In remembering the legacy of Pope John Paul II, Steve Hayward offers an excellent account of his contributions to the demise of Communism and hope for liberty. To his wonderful review, forgive me for adding some personal reflections that may help explain some of this Pope’s amazing powers in this regard.
In 1993 I travelled to Liechtenstein for a seminar sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute which was taught by Michael Novak, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, and George Weigel (the Pope’s biographer). There were also several of the Pope’s top theologians present as guest lecuturers. The idea was to bring together ten American students with 20 Eastern European students to help them come to grips with the ideas of democracy and capitalism. It is hard to say who helped whom. At that time (despite twelve years of Catholic "education") I didn’t know a papal encyclical from an encyclopedia and neither, by the way, did most of my American counterparts. Steeped as we were in the more conventional readings about liberty and natural rights, we were more than alittle astonished to meet all of these very bright Eastern European students who came to hold democracy and capitalism so dearly as a result of John Paul II’s teachings--particularly--with regard to his teachings about the dignity of human life. The dignity of human life is what calls upon all men to respect the natural and God-given rights of all men. Of course the culture of life would respect the ideas of democracy and capitalism! Unfortunately, democracy and capitialism have not always supported the culture of life.
Perhaps the selection of John Paul II as Pope was meant, not only to draw those nations of the former Communist bloc closer to democracy and respect for human rights, but also to draw those of us who live in nations that purport to support the principles of democracy to reflect upon the true meaning of our principles. Perhaps through his example we might all walk away from the culture of death that threatened us not only in the form of Communism--but continues to threaten us today in our own country and in the form of Islamo-facism. And perhaps, God-willing, this next Pope will be able to continue this one’s great and good work.
Stalin famously asked, "How many divisions has the Pope?" The tyrants successors of the Evil Empire found out when the Pole Karol Wojtyla became Pope.
Steve Hayward considers (from segments of his work-in-progress, The Age of Reagan: Lion at the Gate, 1980-1989) what Karol Wojtyla meant when he proclaimed "Be not afraid!" when he was selected Pope. The Polish Pope brought a transformation of consciousness among Poles that had massive consequences for the whole world. Poland was the first country he visited after becoming Pope, and Hayward recounts how that went, what the Soviets thought, how they were out-thought and out-gunned by the Pope. He broke the sorcerer’s spell. The rest you know.
I often have conversations with students who claim to want to become intelligence agents (or analysts). More often than they will have been told that they should some something technical, something that would "prepare" them to be able to analyze; there must be some sort of information that they should get; there must be a scientific method to such a thing, they say, much like the study of accounting if want to be an accountant. I, of course, respectfully disagree. I talk with them about what they should study and why. David Brooks agrees with me:
Ill believe the intelligence community has really changed when I see analysts being sent to training academies where they study Thucydides, Tolstoy and Churchill to get a broad understanding of the full range of human behavior. Ill believe the system has been reformed when policy makers are presented with competing reports, signed by individual thinkers, and are no longer presented with anonymous, bureaucratically homogenized, bulleted points that pretend to be the product of scientific consensus.
In December of 1997, the Honorable Lindy Boggs presented her credentials to Pope John Paul II. The Pope offered some remarks on the credebility of America policy. A few passages:
The Founding Fathers of the United States asserted their claim to freedom and independence on the basis of certain "self-evident" truths about the human person: truths which could be discerned in human nature, built into it by "nature’s God." Thus they meant to bring into being, not just an independent territory, but a great experiment in what George Washington called "ordered liberty": an experiment in which men and women would enjoy equality of rights and opportunities in the pursuit of happiness and in service to the common good. Reading the founding documents of the United States, one has to be impressed by the concept of freedom they enshrine: a freedom designed to enable people to fulfill their duties and responsibilities toward the family and toward the common good of the community. Their authors clearly understood that there could be no true freedom without moral responsibility and accountability, and no happiness without respect and support for the natural units or groupings through which people exist, develop, and seek the higher purposes of life in concert with others.
The American democratic experiment has been successful in many ways. Millions of people around the world look to the United States as a model in their search for freedom, dignity, and prosperity. But the continuing success of American democracy depends on the degree to which each new generation, native-born and immigrant, makes its own the moral truths on which the Founding Fathers staked the future of your Republic. Their commitment to build a free society with liberty and justice for all must be constantly renewed if the United States is to fulfill the destiny to which the Founders pledged their "lives . . . fortunes . . . and sacred honor."
. . . Your Excellency, these are some of the thoughts prompted by your presence here as your country’s diplomatic representative. These reflections evoke a prayer: that your country will experience a new birth of freedom, freedom grounded in truth and ordered to goodness. Thus will the American people be able to harness their boundless spiritual energy in service of the genuine good of all humanity.
