Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Published in Ashbrook Center

Ashbrook Center

The End

We started NLT in October of 2001.  I thought it was a good idea, as did many of you even back then.  In fact, in my typical bragadoccio mode I warned Jonah Goldberg a few months later that we would put NRO out of business.  I'm glad we didn't do that, of course.  But I am happy that we had a good run at things.  In fact, I am proud of our effort and I want to thank our fine authors.  Thank you very much!  As you know we were one of the few serious blogs where no one was paid for writing, and yet our authors wrote and wrote, plus there were some very good conversations with readers.  Thanks to all of you for that.

Over a decade of writing isn't bad. It's an accomplishment we can be proud of.  I know all our words at NLT were not birds in flight, some were, inevitably, potatoes.  But all of it was thoughtful, sometimes full of flair and ardor, sometimes full of deep learning, almost always revealing a liveliness of mind found only at a few other blogs.  I am grateful to all the bloggers  for their work.  I have learned much.  We have taught one another much.  We acted like citizens.

We will archive it all, and it will be accessible from our new Ashbrook site that will go up in three or four weeks.  It will be a fine site.  I hope you will like it.

I don't have to get too soft and weepy with y'all for you to know that I am--as is everyone at the Ashbrook Center--very grateful that we had this opportunity and that it lasted so long.  God Bless.

Our bloggers can be found at other places, including Postmodern ConservativeLiberty Law, and Power Line.

Categories > Ashbrook Center


Founding Documents Bill Signed into Law

I went down to Columbus on Monday for the Governor's ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 165, the "Founding Documents Bill."  I testified on behalf of this bill a few months ago.  State Senator Larry Obhof (R-Montville Township) led the charge on behalf of the bill that is now law. The state's model curricula will now include the Declaration of Independence; the United States Constitution, with an emphasis on the Bill of Rights; the Northwest Ordinance; and the Ohio Constitution.  The curricula will include reading the primary documents in their historical context.  As Sen. Obhof said, this law will help "ensure that all Ohioans are adequately prepared for their role in democratic self-governance."

Categories > Education


Podcast and Colloquium with David Tucker

I recorded a podcast last week with David Tucker who has been visiting Ashland for most of the past six months or so.  We discussed many things, but primarily his new book, Illuminating the Dark Arts of War: Terrorism, Sabotage, and Subversion in Homeland Security and the New Conflict.

David also discussed these issues with the Ashbrook Scholars on Friday at a colloquium.  They, too, had a good conversation which you can listen to here.

Categories > Military


The Best Format Yet for GOP Aspirants

Professor Robert George of Princeton will moderate and question the South Carolina GOP candidates forum.  He is a man of rare substance and grace, who can get to the heart of the matter with few words.  (Read the profile on him in the NY Times Sunday Magazine--damning him with faint praise:  "the reigning brain of the Christian right.")  Having precepted for him years ago at Princeton, I can attest to his ability to get skeptical students to consider questions they would never have thought about otherwise.  If the forum gets boring, I hope Robby pulls out his banjo....

H/t Michael Krauss.

Other candidate forums should consider such non-traditional talent (get the press out of there!):  Peter Schramm of Ashbrook, Larry Arnn of Hillsdale, Brian Kennedy of the Claremont Institute--each could perform such a role superbly and enrich political discussion for not only Republicans but for the general public as well.

Categories > Presidency

Ashbrook Center


"No Left Turns," in Hangul (Korean).

I'm taking a driving test tomorrow. My cultural pain is your educational gain. NLT is a global force!

Categories > Ashbrook Center

Ashbrook Center

Speaker Boehner Speech on C-SPAN

Speaker John Boehner spent the evening at the Ashbrook Center yesterday, meeting with the Ashbrook Scholars and giving the keynote address at the 26th Annual John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner. His dinner speech will appear on C-SPAN at 6:30 pm eastern time today. 
Categories > Ashbrook Center


The Worth of Education

The first lesson taught to me upon entrance into the Ashbrook Scholar Program was what "school" meant. It gave me pause when asked to define something that had been an almost-central part of my life and those of all I knew. After struggling for a few brief moments to try find a definition, its etymology was revealed to be Greek in origin, of course. Schole is Greek for "leisure," and gives us our school. The first thing that Ashbrooks come to appreciate even before delving into the great questions of good and justice is that we have the tremendous opportunity to indulge in the leisurely study of the liberal arts because we do not have to spend all of our time working in the field just to feed ourselves. One can only explore these noble studies if one does not need to work. It then follows that education is itself an end, not a means to an end, and our studies were to help us figure out what that end was.

In the midst of this recession, as families lose much and thus increasingly lose their ability to enjoy leisure, many have turned their pens against the modern college, questioning if it is "worth it" to study. The question is itself very much right to ask, but mostly because over the past half-century we have redefined what worthy means in regards to a university education. The radical transformation of colleges has redefined education in general in our nation, and for most now the worth of an education is judged by its cost-effectiveness and the economic status it gives those who chase it. College is no longer an end, but a means-- the supposed path to a marketable resume and a better job. The modern academy helped push along this transformation in thinking itself, and finds itself under the belief that it needs to evolve to keep up with the new way of thinking of colleges. For many, now, college is but a four-year vacation from life that gives people a Bachelors degree at the end-- something which itself has been watered down from being a symbol of a well-educated, well-rounded student of the arts and sciences to essentially another high school diploma.

