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I love how sometimes all the streams seem to be flowing in the same direction.

Yesterday, long-time friend of the decanter Jordana posted some nifty pictures of her children’s Saint-card swap.

In the comments, I remarked that the Eldest Gel and I had just been reading about the life of the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the “Flower of the Mohawks”, for her religion class in school and it was funny that I happened to be reading Francis Parkman’s history of the Jesuit Missionaries in 17th Century Canada at the same time.

Jordana, knowing of and sharing in my enthusiasm for Willa Cather’s Death Comes For The Archbishop then asked me if I had read Shadows on the Rock, another Cather novel which is set in….17th Century Quebec.  In fact, I don’t recall that I had ever heard of it before, but a leetle quick research persuaded me it would be well worth a flutter.

A leetle additional research turned up the coincidental fact that today happens to be the anniversary of the birth of Willa Cather in 1873.

Well, I mean to say!

In honor of all these pleasant little links, I decided to splurge on the Library of America’s hardbacked collection of Cather’s later novels.  Not only does it include Shadows on the Rock, it also includes Death Comes for the Archbishop.  Regular port-swillers will recall my fuming about the near incomprehensibility of the cheap paperback version of Death I bought over the summah, so I am being very clever in killing a couple birds with the same stone here.  (The collection also includes A Lost Lady, The Professor’s House, Lucy Gayheart and Sapphira and the Slave Girl, none of which I know anything about.)

Ross Douthat on an apparent shift in the culchah wars:

This week, the National Marriage Project is releasing a study charting the decline of the two-parent family among what it calls the “moderately educated middle” — the 58 percent of Americans with high school diplomas and often some college education, but no four-year degree.

This decline is depressing, but it isn’t surprising. We’ve known for a while that America has a marriage gap: college graduates divorce infrequently and bear few children out of wedlock, while in the rest of the country unwed parenthood and family breakdown are becoming a new normal. This gap has been one of the paradoxes of the culture war: highly educated Americans live like Ozzie and Harriet despite being cultural liberals, while middle America hews to traditional values but has trouble living up to them.

But the Marriage Project’s data suggest that this paradox is fading. It’s no longer clear that middle America does hold more conservative views on marriage and family, or that educated Americans are still more likely to be secular and socially liberal.

That division held a generation ago, but now it’s diminishing. In the 1970s, for instance, college-educated Americans overwhelmingly supported liberal divorce laws, while the rest of the country was ambivalent. Likewise, college graduates were much less likely than high school graduates to say that premarital sex was “always wrong.” Flash forward to the 2000s, though, and college graduates have grown more socially conservative on both fronts (50 percent now favor making divorces harder to get, up from 34 percent in the age of key parties), while the least educated Americans have become more permissive.

There has been a similar change in religious practice. In the 1970s, college- educated Americans were slightly less likely to attend church than high school graduates. Today, piety increasingly correlates with education: college graduates are America’s most faithful churchgoers, while religious observance has dropped precipitously among the less-educated.

Douthat takes a rayther morose view of the future of the less-educated based on these trends, but I’m not so sure.  One could make the “Murphy Brown” argument that it was the liberalism of the elite that guided middle America toward its current condition in the first place.  If the pendulum is starting to swing back the other way among the educated (faster, please!), would it not perhaps do the same (granted, with something of a lag time) in middle America as well once that conservatism began to seep into the popular culchah through, for example, Hollywood?

Or am I just grasping at straws?


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December 2010