Politics & Policy

Teach your children well, &c.

I hadn’t thought of this question, with regard to post-Qaddafi Libya: What to do about education? For more than four decades, it has been devoted to worship of this insane, cruel man and his dictatorship.

Over the weekend, the Associated Press had a report with the title “Libyan children start school year without Gadhafi.” A sample: “Euphoria filled the halls, but teachers admitted a lot needed to be done to overhaul an educational system where a main goal for nearly 42 years was to instill adoration of Gadhafi and what he touted as the greatest system of rule in the world — the ‘Jamahiriya,’ a utopian ‘rule by the masses’ that in reality boiled down to rule by Gadhafi.”

Problems in post-Qaddafi (or Gadhafi) Libya: Good problems to have, in a way. (For the complete AP report, go here.)

‐This is not unrelated: A reporter for the AP reflected on her girlhood in the Soviet Union, here. When school started in 1991, “I was struck by a feeling that something was badly missing. My kindergarten had abounded with Soviet symbols. A portrait of Lenin here, a red banner there. But now at school, the whitewashed walls had glaring blank spots where portraits of Communist leaders once hung.”

One more paragraph, from this fascinating little memoir: “With the school uniform abolished, my last hope of becoming a proud owner of a Little Octoberist badge was shattered. Instead, I received a colorful children’s Bible as a first-grade graduation gift from the school’s parents committee — an indication of the end of official atheism and the rise of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

‐From time to time, Mark Steyn will say that the problem with American newspapers is not so much bias or shallowness as sheer boringness. This is in contrast with papers across the pond. (I have always hated that phrase. No idea why I just used it.)

I thought of this when reading a comment by Terry Wogan, in the Daily Telegraph. If the Warren Buffetts of the world want to pay more to their governments, fine, he said. But “in the context of our economy, and the huge American one, the effect will be as a duck farting in thunder.”

Could such a sentence ever appear in an American newspaper? Should it? I think so. (For the Wogan article, go here.)

‐An American professor, Richard Landes, a medievalist at Boston U, contributed an article to the Telegraph: “Israel should hold fast and let Muslims vent their rage.” It says a great deal of what I believe, and have long believed. If I started quoting it, I’m afraid I wouldn’t stop. So I’ll just link to it, for those interested.

‐Mary Wakefield, a Spectator editor, has written an article about abortion: superb. It says much of what I believe, and have long believed. And it says it with panache. If I started quoting . . . so I’ll just link.

Articles about abortion that deal with first principles are scarce, I think — possibly because the abortion issue has been around for so long. But such articles are terribly useful. For one thing, there are always young people, casting about for what to think. For another, plenty of older people change their minds, even on big issues.

This article, I will, in fact, quote from. It is by Ed West, who says that, while the pro-life movement is “strongly religious,” that “does not necessarily mean it is irrational or ‘unscientific’. Moral campaigns are often dominated by religious groups; once only tiresome weirdo Quakers opposed the natural and universally accepted institution of slavery. We might all now assume slavery is wrong, but to 18th century people it was not obvious.”

Well done, Mr. West.

‐Once or twice, I have expressed dismay over a particular article by Johann Hari. It was published in The New Republic. And I think it was one of the most scurrilous and disgraceful things they ever published. That includes all the attacks on Reagan as a warmongering idiot.

Here’s what happened: Hari took passage on a National Review cruise. Then he smeared it and all aboard. Evidently, The New Republic regarded this as great fun.

Found out as a plagiarist, a liar, and a general malefactor, Hari has now returned his Orwell Prize. Was the hit piece on us one of the pieces for which he won the thing in the first place? Furthermore, he has written an “apology” that is both laughable and infuriating. Toby Young gives it a going-over here.

Thank you, Toby. One of Hari’s tricks is that he poisons the Wikipedia entries of writers he doesn’t like. This has been documented in the British press with eye-popping and stomach-turning precision. Toby et al. know what to watch for.

‐Speaking of National Review cruises, you’ll love them. Sign up here. I can’t guarantee they’ll be Hari- or New Republic-free, but they’ll be great.

