- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

American Catholicity
"Among Catholic intellectuals, as well as some who are not Catholic, the most important Catholic inheritance is the natural-law tradition, which is premised on the idea that there are certain truths in the world that remain true irrespective of whether the laws and conventions of any particular society adhere to them .
"At the height of the Cold War, American universities produced those intellectual figures whom David Halberstam called 'the best and the brightest,' and humility was not exactly one of their personality traits. But in a remarkably short time, the culture of American academe shifted from the hubristic arrogance of those who believed they could bend a foreign country to their will to those currently ensconced in the university who doubt the possibility of will, truth, morality, beauty or any other category that strikes them as ready for deconstruction.
"At a time when the only thing we can know is that we cannot know anything, the claims of natural law suggest to us not that the world is unknowable, Catholics are likely to hold that the truth of God's existence must mean the truth of man's reason, art's beauty and morality's universality .
"Post-September 11 America is a more morally serious place than the society that preceded, and as future generations of students grapple with a world in which evil has a real existence, an education rooted in a tradition that has historically appealed to conservative principles and attracted conservative adherents will be more meaningful for them."
Alan Wolfe, writing on "The Intellectual Advantages of a Roman Catholic Education" in the May 31 Chronicle of Higher Education


Wal-Marting America
"Newspapers these days worry about a lot of things, from declining circulation to newsroom diversity woes to online aggregators trying to steal the classified-ad franchise. But one of the biggest threats to newspapers may very well be the new generation of Supercenters that Wal-Mart is planting in an ever-closer proximity to each other all across the country.
"Wal-Mart, of course, has been a retailing juggernaut and famous shunner of newspaper advertising going all the way back to 1962, when Sam Walton and his brother, Bud, opened their first store in Rogers, Ark. Built on cheap land in rural markets, the first Wal-Marts set a pattern as slash-and-burn competitors.
"When Iowa State University economist Kenneth E. Stone studied the effect Wal-Mart stores had on small towns in Iowa between 1983 and 1993, he estimated Wal-Mart sent 7,300 businesses packing. Among them were 555 grocery stores or supermarkets, 293 building-supply stores and 264 men's or women's apparel stores .
"Wal-Mart is no longer an overgrown five-and-dime store with clothes and sporting goods: Customers now can buy the week's groceries and get their kids' pictures taken, their eyes examined, their cars fixed and their gas tanks filled. Many Supercenters offer banking Wal-Mart is even trying to buy a bank in California and a few are experimenting with used-car sales. There were 260 of these behemoths in 1996. There are 1,100 of them now ."
Mark Fitzgerald, writing on "Monster in a Box" in the May 27 issue of Editor & Publisher


Fantasy role model
"Fans of Nancy Drew tend to say they love the character because she is a proto-feminist, a good role model for girls . But rereading the pile of Nancy Drews I found at my local library, I began to think the books' appeal lies in something other than feminism .
"Nancy Drew is just right, and always the best at everything from horseback riding to water ballet, to name the two that impressed me most when I was 9 .
"Nancy never misses her boyfriend, Ned, who is often conveniently 'in Europe' or at college. She doesn't mourn her lost mother. She doesn't have the self-doubt that plagues most contemporary teen-age characters. What she does have is a seemingly endless flow of cash. And a nice car. And the chance to take excellent vacations because she is neither in school nor gainfully employed .
"In short, the Nancy Drew stories are both pure mysteries and glamour fantasies Food, clothes and vacations to dude ranches, summer cottages and historic castles it's all closer to reading old copies of Mademoiselle magazine than it is to Agatha Christie."
Emily Jenkins, writing on "The Case of the Girl Detective" on Salon.com, posted June 10


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