- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2008

Happier birthdays

“It turns out the golden years really are golden. Eye-opening new research finds the happiest Americans are the oldest, and older adults are more socially active than the stereotype of the lonely senior suggests. The two go hand-in-hand: Being social can help keep away the blues.

“ ’The good news is that with age comes happiness,’ said study author Yang Yang, a University of Chicago sociologist. ‘Life gets better in one’s perception as one ages.’

“A certain amount of distress in old age is inevitable, including aches and pains and the deaths of loved ones and friends. But older people generally have learned to be more content with what they have than younger adults, Yang said.

This is partly because older people have learned to lower their expectations and accept their achievements, said Duke University aging expert Linda George. An older person may realize ‘it’s fine that I was a schoolteacher and not a Nobel prize winner.’ ”

Lindsey Tanner, writing on “The Oldest Americans are Also the Happiest, Research Finds,” on Friday for the Associated Press


“Another painful irony is that this is precisely the wrong time for Catholic universities to slavishly mimic top-ranked secular schools. Former Harvard dean Harry Lewis, author of ‘Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education,’ contends that at elite universities the ‘ideal of liberal education lives on in name only.’ The libertarianism of the faculty who want to be left alone to do their research complements the laissez-faire attitude of students.

“Instead of being ‘immersed in the life of the mind,’ students act like the good consumers universities increasingly conceive them to be — maximizing upscale pleasures and opportunities for career advancement. Complaints like these, for which Allan Bloom was once reviled, are now common in secular higher education.

“The failure to offer an integrated liberal education, to raise big questions about the common good and to foster a genuine community of learning among students and faculty are matters on which religious universities ought to have a distinct advantage.

Thomas Hibbs, writing on “Benedict and the Universities” on Wednesday at NationalReview.com

Bad music

“Yet even [biographer Detlev] Claussen is embarrassed by [philosopher Theodor] Adorno’s ignorant and snobbish dismissal of American popular music, all of which he lumped together as ‘jazz.’ This ‘seems to be a blind spot in his work,’ Mr. Claussen acknowledges; but in fact it is more than that.

“Adorno’s contempt for jazz and those who listen to it, his belief that popular music is simply the tool of the Culture Industry for colonizing the consciousness of the masses, is suggestive of the arrogant absolutism that characterizes his thought in general.

“Because he viewed music as a Hegelian progress from Beethoven to Schoenberg, keeping pace with the inexorable alienation of bourgeois society, Adorno viewed any 20th-century music that was less alienated than Schoenberg’s as a cowardly retreat, a refusal of difficult knowledge. (This applied to Stravinsky’s neoclassicism as much as to the Andrews Sisters.)”

Adam Kirsch, writing on “The Stern German” on April 9 at the New York Sun

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