Rather than seeking to shape our culture, the academy insists on bending to its every whim and pleasure. It is not enough to have a bed, a dining hall, good books, and thoughtful teachers-- universities must be palaces offering unparalleled amenities and rock-climbing walls to its students. Students cannot be pushed too hard or given bad grades-- it's bad for business. No, let them choose from a cafeteria of tasting courses so that they can think they are trying a bit of everything while instead focusing on those business degrees and not really bothering with art, Shakespeare, or silly old Socrates. However, universities should start to seriously rethink their unyielding desire to spoil rather than challenge their students, because many of them are beginning to realize that the exorbitant costs associated with such things are not worth the price, especially in a recession. Today the average student graduates with over $23,000 worth of debt-- and are starting to question why they spent all that money now that they can't find a job.

The Pope Center's Jenna Ashley Robinson has a good series of articles looking at the potential economic ramifications of the "College Bubble" that has been created, highlighting the stark contrast between the 1940s and today. In the beginning of the last century, most people acquired the skills needed for their work from on-the-job training or life experiences, and universities were mostly private institutions that people went to if they could afford it but otherwise were not of central importance to the economy. As the century progressed, so did the belief that everyone not only should attend college, but must attend college if they want to do anything. Following this trend, the cost of higher education grew dramatically--286% from 1990 to 2010 alone. This has created a new bubble, she argues, with skyrocketing prices and what might be temporarily excessive enrollment numbers. Students do not see value attached to their costly degrees anymore. If colleges do not do some reevaluating of what School means today, then when this bubble bursts there will be empty palaces full of leftover Natty Light cans and dirty plastic cups across the country.

A college education is an excellent thing and I certainly wish all who want it had the means to enjoy it. But, for it to be worthwhile colleges have to understand what an education is worth. Yes, we need people trained to be doctors, mechanics, teachers, lawyers, physicists, accountants, and engineers-- but the education has to be about more than just job training and economic value. Instead of a college education being focused on a career, it should be focused on preparing individuals both for their chosen path in life but also for living as free and thoughtful human beings, the liberal arts being central to this noble goal. Young people realize this; they know they are not getting what they deserve for these exorbitant prices they pay, yet they continue to pay them in the hope that, just maybe, they will come across an educator willing to help fan that flame of intellectual curiosity burning within their souls. They want to be challenged, and until universities realize that they will face a bleak future went people stop wasting their money on a four year vacation. There are, thankfully, such wonderful things as the Ashbrook Scholar Program here helping young people to truly enjoy school and fighting the good fight for the study of the liberal arts. Good for us.
Categories > Education

Ashbrook Center

Bill Rusher

Talking with Marv Krinsky (who replaced Bill Rusher as Chairman of the Ashbrook Board about ten years ago when Bill retired) about the death of Bill Rusher has reminded me to add another few thoughts on him, aside from what Steve (and NRO) has said just below.  I knew Rusher for over thirty years.  He was the best of men.  Thoughtful, learned, quick witted, a great teller of (true) stories.  Plus he loved good cigars.  That he had a great effect--was even the cause of, along with Cliff White and John Ashbrook--on the American conservative movement has been noted by everyone.  It is true.  It was wonderful to hear his stories about it all, about the founders of it all.  Stories about Goldwater, Reagan, and the others. The stories about Bill Buckley should be mentioned as well.  Terrific stuff, at his best Rusher told stories as painters paint, color and detail combined to pull you in, as good poetry always does. He was always clear and concise, his words at their best were evocative and surprising, lovely.  He loved the Ashbrook Center and was helpful to it at critical moments in its youth.  Both Marv and I were fond of him.  My mother met him once and called him an American gentleman, her highest form of praise.  I don't disagree.  May Bill Rusher Rest in Peace.
Categories > Ashbrook Center

Ashbrook Center

Speaker Boehner's Moment

Even as the audience expected to greet Speaker Boehner at this Friday's Twenty-Sixth Annual John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner promises to outsize those of all previous such occasions, no one expects that this milestone will be the marker of the Speaker's week.  With a government shutdown looming it is likely, however, that whatever the outcome of the week's negotiations, this speech is going to be a memorable one for those assembled. 
Categories > Ashbrook Center

Ashbrook Center

Reilly Colloquium

The audio from last Friday's colloquium with Robert Reilly on his book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis is now available on the Ashbrook site.

I highly recommend that you give it a listen. Bob gave a great talk, very thoughtful, which is to be expected, but also very clear and direct. The students enjoyed it immensely.  I literally had to pull him away from a group of them afterward in order to get him to dinner or they would have talked to him for several more hours!

Categories > Ashbrook Center