- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2010

Education fixation

“Some policy controversies are wearying. Not because they have worn their importance down over decades spent in the argumentative rock tumbler, of course. High-stakes issues tend actually to get more portentous, over time, as we sink greater and greater emotional and intellectual investments into them. But this very fact promotes an unfortunate style of argument that comes to dominate and dictate the substance. Its a familiar story: for too long, we have ignored xxxx, which has now amounted to a national crisis in xxxx — one which can only be solved by immediate, decisive action, and if you still want to talk it over youre either irresponsible, willfully stupid, or (most recently) a nihilist.

“Im bothered by the way in which this moral narrative has managed to swallow up the health care debate without actually accomplishing the kind of political change it demands. Still, Im not terribly concerned that the intelligent versions of the opposing sides of this debate arent getting a fair hearing. … There are other debates, however, where the side opposing the universalist view of problems and solutions seems to have lost the will to coherent opposition. In general, our ability to articulate the wisdom of rejecting policy universalism is waning. On some occasions this matters more than others. One case thats too important to let slide, no matter how wearying it is to struggle against the universalist mantra, is education.”

James Poulos, writing on “The National Standards Fixation,” on March 14 at the First Things blog Postmodern Conservative

Rollin’ over

“There is irony in a rock and roll icon dying of old age. A long list of performers lived and died young; that does not endear old age well. It starts with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, and the list is too long to peruse here. Don’t trust anybody over thirty, said Roger Daltry during the Viet Nam War, rock and roll’s cultural heyday. Roy Orbison lived to almost twice that age …

“Time always shows the music almost runs dry, and Orbison gracefully stepped aside following personal tragedy in 1966. When he died in 1981 — the first rock and roll icon to die from old age — he signaled an end to the genre.

“There will be no other phenomenon like rock and roll. The music itself is an ill-tempered aria with built-in imperfections. The term comes from an earlier colloquialism for a one-night stand. Double entendres are mixed throughout. Thrills are found on Blueberry Hill, and Miss Molly sure likes to bump. It has an easy beat, two guitars and three chords, and is not meant to appeal to a ‘civilized’ nature. Later, rock and roll — any rock and roll — became an anthem for a disillusioned youth.”

Pedro Primavera, writing on “Roll Over, Roy Orbison,” on March 13 at American Thinker

Fun coverage

“‘I had come for an adventure,’ says freelance foreign correspondent Rob Crilly of his time in Sudan. ‘Changing the world or saving Darfur were not part of my agenda.’ This characteristically frank and unpretentious comment captures the core strength of his book ‘Saving Darfur: Everyones Favourite African War,’ its honesty.

“Crilly conveys the excitement and glamour of the foreign correspondents work, sometimes in unpromising circumstances. His most animated account of pursuing elusive leads and racing to scoop his rivals concerns the apparently trivial story of Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher in a Khartoum school who was arrested in 2007 for allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear ‘Mohammed.’

“When a snooty US colleague dismisses this light human-interest piece as a frivolous distraction from the serious stories needing to be told about Darfur, Crillys robust retort is: ‘I think you are talking bollocks.’ Insisting it is a ‘bloody great story,’ Crilly recounts his ‘elation’ at being in the right place at the right time to reap fame and fortune from telling the tale. And, as he chases down the story, it turns out that this minor episode of cultural misunderstanding yields valuable insights into the workings of the Sudanese political system.”

Philip Hammond, writing on “Darfur: every celebs favourite African war,” in the February issue of the Spiked Review of Books

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