Monday, February 29, 2016

"Very wicked indeed..."

The Time website recently published a list of 100 female writers most read on college campuses. Number 97 on the list was Evelyn Waugh. From "An Ignorant Time":
.... When the dust-up hit the Net, one of Twitter’s most popular commentators, Matthew Yglesias, owned up to his ignorance like a man—an unlettered man. “Confession time,” he wrote. “Until today I thought Evelyn Waugh was a woman, because his name is ‘Evelyn’ and that is typically a woman’s name.” Whereupon, a derisive Twitterer asked, “Have you ever read anything?” Answering in kind, Yglesias shot back, “Yes, several books but none by Evelyn Waugh.”

Very amusing, but Yglesias isn’t your average blogger. He’s a graduate of Dalton—a tony Manhattan progressive school—and attended Harvard where he graduated magna cum laude in 2003. If Waugh is untaught—and perhaps unknown—in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that lends credence to an essay in the education-watching site Minding the Campus. Notre Dame professor Patrick Deneen laments, “My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture.”

Waugh saw all this coming more than 50 years ago. In Scott-King’s Modern Europe, a fatuous headmaster declares, “Parents are not interested in producing the ‘complete man’ anymore. They want to qualify their boys for jobs in the public world. You can hardly blame them, can you?” Scott-King, Waugh’s mouthpiece, responds: “I can and do. I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world.” .... [more]