O.K., this is deep stuff. Some great minds in market research, are trying to figure out what kinds of cars Democrats and Republicans prefer. Volvos are liked by Democrats (as are Saabs), but as Volvo stresses performance more in its advertising, more Republicans buy it. Republicans like Porches, and American made cars, except Pontiacs, which Demos like. There is more such stuff, for what its worth.
New York Times reports that her campaign is gearing up in a non-surprising confrontational style: "The right wing is already getting ready, naming Hillary as their No. 1 target and boasting about their Swift Boat style ads, said the e-mail message, which was sent by Ann F. Lewis, the director of communications for Mrs. Clintons campaign committee, Friends of Hillary. Help us show the right wing that we will be ready and able to fight back."
Hugh Hewitt offers the following insight into the "recent" mobilization of the "religious right":
The speed with which issues that excite the passions of people of faith have arrived at the center of American politics is not surprising given the forced march that the courts have put those issues on. It was not the "religious right" that pushed gay marriage to the center of the public debate; it was courts in Hawaii, Vermont, and Massachusetts. It wasnt the "religious right" that ordered Terri Schiavos feeding tube removed; it was a Florida Supreme Court that struck down a law passed by the Florida legislature and signed by Governor Jeb Bush which would have allowed Terri Schiavo to live. And it isnt the "religious right" that forced the United States Supreme Court to repeatedly issue rulings on areas of law that would have been better left to legislatures.
I suggested, not altogether facetiously, that returning the abortion debate to the political arena, where it does indeed belong (according to an understanding of the our constitutional order genuinely faithful to the document that is supposed to be at its heart), could go a long way toward "taming" the sometimes irregular passions of conservative religionists. I should find it remarkable (but unfortunately do not) that our friends on the Left, who always seem interested in giving voice to the marginalized as a way of giving them a moderating stake in the system, and who profess to understand the frustration of those who are denied a voice, are not on the forefront of those calling for a return to a genuinely deliberative democracy to pour oil on our troubled waters.
I recognize that some will say that the voice of the "religious right" is too loud, since religious conservatives are said to dominate the national Republican Party (though Jonathan Chait is not sure he agrees). Accepting for the sake of this argument their claim, what we have is a conflict between two (as yet unarmed) camps: religious conservatives "controlling" Congress and the Presidency and secular liberals "controlling" the federal judiciary. The conventional liberal wisdom would call for both sides to enter into conversations in order to facilitate moderation and compromise. My impression, however, is that the secular judicial liberals regard their judicial bastion as impregnable, so long as their guerilla forces in the Senate and the press can continue effectively to harrass their opponents. I dont think that this is a winning strategy, since all that it is sure to accomplish is weakening the moral and legal authority of the judiciary.
All I really want is for liberals to behave the way they almost always do when faced with external opponents: try to understand the force of their ire and find a way of integrating them into a peaceful system of cooperation. If liberals are genuinely willing to engage with "reasonable" religionists (and if what they mean by a "reasonable religionist" is someone other than C. Welton Gaddy), then displaying a genuine willingness to debate these issues in the political arena is the only plausible way of accomplishing this goal.
The outpouring of concern and affection for John Paul II shouldn’t be a surprise. Not only has he reigned for 26 years (selected on October 16, 1978; the longest reign of any Pope, I am told), but he has shown himself from the start to be both a serious person and loving person, and one who meant to have an effect on both the spiritual and political life of the world, and he has. Over the next many days, we will hear from thoughtful observers about the man and his work, and I will try to pass them on.
You might want to check the National Catholic Reporter’s blog site for updates on the Pope’s condition, and note John L. Allen’s reporting. Also see comment.
I remember him going to Poland about a year after he became Pope, and telling his fellow countrymen, "Do not be afraid." And also, "You are men. You have dignity. Don’t crawl on your bellies." The effect was electric, and was not restricted to Poland. In gratitude, I join all others in prayer on his behalf.
UPDATE: A reader immediately wrote in to say the following regarding the length of John Paul II’s rule: "The longest reign of a pope was the first one: St. Peter for 34 to 37 years. (The exact dates are unclear.) The second longest was that of Pope Pius IX, from 1846 to 1878. (The shortest was that of Pope Urban VII, who lived only 12 days after his installation.)" See this.
I promised to offer some summary comments on this conference, held yesterday on the campus of Berry College. It was the eighth edition of conferences that colleagues from Berry and Oglethorpe have organized over the years. As usual, the folks at Berry did an excellent job hosting the event, treating us guests well, feeding us well, and watering us well at T. Martooni’s, a new ornament on Rome’s quaint Broad Street downtown. Now that I’ve mentioned the important stuff, let me say a few words about what transpired.
The student panel (four from Berry, one from Oglethorpe) was as good a version of an undergraduate panel as I’ve seen. The students were all thoughtful and well-spoken. All are destined for greatness, some in law school, others in grad school or seminary.
