- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2000

Oprah 101

"The power of Oprah. Presidential candidates pander to her. Stars rub elbows with her. Confused teen-agers confide in her. The public watches her. And now she's the subject of academic study.

"That's right: The University of Alberta's English department offers an undergraduate course called 'Reading Oprah.' It's designed to dissect the Oprah mystique … . Here's what the syllabus says:

"c Students keep a record of whatever they're 'thinking about Oprah' in a journal …

"c They must read books, such as Toni Morrison's 'Beloved,' and Alice Walker's 'The Color Purple,' that Oprah has touted as personally important to her …

"c In the final examination, they respond to two of five questions. For example: 'Imagine that you have been invited to be a guest producer for one Oprah show. Develop a detailed proposal for this show, including focus, guests, structure, etc. Given your critical (analytical) perspective, what would you hope to achieve? (Be bold in your ambitions!)' "

From "In Box" in the Oct. 6 Chronicle of Higher Education

The good news?

"You may envy New York City. You may mock it. You may even hate it. But you ignore it at your peril, for the bible of contemporary American culture the holy scripture that canonizes the values and beliefs that control much of your life is published there. And its name is the New York Times.

"As … the Times' influence unfolds, you will encounter a comprehensive worldview that may seem familiar and rightly so. Most likely, you are exposed to the Times' values-laden messages every single day in the news reports that reach you through your own newspaper, local television, radio outlets, and the Internet.

"If you take time to analyze those messages, you will soon surmise that you are dealing with a well-designed belief system, which touches every aspect of life. In effect, you are being exposed to a gospel, but one that is a far cry from the traditional good news of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

"Rather, this gospel is rooted in a kind of secular theology that purposes to convey infallible social, moral and political truth a truth that the paper fervently promotes with all the zeal of the fieriest proselytizer.

"Although the gospel according to the New York Times encompasses may specific beliefs and doctrines … all point to a basic and absolute tenet, which can be summed up in this statement of faith:

"To be a good person and a productive member of society and to attain maximum self-realization I must believe in the values, rights, and standards of behavior established by the Times."

William Proctor, from his new book, "The Gospel According to the New York Times"

'Desire for truth'

"Picking up on an age-old theme in the philosophical tradition, Pope John Paul II argues that the 'desire for truth' is … 'part of human nature itself.'

"It is 'an innate property of human reason to ask why things are as they are… . Human beings are astounded to discover themselves as part of the world, in a relationship with others like them,' and they ultimately long to know the truth about and the meaning of this experience… .

"According to John Paul, this longing for transcendent truth is coeval with human existence: All men and women 'shape a comprehensive vision and an answer to the question of life's meaning.'

"And it is in the light of this vision and answer that 'they interpret their own life's course and regulate their behavior.'

"It will surprise no one to learn that the pope believes this longing is ultimately a desire and nostalgia for God or that he is convinced there is something to satisfy it."

Damon Linker, writing on "John Paul II, Intellectual," in the October/November issue of Policy Review

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