Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More Charlotte Simmons

This piece from the New York Times is a surprisingly sympathetic review of the reviews, especially those that appeared in campus publications. The author points to the phenomenon described by Naomi Schaefer Riley’s God on the Quad as a response and possible antidote to the corruption Wolfe describes.

Other little essays on Wolfe that are worth reading can be found here and here. My old friend Carol McNamara anticipates some of the Charlotte Simmons themes in an article published in the current Perspectives on Political Science.

As for Naomi Schaefer Riley’s book, I’m in the middle of it, having persuaded the good people at Touchstone to let me review it. Let it not be said that she doesn’t start with what some might regard as the toughest institutions to sell to a general readership, BYU and BJU. For a snarky review of the book, you can go here. I promise you, it won’t influence me.

Discussions - 2 Comments

"Snarky?" No, I don’t think so. I’d say: Negative. It was a negative review because God on the Quad is a poorly researched book. That’s rather indisputable, and neither a left nor a right contention. Honest conservatives -- especially those with respect for traditional faith -- will conclude the same, I think. Defenders of this book are merely playing team sports. It’s a shame -- Riley has done good work elsewhere.

I agree that she makes little to no effort to understand the religious doctrine that animates the colleges she discusses. For example: Her main authority on BYU is Damon Linker--a Straussian or formerly Straussian non-Mormon who taught there for two years.
She apparently interviewed Ralph Hancock (a genuine and deep Straussian and Mormon--that combo is worthy of book in itself) but the only thing she remembers is that as a bishop (Mormon for pastor) for some undergrads Ralph recommended that one student not be allowed to return because he was faking his enthusiasm for the program. (There is a perfectly good reason why a Mormon bishop can and should do that, but in Naomi’s hands Ralph came off as an intrusive nut.)
The chapter on Thomas Aquinas is even worse, but I’ll let you read for yourself.
(And for some reason she seems to believe that any Christian that consumes alcohol, even in moderation, must not be steadfast in his faith. In general, she confuses Christian with Puritan.)

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