John Seery eloquently summarized the challenges faced by residential liberal arts colleges and proved that his poetry inspires red state non-denominational evangelicals as much as it does the SoCal sophisticates of Pomona College. While I suspect that this has a lot to do with his gifts as a lecturer, I can’t overlook that fact that he was willing but (fortunately for the competition) unable to enter into a faculty cow-milking contest.
The Catholics sent to track down Naomi Schaefer Riley found her and by and large liked what they found--a journalist willing to try hard to enter into the lives of young people very different from herself.
The auditorium was overflowing for the "debate" between William Galston and Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr.. Both were in excellent form, Mansfield provocative, pungent, and funny, Galston impressively systematic and pellucid. Galston is an excellent and persuasive apologist for a liberalism to which (IMHO) he alone among Democrats adheres. Mansfield made no attempt to paper over the tensions within the "conservative movement," but reminded us why, with all its problems, conservatism is preferable to liberalism as it is actually practiced.
If and when a report appears in the Berry College student newspaper, I’ll link to it. And those who have access to the April issue of The American Spectator should read Peter Lawler’s beautiful celebration of liberal education as practiced at his (non-denominational Christian) institution (not yet available on-line). Among the virtues of Berry students are the negative one of not throwing pies, as well as the positive ones of respectfully asking hard questions and genuinely appreciating intellectual stimulation. (Lest I neglect my own institution, similar virtues were on display today when John Seery walked us through Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies.)
Update: Heres a thoughtful commentary by a smart Berry student.
Danielle Allen, Dean of the Division of the Humanities and Professor in the Department of Classical Languages and Literatures and the Department of Politics at the University of Chicago, will be conducting a colloquium at the Ashbrook Center today at 3:00pm. The colloquium will be broadcast live on the Internet. To listen, click here.
Dr. Allen will be discussing her book, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown v. Board of Education.
Paul Wolfowitz has been unanimously confirmed as the next president of the World Bank by the 24 member board. This is a very good thing, in my humble opinion. Six months from now we will begin to see some of the fruits of his work. This appointment will have massive consequences, all to the good, for developing nations. They will be developing toward freedom, rather maintaining their dependence on bought-off elites who rule without consent, and who also profit financially (from other countries money) in the meantime. Wish him the best in this difficult work.
Sandi Berger, Clinton’s National Security Advisor, has pleaded guilty to a minor charge "will acknowledge intentionally removing and destroying copies of a classified document about the Clinton administration’s record on terrorism." But note this:
The terms of Berger’s agreement required him to acknowledge to the Justice Department the circumstances of the episode. Rather than misplacing or unintentionally throwing away three of the five copies he took from the archives, as the former national security adviser earlier maintained, he shredded them with a pair of scissors late one evening at the downtown offices of his international consulting business.
The document, written by former National Security Council terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke, was an "after-action review" prepared in early 2000 detailing the administration’s actions to thwart terrorist attacks during the millennium celebration. It contained considerable discussion about the administration’s awareness of the rising threat of attacks on U.S. soil.
Bill Kristol spoke at Earlham College. "Neoconservative journalist and commentator William Kristol was about 30 minutes into his speech on international affairs when a slender young man crossed the stage of Goddard Auditorium and slung the ersatz pastry into his face.
Kristol appeared momentarily stunned, then wiped the brown and white goo from his eyes with a paper towel, stepped back to the podium and said, Let me just finish this point."
This one has possibilities, but I am restrained. Scientists have discovered that rats
enjoy being tickled. "The rats likely keep their chuckles to supersonic levels to avoid detection by potential predators," but researchers heard their laughter via an ultrasonic detector. But, you tickle, they laugh, and come back for more. Inevitably, more of made of this than the humor of it; evolution, chimps, then human males and females (is one really just flirting?), the need for anti-depressants, etc. "What seems to be special about humans is the variety of laughter sounds we produce and how we seem to alter that sound, depending on the social situation," said a scientist. For us humans, laughter is a social tool, not just an expression of joy, they say. They’ve never heard me laugh...
Australia has had a baby boom. Last May the government announced a new program: $2,319 for each baby born after July 1 last year. A government official said in May: "You go home and do your patriotic duty tonight." Well, it worked.
"The 133,400 babies born in the six months ending in September were the most in a half-year period in 14 years, according to recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics."
My colleague, Dr. Will Morrisey, comments on the Washington Post piece by Jim Hoagland on DeGaulle, France and the EU which Dr. Schramm posted below.
Morrisey writes: This is a pretty good piece, although Hoagland doesnt really `get de Gaulle.
The real "big idea" of Gaullism was neither meritocracy nor European integration. It was to save French republicanism from the inability of parliamentarism to defend the country. In order to do that, de Gaulle argued, France needed a much stronger executive branch than it had in any of the previous four republics--without, however, moving into Bonapartism or monarchism. Hence the constitutional amendment referendum to establish national elections for the presidency of the republic.
