It was way back in 1960, that Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized System, the book that was to make author and self-styled radical Paul Goodman (1911-1972) famous, appeared on the scene. Not terribly well written, laden with psychobabble, quaintly misogynistic, and chock full of an astonishing amount of flagrant homosexual references—not at all PC for the time—that were somehow ignored by his avid followers, the book railed against the establishment destroying the dreams and lives of American youth.
While the work has not aged particularly well, and as Joseph Epstein put it, “Many of the things Paul Goodman asked of in his essays and books of the 1960’s have now come about, and with rather pitiful consequences…”, there is no doubt that Goodman genuinely cared about the youth of his day.
In our society, bright lively children, with the potentiality for knowledge, noble ideals, honest effort, and some kind of worthwhile achievement, are transformed into useless and cynical bipeds, or decent young men trapped or early resigned, whether in or out of the organized system. My purpose is a simple one: to show how it is desperately hard these days for an average child to grow up to be a man, for our present organized system of society does not want men. They are not safe. They do not suit.
Goodman also recalled, after speaking to a group of young men in Canada, condemned as he felt to a bleak future, “I turned away from the conversation abruptly because of the uncontrollable burning tears in my eyes and constriction in my chest.”
For all his faults, and there were many, Goodman was on to something. Too bad that the New Left that so staunchly identified with him was to make matters far worse, by strengthening the very institutions that he wanted to tear down.
Colleges in the 1960’s were labeled “repressive” by the assorted demonstrators. Why? Many of them were tied in with government and military agencies, “evil” corporate employers were allowed to recruit on campus, there were never enough minorities on the faculty, and curricula stressing Western civilization discriminated against the cultural heritage of people of color. Of course, you could still actually get a decent education and have reasonable prospects of getting a job upon graduation.
Goodman may not have liked the all-too-common cookie cutter conformity coming out of the colleges then, but he would despise what exists now: a politically correct maelstrom of gelded officials, being manipulated by mostly unqualified Leftist malcontent faculty, to descend into ever greater levels of irrelevance, while crushing the individualism of all but the strongest-willed of the student body.
Goodman was no fan of pre-college public schools either, but here again, the institutions have only gotten worse. In his day, people were still debating the notion of federal aid to education, but by the 1970’s, the Feds won the debate, and have essentially controlled public elementary and secondary education ever since. Indoctrination now runs rampant, and if you can stand the shock, check out a current U.S. History textbook. Then, you’ll understand how a nation founded by rugged individualists, pioneers, real heroes, and risk takers has been transformed into a land teeming with rapacious “victims,” political operatives, sports “heroes,” and low rent media celebrities.
Goodman would be positively apoplectic if he were to see how Ritalin is handed out like candy to “hyperactive” boys, whose most common offense is that they are not acting sufficiently lobotomized for today’s classroom. But he would react perhaps most violently to how children are so devalued today—pious Hillary Clinton platitudes notwithstanding.
For Clinton and her fellow travelers use children only as a vehicle to advance their pernicious Socialist agenda. How sad that these very kids are conditioned to be as lambs led to the slaughter. And how fitting, in a karmic sort of way, that Goodman’s writings, far too influenced by his libertine desires, and inspiring a generation of vipers, would boomerang back into corruption and stricture he could barely imagine.