- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2005

Insane questions

“One question followed me from lecture to lecture, from talk show to talk show, bookstore to bookstore. Because the question was so automatic, so predictable, it took me months to appreciate how peculiar it was. …

“Inevitably someone would ask: ‘What if so-and-so had taken Prozac?’ The candidates for drug treatment were drawn from a short roster of tortured 19th-century artists and writers. Friedrich Nietzsche and Edgar Allan Poe made frequent appearances. …

“The diagnosis has occasionally been disputed, but for more than a hundred years experts have asserted that much of Nietzsche’s work was composed while he suffered a mental illness, one caused by the form of syphilis that damages the brain. Still, we have no moral or aesthetic ambivalence about penicillin. …

“The questioners seemed to understand mood disorder as a heavy dose of the artistic temperament, so that the symptoms of depression are merely personality traits and any application of antidepressants is finally cosmetic.”

—Peter D. Kramer, author of “Listening to Prozac,” writing on “The Neurotic Artist: Romanticizing Depression,” in the May 6 issue of the Chronicle of Higher

Education

No facts left behind

“On March 17 … 15-year-old Delusa Allen was shot in the head while leaving Locke High School in Los Angeles. …

“Violent crime is common at Locke. …

“Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, states are supposed to designate hazardous schools as ‘persistently dangerous’ and allow their students to transfer to safer institutions. But despite Locke’s grim record, the state didn’t think it qualified for the label.

“Locke is not unique. In the 2003?04 school year only 26 of the nation’s 91,000 public schools were labeled persistently dangerous. Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia proudly reported that they were home to not a single unsafe school. That would be news to the parents of James Richardson, a 17-year-old football player at Ballou Senior High in Southeast Washington, D.C., who was shot inside the school that very year. … The D.C. Office of the Inspector General reports that during that school year there were more than 1,700 ‘serious security incidents’ in city schools, including 464 weapons offenses. …

“No Child Left Behind was sold as a way to make the schools more accountable. Instead, it has encouraged and abetted them as they distort the data and game the system.”

—Lisa Snell, writing on “How Schools Cheat,” in the June issue of Reason

No surprises

“Even though 2,200 members of the international media had credentials for the [Michael Jackson] trial — more than for the O.J. Simpson and Scott Peterson trials combined — the only ones who seemed really interested were the pro and con hyper-thyroid cable news commentators. …

“In contrast to the pro-Michael, anti-Michael cable brawls, the network news until the end had largely ignored the trial. …

“I think that’s because until Monday afternoon’s verdict there had been almost no surprises. For example, the fact that an apparently zonked out Michael was weird enough to arrive at the courthouse in pajamas surely didn’t surprise anyone. Besides the networks now have reality shows on back-to-back featuring their own newly minted weird people. Possibly, they didn’t need competition from a real pro.”

—Myrna Blyth, writing on “It’s Ba-a-ad,” Wednesday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com


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