Sunday, March 16, 2014

An Academic Fraud Exposed

Emmett Tyrrell

From time to time, I put down my duties of writing about politics and other human follies and pick up a book, often a book of poetry, often by W. B. Yeats. The other night I read Yeats' poem "The Fiddler of Dooney." It is a little masterpiece, but then Yeats wrote so many masterpieces. It begins:

    "When I play on my fiddle in Dooney,

    Folk dance like a wave of the sea;

    My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,

    My brother in Mocharabuiee. "

And on it dances for a few more stanzas, delighting the eye and the ear and the mind. Yeats obviously chose each word with the utmost care and gave his words a structure that was finely disciplined -- good show W. B.!

    Yet there are perverse profs among us who lecture that the poet's words and structure could be cat scratchings on the page or hieroglyphics composed by a drunk. The words have no universal meaning. These profs call themselves "deconstructionists," and those who are not out-and-out frauds are obviously mental defectives. Readers under their spell could read Yeats, but they could also find meaning in chicken entrails, and you can eat chicken entrails. That is why I am taking immense pleasure in the revelations offered by a new book, "The Double Life of Paul de Man," by Evelyn Barish. I shall propose her for a Presidential Medal of Freedom once we get a proper president.

    De Man was a knock-about litterateur in Nazi-occupied Belgium who after the war made his way to New York City, then to Bard College, then Harvard, and finally he landed at Yale where he was fabulous in advancing the cause of deconstructionism among the professoriate who, by the way, are pretty dreadful writers. There were a lot of these prehensile émigrés absconding from Europe after World War II. He died in 1983, which was lucky for him. Four years after his death it was discovered that while in Belgium he had written hundreds of literary articles for a collaborationist newspaper, one of which in 1941 speculated on what European literature would be like if the Jews were shipped to a remote colony. I doubt that de Man had Israel in mind. Of a sudden de Man's photo was appearing in Newsweek with photos of Nazi troops on the march.

    Then things quieted down until Barish appeared with her book. Kirkus Reviews has called it the biography of a "master confidence man." She went back to de Man's early life on the Continent and found him indeed writing for collaborationists and even proposing an art magazine booming Nazi art. He was involved in various swindles and left Europe one step ahead of the law. In 1951, he was sentenced to five years in a Belgian prison for fraud, though by then he was plying his talents in New York City. He taught at Bard College, had affairs with vulnerable girls, and even married one, bigamously. He got his Ph.D. at Harvard where he occasionally skipped examinations, misrepresented his resume, and had his European record almost exposed. "He was," Barish told an interviewer "an enormously persuasive reinventor of himself."

    Barish ends her book before de Man began his major teaching at Cornell and eventually at Yale, where he spread his theories of deconstruction like a smog. Yet she did say this about the imposter's philosophy. She apparently told the New York Times that she found that his philosophy -- "the idea that meaning cannot be pinned down" and that "clear-cut moral judgments are impossible" -- was "just a waste of time."

    Well, Barish is a sophisticate. She let him off easy. To my mind de Man could have been a Nazi collaborator, a communist collaborator, a progressive collaborator. It all depends where he landed at a given time. There have been a lot like him and there will be more.


Put the Sex Back in Sex Ed

Camille Paglia 

When public schools refuse to acknowledge gender differences, we betray boys and girls alike

Fertility is the missing chapter in sex education. Sobering facts about women’s declining fertility after their 20s are being withheld from ambitious young women, who are propelled along a career track devised for men.

The refusal by public schools’ sex-education programs to acknowledge gender differences is betraying both boys and girls. The genders should be separated for sex counseling. It is absurd to avoid the harsh reality that boys have less to lose from casual serial sex than do girls, who risk pregnancy and whose future fertility can be compromised by disease. Boys need lessons in basic ethics and moral reasoning about sex (for example, not taking advantage of intoxicated dates), while girls must learn to distinguish sexual compliance from popularity.

Above all, girls need life-planning advice. Too often, sex education defines pregnancy as a pathology, for which the cure is abortion. Adolescent girls must think deeply about their ultimate aims and desires. If they want both children and a career, they should decide whether to have children early or late. There are pros, cons and trade-offs for each choice.

