- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2003

Posh postmodernism

“We don’t need to be postmodernists to see what’s chiefly on [University of Illinois professor] Gerald Graff’s mind in [his new book] ‘Clueless in Academe.’ He is passionately worried about the alienation of so many college students from arguments and ideas. He believes that without an understanding of how to make an argument … they won’t be good students or, more important, good citizens. …

“And Mr. Graff has some practical, if nontraditional, ideas about how to teach the art of rhetoric. Does your otherwise-apathetic high schooler have an intense interest in motorcycles? Then get him to research motorcycles and write about them. …

“But here is where things get postmodern again. …

“Is Shakespeare criticism too boring, too irrelevant? Teach the criticism of the Spice Girls then — anything that piques students’ interest and draws them into the critical palaver. Along the way, he believes, we need to abandon the notion that the university represents something apart from the culture in which it resides: ‘The university is itself popular culture,’ Mr. Graff writes, and it’s foolish to insist on any kind of separation.”

Steven Lagerfeld, writing on “Shakespeare and the Spice Girls,” Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal

‘Eco-feminism’

“Dr. Vandana Shiva is likely the world’s most celebrated holistic eco-feminist, deep ecologist, postmodernist [L]uddite, anti-globalizer, and spokesperson for those she claims are without a voice. Because she has advanced degrees in science, Shiva is useful for providing legitimacy to a range of anti-science views on the part of those who mistrust scientific inquiry (except where they think that it will promote their ideological agenda).

” … Being able to cite Shiva as a presumed authority allows them to talk about global agriculture without any substantive knowledge of how peoples around the world raise crops and feed their families. One wonders how many academics obtained tenure on the basis of books and articles for which Shiva was a major source. …

“Shiva’s ideas, which are shared and promoted in the West by eco-feminists and others as radical and revolutionary, often turn out to have reactionary consequences where they are practiced in India.

“This may come as a shock to the true believers, but for many the faith in the fundamental rightness of Shiva’s message is so firm that it would be a near impossibility to convince them otherwise.”

University of Houston professor Thomas R. DeGregori, writing on “Shiva the Destroyer?” at www.butterfliesandwheels.com

Licensing fraud

“There are some great libertarian themes in ‘Catch Me If You Can.’ … Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the more-or-less true story of Frank Abagnale Jr., a kid and master of deception who managed to work as a teacher, a physician, an attorney and prosecutor, and an airline pilot, all before his 18th birthday. …

“The choice of these professions is significant. They are all professions in which the government exercises an unusual degree of control over who is in and who is out. —

“In a free market, what a person is is determined by how well a person does. But it’s different in state-controlled professions. You can be a great doctor but without the license to practice, you are guilty of a serious crime. The same is true in aviation and law. It is not enough to be good at what you do. You must jump through hoops held by politicians and bureaucrats. The fraud at the heart of pretending to be a lawyer is not that you are not a good one, but that you have not obeyed the regulations that govern who is in and who is out. …

“The distinctions between real and phony, even between criminal and crime-stopper, become blurry and fleeting. Frank Abagnale Jr. was brilliant at playing a game that the state plays on an ongoing basis.”

Jeffrey A. Tucker, writing on “Catch the Libertarianism If You Can,” Wednesday at www.lewrockwell.com

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