Ivan W. Parkins

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About Ivan W. Parkins:

Dr. Parkins is a retired professor of Political Science from Central Michigan University.  He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy.  Dr. Parkins served as a naval officer during WWII aboard the battleship Alabama.  He is a recent widower with three daughters, 3 grand children and 2 great grand children.  Dr. Parkins has written extensively, having authored 3 books and a newspaper opinion column for many years. 

Front Page

In This Issue:

*Intellectuals and Society, A review of Thomas Sowell’s              book

*New Americans and Multiculturism, a reprint from issue 24, Vol. 1 in 2008

*Rebellion of Youth, Is it Revolutionary?, a reprint from Page 9

*

 

        INTELLECTUALS AND SOCIETY

A review of Thomas Sowell’s book, Intellectuals and Society

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

Thomas Sowell: black, ex-communist, ex-Marine, PHD in economics, professor, columnist, author of books on a variety of subjects, and scholar in residence of the Hoover Institution is author of INTELLECTUALS AND SOCIETY, 2009.  It is, as he says, about intellectuals not for them.

 

He first came to my attention with a popular article relating to causes of inequality of incomes among social groups.  The media emphasis of the time was upon racial discrimination.  Sowell pointed out that it was generally accepted among those informed regarding income distribution, in nearly all societies and times, that youths began work inexperienced and at low income levels.  (My wife and I had once discussed this with a guest couple over dinner.  All four of us had post-graduate degrees and were professionally employed at middle levels.  All of us had also worked for months or years at low wage, “no future,” jobs—in my case; 20 cents per hour in 1938.)  As workers acquire training and experience most earn better incomes.  Somewhere, usually in later middle-age, people reach their highest income level.

 

Of course that is typical only for large groups, individual cases may vary.  But what Sowell demonstrated was that, for groups as defined by the census, the average ages of the persons as listed in ethnic groups explained much more of income distribution in America than the loudly deplored discrimination did. What the census figures showed was that Jewish people, on average, lived in older families with fewer children; Asiatic were next; whites, divided into several national origin groups were scattered through the middle; and Latinos, blacks and native Americans had the highest portions of very young members found in any of the ethnic groups.

 

INTELLECTUALS AND SOCIETY, without devoting much attention to either health care or President Obama, is very much relevant to our present political situation.

Sowell, page 2 of his book on the subject, says………..

that “Intelligence minus judgment equals intellect.”  His point is that the chief product of many intelligent people is words, and words may be almost the only product of some people.  It is not that ideas are of no importance, but their importance depends heavily upon their relationship to reality, and in many cases that is scant. Thus Einstein’s ideas about our cosmos were lightly regarded at first, when their validity began to be confirmed by the observations of astronomers and to explain phenomena not previously understood, they became a revolutionary discovery.  Einstein also had ideas about politics; they have not done well.

 

Some people of high intellect produce bridges or remove brain tumors.  For them whether their bridges handle the weather and the traffic and whether their patients benefit from the surgery are real world tests.  For some intellectuals there is almost no real world test.  Their words may sound good, but they have no applications sufficiently specific and material in nature to establish their validity.  Such people are especially common in the writing, teaching, and advocacy professions.

 

For several generations, and especially in the l960s and 1970s, America has experienced a huge growth in intellectuals of the words only type.  And, they have banded together increasingly, depending heavily upon “peer review” for authentication of their work.  But, peer review as validation is not really much different than the group loyalty that we deplore in teens, who are usually lacking in real world experience.

 

Even brilliant individuals can accumulate and comprehend only small portions of the accumulated experience embodied in modern cultures.  If the individuals rely too little upon the experiences and viewpoints of others who are quite different from themselves, they will, almost certainly, be wrong in much of what they do.  The Youth Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, made disregard for others, and the past, pillars of their belief, and the youth movement grew largely from persons teaching in and enrolled in the liberal arts, especially humanities and social sciences at our leading universities.  It gained momentum and power from vastly expanded journalistic and legal elements in our society.  Real world experiences and research have proven doubtful, if not invalid, a large part of the anti-war, anti-gun, and anti-patriotic and other anathemas of intellectuals in our recent past.

 

“The creation of nations out of tribes, in early modern times in Europe and in contemporary Asia and Africa, is the work of intellectuals,” according to distinguished scholar Edward Shils. But whatever their historic role in various other times and places, intellectuals in Western nations today are largely engaged in creating tribes out of nations. INTELLECTUALS AND SOCIETY, page 305.

New Americans and Multiculturalism

By Ivan W. Parkins

     One of the greatest of liberal, mainly Democrat, changes to America in recent decades has been multiculturalism.  Regarding this and related matters, I recommend Michael Barone’s book, THE NEW AMERICANS: HOW THE MELTING POT CAN WORK AGAIN.

     Barone compares Irish immigrants during the mid-nineteenth century with the great migration of Black Americans north from the Old South, especially that since 1940.  He also compares Italian and later Latino immigrants, and Jews with recent Asians.  All are interesting, but the Irish/Black comparison is especially sharp in the political lessons that it offers.

     Barone concludes that “race, as liberals have wisely insisted for years, is an arbitrary category.”  But, “the descendents of past immigrants have now become deeply interwoven into the fabric of American life.”  It can happen again.  “There is less overt bigotry and discrimination,” now.  “The greatest obstacle…is the American elite”; it, since the 1960s, does not promote assimilation.

