How academia ruined America

June 25, 2012

Prolific author David Gelernter has covered subjects ranging from technology to Judaism, but America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered In the Obamacrats) is his first unabashedly political book.

Gelernter opposes Barack Obama primarily because Obama is one of the "Airheads" produced by the U.S. educational system.

"Obama is an Airhead and no ordinary ideologue," writes Gelernter in America-Lite, "but he is certainly a left-liberal; he repeats the doctrine he learned from left-liberal intellectuals."

Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale, said his teaching experience has contributed enormously to his pessimistic assessment of American culture. "Every year I see a new class of smart kids, motivated kids, who are just ignorant," said Gelernter.

"We educators have a responsibility," said Gelernter, "and we’re failing."

America-Lite shows "how we lost control of our own culture," and how the "sullen, seething contempt for Western culture" that characterizes many educators is producing generations of ignorant citizens (dubbed "Airheads" by Gelernter) who accept liberal ideology because it is all they’ve ever known.

Gelernter called out conservatives, saying Republicans are focusing on secondary issues and avoiding the "deeper problems" in American culture.

"Conservatives are letting the country down," said Gelernter.

Gelernter offered a measured, unenthusiastic endorsement of Mitt Romney. "I think Romney is a good man," said Gelernter. "I trust his common sense."

America-Lite begins with the Second World War, lauding the participation of Ivy League students in the armed forces and the educated, patriotic middle class that flourished in the 1950s.

As the 1950s drew to a close, however, the old WASP establishment was fading away, and the skyrocketing college attendance rates gave the intelligentsia new power to shape American culture, Gelernter writes.

By the late 1960s, post-religious globalist intellectuals (assigned the acronym "PORGI" by Gelernter) had thoroughly entrenched themselves as the arbiters of American thought.

Sarcastic parenthetical asides pepper America-Lite: "(Thomas Jefferson insisting that children must learn facts about history? The left reels. Was he drunk, or just kidding?)"

Gelernter’s acerbic writing is stylistically similar to Mark Steyn, and Gelernter praised Steyn, calling him, "One of the very best writers in the English language today."

Gelernter, however, is less brash than Steyn. While Gelernter says he does not "give a damn" about liberal pundits misconstruing his opinions on issues such as Title IX or forced busing as sexist or racist, he was reticent to write America-Lite because of the possible blowback from his colleagues at Yale.

Gelernter said that computer science is a field largely devoid of politicized teaching, but also noted that, "there is no subject that cannot be taught in a biased way," pointing to "science professors swearing fealty to Greenpeace" as evidence of a "slow creep" of liberal ideology into the hard sciences.

America-Lite focuses on the problems in American culture; Gelernter hinted that a second book might detail his ideas for fixing those problems.

Gelernter, whose 1991 book Mirror Worlds predicted many elements of the modern Internet, pointed to technology as a possible remedy for America’s ills.

"The cure is staring us in the face," said Gelernter. "Our grade school system is so deeply rotten, there’s no saving it. We need something completely different."

Gelernter envisions Internet-based education that would declaw teacher’s unions and allow children to be taught, rather than indoctrinated.

"The internet is not a panacea," said Gelernter, "but it allows us to start again from scratch."

Gelernter spoke positively of homeschooling, calling the homeschooling movement the "cutting edge" of the shift towards Internet-based education. But he also stressed the fact that not all families can homeschool, so a broader technological solution must be sought.