Citizens are not born. They are raised.
Wesley Yang has a new series out over at Tablet Magazine on the history of the Title IX bureaucracy. Like Yang, I see Title IX as one of the crucial stepping stones on the journey to our present moment. He is a tad more apocalyptic than I am:
The story, I will argue in this and subsequent columns, is about the rise and bid for hegemony of a new ideology. This ideology is a successor to liberalism. It brandishes terms that superficially resemble normative liberalism—terms like diversity and inclusion—but in fact seeks to supplant it. This new regime, in which administrative power has been fashioned into a blunt instrument of deterrence, marks off a crucial distinction—between the liberal rule of law, and the punitive system of surveillance rooted in identity politics known as “social justice.
If you are a long term reader of this blog, you can guess where I differ from Yang. Yang sees the administrative power of Title IX as the end product of social justice ideology; I see social justice as an ideological political project adapted specifically (though not always consciously) to administrative power.
I have laid out this case at some length before. The thirty second version is that over the second half of the 20th century American society began to fray. Problems once handled at lower levels of society by self-governing citizens were passed upwards to impersonal bureaucracies. The largest of these bureaucracies is the federal government. But the problem is not limited to the federal government—these bureaucracies dominate large swaths of American life, from the global conglomerates that dominate our economy to the universities that crown our education system. One of my favorite ways of tracking this has been to look at the ratio of students:school boards. School boards used to be as close and as responsive to the interested citizen as politics could get, but many school boards now manage the education of hundreds of thousands of students. At this scale, citizen voice is diminished.
While this was happening, the civic and religious institutions that Americans traditionally relied on to manage their own affairs were quietly disappearing. Some organizations, like religious boards, unions, and bowling clubs, declined in number; others, like charities and NGOs, switched from a model of mass participation to a model of mass donations. Add it all together and you find that the percentage of Americans expected to be familiar with Robert’s Rules of Order shrunk precipitously. Making the situation worse was the collapse in settled family life at the bottom of American society, and the growing social isolation and friendlessness of the people living at its top. 
By the dawn of the 21st century then, America had been reduced to Tocqueville’s nightmare. American culture had once been possessed with a can-do ethic of self resilience and civic respect. When a problem emerged, they quickly gathered together the people needed to solve it. That America is gone. Atomized and isolated, Americans do not have the knowledge, personal experience, or institutional means to solve their own problems. Problems are solved by impersonal bureaucracies. Politics—and so much else in American life—has shrunk to petitioning the powers that be.
The emotional tenor of the last three decades is best understood through this lens. The existential listlessness of the ’90s and the terror that gripped America in the early aughts are natural by-products of Americans’ belief that they do not control their own destinies. Victimhood culture is another by-product of this world. It is a cultural movement tailor-made for this new social milieu. In the 21st century, the main question in American social life is not “how do we make that happen?” but “how do we get management to take our side?” This is the difference between the tactics of the civil rights movement and today’s social justice warriors, the secret behind the success of call-out culture, and the reason why the social justice movement’s first impulse on campus was to build the Title IX bureaucracy (and why their current impulse is to create a national version of the same thing).
There is a positive feed-back loop here. But I have trouble chalking the habits of mind campus activists take advantage of entirely to new progressive ideology. The truth is that these habits are taught to Americans much earlier and in a much more intimate setting than the activists ever had access to. This thought was impressed upon as I listened to a recent episode of the Art of Manliness podcast.  The podcast host interviewed Mark Lanza, whose book Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Place for Play, describes Lanza’s successful attempt to change the culture of his suburban neighborhood and transform it into a place where children play with each other outside and in the street. If you are a parent of a child below the age of 12, I strongly recommend you listen to this podcast episode. There is a lot of wailing about the decline of American community among the commentariat, but precious little time is spent figuring out how to go about building new communities with healthier norms. Lanza did just that; his advice and stories are a remarkable set of tools for every community builder—every parent—in the nation.
About 15 minutes into his interview, Lanza noted an interesting change between the way he was parented and the way most children being raised today are. Children of days past, he observed, spent most of their free time out of eye sight and ear-shot of parents. When they got into fights, they had no choice but to resolve these fights by themselves. Thus all of the inventive rules and games child would make up to govern themselves. Childhood was a hands-on education in dispute resolution. Today’s children do not receive this education. They rarely are out of the parental view. When they have a dispute, their first impulse is to bring it to nearby authority figures and have them declare the right and the wrong of things.
Lanza noted this in an off-hand sort of way. It was an observation incidental to his larger program. But his observation has stayed with me. Our children are barely out of the cradle and here we are, teaching them petition politics!
The old way had its disadvantages. Children left to their own devices often act cruelly. They have the freedom to bully. They are almost never “fair.” But they also learn how to survive in a social world of equals who must face each other as equals. They learn what it means to embark on new endeavors without outside guidance. They learn how to resolve vicious disputes without a higher authority playing referee.
Which is to say, they learned how to act like the adults who raised them. That has not changed. Today’s children also learn to act like the adults who raise them. From their schoolyard days, we teach our children the way our world works. In light of this, one must forgive the excesses of the helicopter parent: he is only preparing his child to thrive in the America of Title IX.
 Wesley Yang, “America’s New Sex Bureaucracy,” Tablet Magazine (24 September 2019)
 For the record, we have gone from 120,000 school districts in 1940 to 20,000 today. The City School District of the City of New York is the largest in the nation; it manages the education of some 1 million children.
Tanner Greer, “The Decline of American Democracy (in one Infographic!),” Scholar’s Stage (10 October 2017).
 The key texts here are Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1999); Robert Putnam, Carl Frederick, and Kaisa Suelman.“Growing Class Gaps in Social Connectedness Among American Youth“, Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America (8 August 2012); Theda Skopal, Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013); Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (New York: Crown Publishers, 2010); Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, “Micro-Agression and Moral Cultures,” Comparative Sociology 13, iss 6 (2014).
 Mike Lanza and Brett McKay. “Podcast #532: How to Create a Neighborhood Where Kids Play Outside,” Art of Manliness, podcast episode (7 August 2019).