The `meritocracy was intended to strengthen that more basic principle of strengthening the executive branch.
As for Europe, de Gaulle want "the Europe of the fatherlands" and not a bureaucratic entity centered in Brussels. He did want France and Germany to dominate the confederation--with the Brits joining only if they severed their special relationship with the Americans and with their commonwealth nations, a move de Gaulle did not expect them to undertake anytime soon! At any rate, he wanted a `political Europe, not a bureaucratized Europe.
The other big idea, which Hoagland doesnt mention, was "participation"--an attempt to settle several problems, including the labor-capital tensions of modern industrialism and the socio-political tendency of the French to oscillate between civic passivity/indifference and rebellion (the "France is bored" syndrome). He was looking for ways to devolve some of the political responsibilities that he had centralized. One step was the 1969 referendum on Senate reform, which he lost--retiring, as promised, immediately thereafter. He said of Pompidous administration, "This is not what I wanted," meaning, this is not a regime moving toward greater "participation" of the French in civic life.
Andrew Busch admits that those who are sympathetic to the principles of limited government have many reasons to prefer a flat tax or a national sales tax in theory, but he warns us that in practice they should be feared. He thinks we should reorient our thinking by focusing an different sets of issues: lock in Bush’s tax cuts; make them permament. Second, make taxation transparent (witholding is not). Third, change the date of tax day (because of witholding, people actually look forward, to tax day because they seem to be getting something from the government). Fourth, everyone should pay something because "unless everyone pays something at least some of the time, some will begin to lose touch with the real cost of government." Read the whole thing.
George Will likes Rep. John Linder’s (R-GA) 133-page bill to replace 55,000 pages of tax rules. It would abolish the IRS and the federal income tax system and replace all that with a 23% national sales tax on personal consumption. This would also, notes Will with glee, destroy K Street.
Joe Knippenberg considers Tony Blair’s major address on religion and public life. He notes the similarities and differences between Blair--a man of deep religious faith--and Bush on matters of faith and politics:
While Bush, for example, speaks frequently about love as the emotion that takes us outside ourselves—we are enjoined to love one another as we love ourselves—Blair does not so much enter into the moral psychology of the individual. I am tempted to argue that Bush’s approach to community is "theological," while Blair’s is "sociological." And where Bush speaks of the "ownership society," whose goal is to help individuals become self-reliant (but nonetheless loving), that sort of language seems to be absent from Blair’s lexicon.
Joe notes that Blair is silent on the issue of abortion, and thinks that the way the Brits (both Labor and Tory) handle the issue of abortion, may be something the Democratic Party should look at here, and even emulate.
Abortion [in Britain] is regulated by law, not a product of judicial interpretation, and abortion law is a matter of conscience, not of party. All three major parties are "big tents" on abortion and leave their members free to vote their consciences on abortion legislation. (Indeed, one of Blair’s cabinet ministers responded that he would support an even more restrictive abortion law than the one proposed by Michael Howard.) No governing party ties its fate to a stance on abortion, and hence none would regard a parliamentary vote on abortion as a vote of confidence or no confidence in the government.
San Francisco recently hosted the Anarachist Bookfair. Ward Churchill was the star attraction, though freeing the Unabomber seems a priority among the Anarchists in attendance. Ward Churchill blasted the country in which he lives, comparing it to Nazi Germany and those who support Bush to big and little Eichmanns. Tip of the hat to Little Green Footballs.
As Congressman Traficant used to say: Beam me up, Scotty.
Jim Hoagland has a pretty good summary of the political problems in France (especially the coming corruption trials of the central nervous system of the country) and the upcoming May vote on the EU constitution (polls show the majority will vote non). All this will lead to an existential (tempted to try it in French) crisis for Europe. Look for France to do some innovative things on the foreign policy front, there is no other gambit left for Chirac. In the meantime, Wolfowitz
has seduced the Europeans, says Le Figaro.
In todays OpinionJournal.com, Peggy Noonan writes about what I fear: Hilary Clinton will be very difficult to beat in 2008. Hilary has become a sophisticated campaigner and a lot of people, especially women, simply think that is time for a woman President.
As always, Noonan writes beautifully, but she does seem to get sappier and sappier as time goes by.
If you have a PhD not only are you learned, you are curious by nature. You are not cut from the common mold; you embrace your uniqueness and revel in your intellect. And as a scholar you naturally want to be an agent for change. Liberalism is simply a philosophy of embracing change in ways that advance the quality of life of mankind. Its really a wonder that only 72 percent of college professors describe themselves as liberal.
