As someone who loves social-media and is concerned about its affects on our lives I was interested in an article by Samuel James this morning entitled “Breaking Free From My Story.” In it he described how online accessibility of information have created what’s been called an “end of expertise.”
But this “flattening” of knowledge also comes at a cost. Nichols (Tom Nichols who wrote an article on this in the Federalist) notes what he calls the “end of expertise.” The ease and immediacy with which everyone can access the same information and share their interpretation of it has fomented notions of an intellectual hyper-egalitarianism, in which everyone’s opinion and perspective must be of perfectly equal importance.
The result is a generation who finds qualification not in education or skills, but their story
A person can be “informed” if he’s read the Wikipedia entry, or can “speak to an issue” through a free WordPress blog. The result is that what counts in this “intellectual marketplace” is not one’s skill, certification, or merit (things that can be fairly compared and measured) but one’s narrative, story, and voice (things that cannot be compared and measured).
Obviously I’m often forced to yield to the authority of others, but this is mostly because of the demands of reality, not the desires of my heart. When the room empties or the lecture ends, my natural inclination is to be convinced that my 25-year-old self is just as qualified, just as seasoned, and (therefore) just as entitled to authority and respect as anyone else.
This focus on a individuals story a their identity has led to what has been called “the coddling of the American mind”
Recently The Atlantic featured a cover story on the “coddling of the American mind,” a movement within American higher education that seeks to cater to students’ emotional mores through academic (and sometimes legal) intervention. From demands for “trigger warnings” before lectures to well-intended but bizarre “safe spaces” where students will not be argued with, many cultural commentators are concerned American colleges are producing a generation of young adults who feel they have an inalienable right to not be provoked. These students are genuinely unable to process the stress and epistemological labor of learning and being in a context that isn’t immediately friendly to their stories. They cannot go forward until they’re reassured that who they are is who they are supposed to be, and that nothing and no one can ever legitimately challenge that.
James ends with the awesome truth that things aren’t really about our story at all…but the story of Christ
Where culture dictates that we must know ourselves, the gospel invites us to know God. Where culture insists that reality bend to fit “my story,” the gospel points us to Jesus Christ, the one who is the meaning and purpose of all history. Where culture invites us to retreat into our sense of individual autonomy, the gospel throws open the doors of the church, where we know and are known by people in whose lives we have a real stake.
May God give us more timely warnings like this encouraging a younger generation to find their identity in the gospel