- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

‘Progressive’ past

“In 1927, physicians at the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded in Lynchburg sterilized a young woman named Carrie Buck. Although doctors at state institutions across the country had performed sterilizations before, Carrie’s case was unusual. Her sterilization had received the imprimatur of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“In Buck v. Bell, the court upheld the state of Virginia’s right to sterilize, forcibly, so-called feeble-minded individuals. ‘It is better for all the world,’ Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote for the majority, ‘if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.’ Holmes concluded: ‘Three generations of imbeciles are enough.’ …

“Eugenics, a term coined by British scientist Francis Galton in 1883, means ‘good in birth’; its adherents hoped to improve the human race through better breeding. …

“Progressive politicians, intellectuals and religious leaders supported eugenics, seeing in it an enlightened, scientific attempt to cure humanity’s ills.”

— Christine Rosen, writing on “Humanizing Eugenics,” Tuesday in Opinion Journal at www.opinionjournal.com

Gloomy youth

“Here’s a surefire way to pitch a book idea: Take a sign of human progress — any sign — and spin out a tale of decline. The end of hunger? Try an obesity epidemic. More options on the supermarket shelf? Call that the crippling paradox of choice. That whole overpopulation thing not panning out? Start sweating the birth dearth.

“But if you haven’t been keeping up with the progress-as-panic publishing glut, take heart: Journalist Anya Kamenetz’s first book is a veritable Cliffs Notes for the entire genre. Better yet, she focuses her efforts on the biggest bummer of all: youth.

” ‘Generation Debt: Why Now Is a Terrible Time to Be Young’ is a long, somber journey into the ‘grim state’ of 20-something America. …

“Kamenetz, a 2002 Yale graduate, is the latest spokesperson for a paroxysm of anxiety among ‘emerging adults.’ …

“Worse than the misdiagnosis of her generation’s ills is Kamenetz’s insistence that her generation is somehow worse off than those previous. ‘As a direct consequence of the decline in public investment of education at every level,’ she sighs, ‘young people today are actually less educated than their parents.’ ”

— Kerry Howley, writing on “Poor Little Rich Kids,” Monday in Reason Online at www.reason.com

Marrying movies

“What do the following popular films have in common: ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’; ‘Maid in Manhattan’; ‘Sweet Home Alabama’; ‘Kate and Leopold’; ‘Notting Hill’; ‘Runaway Bride’; ‘You’ve Got Mail’; ‘Pretty Woman’; and ‘Sleepless in Seattle’?

“My daughters call them ‘chick flicks.’ A better label might be ‘marriage flicks,’ for all of them cast marriage as the great, satisfying, and truly fulfilling event in a woman’s life. None of these films, let alone the whole genre, could have been made in cynical, libertine, post-marriage Western Europe.

“The Europeans do not believe in Cinderella anymore; Americans still do. These films are distinctly our own: signs of a still extant cultural yearning for marriage and home.”

— Allan Carlson, from his new book, “Fractured Generations”

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