Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Is the #Bible is one of the 21 most overrated #books ever?


A new article in GQ lists the "21 most overrated books ever." Of the 21 books GQ lists that aren't worth reading, one of them is the Bible. It's enough to make you wonder if GQ is a magazine worth reading.

The Bible gets the boot, along with Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea and Farewell to Arms, Cormack McCarthy's Blood Meridian, David McCullough's John Adams, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, and the book that British readers voted the best book of the twentieth century, Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

As an act of literary vandalism, the article isn't exactly convincing. In some of their complaints, the authors (the apparently culturally illiterate GQ editorial staff) sound like women's studies professors having a bad hair day (some of the books are "sexist")--or like Jesse Jackson on, well, any day (some are "racist"). It adds, "but most are just really, really boring."

Say this for the Visigoths: At least they didn't pretend they were pursuing some high-mined ideological agenda when they helped destroy civilization, nor did they find what they were vandalizing to be particularly "boring."

In each case, GQ recommends another, usually more obscure book to read for each of the classic books it denigrates.

Old Man and the Sea is to be replaced by The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, a "series of vignettes about a grandmother and granddaughter living on a remote Finnish island." I'm sure it is good--as far as books about remote Finnish islands go. 

And displacing Blood Meridian is The Sisters Brothers, the New York Times #1 bestseller (not really) by Patrick deWitt, about two hired killers in the Old West--but an Old West, we can be sure, sanitized of racism and sexism.

Instead of the Bible? The new-wave European Notebook by Agota Kristof. If you've never heard of it, don't worry. You're not alone. But among GQ editors, it's all the rage.

And even though their unwanted list happily includes two J.D. Salanger books, they make the mistake of admitting that they actually enjoyed them in school. Never trust anyone who liked Catcher in the Rye. Even in school.

The article is written in a tongue-in-cheek tone, but still, an article like this makes you wonder whether you can trust GQ on anything. The magazine is, according to the its online self-portrait, devoted to men's fashion, style, grooming, fitness, and lifestyle.  Given the bad taste evinced here, can you even trust these people on men's fashion?

Soon they'll be trying to bring back ... wait. They are! Wallabees? Seriously? 

All in all, the GQ editors find that the body of great Western literature is just too filled with "rigid masculine emotional landscapes," "misogynistic gender roles," and "masculine bluster." I'm guessing that if the editorial staffs for GQ and Ms. magazines were secretly switched one day, no one would ever notice.

Except the Ms. editors would at least have enough fashion sense not to think that donning wallabees was a particularly compelling fashion statement.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

I will be speaking at the CiRCE Institute's liberal arts conference in Louisville May 18-19


 The Fruitful Garden

I will be speaking at the CiRCE Institute's regional conference in Louisville on the liberal arts on May 18-19, along with Chris Perrin, Professor Carol and Hank Reynolds, Adam Andrews, Brian Philips and Matt Bianco. It's at the historic Seelbach Hotel. Check it out.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Classical Education is More than a Method: The Secondary Place of Dorothy Sayer's Trivium



My article in the newest Classical Teacher is now up at the Memoria Press website: "Classical Education is More than a Method: The Secondary Place of Dorothy Sayer's Trivium."

If you were to ask most classical educators what classical education is, you would find them hard-pressed to give a short, coherent answer. That is the way with a lot of movements: It’s easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm, but when asked to formulate what it is that excites you, it’s hard to articulate.

But when you can get an answer to the question, “What is classical education?,” it is almost always in terms of Dorothy Sayers’ trivium, her three “states of development”—the grammar stage, the dialectic stage, and the rhetoric stage. These together, we are told, are what constitute a classical education.

The origin of this conception of classical education can be found in a speech Sayers gave to students at Oxford University during a vacation term in 1947, titled “The Lost Tools of Learning.” Despite the lack of attention paid to it at the time or in the succeeding decades, its republication in Douglas Wilson’s 1991 book, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, made it a rallying cry for thousands of classical home and private schools across the country.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

This Just In From the Cultural Authorities: "Civilization" a Bad Word

A new update of Kenneth Clark's famous "Civilization" mini-series turns Clark upside down.

