NRO’s Clark Patterson enthusiastically endorses the scheme of Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry to institute a broad and comrpehensive array of standardized exit exams for college seniors. Patterson’s slogan is "a return to standards," but when was it that we ever had such standardized standards for higher education? He cites the ISI study on the dearth of civic literacy--also based on a standardized test--as evidence that it wouldn’t be so bad if college professors had to "teach the test." (You have to scroll down a little to get to the Patterson comment.)
Here’s Saletan’s report on something else that may have been going on on Brokeback Mountain. If studies end up demonstrating conclusively (as is very likely) that homosexuality is partly natural or genetic (like almost everything else human it’s surely partly conventional too), should we genetically engineer it out of existence? Would that be an assault on human diversity and human culture? An attack on the opportunity to practice a special kind of virtue? Or an alleviation of cruel human misery? Or should we make everyone a homoesexual as the final stage of our project to separate sex from reproduction in the pursuit of health and safety?
I suppose one ought to say something about the Super Bowl and even venture a prediction, although one knows better. It is usually better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.
I will take the Colts. They are the better team from the better conference. They have a superior quarterback in a QB-dominant league. Their defense has improved. The Colts have paid their dues and are due. They fit a certainly profile, like last year’s Steelers or the 1997 Broncos – a team that was the heavy favorite the previous year but lost unexpectedly in its first playoff game; then struggled making the playoffs (or achieving a high seed) the following year. I also pick the Colts because I respect Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning. It is good when one’s analysis and rooting interest coincide (something that is missing unfortunately with state of affairs in Iraq).
It is a very close call. The Bears have almost precisely the sort of team that can overcome the facts noted above. As NFL fans know, the most definitive and consistent statistical predictor of success or failure in football is the turnover differential. In the previous Super Bowls, the record of the teams that have gained the advantage in turnovers is 29-3. The 40 winning Super Bowl teams have lost fumbles or thrown interceptions only 46 times (barely one per game).
This begs the question – is there an art or science to protecting the ball (the current euphemism is “ball security”) or forcing the other team to give it up?
Setting this aside, the 2006 Bears’ defense is certainly not dominant in the way that the 1985 Bears defense was. It gives up big plays. It is no longer confidently shuts down the run. But this Bears’ team has one important thing in common with Buddy Ryan’s old 46 defense – it forces turnovers and makes big plays, especially if one includes “defensive” special team play (punt and FG).
I mention Buddy Ryan for a reason. Ryan’s personal eccentricities, to put them mildly, overshadow the fact that he belongs with Bud Carson, Bill Belichick and a few others at the top of the list of great defensive coaches. The 1969 Super Bowl is remembered as Joe Namath’s Super Bowl. But people forget that Buddy Ryan was the Jets’ defensive coordinator in that game. Arguably it was his defense (and Walt Michaels’), not Namath and his offense, which was the deciding factor in the game. The Jets’ offense did play well – and it avoided TOs – but it scored only 16 points, not that much more than the two AFL teams had done in the first two Super Bowls (10 and 14 points). But the Jets held a supposedly high-powered Baltimore offense to 7 points, compared to the 35 and 33 points that Lombardi’s Packers put up on the AFL teams.
What did Buddy teach about defense? The three most important defensive statistics are turnovers forced, QB sacks, and third-down efficiency (denying the offense first downs). When you reflect upon these operational goals, defense becomes offense. Defense is about creating scoring opportunities, not just keeping the other team from scoring. Aggressive defenses can score directly by returning the ball for a touchdown. At the very least, effective defensive play flips field position and greatly improves the chances of one’s own offense to score.
There are important mitigating circumstances that favor Indianapolis. Chicago plays a variant of Tony Dungy’s defense (the so-called Cover-2 Buc, or the Tampa-2), against which the Colts practice against all the time. Indianapolis pass protection schemes seem to have difficulty primarily with a 3-4 defensive front (the Bears use a 4-3 alignment).