     He points out that in one major respect the Irish fared much better than recent Blacks.  Both came from crude and repressive environments, poorly educated, inclined to violence and uncivil.  Both also relied heavily on their own churches.  The Irish soon learned the advantages of discipline and civility in Catholic schools; the Blacks encountered public schools that would change to accommodate their shortcomings.

     Partisanship is not emphasized by Barone; with the 2008 election pending, it will be by me.  Multiculturalism, and its implied divisions of America, is mainly an innovation of liberal Democrats, and mainly since the Vietnam era.  It has been imposed, or “sold,” as an example of acceptance of other cultures as equal to, and as appropriate as, our own.  Actually, from my own experiences, it seems to be more a rejection of traditional America and of the chief types of leadership that America has produced.

     Do liberal Democrats really want to improve upon the America that we have known, or do they plan instead to replace that with a quasi-Marxist nirvana, their own ”creation”?

        The attached letter to the editor was written 37 years ago in response

 to an article regarding prospects for revolution.  

REBELLION OF YOUTH, IS IT REVOLUTIONARY?

LETTER TO THE EDITOR, University of Chicago Magazine, Nov/Dec 1971:

     To The Editor:  Has the rebellion of youth really been revolutionary in nature?  My question is not meant to discredit Ralph W. Conant, whose article [“The Prospects for Revolution,” May/June ‘71] appears to be a competent and rational summary of events from the prevailing academic viewpoint.  I aim to challenge the rationale, which my colleagues have made conventional. Their interpretation of youth’s rebellion is, I contend, narrow, self-serving, and inadequate.  Among other things, calling the rebellion revolutionary suggests that it moves with the current of history.  Does it?  May it not be counterrevolutionary?

     The counter posing of youthful protesters and the greater part of America’s institutional leadership need not imply that youth is free of parochial attitudes.  When Conant refers to what “youth saw” he seems to imply that the vision of youth was especially clear, but the youths in question were much too old to be untouched by social affectations.  Thus it may have been the specific nature of their biases, which distinguished them.  Since rebellion has been centered in our most prestigious institutions and departments of higher learning, it is convenient for academics to believe that the rebels have been especially perceptive.  A contrary view would almost certainly raise questions about the quality of higher education.

     Are protesting students speaking with incisive candor, or do they mouth the cant of a divergent subculture?  Do they speak primarily for a movement of their own, or as “nouveaux savants” anxious to proclaim their membership in a privileged class whose mature members are more discrete?  Are they actually opposing conspicuous consumption, or is their education itself a socially accepted waste?  Is the depth of their concern for the rights of disadvantaged minorities to be measured by their own testimony, or by their inclination to mix defense of those rights with such trivia as long hair and pot?  Does the appeal of the McCarthy and Lindsay type of leader rest upon records of service, or upon reasonable anticipation of performance, or is it chiefly a matter of style?

     Questions about student life styles and curriculum requirements, as well as those about Communists on campus, strike me as being peripheral in significance.  The key questions have to do with the nature and role of liberal education in a society where leisure and information are abundant.  Should we anticipate that thinking of the most creative and humane sort will “trickle down” only from a few cultivated minds, or have the numerous and varied people who occupy the remainder of society major contributions to make?

Generation gaps and alienation are commonly used to describe the division between youths, especially those educated in the liberal arts departments of our leading colleges and universities, and the political leaders and private citizens who are sometimes identified as the silent majority.  It is a crucial part of my case that, while the latter group have made numerous concessions to reconcile protesting youth, the protesters have utilized everything from outlandish dress and obnoxious language to planned insults and acts of destruction to assure that the gap remained, a gap they view as the result of an intellectual and moral lag in the rest of society.  To compromise would therefore be degrading.

     In March of 1968, Senator Fulbright interrupted Secretary of State Rusk with the admonition that the senators needed no lectures on patriotism but that they were concerned about the “pigheadedness” which seemed to guide American policy.  Usually, men of Fulbright’s standing manage, as befits their advanced achievements in intellectual style, to be more circumspect.  The Senator’s outburst was significant.  From the protest viewpoint, the division in America has been between the pig heads who react to conventional symbols of patriotism and piety and those discerning individuals who perceive and pursue humane values.  That estimate of America’s social division is now dramatized in the CBS program “All in the Family.”

     Television deserves far more attention in explanations of the youth rebellion than Conant gave to it in his article.  How else could a burgeoning youth movement have learned so quickly to identify its leaders, its issues, and its most effective tactics?  Where else have persons of liberal learning expressed themselves so freely to such wide audiences as they have in the news and public affairs programs of television?

Freedom, especially freedom of verbal expression, has been a major issue of the rebellion.  Is a laissez faire approach to verbal expression inherently more valid than a similar approach to business enterprise?  May not both have acquired their aura of sanctity as political objectives of privileged groups?  Does unlimited freedom for intellectuals to attack the symbols by means of which less articulate people communicate contribute to knowledge and communication, or does it amount to a unilateral privilege of aggression?  I suggest that the readiness with which the more articulate professions deny that social harm and personal injuries result from unbridled use of language is as crass a bit of hypocrisy as any elite has ever advanced in rationalizing its own privileges….