The political left hasn't done well since the media began evolving rapidly due to the tsunami of tech change. The right wing has seized the electronic media with absolute glee. The left may be finding some inroads now. It has taken time.
Our U.S. Founding Fathers erected a system that seemed to ensure the desirable balance. That balance is between individual freedoms and a foundation for the common good. The Founders never could have envisioned our current media landscape. But their simple genius has enabled the U.S. system to adjust to all changes. Up until now, to be sure. And hopefully into the future.
You would think our Founders would win universal acclamation. You would think we could all pause and say they were on to something. But universal truths were hard to sell in the 1970s.
The political left had a firm footing at that time, with people like Rick Nolan easily riding the wave. The so-called "liberal mainstream media" actually did exist. Our Minneapolis newspaper was a prime example, even irritating me at times, and I've always been receptive to left-of-center thinking. The tone of the Minneapolis paper and others could be patronizing.
The political left felt its oats. It reigned nicely on most college campuses. If you're in your 50s you surely remember.
I was mixing with some people at the LaFave House 3-4 years ago when I heard the name Charles Beard. Charles Beard! His opining was the kind of stuff that might get thrust in front of you in the 1970s. In my case it was with a professor last name of Carlson.
The deconstructionists were given lots of breathing room in the disco '70s. Their ideas seemed to have as much merit as the music at times.
I don't mind knowing who Charles Beard was. I just don't like a professor with all his power dangling this stuff in front of me as if it calls for real respect or deference. A professor queried about this today would probably say it's just fodder for consideration. Yes, and I suppose we can learn something about painting from Jackson Pollock. I'd like to see an art teacher present nine examples of modern art along with one of a kindergartner's finger painting, and have the student pick out which is which.
Beard's thinking is more along the lines of kindergartners, and I mean no disrespect to kindergartners. You might consider him the left wing equivalent to Erick Erickson and others of his ilk who get on cable TV so easily today.
My professor gave us Charles Beard along with a book written by avowed socialist Michael Parenti, plus he threw in "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" for good measure.
At the LaFave House, I heard reminiscences about a UMM professor who was retiring. I'm sure he's highly intelligent. And I'm sure he was thinking in terms of challenging students with unconventional ideas. He's a Democrat like me, yes, a card-carrying one. And it's fine to present students with a broad range of ideas.
The Internet gives us the opportunity today to fact-check and see just how much credence some of these ideas have. Let's look at this Mr. Beard. He gave us a radical re-evaluation of the Founding Fathers. He asserted that the narrow economic interests of members of the Constitutional Convention affected their votes.
We can discover through some quick online research that a defining book by this fellow was "respected until the 1950s."
We're all entitled to our opinions of course. And you can look at a Pollock painting and express awe.
Our retiring UMM professor was feted in the evening at Prairie Inn. The afternoon reception should have been held there too, not at the LaFave House.
The LaFave House is a curious little - and I emphasize little - element of the UMM community. It's really off-campus. Legend has it, it's where the idea of UMM was first broached. But how do we know it wasn't in a barber shop?
The legend became the basis for proposing its renovation as a hospitality facility. The cost seemed to grow awfully high. I have attended several events there through the years. I find the atmosphere there to be very cramped for these affairs.
You have to walk uphill to get to the front door. You feel as though you're in someone's home. I suppose that's because it was once someone's home. It was fine for that purpose. For the purpose of public receptions, it seems way too cramped. I find myself politely spending time there but then wanting to leave. Call it claustrophobia. People say "excuse me" several times as they wind their way back to the hors d'oeuvres table.
It seems to me that any event held there could be held at alternative locations that afford more space, like maybe at Oyate Hall right on campus.
I suppose the party line is that we need the LaFave House. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. As with Charles Beard and his pathetic, chronic cynicism. And artist Pollock.
Beard's ideas didn't just fade with the disco '70s, they apparently faded during the rock 'n' roll '50s. It just took a while for the memo to reach a certain element within academia.
I'm willing to question a great many things. But if the Founding Fathers don't represent some sort of home base where we can all feel comfortable, then maybe our colleges have no reason for being at all.
Charles Beard is a dope.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org