- The Washington Times - Monday, May 23, 2005

Patriotic parody

“Textbooks prepared for students of American history have a predictable format. … Their titles are vaguely nationalistic but not patriotic. … The text has an authoritative tone. Sentences are short and declarative. … In addition to the customary photographs of important (and little-known) people, events and objects, there are many sidebars, which are usually distracting and often irrelevant to the text. …

“So predictable is the formula for high-school history textbooks that it is ripe for parody. And who better to parody it than the writers of the funniest fake news show on television, Jon Stewart’s ‘The Daily Show’? …

“The Daily Show’s ‘America’ is a wildly irreverent, politically incorrect, bawdy, obscene, outrageous presentation (and misrepresentation) of American history and government — and unlike other textbooks, this is a national bestseller. …

“Stewart’s raffish history cuts close to the bone and suggests … that today’s textbooks may be approaching the end of their run. They are not especially good teaching tools, due to their vapidity; they are incapable of inspiring curiosity or awakening genuine interest.”

—Dianne Ravitch, writing on “America the Unbelievable,” in the summer issue of Education Next

Forgotten idea

“Pornography, which only a generation ago had been assailed by feminists as the ultimate act of objectification, subordination, and dehumanization of women in a capitalist, patriarchal society [is] now … offered as an entertaining tidbit in the ‘Sunday Styles’ section of the [New York Times]. … As is so often the case these days, the world appeared upside down to me, and I almost felt like laughing, so absurd was the spectacle of naivete being paraded around as the last word in sophistication.

“But, before I knew it, I was feeling something more like nausea as I remembered that Andrea Dworkin, the radical feminist who dedicated her life to fighting ‘violence against women’ — the stark phrase that used to conjure up prostitution, incest, wife-beating, rape, and pornography as component parts of the same system of male power, as dangerous for girls and women as it was filled with hatred for them — had died just a few weeks before, at the miserably young age of 58. …

“What, I wondered, has happened to those 1970s feminist ‘Take-Back-the-Night’ rallies, where defiant young women marched through city streets to reclaim their right to walk unescorted and unmolested after dark? Had any of those college-educated, alt-porn promoters ever heard of them or of the radical feminist slogan, ‘Pornography is the theory, rape the practice’?”

—Rochelle Gurstein, writing on “The Triumph of the Pornographic Imagination,” in the May 18 issue of the New Republic Online at www.tnr.org

Enlightened’ folly

“The ‘self-help’ and ‘self-actualization’ movement is seldom recognized for what it is: a contributing factor to many of the problems now plaguing our society. … ‘Enlightened’ policies aimed at protecting self-esteem increasingly add costs to businesses, and obstacles to social improvement. …

“The self-help movement has changed the meanings of right and wrong, good and bad, winning and losing, while attaching entirely foreign connotations to once commonly understood terms like ‘family,’ ‘love,’ ‘discipline,’ ‘blame,’ ‘excellence,’ and ‘self-esteem.’” …

—Steve Salerno, writing on “Feel-Good Is Bad,” in the June issue of the American Enterprise

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