Kenneth Clark's "Civilization" mini-series, produced by the BBC and aired on American public television in 1969, celebrated the Western art and culture it depicted and explained. The show was one of the most widely watched and re-aired shows of its kind at the time, and is still discussed today, almost fifty years after its television debut.

In fact Clark, the famous British art critic who hosted the original show, was unambiguous about why he was doing the show in the first place. According to Eric Gibson, who reviewed public television's new update of the show, Clark "developed his series as a response—even a rebuke—to those 'advanced thinkers [of his time]…who have begun to question if civilization is worth preserving."

One wonders what he would say of the new show.

Called "Civilizations" (note the additional 's' in the title), the new program isn't nearly as keen as Clark was on the civilization on which it purports to be describing. Rather than focus on Western civilization, which apparently fallen into disrepute by the cultural philistines who run things like public television, the new show takes a "global approach."

Says Gibson, the very word "civilization" is now politically charged, "implying as it does hierarchies of achievement and value judgments, not to mention its opposite: barbarism."

That someone would say that our culture is better than any other or that some other culture is deficient in some way is the kind of thing that causes fainting spells among our intellectual class. They have reached such a high level of cultural sophistication that they can now declare that all cultures are good--except the one they live in.

But this is the thing about those who pretend to be value-neutral: The very moment after congratulating themselves on the fact they they don't make judgments, the contradict themselves.

"But there is one respect in which “Civilizations” is decidedly not value-free," says Gibson, "and that is in its attitude toward the West. If there are any barbarians in this series, they are the denizens of Europe, who are nearly always depicted as racists, conquerors, looters, slave owners, colonialists and originators of the lurid 'male gaze' in art."

No viewpoint is better than any other (except your own). There are no barbarians (except the people you don't like).

And as we might expect from the postmodernist cultural elites, there is a bias against traditional religion: "The history of Christianity is recounted variously as propaganda or 'a blood sacrifice' along the lines—and I’m not making this up—of the Aztecs’ ritual practices."

Are we supposed to take that as a slight on Christianity, which these people hate? Or as a PR upgrade for the Aztecs who, being indigenous Americans, are a privileged race? It is hard to tell.



As Gibson points out, all fifteen episodes of the original "Civilization" series are on Youtube. If you want an account of our civilization by someone who is on the side of civilization, you'd best go there.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Villa of the Papyri

The following is my Letter from the Editor in the spring, 2018 issue of The Classical Teacher:
In 79 A.D., the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in eastern Italy covered nearby towns in ash and completely buried many of them. Accounts of the ancient eruption paint a horrific scene: Volcanic pumice rained from the skies and waves of searing hot gas and debris swept over the nearby landscape. Thousands died where they stood, and others fell while in flight.
One of the towns that was buried in the eruption was Herculaneum, which at the time was a popular vacation spot for wealthy Romans. According to some historical accounts, Julius Caesar‘s father-in-law, Calpurnius Piso, owned an elaborate seaside villa in the town. He is reputed to have had one of the great libraries of ancient times.
For almost seventeen centuries the ancient town lay in darkness underground. Excavations of Herculaneum were conducted in the mid-eighteenth century, and Calpurnius Piso’s villa was located. But nearby landowners put a stop to the excavation, and the location was forgotten.
Then in the 1980s excavations were begun again, and special attention was given to Calpurnius’ villa. When excavators began their work they discovered numerous statues and other works of art, many of them in pristine condition.
Then they began to discover something else—scrolls, some of them in the boxes in which they had been placed for transportation during the panic, others littered on the floor. The scrolls were carbonized by the intense heat of the gas from the volcano and solidified into stone. They began to call Calpurnius’ Villa the Villa of the Papyri.
With the development of modern multi-spectral imaging, the burnt scrolls are just beginning to be deciphered. Some scholars are holding their breath over the works of philosophy and literature that might come to light, many of them unknown or lost. We only possess a small fraction of the works of ancient times. St. Augustine cites Cicero‘s Hortensiusas a formative book in his thinking, but all we know of it is what he and a few others quoted in their works. The vast majority of the works of the Greek tragic poets—AeschylusSophocles, and Euripides—were lost long ago.
Could these works lie hidden in ash in the library of Calpurnius Piso? It is exciting to think that they might.
But while we yearn for the discovery of heretofore lost works, what are we doing to learn the ones that have been preserved, and which we have yet to read? Are they not as much lost to us as the works in the Villa of the Papyri? Shouldn’t we wonder as much at the works we have but do not know as at the prospect of the discovery of others?
The treasury of our culture may be missing important things, but it is rich nevertheless. And in many ways, too, this treasury has been covered up by time and neglect. It has been buried in disinterest and distraction and hidden by layer upon layer of modern educational fads and gimmicks.
The work of classical education is to excavate the deep and rich tradition of wisdom and virtue that lies at our very feet, and to decipher the scrolls we have had all along.
We don’t need a spade or multi-spectral imaging. We don’t even need to go to Italy. The works are here at our fingertips. All we need to do is take the trouble to read them.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