So, picking the Colts is reasonable but problematic. Watch the TOs. If the Colts take care of the ball, make some big offensive plays, and avoid catastrophic injuries and a cascade of bad and questionable officiating calls, they should be in a position to win, perhaps convincingly. But if the Bears’ defense gets on a roll --
There are important subtexts to this game, about which I will inflict comments on you at a later date. First, the fact that two coaches are black (I hate to use the term, “black coach,” as if it is a job description, like black quarterback). Second, the physical and psychological damage allegedly suffered by professional football players, perhaps to the point where health professionals and lawyers will try to shut the sport down. See
here, here, and here.
...not that anyone would care anyway. But Im getting a lot of pro-G emails. Heres the best of them:
Why Im tending to Giuliani:
For the obvious reasons, leadership and administrative ability, manliness, likability (generosity of spirit). But also because he is likely the most communitarian of the Republicans--the least Lockean. With regard to the social issues, any explicit renunciation of his previous statements on abortion and gay marriage would be deadly to his candidacy (Romneys problem in spades). The political wallpaper of New York City we all know about. In the context of that wallpaper he was actually quite socially conservative. A friend of ours here recounts all the time how Giuliani forcefully defended families aagainst the attempt to forcefeed children "Heather Has Two Mommies." He would have much more credibility as president on life and sex issues given this background. I assume also he retains the residue of his Catholic education. For the moment all he has to do is say he will appoint conservative judges. Many religious conservatives down here...are leaning to him. The religious conservatives will be split and he can definitely win the nomination without their full-throated support, which will be better anyway.
Good news from Fox News for both Giuliani and Senator Clinton. Giulianis lead over McCain has widened, and Hillary not only has a very high level of support but is thought to be as tough on terorism as John and Rudy.
About an 11-year-old who calls in to Bill Bennetts radio show with questions that apparently stump him, this AJC story profiles him.
Another exceptional home-schooler....
...over McCain among Republicans, according to the latest poll. Thats because hes perceived as more likable, more eloquent, more likely to unite the country, better in a crisis, and a more competent manager.
In an odd reenactment of last years vandalism at Northern Kentucky University, someone seems to have stolen the crosses set up by the Georgia Tech College Republicans to recognize the 34th anniversary of Roe. Heres the AJC account.
George F. Will gives us a rundown on the school choice movement, but neglects to mention what’s going on in Georgia, where a measure to provide vouchers for special needs students has been approved by the state Senate. As Republicans also control the state House, not to mention the Governorship, it will become law.
After that, there will inevitably be a lawsuit, for reasons I’ve discussed many times before, most recently (with relevant links) here. I think that the Georgia Constitution’s Blaine Amendment is a significant, if not necessarily insuperable, obstacle to even limited school choice. But those who file the suit run the risk of winning a (temporary) legal victory at the expense of a significant political defeat, for it would be hard to distinguish the vouchers they’re going to challenge from Georgia’s wildly popular HOPE Scholarship program.
For me, the bottom line is that offering parents more choices is a good thing; any political fall-out that weakens the hand held by the teachers’ unions is a bonus.
A Southern governor to balance someone at the top of the ticket whos strong on national security?
I missed the beginning, which is here, but our friend Matt Franck has inaugurated a "Perennial Publius" feature over at NRO’s Bench Memos, prompted by a class he’s teaching this semester. You can run down his postings (now up to nine) here. His brief meditations (thus far one per Federalist) are worth reading.
The new issue of PPS is out, and it’s devoted to the work of Wilson Carey McWilliams (1933-2005). Carey was the greatest entertainer, as well as one of the most manly, thoughtful, and erudite MEN, in American political science. He called himself a Straussian "fellow traveler" and an old-fashioned Democrat and democrat. He was also an elder in the Presbyterian church (and a genuinely Christian man), and an American patriot who reflected often on the good that was his military service. He was probably the only member of his party left who was both pro-life and thought that our struggle in Vietnam was just and noble. He was emphatically not a liberal. Carey was, as Pat Deneen writes, "modest to a fault," and so he needs his friends to help us remember just how important his quite original, illuminating, and edifying work--writing that is mostly scattered here and there in all sorts of journal and books--is for our self-understanding as friends and citizens.
