Saturday, March 29, 2008

Progressive Intolerance

I heard an interesting story recently. Studies suggest that progressives are 17% more likely than conservatives to say that they not only hate the views of people on the other side of the political spectrum, but that they hate the people themselves. This does not necessarily mean that conservatives are more moral than progressives (they aren't), but it doesn't speak well of the progressive value of "diversity" if those who propagate it are unwilling to tolerate people who hold views different from their own.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Happy Easter! It's like the Chuck Wesley hymn: "Christ the Lord is Risen Today"

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Talented Mr. Minghella

As you may have heard, Anthony Minghella died yesterday of a brain hemorrhage (so wikipedia reports.) He was clearly a man of talents. The opening shot in "The English Patient," the shadows creeping across the lower sand-dunes like a ghost, captures the spirit of the novel in a way that no other director could have done. It is a pity that the movie is rarely watched, because it was one of the better movies to win best picture in the 1990s. As I have heard others say, it's a pity that Sidney Pollack will probably be directing the English version of "The Lives of Others" now. If anyone could ruin such a great story, it is they guy who directed "Random Hearts." But, this aside, there's no question as to whether or not Anthony Minghella was a man of talents, equally comfortable while filming in pre-World War II Africa, Rome of the 1950s and Civil War-ravaged America. He may have died early, but no so early that his compendium of work is not worth remembering.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

National Education Association: A Fraud

I wouldn't break into a sweat over what's happening to homeschoolers in California. The Terminator is coming to the rescue. But it has caused a number of "professionals" to post and write some highly embarrassing articles. Dave Arnold, on the NEA's website, is one such professional. He says on the sight that he swelled with indignation after reading on a homeschooler's that "professional education is not as difficult as it seems". C'mon, he says, it's even difficult for trained professionals. I would agree with this part: it is difficult for trained professionals. What I want to know is why the trained professionals seem to be the only people who have trouble with it. Arnold's article is more of the same from the "professionals," short on facts, long on conclusions. If any of them have any statistics to bring to the table, please, feel free to let me know.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Reflections on Louisville

I got back from Louisville, Kentucky just last week (I may have mentioned this already.) What can be said for Louisville? It is a welcoming city for one thing. You can walk all over it and not get mugged or shived--neither of these happened to me while I was there. The city is also welcoming from the standpoint that, when I got off the plane, the city had set up a buildboard for everyone to see that said: "Welcome Sigma Tau Delta." That was nice of them. Louisville is certainly a Rustbelt city (right across the river are Ohio and Indiana), but it is not a Rustbelt city in a bad way. Think Chicago, not Detroit. In short, Louisville is a place worth visiting, although the food is sometimes overpriced.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Social Democracy and Education

The American atheist Susan Jakoby has a new book entitled "The Age of American Unreason." Because of the outrageous prices of new books by little-known authors in this day and age, I probably won't read it unless I find it at the library. The best one can do is get to know new books through reviews, I suppose.

Here is what the book is about based on a "New York Times" review: Americans are anti-intellectual and ignorant because of 1) the internet, 2) the GOP and 3) religious fundamentalism. This anti-intellectualism has made it so that they can't name the three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial) and can't name one of the nine supreme court justices (Thomas, Ginsberg, Scalia, Alito, Roberts, Kennedy, Seuter, Breyer, Stevens; I don't know the first names of all of them.) I am not sure how she manages to tie all of these together, but the connectivity of these claims seems to me to be very, very fragile.

Jakoby's main gripe with fundamentalists, from what I can make out, is that they do not want Darwinism to be taught in public schools and want to control the information that their children learn in school. Again, I haven't read the book, but given her rhetoric ("this means in the most backward parts of the country, education in controlled by the most backward people") that she objects to homeschooling and non-state-approved religious institutions of learning as well. According the to the review--which is more or less favorable--she lambasts fundamentalists for treating the right to local curriculum as though it is a constitutional right.

To this I would say that if it is not a right, then it should be. The founders intended all citizens to have consciences uninhibited by the state, but state education runs in the opposite direction. What has more influence over the conscience than education? A further weakness of Jakoby's argument is the contrastive she draws between the United States and Europe. She writes that in Europe, education is superior because it is dolled out by people who are experts in the field, whereas, in America, education is controlled by local philistines. The latter situation, she claims, is very dangerous to American democracy.

I disagree. Maybe my only reason is because in France candidates like le Pen can be viable and in Great Britain parties like the British National Party have names that more than a dozen people recognize. Maybe it is because American students in private schools, or kids who are taught at home, far outscore their publicly educated peers on math tests. Maybe it is because when you drive down the street in Paris, you can see a dozen American movies in every theater whereas, in America, only the award winning French films are released. But, in any case, despite all this, European children appear to do okay on their SATs. When they are capable of doing well on anything else, please, feel free to let me know.

I realize that this essay is not particularly organized; it wasn't really intended to be. But, in closing, I want to note that it is actually Ms. Jakoby who is the real danger to American democracy. Her idealized educational community, presided over by a benign national board of "intellectuals," may seem reasonable on the surface, but the fact of the matter is that, throughout history, even those claiming intellectual authority have been wrong. This is why it is so important that we work to preserve the rights of everyone to be educated in his/her own way. Anything less, and the gas-chambers are on their way.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Random Thoughts on Faith and Politics

I was in Louisville, Kentucky yesterday morning and I was over at Blog and Mablog this morning. The following post is a response to some of Doug Wilson's thoughts on political philosophy. I don't know the details of the Archbishop of Canterbury, nor did I bother reading the Archbishop of Durham's defense of the Arch of C's comments on Sharia Law. The point is that I am not defending either one. Though technically an Anglican--so says my college transcript information--I have never thought the Anglican Church as is much more than an outdated curiosity. (They do have nice architecture.) What I want to address in this post is Doug Wilson's disdain for pluralism.

Before rebutting his views, it is important that we consider his shoddy definition of the pluralistic society. For Mr. Wilson, the term pluralism is almost equivalent to that of relativism or multiculturalism; in other words, an odd sort of cultural soup in which everyone changes their values to accommodate everyone else, and, in doing so, emasculates himself because, if everyone is right, no one can be. But this is relativism, not pluralism. The central idea behind pluralism is that many views should be tolerated not because everyone is right. On the contrary, it is important to tolerate a wide range of views because many people are wrong.

Mr. Wilson asserts that for the church to share governmental authority with any body outside of itself amounts to idolatry. By this rational, he may as well argue that living in the same municipality as a mosque or Roman Catholic Church makes one a Muslim or a Roman Catholic. Neither of these religious groups teach or preach the gospel, and yet I doubt that Mr. Wilson would outlaw the latter, were he president of the United States.

But a further problem with Mr. Wilson's theory that Christ must be lord of political life as well is that Christ did not seem to think this was possible and, in fact, said "My kingdom is not of this earth." (Incidentally, I don't use this verse, as some do, to assert that Christians should withdraw from secular or political life entirely.) The sort of government which would implicitly be under Jesus's headship has never been clearly defined by Doug Wilson. He has been pressed on the issue of homosexuality before, and, when asked how a Christian society should treat homosexuals, his answer, so far, has been that he does not know.

In any case, Christ and Paul teach that secular authorities are authorities nonetheless, and, implicit is the assumption that one can submit to Christ while seeding the monopoly of violence to others. Nonetheless, Christ did have one "follower" who wanted to take the monopoly of violence back from the Romans. His name was Judas Iscariot.