The Perfect Storm: Sources of the depression epidemic | Psychology Today

https://cdn.psychologytoday.com/sites/default/files/styles/image-article_inline_full_caption/public/field_blog_entry_images/2019-05/screen_shot_2019-05-11_at_5.33.49_am.png?itok=uFUvXwVJ
America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-being
Source: Forum on Child and Family Statistics

Source: The Perfect Storm | Psychology Today

This blog article in Psychology Today traces the top five causes of the epidemic of depression here in the U.S. (and in fact, throughout much of the world). These include:

1. The erosion of traditional social structures and communities. “A gradual disintegration of the social fabric, which has closely paralleled industrial and technological growth, has resulted in greater isolation and loneliness… we have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, and neighbors. Urbanization and the breakup of the extended family and rural community are leading causes of this social atomization.”

2. Changes in modes of communication. “Following the physical upheaval of urbanization, the world has been swept by a tidal wave of electronic innovation… [The] alarming rise in depression among U.S. youth during the period 2004–2015… coincides with the birth and rapid growth of smartphone usage during the same period. While this does not prove a cause-effect relationship, it would seem to reinforce an urgent need to closely examine the impact of smartphone usage on the communication skills and psychological well-being of young people.”

3. Changes in Diet. “Consumption of processed foods, which mostly contain a serious imbalance of omega fats, large quantities of sugar, and a lack of fermented ingredients, are radically affecting the delicate balance of our gut flora. A landmark comparison between North Africans and North Americans revealed sharp declines in bacterial diversity among the North American group, including genera containing the psychobiotic strains… Is fast food and processed food throwing our microbiome, that is, our internal environment, into chaos in the same way that pollution is destroying the macrobiome?”

[Note: the Weston A. Price Foundation has been saying this since 1999; Dr. Price himself raised the alarm regarding processed foods vs traditional dietary patterns, back in the 1930s and 40s. This is not new information! But it’s finally beginning to be recognized by the mainstream.]

4. The intense competition surrounding education among industrialized nations. “Korea, Japan, China, and to a growing degree, Western nations, are experiencing an exponential rise in youth depression… fierce competition in the academic arena, in which academic success is equated with social and economic “success” by parents, is leading to a loss of personal autonomy and acute stress. Secondary schools are now largely focused on exam-centered curricula… marked by a lack of content related to life skills, social-emotional learning, and wellbeing in general.”

5. The familiar socio-economic suspects, including war and poverty. “Nations strongly affected by conflict and extreme poverty, with an emphasis on extreme, rank relatively high on the depression scale and low in happiness and satisfaction. Nonetheless, the relationship between GDP and depression/happiness rates is by no means linear… Personal freedom and the presence of social networks, two factors inversely correlated to depression mentioned above, are highly related to scores on the Positive Experience Index of the Global Emotions Report.”

Assuming that the above is accurate, and based on my own experience and informal research, I believe it is, what is most interesting in all this to me – aside from a certain degree of grim satisfaction of the “I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so” variety – is that four out of five of these factors are both endemic to, and so far as can be determined, unique to, our modern/postmodern age. Our ancestors had rough lives in many respects – rougher than ours in most – but they do not appear to have suffering from comparable levels of depression… which has spiked in recent years, as recounted in the linked article, and many others.

These contributing factors to the contemporary depression epidemic can therefore (despite the usual disclaimers about correlation not equalling causation) be pretty much laid at the feet of our abandonment of traditional approaches, thoughts, understandings, philosophies, and ways of living and being, in so many areas of life, from foodways to lifeways, from communication to education.

This mindless neophilia, this willingness (even eagerness) to cast aside the traditional, the tried and true, and to eternally chase after the supposedly “new and improved,” which is so characteristic of our present society, is going to kill us – is killing us – if we do not moderate it with a more sensitive and sympathetic appropriation and re-adoption of traditional norms and ways of life.

Once again, I hate to say I told you so, but……!