Unfortunately, sex education in the U.S. is a crazy quilt of haphazard programs. A national conversation is urgently needed for curricular standardization and public transparency. The present system is too vulnerable to political pressures from both the left and the right–and students are trapped in the middle.

Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education but leave instructional decisions to school districts. Sex-ed teachers range from certified health educators to volunteers and teenage “peer educators” with minimal training. That some instructors may import their own sexually permissive biases is evident from the sporadic scandals about inappropriate use of pornographic materials or websites.

The modern campaign for sex education began in 1912 with a proposal by the National Education Association for classes in “sexual hygiene” to control sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis. During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop called for sex education starting in third grade. In the 1990s, sex educators turned their focus to teenage pregnancy in inner-city communities.

Sex education has triggered recurrent controversy, partly because it is seen by religious conservatives as an instrument of secular cultural imperialism, undermining moral values. It’s time for liberals to admit that there is some truth to this and that public schools should not promulgate any ideology. The liberal response to conservatives’ demand for abstinence-only sex education has been to condemn the imposition of “fear and shame” on young people. But perhaps a bit more self-preserving fear and shame might be helpful in today’s hedonistic, media-saturated environment.

My generation of baby-boom girls boldly rebelled against the cult of virginity of the Doris Day 1950s, but we left chaos in our wake. Young people are now bombarded prematurely with sexual images and messages. Adolescent girls, routinely dressing in seductive ways, are ill-prepared to negotiate the sexual attention they attract. Sex education has become incoherent because of its own sprawling agenda. It should be broken into component parts, whose professionalism could be better ensured.

First, anatomy and reproductive biology belong in general biology courses taught in middle school by qualified science teachers. Every aspect of physiology, from puberty to menopause, should be covered. Students deserve a cool, clear, objective voice about the body, rather than the smarmy, feel-good chatter that now infests sex-ed workbooks.

Second, certified health educators, who advise children about washing their hands to avoid colds, should discuss sexually transmitted diseases at the middle-school or early-high-school level. But while information about condoms must be provided, it is not the place of public schools to distribute condoms, as is currently done in the Boston, New York and Los Angeles school districts. Condom distribution should be left to hospitals, clinics and social-service agencies.

Similarly, public schools have no business listing the varieties of sexual gratification, from masturbation to oral and anal sex, although health educators should nonjudgmentally answer student questions about the health implications of such practices. The issue of homosexuality is a charged one. In my view, antibullying campaigns, however laudable, should not stray into political endorsement of homosexuality or gay rights causes. While students must be free to create gay-identified groups, the schools themselves should remain neutral and allow society to evolve on its own.


NRA shirt gets N.Y. high school student suspended

A New York high school student was recently suspended for refusing to take off an NRA shirt that said “The Second Amendment shall not be infringed.”

Shane Kinney, 16, of Grand Island High School was suspended for one day for an NRA shirt that his parents say he has worn before with no problems, a local station reported.

PHOTOS: Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
“It’s the same shirt he’s worn before, but this time they said something about it,” Shane’s father, Wayne, told the station. All family members belong to the gun rights organization, and their son considers himself an outdoorsman.

“They said it was the guns,” Mr. Kinney said. Adorned on the shirt are two crossed rifles.

Shane’s mother believes that simply having the image of a gun on a shirt doesn’t mean that the owner should be suspected of desiring wanton death and destruction.

“Yes it has guns on it, but it doesn’t mean you are for any kind of violence,” Kim Kinney told the station.

The local station reported that while the school code notes that attire is not meant to “disrupt or interfere with the educational process,” it does not specifically address political statements or images of firearms.

Regardless, the young man also violated another part of the school code when he refused to obey a teacher’s request to turn the shirt inside out.

“Shane will probably not wear shirts like this to school anymore,” Mrs. Kinney told the station. “He can hold firmly to his beliefs but for those 7 hours a day, five days a week he’s in school, you have to kind of follow their rules like it or not. But he’ll move on, he’ll graduate, and probably serve our country and wear lots of shirts like that.”

The schools superintendent was told she was unavailable for comment, the station reported.


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