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June 3, 2005

The Ten Most Harmful Books

Growing up in Utah, where the state motto is, "When the Church (mormons) speaks, the thinking has been done.", The state where the elite attend God's University, BYU, where inscribed on the cornerstone of the library is, "The Glory of God is Intelligence" his not yours, prepares one for this sort of thing. Human Events asked a panel of 15 conservative scholars and public policy leaders to help compile a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries The purpose of which, I suppose, is to extend the "abstinence only" model to the harmful habit of reading what you choose to read. No sex outside of marriage and no unapproved reading without a permission slip from the right. The subversive that I am I must say I was most delighted that Dewey's "Democracy and Education" made the list. A book, as the blurb points out, that teaches the value of "thinking skills" a radical idea indeed. I was disappointed that Darwin's tomes only rated honorable mention. I don't know what you think, but as the kind soul that sent me the link remarked, this looks like a summer reading list to me. Did they leave any of your favorites off the list? Are you surprised, offended, nonplussed? Speak dear reader....

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March 14, 2005

Fruitcakes On The Street

You read, right? You like stories, poetry, you have a life outside of politics, right? One of my favorite sites, a daily read, is riley dog. But the dog is an aquired taste. You have to make a commitment. You have to promise to visit each day for an entire week. You have to follow the links and read, and if you can slow down just for a time each day you'll be better for it. Listen: there's a hell of a good universe next door: lets go...

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February 7, 2005

Another List

Everybody seems to be doing it from Oprah to Richard and Judy and now the BBC Page Turners The more the better, and quite an interesting list. Did I mention I love lists. So prized is a slot on the BBC's new television arts show that its planners feel obliged to reassure publishers that somebody has read all the books submitted - and filled in a piece of paper to prove it. The show is Page Turners, an attempt by the BBC to steal the mantle of Richard and Judy, the current patron saints of the book trade. [snip] Announcing a shortlist of 24 titles for its rival forthcoming daytime show from a 300-strong publishers' list of hopefuls, BBC1 added yesterday: "Each of the books was reviewed by a member of staff from the BBC or Princess Productions, who completed a review form for every book read." The shortlist in full About Grace by Anthony Doerr Becoming Strangers by Louise Dean Chronicles Volume One by Bob Dylan Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris Fools Rush In In by Bill Carter How To Breathe Under Water by Julie Orringer Not the End of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean How To Be a Bad Birdwatcher by Simon Barnes Feast: Food That Celebrates Life by Nigella Lawson Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro Inside Hitler's Bunker by Joachim Fest The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini The Understudy by David Nicholls The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka Light on Snow by Anita Shreve Let Me Go by Helga Schneider Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe Leonardo da Vinci: The Flights of the Mind by Charles Nicholl Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen...

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January 23, 2005

Bush's Ethics

Singer takes the Bush administration to task for allowing ideology to trump empiricism and sound reasoning. In a particularly effective passage Singer cites a story by the 19th century English mathematician and philosopher William Clifford, which illustrates the perils of basing ones ethics or actions on belief. Clifford asks us to imagine a shipowner who knows his ship could do with a costly inspection and repairs, but sincerely believes that Providence will see the ship and its passengers through on a difficult voyage. Clifford argues that the shipowner's belief was not acquired �by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts.� When the ship sinks its owner's guilt is not absolved by the sincerity of his faith; indeed he is culpable precisely for substituting belief in place of practical measures. What a wonderful analogy. George's "guilt is not absolved by the sincerity of his faith; indeed he is cuplable precisely for substituting belief in place of practical measures." Now read Philosophy Now Link to Review The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of George W. Bush Scott O�Reilly reviews Peter Singer�s review of George W. Bush�s statements on ethics. Inquiring after the ethics of George W. Bush might seem to many like a Herculean task, and possibly doomed to failure, but worth a try anyway. Peter Singer, one of the world's best-known philosophers, has taken up this daunting challenge in his The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of George W. Bush, and the result is a superbly instructive lesson on the strengths and limits of applying the methods of philosophy to current events....

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January 10, 2005

The Classics are for Everyone

City Journal Autumn 2004 by Jonathan Rose In 1988, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, president of the Modern Language Association, authoritatively stated (as something too obvious to require any evidence) that classic literature was always irrelevant to underprivileged people who were not classically educated. It was, she asserted, an undeniable "fact that Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare do not figure significantly in the personal economies of these people, do not perform individual or social functions that gratify their interests, do not have value for them." One should not be too hard on Professor Smith. She was merely echoing what was, at the time, standard academic opinion: that the Western classics embody a worldview that somehow "marginalizes" the poor, the nonwhite, the female, the "other," and justifies their subordination to white male "hegemony." And like so many postmodern critics, Professor Smith could be naively confident that she was in full possession of the facts, even without the benefit of research. But her theory had no visible means of support. Whenever it was tested, the results were diametrically opposed to what she predicted: in fact "the canon" enabled "the masses" to become thinking individuals. Until fairly recently, Britain had an amazingly vital autodidact culture, where a large minority of the working classes passionately pursued classic literature, philosophy, and music. They were denied the educational privileges that Professor Smith enjoyed, but they knew that the "great books" that she derided would emancipate the workers....

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