As it turns out, the debate over SB 48 had nothing to do with #childbrides at all

WDRB's story about the passage of SB 48 today, a hearing in which I testified in favor of the bill which the Family Foundation had an important part in strengthening:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- A bill designed to prevent Kentucky’s children from getting married at a young age passed a key hurdle Tuesday in Frankfort. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill 10-0.
Currently, Kentucky has no minimum age limit for marriage, but anyone under 16 must have permission from a judge.
Senate Bill 48 -- known as the Child Bride Bill -- raises the legal age of marriage in Kentucky without parental consent to 18, and officials won't be able to issue marriage licenses to anyone under the age of 16 regardless of parental approval.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

The Carnival of Absurdity on #SB48



Yesterday, the Courier-Journal wrote an error-filled article titled "Kentucky's 'child bride' bill stalls as groups fight to let 13-year-olds wed." Its author, Deborah Yetter, a liberal writer for the paper, took what seemed to be all of the wild rhetoric of some supporters of the bill, and enshrined them in a news story. Then the story was taken by national newspapers and broadcast all over the country.

Not only was the title blatantly false to the point of being scurrilous, but the story itself blatantly misrepresented the Family Foundation's position on SB 48. 

"A bill to make 18 the legal age for marriage in Kentucky has stalled in a Senate committee amid concerns about the rights of parents to allow children to wed at a younger age, according to several lawmakers," says Yetter. And good luck trying to correct this falsehood, given that Yetter contacts the Family Foundation office only about an hour and 15 minutes before she posts her story and is then able to write "Family Foundation Executive Director Kent Ostrander did not respond to requests for comment."

Nice.

She never attempted to call me (which she's done frequently in the past), who was the one handling communications on this issue.

First of all, this bill does not ban child marriages if by that anyone means the prohibiting all marriages of minors. It allows 17 year-olds to marry under certain conditions. The only debate was over what those conditions were. The Family Foundation wanted to keep current provisions that allowed parents to consent and opposed taking away the right of all parents, bad and good, and handing it to judges.

The Family Foundation has always supported the provisions in the bill that prevent children under 17 from marrying. The only issue with the bill was that it took away parental consent in the case of 17 year-olds and gave it to the very judges who, we now know (if all the rhetoric about the crisis of child marriages is to be believed) were allowing children under 16 years-old to get married (Under KY law, only a judge can do this).

Second, the Foundation just asked the chairman for a week to fix this problem. He recognized that the concerns were reasonable and was kind enough to do this. And we never asked that it be delayed past the first week. In any case, I believe we are going to see an improved bill come out of the committee next week.