The contributors to his symposium include Patrick J. Deneen, Paul Seaton, Amitai Etzioni, Michael T. Gibbons, Susan J. McWilliams (Carey’s political theoretical daughter), and me. Susan’s article is called "The Brotherhood of Man(liness)," and Paul’s is on Carey’s recovery of the wisdom of the Puritans--perhaps Carey’s most countercultural project. Let me thank Pat Deneen for editing one of our very best issues ever.
The most recent longer piece can be found in The Weekly Standard; it calls attention to W & M President Gene Nichol’s connections with the ACLU, which are reflected in the insider/outsider language he has used. (Of course, what the TWS authors don’t note is that the ACLU uses the language because, thanks to Sandra Day O’Connor, the Supreme Court uses it. O’Connor’s was a bad idea whose time had come.) The TWS authors also note that given the plethora of public crosses all over the state of Virginia (reflecting its heritage, as they note), the stature of the Wren Cross dispute is far greater than its mere eighteen inches.
I suppose I think it laudable that Nichol has called for a campus committee to examine "the role of religion in public universities in general, and at the College of William and Mary in particular." Will it be a rubber stamp, or will it provide him cover as he backs down? I can only hope that the committee does its job well and honestly, and have no reason at the moment to think that it won’t, especially given the publicity that this controversy has generated.
Update: I swear I hadn’t seen this piece, by Newt Gingrich and Christopher Levenick, when I wrote about the malign influence of Sandra Day O’Connor at W & M. It’s worse than I thought: she’s the new Chancellor at W & M.
“Everyone in the world knows her,” he said. “Her husband has used every single legitimate tool in his behalf to lock people in, shut people down. Legitimate. And she can’t break out of 30 percent for a choice for Democrats? Where do you want to be? Do you want to be in a place where 100 percent of the Democrats know you? They’ve looked at you for the last three years. And four out of 10 is the max you can get?”
Leading Republican members of Congress are rushing to endorse Romney, because they’re for Anyone But McCain. That’s because they think John has functioned all too effectively to thwart real conservative legislation. But does ABM point automatically to Mitt? Do our legislators believe that Giuliani can’t win the primaries? Or that hes also not really a conservative? Isnt excessive worry about the McCain candidacy unreasonable, given the astute observations by our Julie about the Arizona senator being well past his prime? And, in any case, is the AB approach the best way to select a candidate?
‘Tis the season for streaks. Tiger Woods (7) is now within distant view of Byron Nelson’s all time record of 11 consecutive PGA Tour victories (with asterisks for both men). The Phoenix Suns ran up 17 straight games before losing last night to Minnesota. The Suns put together a 15 game streak earlier in the season. Dallas had a 13-game run. The Celtics have lost 11 in a row, but that’s another category entirely.
These latest streaks, however impressive, pale before what is arguably the most spectacular professional regular season accomplishment of all time, the 33 consecutive wins put together by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. (I would say that the other candidate would be the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, 14-0. There is, of course, the off-the-chart 88-game college basketball win streak by UCLA.) The Lakers’ run remains the longest in professional sports; the NBA record at the time was 20.
The streak began on November 5 (my birthday – as a Lakers’ fan I remember it well) and ended on January 9, when LA lost on the road to the next best team in the league, Milwaukee. The Bucks had a pretty decent young center by the name of Abdul-Jabbar. There were no fluke bounces or fortunate officiating calls that saved the streak along the way. Most of the games were not even close. The Lakers were dominant and great fun to watch, show time before Magic Johnson’s Show Time. They averaged 120 points per game. LA went on to win 69 regular season games (then a record) and dominate the playoffs, to earn Los Angeles’ first NBA championship after so many frustrating defeats at the hands of Bill Russell’s Celtics.
