05 July 2011

Academics & Independence Day - Part II

Last week, I posted about a recent Harvard study which claims that most 4th of July celebrations are "politically biased" events which serve to "socialize children into Republicans." Yes, this is how the elites in academia view your flag waving 4th of July celebrations. I suppose its just a matter of time before they recommend warning labels on apple pie.

Now comes another blog post at BigGovernment.com which echoes what I postulated in my post:

The general tone of the 40-page paper is that understanding the puffery and “public rituals” associated with Independence Day in America is best left to the professional social scientists who truly know such things. For example, just in case their readers might be unaware, the co-authors helpfully remind them that the academic literature defines the Fourth of July as a “day that provides a context for the celebration of an American civic religion organized around flags, parades, and the Constitution.” What a strange tribe of constitutionally-minded, Republican-leaning celebrants!

Besides offering up tendentious conclusions, an overall confusion of causation and correlation, and a strange reliance upon parade-day precipitation as an important factor in their study, the co-authors miss what much of academia today misunderstands about American patriotism. Less than preference of one political party over another, or a penchant for political pomp and circumstance, American patriotism is about the love of a country whose achievement is, as Abraham Lincoln said, “Liberty to all.”

Besides the obvious agenda in  "studies" like this, what truly amazes me is academics making the ridiculous assumption that they themselves believe their cloak of "scholarship" actually hides their agenda when they put out these silly studies. Of course, this agenda hiding is obvious to most and also extends into many other areas - Civil War studies for example. As Eugene Genovese so aptly put it:

. . . American history has largely become a plaything for canting ideologues . . . Our times call for a correct ideological line, which at its increasingly popular extreme regards the Old South as a rehearsal for Nazi Germany and calls for eradication of all traces of the conservative voices that have loomed so large in Southern history.
It is quite easy to connect the dots. The attitude is systemic. Case in point: let us not forget Professor David Blight's Freudian slip last year when writing about Virginia Governor McDonnell's Confederate History Month proclamation. Blight lamented:

Why doesn't the Confederacy just fade away? Is it because we are irresistibly fascinated by catastrophic loss? Or is it something else? Is it because the Confederacy is to this day the greatest conservative resistance to federal authority in American history?
As Genovese points out, the "canting ideologues" of historical interpretation today are really more about using their "analysis" to eradicate conservative voices. (Same issue with the ongoing criticism leveled at the Tea Party.) Just as the Harvard study wrings its hands over 4th of July celebrations ostensibly promoting conservative Republican values in children, others in academia would have conservative resistance, and its Southern voices to, "just fade away."


Brock Townsend said...

Excellent and posted.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Brock.

David Rhoads said...


Did you read the actual paper? I'm curious because when I read the paper itself, I don't detect any hand wringing by the authors about the conclusions drawn from the data presented or any "obvious agenda" to eradicate conservative voices, although that degree of hyperbole does seem to characterize many of the articles and blog posts reacting to the paper. Regardless, I would have thought that you, and conservative Americans in general, would be heartened by the paper's conclusions:

"... participating in the [Fourth of July] festivities during childhood shifts later-life preferences and behavior toward the Republicans and increases adult voter turnout.

"Three plausible mechanisms help interpret our findings. First, the long-lasting impact of Fourth of July fits the notion that experiences during early childhood have effects that are less susceptible to adult political persuasion—either because later-life influences require relatively more intensity or because of cognitive dissonance. Second, the Republican bias is consistent with the idea that there is a political congruence between the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and Republican beliefs. Third, the increase in voter turnout further suggests that Fourth of July transmits a nonpartisan
civic duty to vote." (p. 20)

I can see why some people describe the paper as silly, but if you actually read it, you may find some interesting nuggets there. Or not. Either way, the overblown reactions seem to me to be much ado about nothing.

Interestingly, as near as I can determine, neither of the authors of the paper is himself American and only one is a Harvard professor (the other teaches at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy). Make of that what you will.

Here in Orange, Virginia, our town's Fourth of July festivities this year were rained out. At our house we managed, nevertheless, to grill some steaks and shoot off some fireworks. Whether that means my kids will grow up to be Republicans or Democrats or neither, I can't say. I guess they'll decide that for themselves.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello David. Yes, I did read it.

"that degree of hyperbole does seem to characterize many of the articles and blog posts reacting to the paper."

Yes, many others had the same take as I did.

"the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and Republican beliefs."

So "patriotism" is just a "Republican belief"? Good Lord.

Yes, many of the Republican biased activities ;o) were rained out in our neck of the woods as well.

Eating steak will definitely push them into the arms of the Republicans. ;o) Thanks for stopping by and adding your opinion David.


13thBama said...

Ok, I will ask the question if no one else will:

If "Fourth of July" festivities lead one to become a Republican, what leads one to become a Democrat?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Earth Day.

13thBama said...

I was thinking, maybe May Day.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yes, that one crossed my mind as well. I wonder if Harvard will publish a study on those 2 events and if children attending are more likely to become Democrats?

Heh, heh, heh. ;o)