This isnt yet available on-line for non-subscribers, but in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Stanley Fish has a typically interesting and slippery argument against attempting to impose political balance on the university. (Here, while Im at it, is an older column on the same subject that is available on-line.) There is "no correlation," Fish argues, between electoral politics and "the politics of academic disciplines." The liberal/conservative or Democratic/Republican divides do not, for example, track the hotly-contested divide between quantitative and qualitative political scientists. There are conservatives and liberals in both quant and "qual" camps (Ive never heard anyone say "qual" before, perhaps because we "quals" are beneath quant contempt).
I dont disagree with this. My allies on curricular or disciplinary disputes are not always those who vote the same way in elections. Of course, if I could only look for academic allies among those who voted the way I did, Id be a lonely and isolated middle-aged man, mumbling to himself in his office, instead of the powerful and respected institutional pillar that I am. (Uh, I am sitting in my office blogging, so perhaps Im further gone than I thought.)
Of course, it may be that academic politics matter more than "real" politics to us academics. I remember the dilemma faced by employees of Boston University who couldnt decide whether it was more important to get John Silber out of BU by electing him Governor of Massachusetts or to spare the citizens of the Commonwealth the fate that they were suffering on Commonwealth Ave. And theres the old adage about passions running high when the stakes are low.
But it strikes me that whats most interesting in Fishs argument is the claim that nothing of intellectual significance can be predicted by looking at a persons partisan affiliation. If the same argument holds for every other aspect of a persons background (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation), then Fish is making a very strong argument against affirmative action, not just for conservatives, but for any other ostensible source of diversity. If poltiical affirmative action politicizes the university, wouldnt race- or gender-based affirmative action racialize or "engender" the university?
David Horowitz may be more clever than I thought. Could he be using the red herring of academic diversity to maneuver academics into abandoning the diversity argument at the core of the contemporary case for affirmative action?
What think you, gentle (and not so gentle) readers?
Here is John Danforths broadside against a Republican Party, as he puts it, "It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement." Former Sewnator Danforth is an Episcopal minister.
Politics in Ohio, "the center of it all," will become more and more interesting over this coming year, and I remind you (as Mickey already has below) to keep an eye on Right Angle Blog for excellent coverage. In the Governor’s race note that the Republican National Coalition for Life has endorsed Blackwell, while the Hamilton County Sherrif has endorsed Montgomery.
John Fund briefly discusses four new books on the legacy of the Contract With American and the Republican takeover of Congress in the 1994 election in this OpinionJournal.com article.
Fund discusses Newt Gingrichs Winning the Future, Mark Levins Men In Black, Major Garretts The Enduring Legacy, and The Republican Revolution edited by Chris Edwards and John Samples.
The verdict: Overall the legacy is good but mixed.
It looks like the trains are leaving the station in the 2006 Ohio Governors race.
Ken Blackwell has been endorsed by the Republican National Coalition for Life. Heres the Press Release.
Tip of the hat to a new blog on Cleveland and Ohio politics: RightAngleBlog.Blogspot.com/
Amidst the usual talking head affirmations and denials, this one stands out:
[Rosemary G.]Feal, the MLA executive director, said that when humanities professors say that they are liberals, “the majority of us understand it to be not a narrow political ideology, but a conception of the world.”
“We profess the liberal arts,” she said. “That comes from freedom that we hold as a high value, from the pursuit of the truth, the pursuit of academic freedom, the belief that the learning and teaching of values will make us better citizens.”
On the one hand, its entirely consistent with the principles of Enlightenment liberalism. On the other hand, theres the invocation of values, a term that has a Nietzschean/Weberian provenance, i.e., one at odds with Enlightenment liberalism. Of course, despite (or perhaps because of) its subjectivism, the language of values has become so ubiquitous as to have been drained of any real substance. The "take-away" is this: we pursue truth and we teach civic values. Which civic values? Those that make us better American citizens or better "citizens of the world"? Are those two forms of "citizenship" ever at odds with one another? Might the pursuit of the truth ever be at odds with one or both of them? O.K., its unfair to demand profundity of someone giving a blurb to a reporter, but lets at least be honest and admit that "civic values" as "taught" in the academy arent quite the same as those celebrated in Fourth of July orations.
I gues that Governor Arnold is up to something in California since everyone is writing about him, trying to figure him out, and giving him advice. I figure that he is way ahead of everyone, including the states Democrats, and that a bit of a panic is starting to set in. This guy really could hurt the Democratic Party in California. Yup, this is rocket science. Joe Klein, writing for Time, notes his power and energy and he is going after the public employees unions, and suggests that if he would only compromise and raise taxes (and not only cut spending), the guy could be governor-for-life. Arnold says the state doesnt have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. Klein is not persuaded, and is a bit miffed that Arnold isnt listening to him.
Kevin Starr does a bit of pop-pscychology on Arnold, that quickly moves into how is is really nothing but an old-fashioned Progressive (or European Social Democrat), but then Starr has a harder time computing Arnolds love of Milton Friedman and other free-market worthies. On odd piece, but worth reading.
