a placidity born of nonachievement and intellectual drift

panview

Senior Member
Chinese
HI.Everyone.The following is from Crisis in the Academy: Rethinking Higher Education in America by Christopher J. Lucas @1996

All the while, children give birth to children, youngsters show up at school toting handguns, drug dealers ply their trade at recess, and gangs of pre-adolescent thugs terrorize the playgrounds. Out in suburbia and rural America, things are reportedly quieter, but it is a placidity born of nonachievement and intellectual drift. Prescriptions for school reform vary, though they all tend to reflect a broad conviction that the present system shows unmistakable signs of decay.

I wonder what is "intellectual drift", could you give me an explanation and give me an example?
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I very much doubt that American schools are remotely like that (or were remotely like that, in 1996). I especially liked the "reportedly". He didn't bother going out to check, then? Hmmm.

    It isn't an expression in regular use, and a web search shows various usages. Here it is clearly meant as a pejorative term, and appears to a decline in intellectual standards. I don't recommend you use the term yourself.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    HI.Everyone.The following is from Crisis in the Academy: Rethinking Higher Education in America by Christopher J. Lucas @1996

    All the while, children give birth to children, youngsters show up at school toting handguns, drug dealers ply their trade at recess, and gangs of pre-adolescent thugs terrorize the playgrounds. Out in suburbia and rural America, things are reportedly quieter, but it is a placidity born of nonachievement and intellectual drift. Prescriptions for school reform vary, though they all tend to reflect a broad conviction that the present system shows unmistakable signs of decay.

    I wonder what is "intellectual drift", could you give me an explanation and give me an example?
    I think the suggestion is that away from the cities the schools are less troubled, because the more motivated and intelligent people have left the countryside and those who remain are not very ambitious or impatient of their lack of success. As for 'intellectual drift': I expect the author thinks that these country people do not face the intellectual problems associated with reform in schools with any sort of mental rigour; they adapt (drift) to what they hear about life in city schools without energetically demanding reform rooted in detailed analysis of the issues.

    You ask for an example, Panview; that is inviting us to be speculative. Suppose a country farmer had a strict view of how he thought a school should be, and he suddenly learnt about these drugs and handguns. He would be shocked and might well demand that something be done to reform the schools. Suppose alternatively that he learnt gradually over many years about the decline in standards in city schools; he might well have revised his expectations downwards, be much less radical in his demands for reform. He would have drifted intellectually from outrage to disappointed acquiescence.
     

    panview

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I very much doubt that American schools are remotely like that (or were remotely like that, in 1996). I especially liked the "reportedly". He didn't bother going out to check, then? Hmmm..
    You mean what the author is not true? The phenomena he listed did not exist?
     

    panview

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    As for 'intellectual drift': I expect the author thinks that these country people do not face the intellectual problems associated with reform in schools with any sort of mental rigour; they adapt (drift) to what they hear about life in city schools without energetically demanding reform rooted in detailed analysis of the issues.
    Thank you very much for your explanation.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    All the while, children give birth to children, youngsters show up at school toting handguns, drug dealers ply their trade at recess, and gangs of pre-adolescent thugs terrorize the playgrounds
    You mean what the author is not true? The phenomena he listed did not exist?
    I would describe the above statements as hyperbole: dramatic exaggerations and sensationalism of the worst sort. They are designed purely to shock, sell books and confirm the readers' unsubstantiated prejudices.

    There were (and perhaps still are) some isolated incidents of those types, but I would be surprised if there were not such incidents in every country in the world.

    "What is said without proof may be dismissed without proof." (C. Hitchens) and you will note that Christopher J. Lucas gives no data that would give reliable evidence for his rhetoric.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Hello Thomas, I think you misunderstand the author's words and the intellectual and educational landscape in the U.S. He's making a division between the city schools and their problems on the one hand, and the suburban and rural schools (as a combined group) on the other hand, with their own set of problems. The best schools in the U.S., as a rule, are suburban schools.

    The city schools he's talking about are the ones infested with gangs and drugs and that have a long history of underachievment. Families have been moving to the suburbs for decades to avoid sending their children to those schools. We're talking about schools with metal detectors at the doors, drug-sniffing dogs and a permanent police presence. They are located in gang-infested neighborhoods with lots of crime and wasted lives (too often literally wasted, as in students not surviving to their graduation day).

    In comparison, suburban and rural schools are islands of calm. They function properly as schools, by most appearances, and have far fewer of the overt problems of the notorious (inner) city schools. (I think he says "reportedly" they are "quieter" because there's a little bit of denial involved, as those types of problems aren't absent there either but people don't want it to be true.) But he's saying the "quiet" suburban and rural schools have their own particular set of problems, too. They are quiet and peaceful but that is covering up, in his opinion, the fact that they aren't accomplishing what they should be accomplishing, especially considering their much better conditions. He thinks they have lost their rigor and they are drifting intellectually - i.e. not focused on strong quality education but rather going through the motions and doing more [my words] "feel good" type of education.

    See this New York Times article, which won't let me copy an excerpt. I'll type a bit of it.
    Large Urban-Suburban Gap Seen in Graduation Rates

    In Cleveland, for instance, where the gap was largest, only 38% of high school freshmen graduated within four years, compared with 80% in the Cleveland suburbs.
    . . . .
    But that urban-suburban gap [here referencing the nationwide gap], which is due in part to hundreds of failing schools that some researchers call dropout factories.

    Teen gets 33 years for killing Kempsville honor student during botched drug deal


    Suspect arrested after teen killed, another injured in double shooting early Wednesday in Baton Rouge

    Teen Shot near Central High School During Drug Deal

    There are pages more if you care to look.
     
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    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I know Chinese students cannot generally access Google for searching, but I was able to find many example of this phrase being used.
    The examples are mostly in academic books discussing models of philosophy or politics. Sadly I cannot easily quote from google books with my phone, but the idea is usually about modifying a theory or point of view over time or under the influence of new ideas.

    Certainly, in your example, it suggests a loss of intellectual rigour, coupled with under achievement.
     
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