Advertisements

King Arthur? Avalon? Who? What…?

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0895/0864/products/42-21436247_1024x1024.jpeg?v=1450887342
Illustration of King Arthur Receiving Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake. N.C. Wyeth, c. 1910.

I had an instructive incident this afternoon, as I was teaching one of my behind-the-wheel students: since the struggle to save the West does not come with a salary, I teach driver’s education to put meat and bread on the table, and otherwise attempt to keep the wolves from the door.

Seeing a Toyota Avalon ahead of us at a stop light, I quipped to my student, “Well, there’s Avalon! I wonder where King Arthur is?” There was a brief silence, followed by a (slightly sheepish, to her credit) “I didn’t get that one!” from my student.

She didn’t get it. An Anglophone high school student, and one with a European last name and apparent ancestral heritage, to boot, didn’t get a reference – and not an obscure one – to the Arthurian legends, one of the most formative legendary and literary cycles in the history of the English-speaking peoples (and significant to French and German-speaking ones, as well). If there is any doubt that our educational system is in serious disarray, this one incident is proof positive, I would confidently assert.

I passed off the episode lightly, for my student’s sake – I’m teaching her to drive a car, not appreciate her own cultural heritage, and there were tasks to accomplish, and traffic and road conditions in need of attention – but it bothered me, and it continues to rankle.

But thinking about it tonight, I realized that from the perspective of the propagandists and ideologues that make up much of our educational establishment, this is an example, not of disarray, but of how well their plan is working. King Arthur should most emphatically not be taught, according to this outlook!

He is not only a member of one of the most despised of all classes (and one of the very few it is permissible – indeed, encouraged – to despise), a “DWEM” (Dead White European Male), but he actually fought against the invasion and subjugation diversity and cultural enrichment of his Romano-British land and people by the Anglo-Saxons. Really fought! With swords and spears and things. And in the process became an icon and an inspiration for defense against immigrant invasion opposition to multiculturalism for centuries thereafter.

How vile! He must have been one of those white supremacists. Oh, wait – the Anglo-Saxons were white, too! And so were the Vikings… and the Normans… and even the French and Spanish, who tried and failed to invade England. Best we just leave British / English history out of the schools entirely, unless we can find ways to convincingly pretend that they weren’t nearly as European as they very clearly and historically were, at least until the last decade or so.

We certainly don’t want to infect any of today’s students of European ancestry with any pride in their heritage, do we? Much less suggest to them, however indirectly, that it might be – perhaps even, ought to be – defended from invaders? Perish the thought!

We are seriously screwed up, and are getting screwed-er up-er, all the time!

 

College Illiteracy is Growing | Intellectual Takeout

College Illiteracy is Growing

For a number of years, it was assumed that public education was swimming along, efficiently educating children of all ages. More recently, the products coming out of public schools have caused a troubling concern to leap into the minds of adults: are schools dumbing down the content they teach to students?

Source: College Illiteracy is Growing | Intellectual Takeout

I have been observing this trend for years, now, from both inside and outside public schools and academia. The author, Annie Holmquist, writes,

“One could cast blame in many directions to attempt to explain why students are not intellectually prepared for college. But is it possible that the main reason stems from the fact that schools are simply not set up to train students to think for themselves?”

A good question. And one to which I suspect I know the answer…

I would also add, society is teaching students that they ought to be able to get anything they want without much effort, intellectual or otherwise!

