I grew up poor and I thought it was unfair for me to be held back simply because of the mistakes of my parents. It drove me nuts, for example, to think that kids less intelligent, hard-working, and moral than me enjoyed vacations in Europe while I lived in a home with raw sewage in the backyard. I thought Marxist socialism would give young people in similar situations a more equal opportunity to enjoy the good things in life.
In retrospect, however, I didn't have anyone in my life to explain compound interest, or how to write a business plan, or how to apply computer technology to the most interesting questions. I think if my family had been part of a contemporary Christian church, then I would have had my questions answered and I would have made better decisions.
I got a track scholarship to attend Occidental College in Los Angeles. All the folks around me at Oxy seemed to think the best thing on earth that you could do with your life was to become a college professor. So I went with the program. I got a scholarship to attend graduate school where I got to study with the some of the best professors in the nation in American government and public policy.
My commitment to Marxist socialist thought, however, gradually came to an end by the summer of 1982 when I began to notice that there was a larger spiritual world which did not fit the materialistic atheist models of modern social science. It was a world of intuition, coincidence, and syncronicity which Marxism saw as only an illusion used to lubricate the workings of capitalist exploitation. I also figured out that my empathy for others was not a weakness...it was an extremely useful tool for generating guesses about how the world really worked.
As I became more spiritual I also started to have an unusual amount of success intellectually and academically. My thinking, writing, and observations knit together and I started to attract positive attention with my research on the causes and timing of welfare programs in the U.S.
In my case, I remember where I was the exact moment I realized I no longer believed in the ideals of Communism: I was walking through the basement of McGraw Hall at Cornell University in September 1983. I had just finished an argument with my radical thesis advisor. As I recall I began to believe that the problems associated with child abuse and neglect might be easily fixed through the use of European-style visiting nurse program. As best I can recall, my thesis advisor saw child abuse as a larger problem caused by the necessity to invest in the reproduction of social capital under conditions in which children were mistakenly seen as elements of private property as part of the larger cultural and legal structures which maintain the reproduction of oppressive class conflict. The solution to child abuse, in his model, would involve paying attention to much greater issues involving the distribution of power and wealth in a modern industrialized society. (Or something like that...) Whatever the details of that argument, I remember the encounter left me thinking he was ideologically blinded and alarmingly out-of-touch with reality.
In my research, I had inadvertantly discovered a bizarre failing in modern political science. I was able to show that much of what we consider our modern America - schools, parks, Boy Scout and Girl Scout programs, and aid for families with dependent children - was largely a consequence of the earlier effort to enforce child labor laws. I know this sounds completely obvious...but the social science development literature of the 1960s and 1970s had been written without any reference to the role of child labor law enforcement as a key step in the modernization process.
Based on my historical research, I disconfirmed the Marxist hypothesis that welfare programs arose out of class struggle. My research showed they arose as an unintended consequence of the completely independent prior decision to stop child labor.
I ended up teaching at Williams College in MA, the nation's top rated liberal arts college. I won an award from the American Political Science Association for my thesis. It is now published in book form.
Today, I'm married. I'm proud that I attend a Baptist Church that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. I have my own management consulting business. Right at this moment, I'm struggling to get up to speed on this new social networking technology...and I'm excited that it provides a way to get around the mainstream media. For a brief overview of my Life of John compared to the more famous Life of Julia, please click here.
John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.