limit, that virtually every German would obey it until the next election. They would then massacre the current generation of politicians and they would adopt -- elect the "no speed limit" party. Now, I want you to walk through this with me for a second, because it's going to sound silly, but it's very, very profound. I want to suggest to you that the American challenge to the cultural concept of speed limits is remarkably different from the German response.

For most Americans, a speed limit is a benchmark of opportunity. Let me just give you the test here for a second. Remember, we're not going to learn anything if you lie, okay? So you've got to be honest here for a second. How many of you will routinely look at the speed limit sign so you can add either 5 or 10? Come on, raise your hands now. Be honest. Okay? Two-thirds of the course, three-fourths of the course? Now, what does this tell you? By the way, I have done this everywhere. After we came up with this idea I began testing it, and what I'm teaching you today and what I'm sharing with you in this 10 weeks are ideas that have evolved over a long period of time, in some cases 36 years, where we've actually gone out and talked to them and I talk to enough different groups, I've really tested this. I once asked this question, and this is -- enough of you live on campus, this would not have been as effective, but I'll try it out. How many of you might have gone over the posted number to get to this class this morning? Okay.

You now know who drives to campus. I did that one time in South Carolina with Carroll Campbell, the governor, sitting at the head table. He raised his hand. The governor had broken the speed limit to get to the meeting. He said well, he was on the golf course, it ran long. The place went nuts. Now, why? Because America is not -- and this is at the absolute core of the critique of where we are today -- America is not as a civilization rule dominated. America is incentive dominated. If you want Americans to change, change the incentives. If we said: we'll pay $1,000 to every first grader who can read the day they walk into school, you would be at 95 or 98% literacy within two years like that. Instead, because we have this European, bureaucratic, top-down government mentality in charge, we'll spend $50,000 on the child trying to get an adult in a bureaucracy to coerce them through regulation to do something they're not going to do because there's no incentive for them. They're going: hey, I don't want in. Glad you got paid. I didn't get paid. And people -- I've had teachers say to me, "this is horrible." Now, in the middle of a baseball strike. These are little kids, right? They watch television. They say to themselves: why is there no baseball? Because guys who are getting $7 million a year are out on strike. Okay, I shouldn't get paid anything as a little kid because that would be bad.

I'm not arguing for the payment here. I'm arguing for the concept. I'm not saying -- I'm not here today as speaker of the house saying we ought to have this proposal. I'm trying to get you to think -- this is -- because I want you to think about this conceptually. You give Americans -- think about your own life and think about middle-class families. "you get straight A's, we'll go to Disney world." "you do really well, we'll get a bicycle." I mean, how many of you had at some point in your career when you were growing up your parents give you an incentive to do something? Okay. Three-quarters of the class? Punishment is an incentive, but if you're a very poor child in a neighborhood where nobody cares about learning, getting an "f" is not a punishment. It's an irrelevancy. Being spanked as has an impact, although today you'd better do it carefully or you'll be taken into court.


Back to top
Administrateur
Contenu Sponsorisé





PostPosted: Today at 15:00 Post subject: Renewing American Civilization

Back to top
Display posts from previous:
Post new topic Reply to topic Learn English Online Forum Index -> LEARN ENGLISH -> American Civilization Culture and history All times are GMT
Page 1 of 1


Jump to:  

Your Ad Here
Index | Administration Panel | Getting a forum | Free support forum | Free forums directory | Report a violation | Conditions générales d'utilisation
Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2018 phpBB Group

Template eRed by Curucu