Glories of the West: Colonial Williamsburg Homeschool Days

Source: Colonial Williamsburg Homeschool Days | Colonial Williamsburg’s Facebook Page

So much goodness in this picture! The Governor’s Mansion at Colonial Williamsburg, once the capital of 18th-century Virginia, with adorable little girls in proper Colonial attire carrying a basket of naturally-dyed wool from (perhaps) some of the Leicester Longwool heritage sheep raised there. A recreation of early America at its finest! Anyone who claims that “America was never that great” should look at this picture, and be ashamed. Yes, we were still colonies of Great Britain at that point in history. But the groundwork was already being laid…

And then we have the excellent phenomenon of homeschooling, in which parents can opt their children out of the politically-correct agendas of so much of public (and even private) schooling! So glad that Colonial Williamsburg – historically one of the flagship sites for living history, and a major influence on me, in childhood and beyond – is providing programs in support. Children need to learn about our history and heritage, and there is no better way than through experiential learning.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has come under fire (not without justification, it must be said) in recent years, for apparent financial mismanagement, and also for some of its programming decisions: replacing costumed interpreters with docents in modern attire, canceling popular events, discouraging reenactor participation, and cashiering the popular tavern Balladeers, for example. But this, at least, deserves commendation.

Old-fashioned toys, not video games, best for kids, pediatricians say | WRCBtv.com – Chattanooga

Image

Don’t be fooled by all those “educational” electronics in stores. What’s best for your kids, pediatricians say, are old-fashioned toys that require you to actually interact with them.

Source: Old-fashioned toys, not video games, best for kids, pediatrician – WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

“Play is important for child development, but children learn best from adults. They get language skills, learn about how the world works, and get feedback that can reinforce learning and positive behavior, the American Academy of Pediatrics says in new guidelines for people buying toys for kids.”

The most amazing part of this is that, apparently, it comes as a surprise to some people!

The AAP cautions that

“a little common sense goes a long way, the AAP says in its reminders. Kids need to use their imaginations, they need to move both their hands and their bodies and they need to express creativity. Simple toys such as blocks, crayons and card games can fill these needs better than the flashiest video game”

And goes on to add,

“The truth is most tablets, computer games, and apps advertised as ‘educational’ aren’t. Most ‘educational’ apps target memory skills, such as ABCs and shapes,” the guidelines read.

“These skills are only one part of school readiness. The skills young children really need to learn for success in school (and life) include impulse control, managing emotions, and creative, flexible thinking. These are best learned through unstructured and social play with family and friends.”

So-called educational games and apps on digital media may, in fact, delay social development [emphasis added], especially for young children, because [such technology] interferes with their learning about real-life facial expressions and gestures.”

When it comes to screen time, less is more:

“Parents also need to remember to limit kids’ use of video and computer games, the AAP says. ‘Total screen time, including television and computer use, should be less than one hour per day for children 2 years or older and avoided for those younger than 2 years of age,’ the guidelines point out.”

That was the rule in my growing-up years, when “screens” meant television. I may have chafed at it, at the time, but (with the perspective and, hopefully, maturity that age brings) I recognize the wisdom of the restriction, now.

Caveat emptor! “Some products may be marketed in a way that makes parents feel their kids are missing out if they don’t get them. Don’t fall for it, the AAP says.” Oh, really? Do ya think? Gee, I didn’t know that corporations ever marketed their products in ways that over-state their benefits and minimize their risks… *wry smile*

In any case:

Read the whole article – there’s a lot more information, and it’s all interesting, especially to those who care about the social and physical, as well as intellectual and psycho-emotional, development of children.

Greek to Me, by Mary Norris | The New Yorker

Mary Norris, also known as the Comma Queen, on the pleasures of a different alphabet.

Source: Greek to Me, by Mary Norris | The New Yorker

While I must confess that I really do not have an urge to study Greek, either ancient or modern (if I were going to take up the study of ancient languages again, they would be Latin and Old English) I thought this was an interesting piece.

Combining a first-person memoir with a defense of the study of classical languages in our current era, it is fair apologia which deserves to be considered by, as author Mary Norris puts it, “anyone who doubts the value of studying a dead language.”

It’s also worth a share in light of my earlier post on Greece’s Nea Dexia party, as it points out one of the ways in which the Greek “hill” (the Acropolis, in Failos Kranidiotis’ engaging metaphor) has influenced, and continues to influence, Western culture.

(Nota Bene: It should be noted that The New Yorker can still publish worthwhile articles – so long as one stays away from its left-leaning political ones.)