Dan Balz is very clear that Arnold is relishing the opportunity to fight the entrenched interests of the state, and he is hoping that they dont come up with a last minute compromise. He wants an all-out battle, and he is likely to get it, and likely to win it. Its a perfect role for him, and the MSM reporters just cant understand why. Arnold has nothing to lose and everything to gain, as does California.
What is unfolding here has all the earmarks of a classic struggle, with clear national implications. The outcome will affect the future of the state, the legacy of the actor-turned-politician, the balance of power in Sacramento and possibly the politics of other states.
In todays Washington Post, Howard Kurtz reports that liberals outnumber conservatives on Americas College campuses. Here is the article.
Kurtzs article is based on a survey of 1,643 faculty at 183 four-year Colleges. The survey was conducted by Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman, and Neil Nevitte.
The survey found that liberals outnumber conservative by 72% to 15% in all colleges, 87% to 13% in elite colleges, and, that 81% of Humanities faculty are liberal, 75% of social science faculty are liberal, and even that liberals outnumber conservatives among business faculty by 49% to 39%.
What is Charlotte Simmons to do?
Dinesh DSouza defends Abraham Lincoln from attacks by the contemporary left and right in this article entitled Lincoln: Tyrant, Hypocrite or Consummate Statesman. Thanks to HistoryNet.
Update: Having looked at the review more closely, I saw that the formatting doesn’t allow for footnotes, which meant that I couldn’t acknowledge my indebtedness to Mary P. Nichols, who generously read many drafts, and other friends (who probably don’t want their names associated with this) who saved me from some stupidities.
Update #2: Win Myers, ever the industrious and accommodating editor, has worked the footnotes back in. New levels of meaning will be revealed to the careful and discerning readers. Be sure to count backwards.
Jonathan Karl (ABC News) praises Secretary of State Condi Rices tenure, and claims that she has had a positive effect on the State Department. It is more active than it has been in a decade. Read it all, but here is a paragraph:
Rices proximity to the president, combined with the sense of urgency she brings to her new job, has turned the State Department into a political power center again, the kind of place where Karen Hughes, one of President Bushs two or three closest advisers, would take a third-tier job. Even Dina Powell, who as director of White House personnel had no shortage of opportunities in the administration, chose to go to work for Rice as an assistant secretary of state. The State Department has been something of a political backwater for more than a decade. In the Clinton years, Warren Christopher was so inactive that a running joke among Foreign Service officers during his tenure was to complain about something and add, "None of this would be happening if Warren Christopher were alive." Madeleine Albright traveled more, but that only contributed to the perception that she was out of the loop and AWOL when the major national security decisions were being made by the National Security Council. And in George W. Bushs first term, Powell made his biggest headlines when he was at odds with the White House.
There are, he says, lots of problems. The world of knowledge has burgeoned. Faculty are too narrowly specialized and disinclined in any event to teach undergraduates. Students are distracted and/or careerist (for good or bad reasons).
His solution? The dreaded "v-word"--Values:
If we believe that values do have a role in education, then the challenge may be to rehistoricize and rehumanize the underclass curriculum. That does not mean going back to Contemporary Civilization courses [at Columbia] or the Red Book [Harvards 1945 report]. It does mean rethinking the content of knowledge appropriate for our contemporary society, and summoning the intellectual courage to embolden students to make qualitative judgments about the materials they are required to engage with in their underclass years.
Theres supposed to be a
"live, on-line discussion" of this Important Article at 1 p.m. this Thursday (3/31). Go add your two cents or eavesdrop on the well- or ill-meaning souls who join the fray. Ill be here, talking to people who can do more than speak in ringing generalities about undergraduate education. Soon thereafter, Ill read the transcript of the forum and offer what commentary I can.
Our friends at the Democracy Project have assumed responsibility for the Texas Education Review. Theres no word as to whether it was a bloodless coup, friendly takeover, or what. The good news is that anyone who wants to read or write sensibly about education has another venue in which to pursue these interests.
Matthew Mosk runs through the possible candidates for the Senate seat of the retiring Sarbanes. Kweisi Mfume, the one of the vaulting ambition, has already announced, but he will have some opposition in the Democratic primary. And Lt. Gov. Steele (R) is considering it. Apparently many people (where is Rove when we need him?) are trying to talk Steele into it.
I think he should do it. A Mfume-Steele campaign would be excellent!
