Friday, February 06, 2004

Worthy reading 

As I mentioned before, I am fond of Mark Steyn's essays. A few weeks ago at a Scholars meeting, one of the assembled handed around his latest in New Criterion, Expensive Illiterates. It's not online that I can find, but it's awfully good. An article that uses the line "The true cure of darkness of darkness is the introduction of light," in reference to our schools, is bound to attract the Scholars. As we contemplate whether to let our teachers continue to use their expertise, it's worth considering Steyn's suggestion.
After September 11, George W. Bush had his own opportunity to reverse the most malign tide in the civilized world -- the multiculti gloop in which all cultures are accorded equal "respect" and "tolerance", even the intolerant ones trying to kill us. The President could have state the obvious -- that western self-loathing is a psychosis we can no longer afford; that it's fraudulent and damaging, especially when it's presented to American children as a religious faith whose orthodoxies all have to sign on to, and which in the name of "inclusivity" excludes everything, from Paul Revere to "Frosty the Snowman."
Or Christopher Columbus, or Betsy Ross.
When Cromwell instructed his portraitist to paint him "warts and all," he meant both halves of the equation: unless you see "all," you cannot honestly evaluate the "warts"; to understand the blemishes on the record, you first have to understand the record. To teach the warts alone is a morbid fetish. Mr. Bush should take the lead in a campaign against the debilitating equivalence of multiculturalism, but parents must play their part, too: every little first-grade Thanksgiving that gets hijacked by the grievance culture is an act of violence against truth and history. In the Nineties, urban police departments came to realize that if you failed to deal with small, trivial crimes they led to more and bigger ones. We need a cultural equivalent of that "broken window" policy. If you let a craven principal take the Pilgrims and Algonquins out of Thanksgiving, you kick away one of the small steps on which a child climbs to informed adulthood.

...From Russian Communism to Japanese militarism, many of the most murderous ideologies in a murderous century arose in societies which were aware of their material inferiority ... but convinced of their cultural superiority. By inverting the formula, the perverse philosophy of Western education -- that our society is materially superior but culturally inferior -- seems almost to invite the obvious response: The radical madrasahs merely answered the call. If all you teach is that everyone else is the victim of the "intellectual and educational oppression that has characterized the culture of the United States and the European-American world for centuries," people will eventually take you at your word. If you trumpet how much you despise yourself, it would be churlish for everyone else not to despise you also.

So the next time you read someone giving a lefthanded compliment that the social science standards are " less racist, less xenophobic and less unbalanced than the first draft", ask why that is the yardstick used, and who is using it?