This 1897 Text Gives 3 Clues Why Today’s Students Can’t Write | Intellectual Takeout

This 1897 Text Gives 3 Clues Why Today’s Students Can’t Write

Would we see American writing ability increase if these three elements were restored to the classroom?

Source: This 1897 Text Gives 3 Clues Why Today’s Students Can’t Write | Intellectual Takeout

Contemporary American society is suffering from a number of maladies, but one of the root issues is lack of literacy. I mean “literacy” in the full sense: not that people can’t read texts, “tweets,” memes, and maybe even blog posts, but that far too many do not seem to be able to in-depth, quality works of prose (and poetry), comprehending and interpreting the meaning (of which there may be several levels) and significance of them. And of course, that makes them much less capable writers, too: the other piece of the literacy puzzle. It’s one thing to understand; its another to share that understanding with others.

This is not just my perception, either; as this essay points out,

“[In late 2015] the Nation’s Report Card announced that no more than 40% of America’s 4th and 8th graders are proficient in reading and math. Those are scary numbers, but the numbers for writing are even more frightening: only 27% of American 8th and 12th graders attained proficiency.”

Now, I admit to a personal bias, here; but I would argue that it is perfectly possible to be a good, informed, and productive citizen without being particularly proficient in math (so long as one is not in a technical or scientific field which requires it).

But I would also argue that it is much more difficult, to the point of impossibility, to be a good, informed, and productive citizen – at least, of a representative, Constitutional, democratic republic such as we have – without having a pretty good grasp of literacy: that is, of reading and writing.

My late grandfather used to say, “if you can read, you can learn anything.” He was quite correct; but the corollary to that is that if you cannot read, you cannot learn much of anything – unless it’s something that can be taught entirely by video, and there are technological and practical limitations to that which do not exist with books.

And of course, if you cannot read well, you cannot write well, either; for the second flows directly from the first. And if you cannot write well, your ability to express yourself in nearly any topic – even in our technological age – will be severely curtailed. It is remarkable how text-heavy we still are, from “tweets” to blog posts like this one! It is also remarkable how poor-quality much of this writing actually is.

But perhaps there are steps we can take to improve the situation. As the essay notes, American schools, students, and even adults regularly violate three principles which Dr. Edwin Lewis deemed (1897) essential to the writing process. So what are these three principles?

1) They don’t read high-quality literature – and they don’t read it aloud. Here’s Dr. Lewis on the subject:

“One of the quickest ways of learning to know good English, is oral reading… If the student reads aloud from writers whose work was natural, unforced, original, he will gradually come to see his own ideas more clearly, feel his own feelings more keenly.”

2) They skim. “Speed-reading” was all the rage when I was in school, back in the 1970s and ’80s, but reading more is not necessarily reading better – or even, reading well at all. As Dr. Lewis pointed out,

“To get at the thoughts and really to retain the valuable expressions, the student must scrutinize and ponder as he reads. Each word must be thoroughly understood; its exact value in the given sentence must be grasped.”

3) They don’t memorize. Rote memorization has been in bad odor for decades; it certainly was in my school days. But allowing quality writing to sink into the memory is absolutely essential to giving a person the functional database that they can use to express their own thoughts in a creative, cogent, and intelligent manner. Dr. Lewis again:

“To the habit of memorizing, many a person is indebted not merely for high thoughts that cheer hours of solitude and that stimulate his own thinking, but for command of words.”

Both reading and writing may seem a touch passé in the present era; it is fashionable to push “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, these days. And in the technological world in which we live, I do not doubt the utility of these fields.

But I think we would be better off as a society if we emphasized a complete, well-rounded education that laid particular stress on the ability to explore and understand a wide range of concepts – scientific and technological, yes, but also historical, cultural, political, and philosophical – through the tools of reading and writing about them.

To put the matter in a slightly tongue-in-cheek fashion,

Image result for science vs humanities meme dinosaurs

Q.E.D.!