‐Do you know what Hari would have been perfect for? “JournoList” (which I think is now defunct). One of JournoList’s stars was a guy who once applied to me for a job at NR. Didn’t get it. Then he asked for my help getting other jobs, which I of course gave. Then he attacked me and NR in print.

Swell little world, the ink-stained one. Yours too?

‐Not long ago, I published some thoughts on anti-Americanism, particularly as harbored by Americans, and expressed when they are abroad. I received an e-mail from my colleague Charlie Cooke on this subject. Charlie is, to me, as I have pointed out before, “Sir Charles,” though he forswears all honours. (Like my spelling?)

Anyway, Sir Charles writes,

As an unreconstructed Americaphile and proud immigrant to the United States, I share your distaste for Americans who condemn their own country when abroad. Back in England, I would always thrill to meet Americans, but would often be left disappointed and sad if they wanted to talk to me about the evils of the United States, or even if their first words to me were, “Don’t worry, I’m not . . .”

But British anti-Americanism upsets me deeply, too. Jefferson, lamenting the breakdown in colonial relations, wrote, “We might have been a free and great people together.” I would that we were now.

Unfortunately, many of the British have a reverse Oedipus complex of sorts: They, the parents, hate the successful child they have created, even to the point of sympathizing with the child’s enemies. British disdain toward the U.S. is part of a more general societal problem, namely that an abundance of comfort has led to a nation filled with people who simply fail to appreciate the fragility of civilization, and who thus have little idea where their interests lie.

At Oxford, I used to enjoy replying to those who complained about American hegemony with a sarcastic, “I know: I, too, hoped the Soviet Union would win the Cold War.”

I’ll have more from Sir Charles, and on this very subject, later.

‐Speaker John Boehner is one of the most likable people in American politics. Do even Democrats agree? I wouldn’t bet the ranch. In any event, someone asked him the other day about the possibility of his being the vice-presidential nominee next year. He said, “It’s hard enough for me to go to funerals of people I know, much less people I don’t know.”

That’s the spirit. And I couldn’t agree more. (Actually, let me take that back: I’d rather go to the funeral of someone I don’t know than to the funeral of someone I know, or knew.)

(For the article from which I plucked the Boehner quote, go here.)

‐A little language? I get on the phone, and the taped voice — always a lady (which is good) — says, “Your call will be answered in the order it was received.” Ungrammatical. But the voice is usually pleasant.

‐A reader writes to me complaining about a line in a drug ad: “I’ve got heartburn in my head.” What’s wrong with “I have”? he says. Nothing. But I enjoy this little quirk of our language, “I’ve got,” or “I have got.” “I have got to get a grip!” “I’ve got you under my skin.”

Hey, I should do something with that last line . . .

‐In a recent Impromptus, I remarked two streets in Washington, D.C., which made me harrumph a little. (Conservatives always harrumph.) They were Mitch Snyder Place and Taxation without Representation Street.

A reader writes to say that he was out for a stroll with his wife, in the same city. And they came upon “Islamic Way.” He has no problem with it. But would they ever permit a “Christian Way” or a “Jewish Way”?


‐So, I’m covering a concert by the New York Philharmonic over the weekend. The principal work is Walton’s music for Henry V — the film made by Olivier in 1944. The program notes say that Olivier “recited two monologues from the play” over the radio in 1942. This “generated interest from the film industry, who felt the tone of the play was right for the patriotic, bellicose fervor of the times.”

Geez, the British had “patriotic, bellicose fervor” as they were fighting for their lives against a totalitarian monster that threatened to devour them? Strange, those British. Jingoism is such an ugly phenomenon.

‐Finally, I had a memory of WFB, as I was listening to a new recording by Sharon Isbin, the guitarist. She was his guest of honor at dinner one night. And he said to her, “So, I understand you’re the best guitarist in the world.” She said, “No, no, that would be ridiculous. It would be like saying there’s a best writer in the world.”

Bill put on that incomparable smile and said, “Waal . . .”




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