How to account for such unexpected perfection? This particular LA team was supposed to be good but was by no means favored to win the championship. It had three legitimate superstars, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Jerry West, but those three together had failed to win the title. Each man seemed to be well on the downhill side of his career.
The streak began, perhaps not coincidentally, the game after Baylor unexpectedly announced his retirement. Baylor, a 10-time All NBA selection and the grandfather of spectacular athletic forward play (think Connie Hawkins, Dr. J, etc.), gave it up because of a bad knee. This opened the starting lineup to second year player Jim McMillan, a highly proficient mid-range jump shooter who didn’t need to handle the ball constantly to be effective. The other forward, Happy Hairston, a solid veteran, blossomed with the additional space inside. With additional playing time now available, the Lakers displayed a deep and versatile bench that included journeyman guard/forward, Pat Riley, who later went on to have some modest coaching success.
More to the point, Baylor’s game had never really meshed with that of Wilt. Both of them needed the ball down low and needed it a lot. As a Philadelphia Warrior, Wilt had averaged an incredible 50 points a game in 1961-62, the same year he scored 100 points in a single game. His scoring statistics were the stuff of legend (no elaboration necessary). But now Wilt turned himself into a mirror image of his old rival, Bill Russell – a concession to age and circumstances as much as to wisdom, perhaps, but a concession nonetheless. Wilt averaged only 14.8 points per game for these Lakers, fifth best on the team. But he dominated the boards and controlled the paint defensively. Wilt had always put up showy rebounding numbers and blocked numerous shots, but somehow these seemed more impressive on paper than in determining the outcome of big games. This season, no one doubted that Wilt’s presence in the paint was dominant.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the new coach of the Lakers was Bill Sharman, out of the Auerbach-Russell’s old Celtic line of champions. Sharman seemed to command Wilt’s respect in a way that previous coaches, at least in Los Angeles, had not. Sharman’s coaching innovations included the invention, or popularization, of the morning of the game shoot-around, now a staple of college and pro basketball teams. When Sharman first announced the idea to the team, someone asked what they would do after the shoot-around. Gail Goodrich, the Lakers’ guard, laughed. “Go back to the hotel and wake up Wilt.” But Wilt, a notorious night-owl, showed up at the shoot-arounds without complaint.
Wilt, at least, had already won a championship with the 1967-68 76ers, a team that had established the old record of 68 wins. (Wilt said that he thought that this Philadelphia team was better than this Lakers’ squad.) Jerry West, today best known as “Mr. Logo,” was that era’s Michael Jordan, in terms of spectacular all-court play (sans dunks) and clutch shooting. But West’s teams, in college and the pros, always came up a game short despite his consistent brilliance in those games. In 1971-72 West had perhaps his best all- around season, in part by deferring offensively to Goodrich, who is often left out of the discussion of the game’s best little men. West led the league in assists. He still averaged nearly 26 points a game while he worked constantly to involve other players. The need for teamwork was hardly a revelation to West but he now had confidence in his teammates that was lacking in previous years. None of the Lakers guards (West, Goodrich and reserve Flynn Robinson) were true point guards – which is perhaps suggestive. The Jordan/Jackson Bulls, who later established the all-time win record (72), also played without a point guard.
Why this stroll down memory lane (at the risk that Wilt will block my shot, from the great Court in the Sky)? I don’t mean to say that the Lakers’ streak and eventual championship was due solely to Baylor’s absence. Baylor was a great player and not abnormally selfish. Tom Heinsohn once said that guarding Baylor was like trying to nail jello to a wall. Of course, Elgin did desert my alma mater, the College of Idaho, after one season playing in Caldwell, Idaho, but I don’t hold that against him. In any case the basketball gods got even by making him General Manager of the Clippers.
