Sunday, February 04, 2007


Comment by Stanley Kurtz

Russell Jacoby, a U.C.L.A. historian, has penned a bizarre review of the forthcoming anthology, Why I Turned Right: Leading Baby Boom Conservatives Chronicle Their Political Journeys. This is a Mary Eberstadt edited collection, to which I am a contributor.  (The review is in the current Chronicle of Higher Education, and is subscriber restricted.)  I kid you not: Jacoby’s main complaint is that the book is well written, which supposedly proves that conservatives are superficial.

"Almost without exception", Jacoby begins, "each essay is lucid and articulate". "Would it be possible to assemble a countercollection by leftists that would be equally limpid?" "Unlikely," Jacoby answers. The leftist professorate, he admits, “distrusts clear prose as superficial.  Oddly, English and literature professors led the way....they became convinced that incomprehensibility equals profundity....Compared to that, much conservative writing has a deft, light touch.”  The villain here?  “...conservative think tanks, which encourage readable prose for a reading public.”  Yes, Jacoby admits, “these conservatives are best at puncturing liberal, especially academic, balderdash.”  “On the basis of this volume, conservatives are excellent writers–and facile thinkers.  Perhaps the two go together.”

Jacoby’s review betrays no profundity, lucid or otherwise.  It’s merely an angry litany of what struck Jacoby as the most odious conservative views affirmed by the various authors of Why I Turned Right.  Anyway, snaps Jacoby, today’s conservatives are merely reacting to campus culture, not to the sort of truly serious oppression we found in the old Soviet Union.  (Somehow Jacoby missed the account of my trip to the old Soviet Union.)  And Jacoby complains that the authors of Why I Turned Right have nothing to say about a variety of important issues–like civil rights.  (Guess my discussion of the betrayal of liberal civil rights ideals by the movement for race and gender preferences doesn’t count.)

Panning Why I Turned Right as well written but superficial is a risible excuse for a critique.  These pieces are personal statements, not detailed policy documents or philosophical disquisitions.  If you want something intellectually meatier, take a look at, say, The Future of History. (I admit that even this is easier to understand than the nonsense penned by many postmodern English professors.)  But liberal academics don’t bother engaging conservative policy analysis, no matter how serious it is.  Instead, they bridle at the thought that a book by conservatives might actually be read and enjoyed by the general public.

Anyway, what do you say about a review that confirms every stereotype of the crotchety, jealous, humorless, politically correct zealots who run our academy.  Get real, professor Jacoby.  Good writing is not a disqualification.  Has the other side really been reduced to this?  You might have tried graciously conceding that the essays read well, and then moved on to some thoughtful criticism.  This sort of silliness merely shows how completely removed from public discourse our academics actually are.  Remember, these folks are supposed to be teaching America’s children.

So I give you Why I Turned Right: in the words of its bitterest critics, “lucid, articulate...limpid...written with a deft, light touch, [penned by] excellent writers...readable prose for the reading public.”  Note to publisher: first blurb for paperback now available.


N.J. Schools Test Students' Urine for Weekend Drinking

An extraordinary invasion of privacy. What kids do on the weekend in their own homes is no business of the school

Teens who drink alcohol could be caught three days later under a high school's new testing policy for students. The test, which will be given randomly to students at Pequannock Township High School, can detect whether alcohol was consumed up to 80 hours earlier. The legal drinking age in the United States is 21.

Other districts already use the test. Middletown began using it last spring for students suspected of using drugs and alcohol. This month, the district expanded it to include a random pool of about 1,800 students.

Pequannock Superintendent Larrie Reynolds said the policy approved last week should be a deterrent to students who feel peer pressure to drink. Under the program, students who test positive will not be kicked off teams or barred from extracurricular activities, Reynolds said. Instead, they will receive counseling - and their parents will be notified. "Most kids who think they can get away with it might be tempted to stop and think about it," he said. The test costs will be paid with federal grants, Reynolds said.

Urine screenings look for ethyl glucuronide, produced by the body after it metabolizes alcohol. School officials acknowledge the test is sensitive, and false positive readings can be the result of using products containing ethanol, including mouthwash and Balsamic vinegar. But Reynolds said in order for students to test positive, they would generally have had to consume the equivalent of one or two drinks.

Critics have said the testing does not work and invades students' privacy. "Medical care and treatment are issues between parents and children," said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.


A core curriculum for all Australians: Why should schooling change at every state border?

