Summary: Humanities departments are working to remain irrelevant in the 21st century. Boston College’s innovative philosophy department teaches students to date! Sadly, that is irrelevant. The reason why reveals much about our situation.
A fun story resurfaced again in the news, again. It has it all: coed sex, oldsters’ advice about the good old days and our Highway to Hell, a demo that the Humanities are usually dead time for undergraduate studies, and How We’ve Changed. Let’s cut through the journalist nonsense and learn from this story.
First, let’s set the stage. Kerry Cronin is a Fellow of the Philosophy Department at Boston College (and Associate Director of its Lonergan Institute). Most journalists falsely describe here as a professor. Boston College was founded as a Roman Catholic college providing a Jesuit education. Now it dances, implying to parents that it still does while assuring students that it doesn’t (see here).
Cronin is famous for giving extra credit in her philosophy course to students who ask someone out on a first date, which she began doing a dozen or so years ago. She provides rules and guidelines – a thousand words of instructions for attempting this lost art form. For those that do not want to spend $65,000 (plus expenses) for four years to gain these insights, there are many YouTube videos of her lectures (the first date, “Level Two Dating“, “Hanging Out and Hooking Up.” She has an M.A. in Philosophy is presently a doctoral candidate in education (research in “moral reasoning”).
She wants students to relearn behaviors of the past – simpler and better times. Journalists love stories like this. Stories about Cronin pop up every few years. Here’s a Boston Globe article from 2014; here is a similar Globe article this week. Articles about “those darn kids” have been a standard recourse of journalists for slow news days back to the 19th century.
Those familiar with run-of-the-mill humanities academics instructing us about life will suspect that she is making all this up. Her qualifications to teach this appear to be nil. As has been pointed out many times, many of her beliefs are wrong. Behavior of young people has not changed that much during the past few generations. Here is a debunking by Eliana Dockterman in TIME.
The real story
“She isn’t trying to bring back dating, she is trying teach how to get a plate of pasta and a tiramisu desert with a girl’s hookup.”
— Comment about Cronin by Damn Crackers at Dalrock’s.
Since cheap and easy contraceptives and social changes liberated young people from oldsters’ control, cisgender sexual patterns have changed little. Cronin ignores the big change. The changes that transforms the relationships of young men and women. We now have decade of serial monogamy before marriage, high rates of divorce followed by more serial monogamy – plus decreasing rates of marriage.
Dating was the process of getting to know someone before making a serious commitment to lifetime bonding. Men paid for dates to demonstrate their ability and willingness to support a family (their role as provider). That is in the dustbin of history. It is as relevant to our society as a young man hunting a deer with a knife to become a full adult.
See the median age of first marriage (from the Census). Men buying women dinners for a decade or more makes no sense in our society, for many obvious reasons. Dating was a first stage to courtship (see Dalrock’s incisive analysis). Cronin is in effect teaching students a once vital skill, like weaving baskets from reeds.
Wise words from a real professor of the humanities
For a better understanding of the situation of young men and women, I recommend turning to Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind. Published in 1987, it provides more timely analysis than you will find in most newspapers.
Students do not date anymore. …They live in herds or packs with no more sexual differentiation than any herds have when not in heat. Human beings can, of course, engage in sexual intercourse at any time. But today there are none of the conventions invented by civilization to take the place of heat, to guide mating, and perhaps to channel it. Nobody is sure who is to make the advances, whether there are to be a pursuer and a pursued, what the event is to mean. They have to improvise, for roles are banned, and a man pays a high price for misjudging his partner’s attitude. The act takes place but it does not separate the couple from the flock, to which they immediately return as they were before, undifferentiated.
Women are still pleased by their freedom and their capacity to chart an independent course for themselves. But they frequently suspect that they are being used, that in the long run they may need men more than men need them, and that they cannot expect much from the feckless contemporary male. They despise what men used to think women had to offer (that is partly why it is now offered so freely), but they are dogged by doubt whether men are very impressed by what they are now offering instead. Distrust suffuses the apparently easy commerce between the sexes. There is an awful lot of breaking up, surely disagreeable, though nothing earthshaking. Exam time is a great moment for students to separate. They are under too much stress and too busy to put up with much trouble from a relationship. …
The problem …is that they have no common object, no common good, no natural complementarity. Selves, of course, have no relation to anything but themselves, and this is why “communication” is their problem. Gregariousness, like that of the animals in the herd, is admitted by all. Grazing together side by side and rubbing against one another are the given, but there is a desire and a necessity to have something more, to make the transition from the herd to the hive, where there is real interconnection. Hence, the hive – community, roots, extended family – is much praised, but no one is willing to transform his indeterminate self into an all too determinate worker, drone or queen, to submit to the rank-ordering and division of labor necessary to any whole that is more than just a heap of discrete parts. Selves want to be wholes, but have lately also taken to longing to be parts.
This is the reason why conversation about relationships remains so vacuous, abstract and unprogrammatic, with its whole content stored in a bottle labeled “commitment.” It is also why there is so much talk about phenomena like “bonding.” In the absence of any connectedness in their souls, human beings seek reassurance in fruitless analogy to mechanisms found in brutes. But this will not work because human attachment always has an element of deliberate choice, denied by such analogy. …Friendship, like its related phenomenon, love, is no longer within our ken because both require notions of soul and nature that, for a mixture of theoretical and political reasons, we cannot even consider. …
Romantic love is now as alien to us as knighterrantry, and young men are no more likely to court a woman than to wear a suit of armor, not only because it is not fitting, but because it would be offensive to women. As a student exclaimed to me, with approval of his fellows, “What do you expect me to do? Play a guitar under some girl’s window?” Such a thing seemed as absurd to him as swallowing goldfish.
Hat tip to Dalrock for Cronin’s work. See his analysis her shtick: Casual dating and serial monogamy as lost virtues.
For More Information
Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.
- A look at America’s future after marriage becomes rare.
- Modern women say “follow the rules while we break them.”
- Forms to sign before having sex. Progress or madness?
- See universities’ programs to regulate sex. The apps are amazing!
- The unexpected response to the sexual harassment crisis.
- Second thoughts about romance in the #MeToo age.
- Look beyond the stories to see how we define harassment.
Two books by Professor Regnerus that help explain the situation
Strongly recommended: Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy (2017).
See my posts about Cheap Sex: Misadventures of a young woman in modern America. and Cheap Sex is the Inconvenient Truth in the end of marriage.