The Foundation never said anything publicly about the bill until inaccurate stories like Yetter's hit the web, after which it became imperative to correct the misapprehensions that were on the loose. It didn't even lobby against the bill, with the exception of conversations that were had with three or four committee members, none of whom were asked to vote against the bill, since negotiations were still happening.

But the carnival of absurdity that the talk surrounding this bill has engendered is a wonder to behold.

Partly thanks to the Courier-Journal's ethically-challenged journalism, people think the opposition to the bill is about whether 13 year-olds can marry. 

Seriously.

Of course, it doesn't help that nobody who thinks they are qualified to comment on this online bothers to know the facts, read the bill, or even understand the legislative process (the bill was never "killed" as some online sites reported). 

Inaccuracy and bias is not something the CJ has ever shied away from. But they've almost outdone themselves this time.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Should we go back to paper ballots?

My latest article at Intellectual Takeout

Barbara Simons is a female computer scientist, which means she’s in a minority in the male-dominated computer field.

But she is also a part of a significant minority of tech minds who think that we ought to go back to paper ballots in order to ensure proper security.

Simons, a retired pioneer researcher at IBM is the subject of a feature article in The Atlantic magazine. According to the article, Simons’ has been a voice in the wilderness on the issue of the risks of electronic voting systems. But with concerns about Russian hacking of voting systems that have arisen since the 2016 election, that is now changing.

At the annual Def Con hacker conference in Las Vegas, Simons participated in a staged attack on voting machines. “I lose sleep over this. I hope you will too,” she told the participants, mostly hackers.

Four voting machines had been secured for the event, three of them types still in use. One team of hackers used radio signals to eavesdrop on a machine as it recorded votes. Another found a master password online. Within hours of getting their hands on the machines, the hackers had discovered vulnerabilities in all four.

Reporters who before the 2016 election would have ignored her, crowded around her after the event.

“The problem with cybersecurity,” said Simons, “is that you have to protect against everything, but your opponent only has to find one vulnerability.”

In addition, ballots must be “anonymous and yet verifiable, secret and yet accountable,” says Eric Hodge of CyberScout, a security-services company that advises states and counties.

Paper, Simons said, is the best answer to this riddle. Marked clearly and correctly, it’s a portable and transparent record of voter intent, one that voters themselves can verify, at least while the ballot is still in their possession. It’s also a permanent record, unlike computer memory, which can always be overwritten. “There’s no malware that can attack paper,” Simons said. “We can solve this. We know how to do it.”

Sometimes the most primitive technology is the best.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Has Motherhood Been Politicized?

My most recent post at Intellectual Takeout:

The chief characteristic of postmodern secular liberalism is its tendency to openly deny reality.

The most recent occasion of opposing the obvious is Psychologist Erica Komisar, whose new book, Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters, has come close to causing fainting spells among the Cultural Authorities.

What did Komisar claim in this seemingly innocuous book that has so traumatized our cultural elites?

That “mothers are biologically necessary for babies.”

She also claimed that a mother provides different benefits to a newborn child than a father, and that the absence of mothers can lead to developmental problems for the child later in life.

Komisar came to these conclusions after treating families for three decades, first as a clinical social worker and then an analyst. As she told the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto:

“What I was seeing was an increase in children being diagnosed with ADHD and an increase in aggression in children, particularly in little boys, and an increase in depression in little girls. More youngsters were also being diagnosed with ‘social disorders’ whose symptoms resembled those of autism—‘having difficulty relating to other children, having difficulty with empathy.’”
Taranto says Komisar “started to put the pieces together,” and found that “the absence of mothers in children’s lives on a daily basis was what I saw to be one of the triggers for these mental disorders.” She began to devour the scientific literature and found that it reinforced her intuition.

Of course, this should come as a surprise to no one with any experience of family life. But while Komisar’s opinions are based on both experience and research, there are those who oppose it based on ideology.

Her book has been welcomed on Christian radio and Fox & Friends, but shunned by NPR, and covered coldly by Good Morning America, whose interviewer (according to Komisar) told her before going on air, “I don’t believe in the premise of your book at all. I don't like your book.”