Athletic brilliance sometimes just happens when excellence meets unusual opportunity, as with a perfect game in baseball. Tiger is brilliant like clockwork but he is the exception rather than the rule. Another reason why we watch, and watch from the beginning. You never know.
He has reintroduced the Public Expressions of Religion Act, which would prevent plaintiffs from collecting legal fees from the defendants in the event of a successful challenge of the display of a religious symbol in certain public places. Heres his explanation:
“The legislation I introduced today would still allow plaintiffs with legitimate claims to have their day in court. However, it would prevent local cities and towns from being coerced into settling claims out of a fear of huge monetary losses.”
Howard Friedman notes, the measure comfortably passed in the House in the last session. The 26 Democrats who supported the measure were largely, but not exclusively, from the South. At the same time, I think its unlikely that John Conyers Judiciary Committee will report it out.
John Fonte proposes civic conservatism. I can endorse his limited agenda, so long as its articulated so as not to be at odds with religious pluralism (which may be easier said than done). My reason for this caveat is that someone like Stephen Macedo might be inclined to take the "civic" and run with it in order to marginalize religious groups whose devotion to egalitarian inclusion doesnt match his own aggressive agenda.
The International Herald Tribune reports today that birth rates are up in France. The average number of births per woman of fertile age is now slightly more than two--whereas it is less than two in most of the rest of Europe. Many speculate that the reason for the increase has to do with immigration; i.e., the new babies are coming from new immigrants. The article disputes this--but admits that there is no reliable hard data to examine because France does not allow for the the inclusion of race or national origin in its official statistics.
On the other hand, while childbearing becomes more common it seems marriage is not. Many French heterosexuals are taking advantage of "civil union" arrangements, meant originally to meet the demands of homosexuals. These unions are up while marriages are down.
The article speculates that there are two big reasons for the increase: (1) generous maternity leave laws and (2) ". . , its 35-hour workweek. It has been suggested that the French have so much leisure now that they have found nothing more interesting to do with it than have babies, combining fun with demographic patriotism."
Weird. Scholars have often observed that one reason people used to have so many kids was because life was hard and many people were needed to do the work of the family. Industrialization made big families less necessary and, in fact, more expensive. But now we are asked to consider that there is so little work to do in France that people need to have more kids with whom to enjoy their many hours of leisure? I suggest these parents make the most of that leisure and create loads of good memories for their young bundles of joy. Those kids are going to have to live off of those memories when they grow up to toil on behalf of their aging socialist elders.
Fred Finks (the president of Ashland University) and I will be at The Villages in Florida on Saturday, February 10th for lunch. This is about one hour north of Orlando. We will talk informally about both the Center and the University. It should be fun: Im the cause that wit is in other men, and Fred is witty in himself! There is no charge for the event. If you want to come, or know anyone in the area who might, call Sally Blair for reservations: 419-289-5428.
This shouldnt surprise anyone who pays attention: in terms of overt political behavior, African-American churches are the most active, and, obviously, Democrats profit the most from it.
Jane Smiley reflects on the death of Barbaro and the architecture of horses and their hearts. I also love horses and agree with the old Mexican in Cormac McCarthys best novel--when he reflects on whether it is possible to have a world without any horses--that God would not allow such a thing.
This article introduces you to the somewhat bizarre world of Accelerated Reader, which has an odd way of deciding what a book is worth. For me, its another data point.
Its about time that someone from San Francisco blow the whistle on the "pathological...breeding-happy gluttony" thats sweeping certain parts of our country. (Thanks to Ryan Rakness for sending this article to me.)
Today’s Inside Higher Ed tells us that a "tough but fair" (and non-political) DoE official has been reassigned, in a move likely intended to accelerate efforts to rework the accreditation system. I’m betting that this is not good news.
[W]e must speak up when national policy initiatives are framed by the idea that higher education is no more than a service delivered to a consumer. That metaphor will obscure the most distinctive aspect of education that is truly “higher.” Education in the liberal arts and sciences cannot be adequately captured in the language of consumerism: it specifically aims at the student’s transformation and not at the gratification of pre-existing desires. Its real value may well be made invisible by the model of mass distribution of standardized goods and services.
