Okay, friends, raise your hand if you've ever read Shirley Jackson's disturbing short story "The Lottery."
Here is a fascinating story about one literature teacher's experience over the decades in teaching the story. Apologies to those of you to whom this is old news, but it was new to me:
Reflecting on Jackson’s piece, Archbishop Chaput cited professor Kay Haugaard’s analysis on how young people in academia in decades past would react passionately to the tale with intense classroom debate and discussion.
“She said that in the early 1970s, students who read the story voiced shock and indignation,” Archbishop Chaput noted. “The tale led to vivid conversations on big topics – the meaning of sacrifice and tradition; the dangers of group-think and blind allegiance to leaders; the demands of conscience and the consequences of cowardice.”
“Sometime in the mid-1990s, however, reactions began to change,” he said.
“Haugaard described one classroom discussion that – to me – was more disturbing than the story itself. The students had nothing to say except that the story bored them. So Haugaard asked them what they thought about the villagers ritually sacrificing one of their own for the sake of the harvest.”
“One student, speaking in quite rational tones, argued that many cultures have traditions of human sacrifice,” the archbishop continued. “Another said that the stoning might have been part of ‘a religion of long standing,’ and therefore acceptable and understandable.”
Another student brought up the idea of “multicultural sensitivity,” saying she learned in school that if “it’s a part of a person’s culture, we are taught not to judge.”
Back when I was fighting postmodernism with a claymore and any other weapon I could lay hands on in graduate school (which is to say, just before the time Haugaard noticed the change in student responses), I remember making the following prophecy: When all the nonsense about "signifiers" and "text" has been forgotten, what will remain as the legacy of postmodernism will be garden variety cultural relativism.
I'll take my prophet's cap now. On the other hand, never mind. Prophets sometimes come to an unpleasant end.
HT for the article: Jeff Singer