- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Self-taught genius
"I think genius is as common as air, and we have never had the imagination to figure out a social order or an economy that can deal with anything but a minority of the human talent out there. …
"As we sit here and talk, 2 million kids, 2 million, are involved in home-schooling. … Read Ben Franklin's 'Autobiography,' and you'll see that out of a family of 17 in a candlemaker's house, Franklin is putting himself, at the age of 12, through a curriculum that Harvard wouldn't dream of imposing on its freshmen, and furthermore he's working 60 hours a week while doing it! …
Under our noses, the record of American history and even the record of the American present is replete with examples of people from every social class shucking this [education] system and beginning to use their time to their own advantage. They just leap ahead.
"Look at the Williams sisters! They didn't have the money to get a tennis coach or to go to tennis camp. And the father … said to the girls, 'It's so easy to do. We'll watch videos we check out of the library, and we'll read these diagrams in the book — you know, you put your thumb here and your index finger there.'"
—John Taylor Gatto, educator and author, in a forum in the September issue of Harper's

Fast-food nation
"A few years ago, an old friend of my husband watched her 3-year-old son die after eating a tainted hamburger at a fast-food chain in Oregon. She is a pediatrician, and her son had good care; but there was simply nothing anyone could do for him. He was one of many Americans who become sick from what they eat. …
"Fast food is cheap; it is convenient; it is quintessentially American; and it has become an American staple — so much so that a quarter of the country eats it on any given day. Yet fast food, along with television, is one of the great leveling evils of the modern life. …
"[There are] many aspects of a 'fast-food nation,' from the high injury rates among meatpackers to the alchemy of the flavoring industry to the pervasive influence of cheapness-at-any-cost on the culture of an entire country — and now, the world."
—Katherine Dalton in "Hapless Meals" in the September issue of Chronicles

Pulpit silence
"On the first Sunday after the Catholic bishops criticized George W. Bush's decision to allow federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, I was curious to hear the follow-up in my parish. But far from talking about stem cells or the preciousness of human life, our priest mentioned his vacation at Cape Cod and then … nothing. …
"Given the way the debate over stem-cell research was ultimately cast — as a clash mainly between Catholic dogma and scientific necessity — one might have expected a little more agitation from the altar. Especially if one had read the reaction of the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. … 'We hope and pray,' said Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, 'that President Bush will return to a principled stand against treating some lives as nothing more than objects to be manipulated and destroyed for research purposes.' …
"[M]y non-Catholic friends seem to labor under the impression that Catholics spend their Sundays enduring thundering homilies on abortion and the pill. But in four decades of fairly regular church attendance … I can count on one hand the sermons I've heard on abortion. About contraception, in vitro fertilization, and stem-cell research, barely a peep, much less anything suggesting the linkage they all have to a culture of life.
"Informal surveys of acquaintances suggest I am not alone, as do polls … showing a majority of Catholics supporting legal abortion.
"And then we accuse a Texas Methodist, with almost no political ground to stand on and groping his way toward moral purpose, of having abandoned a 'principled stand.'"
—William McGurn, writing on "Preach to the Choir," Friday in the Wall Street Journal


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