As I’ve said before, I understand that the price of higher education and the sometimes irresponsible behavior of the professoriate make higher education a tempting target, but those of us who care about the traditional role of liberal education, whether it’s practiced
"philosophically" or "oratorically", have to be friends of diversity, of which the DoE currently seems to be the enemy.
The brililant and witty neuroscientist tells us we’ll treat others better once we’re convinced by studies that show that they possess consciousness too. It’s probably the case that we’re hardwired by evolution never to comprehend completely the mystery of consciousness, although we will precisely locate consciousness in the brain. Neuroscience is already revealing that we’re not really free agents responsible for our actions, and so that any improved "moral" behavior its discoveries may cause will not be really voluntary or moral in the strict sense at all. I was recently told, quite insistently, by certain followers of Plato in Charlottesville, VA that neuroscience is merely confirming a key classical insight: Voluntary action and personal moral significance or dignity are both merely illusions. I disagreed on what both the classical and neuroscientific studies really show. Some of the most penetrating commentary available on neuroscience includes what Tom Wolfe says in his essays in HOOKING UP and in his novel I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS.
Get Religion’s Terry Mattingly asks a reasonable question:
[I]t is valid to debate whether Bush represents “Methodist values” on key issues.
However, it would also be interesting to find out if many of the same faculty and ministers who oppose this library would also have questions about whether the beliefs proclaimed by the evangelist named John Wesley are consistent with “Methodist values” as currently defined by many at SMU.
Read the whole thing for a nice rundown on the Bush library brouhaha.
Update: While youre at it, you might want to take a look at this blog representing the library, etc. opponents, put up by this SMU professor. Here are his "reasons for concern." For now, Ill comment only on this:
the Bush Library-Museum-Institute will be as much or more a source of continued political propaganda for the Bush administration and its policies as it will be an educational resource.The Institute is explicitly conceived as an advocacy organization, and it will report to the Bush Foundation, not to the University. The museum, as is the case with all presidential museums is mostly funded by private sources, in this case by the same Bush foundation. As extensive experience with the previous eleven presidential libraries indicates, this museum will also present a partisan view defending the Bush administration and advancing its reputation and policies. The library, while it could be an asset to SMU - and remember that I am a historian, and have spent an amazing portion of my adult life happily ensconced in libraries - will also be heavily influenced by the Bush people, though under the control of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). In November of 2001, President Bush issued an executive order requiring NARA to honor any assertion of executive privilege by a former President - even against the wishes of a library director or a sitting president. In other words, years from now, if an aged historian Benjamin Johnson wanted to walk from his office to the Bush Library to look at documents related to, say, domestic spying programs under Attorney General Alberto Gonzáles, if George W. Bush had invoked executive privilege Professor Johnson wouldn’t be able to, even if Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama were in the oval office. Or even if I were in the White House.
Lets see, last I checked, any sitting President could issue an executive order rescinding an order handed down by a predecessor. Thats one of the things that distinguishes an executive order from, say, a law or the Constitution, which are a little harder to change (unless, of course, youre a judge; but I jest). Guess they didnt teach that at Carleton and Yale.
Andrew Klavan writes a very interesting op-ed in the L.A. Times on Hollywood and how it is ignoring the war. Why can’t we fictionalize that Islamo-fascism is an evil and American liberty a good? (via NRO)
From ABC News: "British officials say police have cracked the murder-by-poison case of former spy Alexander Litvinenko, including the discovery of a "hot" teapot at Londons Millennium Hotel with an off-the-charts reading for Polonium-210, the radioactive material used in the killing."
And then note this: "The official says investigators have concluded, based on forensic evidence and intelligence reports, that the murder was a "state-sponsored" assassination orchestrated by Russian security services."