- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

Modernist milieu

“In 1948, at the age of 15, [Susan] Sontag, browsing at a newsstand just off Hollywood Boulevard, bought her first copy of Partisan Review. A fatherless, bookish girl, stranded amid the driver’s-ed and typing classes of North Hollywood High, she was happy only in the company of a few like-minded students or at home, listening to music or reading Thomas Mann and German philosophy. … Partisan Review … was more or less the house organ for the New York intellectuals, celebrants of high modernism. …

“D. H. Lawrence and Freud were culture heroes, and sex, jubilantly heralded in its liberated form … was an energized revolt against the allegedly deadening conditions of modern life. Sontag wrote [in the early 1960s] for a vanguard audience that, a few years later, and considerably enlarged, fell in love with Woody Allen’s culture-quoting farces and satires; part of the charm of her early work lies in its Gitanes-and-espresso period flavor, the exhalations of an unaffiliated intellectual trying to make sense of big issues and problems. It was a time when people did not think it absurd to demand something like redemption from art.”

David Denby, writing on “The Moviegoer,” in the Sept. 12 issue of the New Yorker

Chaos in New Orleans

“A republican form of government presupposes self-government — the capacity of citizens to govern themselves according to reason — and does not, if it intends to survive, champion them as ‘victims’ when they don’t. But the shocking lack of self-government demonstrated by New Orleanians is the one area of government that our republic’s vapid media won’t scrutinize in their post-mortems on the city’s collapse.

“Reporters keep shaking their fists at ‘the government,’ as if America were not a republic but a statist autocracy in which remote rulers can snap their fingers and make problems vanish for their subjects. …

“An honest media in a republic not wobbling toward statism would … stop infantilizing and romanticizing these citizens as ‘victims’ of government indifference. …

“The storyline of New Orleanians as victims and government responders as villains is just one more outrageous item in the media’s voluminous catalogue of victimization.”

George Neumayr, writing on “A Civilizational Vacuum,” Thursday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

School myths

“Much of what people believe about education policy is simply not true. …

“For example, many people believe that schools are desperately under-funded. In fact, public K-12 spending is approaching $10,000 per pupil — double what it was three decades ago, adjusting for inflation. …

“Many people believe that teachers are horribly underpaid. In fact, the average elementary-school teacher makes $30.75 per hour, more than architects ($26.64), mechanical engineers ($29.46), and chemists ($30.68).

“Many people believe that student achievement has been deteriorating for decades. In fact, today’s students perform about as well as their parents in terms of standardized test scores and high school graduation rates. …

“These myths cause real harm. We can’t improve public schools without a proper understanding of what ails them.”

— Jay P. Greene & Marcus A. Winters, writing on “Education Myths,” Wednesday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

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