Category Archive 'America vs. Britain'

06 Apr 2024

The Differing Impact of British Versus US Education

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In the Spectator, Yascha Mounk notes some major differences in educational standards and contemplates how much these must produce national differences in both journalism and political leadership.

When I first started teaching undergraduates at Harvard, the grading system the university employed struck me as very odd. Even ambitious students at top colleges in the United States see it as their job to answer any essay question in the most thorough and reasonable way. They regurgitate the dominant view in scholarly literature in a competent manner. If they pull this off without making major errors, they fully expect to get an A. And with grade inflation rampant in the Ivy League, they usually do.

This attitude has had a significant influence on American public life. If you read an opinion piece in the New York Times or the Washington Post, its basic thesis is often utterly unsurprising. But writers will usually argue in support of their uninspired conclusion in a painstakingly logical manner, building their case by placing one square block atop the other. In American journalism, to be right — or, at any rate, to argue for the position that the right people consider to be reasonable at the time — is much more important than to be brilliant or entertaining.
This stands in stark contrast to the grading scheme — and the implicit value system — I learned as an undergraduate at Cambridge. There, my teachers explained to me that the earnest and methodical essays I initially submitted as an overseas student fresh off the boat (or, rather, fresh off the Ryanair flight) from Germany would, at best, qualify for a high 2:1. To contend for a first, I needed to learn to be ‘brilliant’. … Read the rest of this entry »

12 Mar 2021

The Repulsiveness of Meghan and Harry

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Ron Liddle, in the UK Spectator, looks disfavorably on the Duke and Duchess of Netflix and Oprah to boot.

The USA is the least communalistic and most individualistic nation of any on Earth. It is written into their Declaration of Independence that an individual’s right to the pursuit of happiness trumps, if I can use the word, every other consideration. It is all a little alien to us over here in Britain, which is one reason why we tend to find Meghan Markle a repulsive creature. What the ghastly Oprah Winfrey and indeed Hillary Clinton do not understand is that if there was any resentment towards Meghan in the UK, it was not because she is of mixed race, but because she is American and behaves like a caricature of a particularly stupid American. The color of her skin matters not a jot: it is the noisome ordure which spews out of her mouth on a daily basis that grates. Again, the narcissism and self-obsession and the acquired victimhood, the vapid and banal attempts at self-justification.

The American insistence on the primacy of the individual also explains Meghan’s different interpretation of two words which we, over here, think we understand clearly: ‘duty’ and ‘truth’. When her idiot husband was told he would not be getting back his honorary military ranks, the two of them (i.e. Meghan) released an emetic statement to the press suggesting that there were many ways one might perform one’s duties. No. Duty is something imposed and involves self-sacrifice, discipline and obedience. It does not mean doing what the hell you like, which is what the two of them have done. But if you are a country which doubts the validity of a communal ethos of ‘duty’, then Meghan’s standpoint is one you may well arrive at, especially if you are not terribly bright.

Similarly, Markle was asked about ‘her’ truth. People don’t have their own truth. There is truth and there is falsehood, and there’s an end to it. But once more, the native ideology devolves the concept of truth down to the individual level, regardless of whether it is truth at all. It is from America that we have imported the morally and rationally bereft progressive ideology that insists that if people feel they have been victimized, then they have been. And that everybody can be whatever they want to be, regardless of the facts. Elevate the individual — beyond reason, beyond government, beyond God — and this is what you get: a D-list sleb who married well thinking she has been victimized and is in possession of a ‘truth’ which runs counter to the truth.

The cultural divide broadens still further when we consider Oprah Winfrey, one of America’s greatest mysteries. But boy, does she have hauteur and dominion. It is very difficult for us to understand why the Yanks so revere the woman. She is an appalling interviewer, seemingly utterly incurious, every question submitted for approval and the answers rehearsed over and over again. Ill-informed, incapable of asking an interesting question, always slightly more regal than whoever it is she is interviewing. There is no intellect on display, just a perpetual desire to paddle about in the shallows, or indeed barely skim the surface, of the subjects before her. But then she subscribes to the same inane ideology — that Meghan Markle has a truth that is equally valid to the truth, and who is she to question that validity? Anti-journalism. It was rumored she might one day run for office. I think she’d be perfect for the East and West Coast voters, a conduit of witless acceptance of every meaningless liberal shibboleth to which those deluded people subscribe.


I think he’s perfectly right in despising these people’s attitudes, but I think his notions of “individualism vs. communalism” are wildly inaccurate.

The older America was, as Tocqueville noted, both enormously individualistic, but also intensely dutiful and civic-minded. No one would have accused, for instance, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie of a lack of individualism, but both were perfectly prepared to give their lives for the liberty of their countrymen.

What’s wrong with Meghan, Oprah, et. al. isn’t rugged individualism, their afflictions are infantilism, narcissism, self-entitlement, and sanctimony. Meghan and Oprah are selfish, it’s true, but they are also among the least individualistic, the most tediously conformist people in the world.

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