Following is an editorial from "The Australian"

The politics of Australian education are pathetically predictable, with sensible ideas that will disturb the status quo in schools always exciting ire among state ministers. Yesterday, they responded to a proposal from their federal counterpart, Julie Bishop, for common school subjects across the country as if she wanted to put cannibalism on the curriculum. But Ms Bishop's proposal that all schools across the country adopt a common curriculum makes a great deal of sense. Australia is a big country, but Australians are one people and the idea that students in Bunbury and Bundaberg need to learn entirely different things in radically different ways makes no sense. And no sense in some of the areas that matter most is what we have now.

As a new report from the Australian Council of Educational Research makes clear, a great many of our school syllabuses have all the consistency of 19th-century rail gauges, particularly in areas especially important to education union ideologues and curriculum commissars - English and history. There are 18 university entry high school English courses in Australia, but no novels, poems or plays are on all of them. And less than half the topics taught in Australian history are common across the country. The existence of nine state and territory systems ensures ample opportunities for fads and fashions to be imposed on children. From the social engineering exercises of the Victorian curriculum introduced at the end of the 1980s to the utterly discredited Outcomes Based Education plan that crippled the credibility of the Carpenter Government in Western Australia last year, the absence of a single set of national standards and subjects means education planners get away with curriculum crimes at a state level that would never be allowed if all the whole country were involved.

There is no need for it to be like this. The laws of physics do not change in the middle of the Murray. Nor does the Nullarbor transform the rules of grammar. And curriculum experts in maths and science around the country know it. According to the ACER, course content in advanced mathematics, physics and chemistry is almost identical all over Australia. But not in the humanities, the subjects that shape what students understand Australia to be about. There the education establishment pushes barrows piled high with their different political values. It beggars belief that what students need to know about our national achievements, and failings, differs in Darwin or Devenport. And it makes no sense for students who share a common culture to be taught different novels in different ways.

The tide is running against states' rights education orthodoxies. The Howard Government has long pushed for basic skills to be taught in schools and for pupil progress to be reported in ways parents understand. And it looks like Labor under Kevin Rudd is not interested in backing state governments that impose education fads such as OBE. But nobody should expect an outbreak of common sense on the subject of a national curriculum. State ministers are responding to Ms Bishop's suggestion just as they always do when anybody advances an idea that involves change. Canberra should butt out because everything is under control, some say. Others will add that schools are a state responsibility, before demanding more money from the federal government. The especially brazen will bluster that a common curriculum will dumb down standards in their state.

There is nothing new in any of this. When the last Labor government was in power in Canberra, the Liberal states used these lines. And while the roles are now reversed, the arguments remain the same. But Ms Bishop should persevere. The idea of a common curriculum is one whose time must come. It does not mean that across the continent every school should teach exactly the same thing in exactly the same way at exactly the same time every day. It does not mean there is no room for regional diversity. But it does mean that just as knowledge and core Australian values do not change at state lines, neither should the way they are taught.


Australia: Wherefore art the classics?

Senior Queensland English students can choose to organise a rock concert or learn about workplace rights rather than hunkering down to study classical English texts. The Federal Government yesterday used the Queensland Studies Authority's own website to hit back at claims by State Education Minister Rod Welford that English communications courses were not a soft option. Mr Welford said the courses focused on good writing, grammar and spelling - and were designed for students proceeding to vocational education, training courses and jobs.

But Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop said it was difficult to imagine how organising a concert met community expectations of what students should study in an English class. "Parents expect their children to learn the skills that will support further learning or their ability to find and hold down a job," Ms Bishop said. "Mr Welford's defence of these types of courses explain why he is so dismissive of the concerns of parents about standards of literacy and numeracy, which he recently described as a "tired old cliche".

Ms Bishop, who released a report this week which showed a lack of national consistency in classroom curricula, urged Mr Welford to read it as it made "a compelling case for higher standards and greater national consistency in schools". Ms Bishop said Australia had nine different senior secondary certificates with a bewildering array of variations. The Minister is devising a plan to standardise the core subjects - English, maths, physics, chemistry and Australian history - at Australian schools.

Prime Minister John Howard said that standardising core school subjects in states and territories across Australia was common sense and fair. "I can't understand how anybody could object to having a sufficiently common curricula around the nation to ensure that children who in any given school year go from one state to another are not disadvantaged," Mr Howard told ABC Radio. He said 70,000 Australian children travelled between states each year and he wanted to ensure their education did not suffer. "It is very disruptive and very damaging that you still don't have a situation where a child can go from Western Australia to Queensland without suffering a very significant disadvantage," he said. But he said a national education system would not mean every school's curriculum would be identical. "That doesn't mean that every classroom in every state should be teaching the same thing at the same time every day. It plainly doesn't mean that," he said.

Ms Bishop will present the plan to state and territory education ministers at a meeting in April.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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