The New York Times runs another front page story on Karl Rove. While other presidents have had powerful advisors who have had a hand in both policy and politics, the NYT insists that Rove is different because his involvement is more "intense," and "that in this administration, as in all others, politics and policy are inextricably intertwined." This is newsworthy stuff? There is a not so subtle implication, by the end of the article, that Rove may have misplayed the Social Security issue, to the NYT’s pleasure! But of course, the NYT ought to know better; they continue to misunderestimate both Rove and Bush. I guess it will take at least one more election cycle for the MSM (at least what’s left of the honest ones) to admit that Bush, Rove, and company have made the GOP into the majority party. Bush told his people before the last election, "Don’t give me a lonely
I don’t want what Nixon had. I don’t want what Reagan had." The GOP victories in the 2004 congressional elections marked the 6th consecutive election in which the Republicans won control of both the House and the Senate. The Republicans have more House members than they have had since 1946. We should also note that there was a surge in voter turnout between 2000 and 2004 ((54.3% to 60.7), and this ids also significant for the non-lonely victory because the last time there was such a surge (in the 1930’s), it marked the appearance of a new majority party. The MSM still doesn’t get it, so they keep writing these weird hit pieces--which turn out to be to Bush’s advantage--on Rove and company. So, again, the NYT argues that there is no difference between policy and politics, except for the intensity. I wonder how FDR and James Farley and the Brains Trust (Tugwell, Berle, Moley) involvement in policy and politics would fare under NYT’s "more intense" scutiny? Never mind JFK and Bobby.
Here’s a challenge to every higher education "stakeholder" (that includes parents and students):
Universities and colleges have no magical power. The value of the education acquired at most middle to upper ranked schools (by any criteria) is mostly dependent on the commitment and focus of the student rather than on the miraculous power or luxury characteristics of the institutional process. Moreover, most colleges and universities sell a commodity product, an education that at its core is fundamentally similar between institutions. The amenities may differ — luxury dorms, elaborate student centers, complex and fully equipped recreational facilities — but the chemistry and English classes are pretty much the same.
Luxury is a good thing if you want it and can afford it. If someone will deliver a Mercedes for the price of a Geo, why not ride for the four years in style? Nonetheless, if you find yourself in a Geo, you will get to the supermarket at almost exactly the same time as your friends in the Mercedes. What you do when you get out of the car, however, depends almost entirely on you, not on the luxury of your ride.
Viewed in terms of economically quantifiable outcomes, this may be right. Within relatively capacious limits, a credential is a credential. But I’d raise two questions, one that Lombardi doesn’t address at all and the other challenging an assumption he makes.
The first has to do with the "quality of life" education helps students cultivate (and I’m not talking about quality as produced by income). Could not one curriculum be better than another in encouraging and preparing students to lead more thoughtful or "spiritually richer" lives?
Connected with this is my second question: are courses commodities, with Shakespeare taught at one place essentially the same as Shakespeare taught at another? The books may be the same, and they may be sufficiently powerful to overcome differences in teaching. But you can’t tell me that there’s not better and worse, less or more serious, teaching of Shakespeare that goes on in classrooms all over the country. For some students, then, reading Shakespeare under the tutelage of an exceptional teacher could be a life-changing experience; for others, it will be a yawner, fodder only for shouting correct answers at "Jeopardy" on the TV. For most, it will likely be something in between.
But let’s try to understand higher education in the light of exceptional possibilities, rather than in the light of the average (and quantifiable) outcomes to which Lombardi calls our attention.
Update:I had an interesting email exchange with John Lombardi. Here’s the question I posed to him, elaborating on what I said above:
As someone who had "transformative" experiences as both an undergraduate and a graduate student, I can’t simply think of higher education as a commodity, as a more or less nicely appointed vehicle to get me to the supermarket. In both instances, my experiences changed my destination, and I’m acutely aware of the fact that if I had blundered into different institutions, my "career" would have taken a different direction. (Imagine, for example, if I had studied political theory with Sheldon Wolin at Princeton, rather than with Allan Bloom at Toronto; as an undergrad, I was certain enough of "theory," but not of the brand. And had I not encountered compelling teachers as an undergraduate, I probably would have ended up in law school.)
I of course recognize that my experience, while not totally unique, is not the norm. But at the same time, I wonder whether regarding higher education as largely a credentialing mechanism is the most helpful and enlightening way of looking at it. I’m thinking in part of the rapid growth of the religiously-affiliated colleges and universities described by Naomi Schaefer Riley in God on the Quad. Clearly the parents and students attracted to these institutions don’t regard education simply as a credentialling mechanism. And just as clearly, this is the kind of "measurable" phenomenon of which economic analysts (and "marketers") of higher education can and should take account. Or would you just say that religious identification is just a color scheme or bundle of options chosen by a subset in this particular automobile market, so that nothing about this phenomenon alters the general outlines of your analysis?
Here’s his response:
The issue of the commodification of higher education is indeed something to worry about, but it’s also important to recognize that this process is well along. There is indeed a difference between the generically titled course taught by one or another instructor within different institutional contexts, but the rapid rise of amenity driven higher education recruiting tells us that the importance of content has declined, perhaps because the content is pretty good at most places and other contextual variables take on a great role in differentiating various alternative academic experiences. The great difficulty, of course, is predicting what effect these different contexts may have on an individual student and how much the parents and student ought to pay for the anticipation of these different effects.