Literary agents rejected her book because it “would make women feel guilty.” She was rejected from a speaking engagement for a similar reason and told, “How dare you.”

Unfortunately, Komisar is an outlier in a world in which ideology now trumps reason, evidence, and common sense.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Why the pedophile scandal in Hollywood was hushed up

My post today at Intellectual Takeout:

According to Hollywood logic, if you sexually harass underage boys, for Heaven's sake don't also say that you're gay.

In recent days, the floodgates have opened, and the cesspool of sexual harassment inside Hollywood is being revealed for all to see.

Hollywood... you know: the people who like to give the rest of us sanctimonious lectures at their self-congratulatory awards ceremonies about how we should act?

It started out with Harvey Weinstein, a film producer and former studio executive. The news about Weinstein has been followed by actresses' accounts of sexual harassment that they received at the hands of other Hollywood figures. 

But as it turns out, Hollywood's male sexual predators are not out only for young (adult) women, but boys. We've moved from sexual harassment to pedophilia.

The first revelation came when Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of sexual harassment when Rapp was 14 years old. Now it is coming to light that the scandal is much bigger.

Matthew Valentinas, an entertainment lawyer, has produced a documentary film about the sexual abuse of teenage boys in Hollywood called "An Open Secret." On an episode of the WEMU public radio show "1A" that aired on Wednesday of this week, Valentinas described a world in which boys run a gauntlet of sexual predators.

There is, says Valentinas, a "well-coordinated, planned out grooming system in Hollywood which is very well organized." Boys are lured in by the promise of fame and fortune, are then given drugs, get "passed around," all the while having their careers carefully controlled by their abusers.

And, as the title of Valentinas' film attests, this is not something other people in Hollywood didn't know about. But despite this having gone on for years, none of the people who are constantly lecturing the rest of us on our political and social priorities thought to say anything.

They didn't have much to say about the systematic sexual predation that infected the whole industry, but they have plenty to say about one errant remark by Kevin Spacey.

Spacey's depredations are one thing. But you know what many in Hollywood are really steamed about? That he announced he was gay after his lechery was discovered.

Everyone knows it is absolutely impermissible to imply that there is any relation between being gay and pedophilia. Pedophilia is bad, but attributing it to homosexuality is the unforgivable sin.

Why did Spacey reveal this about himself when he did? For the same reason Mark Foley, a Republican congressman from Florida did it in 2006 when it was discovered he had been sexting teenage boys. For the same reason that former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey announced in 2004 that he was a "gay American" in the wake of revelations that he had had an affair with a former male aide.

This is what in-the-closet gay men do when it is publicly revealed that they are pedophiles. They do it because they know that being gay usually earns them cultural bonus points. What they don't count on is that their bonus points are taken away by the very people they're trying to impress, all of whom are standing behind the television cameras mouthing "Shut up, you idiot!!!"

Ever wonder why the "open secret" of male-on-male pedophilia gets hushed up in places like Hollywood? Maybe because it might look bad for a favored political group.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

I will be speaking at the University of Dallas this Saturday, Oct. 7

I will be joining Professor Carol Reynolds and several others at the University of Dallas this Saturday, Oct. 7 to talk about arts education. If you are in the Dallas area, come on down!

For more information on “An Exploration of Beauty,” sponsored by The University of Dallas and Professor Carol and to register for the conference, just go to Professor Carol’s website: ProfessorCarol.com.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Lexington mayor issues open invitation to every crazed White supremacist in the country. Bad idea. #Racism #

From my article at Intellectual Takeout yesterday:
Okay, so the last time someone took down a Confederate monument, hundreds of racists showed up and precipitated a violent class with anti-racist demonstrators some of whom unwisely brought weapons themselves. The result was someone dying. 
Now you're the major of an arguably Southern town, and what do you do? You announce to the country that you're going to take down a Confederate monument. 
Yeah. That'll calm everybody down.
Read the rest here.