Wednesday, September 16, 2009


It seems long ago now that I wrote an occasional column for "The Daily Princetonian." Let's say I had something of a contrarian streak, not feeling entirely persuaded that Princeton's orthodoxies were worthy of my fidelity. I realized one day that I'd struck a chord in high places when attending a gathering of Princeton's gliterati, and - wearing a self-identifying name-tag - a muckity-muck Dean whom I'd never met before looked at me with unfeigned horror and said, "Oh, you're Patrick Deneen...." Needless to say, I was denied tenure when the time came.

Well, now with the benefit of tenure if no additional wisdom, I've begun writing again for a college newspaper - this time "The Hoya." My first column appeared in yesterday's edition, and others will follow fortnightly. I suppose if I have unfulfilled childhood dreams, one would involve a baseball glove and proximity to second base. The other - to be an arbiter of opinion of those with newsprint on their fingers. I guess starting a "blawg" was a modest outlet for at least one of those frustrated fantasies.

In any event, my first column was titled (by the editors): "Universities Shoulder Some Blame for the Recession." Its inspiration: the idea that universities should display as prominently in their promotional literature and websites those alumni working on Wall Street who had contributed to the Great Recession as they do those who have won Rhodes Scholarships. Pretty funny, no?


Tim Lacy said...

You wrote: "Are these proud announcements the whole story or do they act as a gloss that hides a fuller portrait of our institutions – namely one deeply informed by an ethic of money-making at nearly any cost?"

Well said.

One thing that our universities don't teach, even the Catholic ones that promote social justice and ethics (my experience is with Loyola Chicago), is humility in the face of a culture of self-promotion. Whether the students are business majors or social workers, I see no effort by Catholic or Christian universities to infuse their students---or faculty---with humility. As such, these institutions do nothing to combat one of the great evils of American modernity.

I'm beginning, furthermore, to see this endless stream of self-promotion as a natural stream of capitalistic competitiveness. It would seem that the old Third Way, Distributism, would help us combat narcissism through its emphasis on cooperation. If only "we" together sought to be stars rather than we as a nation of individual self-seeking schmucks---whether our self-seeking manifests in money-making or the desire to be the focus of an alumni magazine editorial for the non-profit started.

I'm on this shtick courtesy of David Brooks's recent NYT op-ed. - TL

kate vander wiede said...

I haven't perused what Tim Lacy said, but just reading a summary of your idea prompted a giggle in me. Not sure of the validity, but appreciate the stirring of the waters. Headed to read the article now. let's hope I'm still giggling when I'm done.