Are those of us who care about curriculum simply at the mercy of the marketers and the consumers, who apparently or allegedly don’t (at least within very broad limits)? Is there anything that we can do to focus or refocus parents and students on the actual substance of higher education?
John Fund compares the case of Terri Schiavo to Elian Gonzalez in today’s OpinionJournal.com.
The Clinton Adminsitration were celebrated by the MainStreamMedia when Janet Reno, defying a court order, used the Federal Government to take custody of Elian Gonzalez and return him to Castro’s tyranny. The Bush Administration(s) are kow-towed by the MSM into taking no action to save the life of Terri Schiavo, even when there seems to be Constitutional and statutory grounds for them to do so.
Arthur Chrenkoff reports on the extraordinarily steady progress in Iraq in this piece from OpinionJournal.com .
Clive James reviews Camile Paglias new new book which anthologizes 43 short works in verse. The review is long, but worth a read because it is about poetry (and Paglia). James: "This book is the latest shot in her campaign to save culture from theory." This is her attempt to get people (and students) to like poetry. James: "My own prescription for making poetry popular in the schools would be to ban it -- with possession treated as a serious misdemeanor, and dealing as a felony -- but failing that, a book like this is probably the next best thing." James reminds us of something Paglia said a few years back in reflecting how students know nothing except images and are thus cut off from the "mothership of culture." Paglia: "The only antidote to the magic of images is the magic of words." Although, Longfellows "Endymion" is not mentioned, read it here.
UPDATE: John Derbyshire thinks the Paglia volume is simply awful, a glimpse of Hell, maybe even a spoof.
This AP story tells the of the News-Record, a newspaper in Greensboro, NC, and how it got into blogging. It is trying to make it self more relevant, more interesting, and just plain noticed (especially by younger people). What must the paper do in order to survive? Other papers around the country are watching this experiment with care. Although the AP article is a bit longer than may be necessary, it recounts in more detail than usual what the stakes are in the newspaper survival game; excellence is more important than a brand name, they have discovered; on line competition has something to do with it, of course. This is the site for the newspaper (its blogs to the left).
Albania--not so long ago as backward and tyrannic as North Korea or Cuba is today--is recovering quickly. Ballroom dancing
is even making a comeback! (Do note the mayor of Tiranas love affair with jazz and the saxophone!) And the Albanian government, along with its people, have a clear understanding of freedom.
Well, if youre talking about Rome, Georgia, not quite, but there is reason to find your way there this Thursday, March 31st. This is why: John Seery, with commentary from Gayle McKeen (Sewanee), Will Jordan (Mercer), Carl Scott (Fordham) and Michael Papazian (Berry), at 2 p.m. Next up will be Naomi Schaefer Riley at 4 p.m., with comments from Marc Guerra (Ave Maria University), Dale McConkey (Berry), and Paul Seaton (Fordham University). Then theres "da Main Event," Galston vs. Mansfield at 7 p.m.
Ill give a full report upon my return.
The New York Times has an article on the movement among religious conservatives to influence the Ohio Republican Party, called the Ohio Restoration Project. As the piece makes clear, the immediate purpose is to elect Ken Blackwell to the governor’s office in 2006; but the long-term goal is the return of the party to conservative principles.
What’s amazing politically is the continuing voter registration, education, and organization efforts, especially among clergy. Ohio could be a bellweather in the swing-state Midwest.
Now, this is interesting, with references to Aristotle and Descartes, among others. This could have been a story on the self-destruction of the Enlightenment, on how the self-owned right to life has turned into the right to determine the terms of one’s own existence, on how the pursuit of power to be like God(s) has left us at the mercy of those who actually wield the power. But it is instead an alleged account of the self-destruction of evangelical reformism:
The evangelical revival of the 18th and 19th centuries produced the abolition movement, which gave rise to the women’s suffrage movement, which inspired the civil rights movement, which led to the patient’s rights movement. But now the patient’s rights movement faces off with many 21st-century evangelical Christians in the Schiavo case.
There’s something to this narrative, but it misses one of the big points in dispute here. If Terri Schiavo had actually had a living will, it’s unlikely that many people would be worked up about this. Her wishes would have been known and, presumably, honored.
Under those circumstances, I can imagine a conversation about who’s improperly "playing God," the person who refuses "heroic measures" or doesn’t want to be kept alive in a "persistent vegetative state," or those who wish to use the full scope of human power to keep everyone alive as long as possible.
To put it another way, the preciousness of human life has always been understood to be consistent with human finitude. Our current dilemma stems from the fact that we increasingly regard finitude as "optional." Are we precious because we’re created in God’s image or because we ourselves are value-giving gods?
Update: Ken Masugi brings more to the seminar table.