Of the making of books there is no end. So says the Book of Ecclesiastes. . But according to Adam Bellow, son of Saul, the strong liberal or “progressive” tilt of modern fiction is not counter-balanced by conservative or “traditionalist” fiction. As a leading publisher of conservative writers such as Charles Murray and Dinesh deSousa and, as influenced by his father and his father’s close associate, Alan Bloom, Bellow has undertaken to stimulate, encourage and “print” fiction that reflects conservative and traditionalist values.
In this podcast we discuss with him: how he transited from “Zabar’s liberal” to neoconservative; how his Liberty Island web site presents and stimulates short stories and essays in the conservative mode; and, most newsworthy, the new conservative genre novels he is about to launch.
Also emergent in this conversation is a good deal of engaging representation of the lives and relationship of Saul the father and Adam the son.
The travelers on this excursion are a former U.S. Assistant Attorney General (Joe Morris), a lawyer and broadcaster focused on “strategic” issues (Mary Hartigan) and the co-founder and Political Editor of The American Thinker (Richard Baehr).
Liberal versus Conservative is the way you classify this sort of discussion but it never—well, hardly ever—describes or predicts the way the discourse will go. In this recently recorded hour these three excellent and gracefully articulate discussants take on such problems as: the emergence and deep threat of ISIS, white cops and black victims, the legalization of the illegal, the loss of American international “credibility,” the uses of soft and hard power, the future of Obamacare, how the presence of a black President has affected the rage and despair of “ghetto” youth.
Seven or so other additional issues arise in this discussion which, unlike many found on various other politically-focused podcasts, is not intended to offer amusement as a way of lightening the burdens of political attentiveness. In other words: read it (actually, of course, hear it} and don’t weep but, if it comes naturally, worry at least a little.
The scandal in our public education is most obvious in the schools
of the “inner city,” but also, though in different form, bedevils most of the rest of the schools of comparatively affluent America.
Why and how? Through the injurious effects of “niceness” and “educational egalitarianism.” Not only is no child to be left behind, he or she is to be given no honest evaluation of performance, attainment and progress. Instead, all are “rewarded” promiscuously for whatever the teacher can find to praise, be it some “alternative”intelligence, “empathic relatedness,” or just being there. By no means must the child ever be allowed to recognize that he or she has performed poorly on any task and/or has not given enough effort or attention.
Thus, according to our guests, Herbert Walberg and Joseph Bast, have the Teacher’s Colleges and the two major teacher’s unions kept this country (which spends more on education than any other) at the mere middle of the educational attainment distribution, exceeded by virtually all western European nations plus, of course, China and Japan.
The answer is not to give up the uses of reward in education but to connect it to actual merit, to eschew false flattery for simple realism and honest evaluation. (Strengthening the curriculum and raising standards would also be –to say the least–helpful.,) All of this is well argued and elaborated in a new book by Walberg and Bast and in this podcast recently recorded at our WGN studio.
Guest: William Voegeli
That title is prompted by a great quotation that I only recently encountered: “Liberalism is the politics of kindness.” The source is Garrison Keiller, the sage of Lake Woebegone, and I found it in William Voegeli’s new book, “The Pity Party” by which he means to convey his summary judgement of the Democrats.
His argument, most colorfully and baldly stated in the book, is that the modern Democrats have been running a sort of extended con-game in which both their rhetoric and some of their vaunted legislation promise to relieve the disappointment, deprivation, suffering and humiliation of the “disadvantaged.” But, as he argues, in reality, things often and/or usually get worse for those who are supposedly benefited. Still, their counter-argument runs that conservatives don’t care about the burdens placed on working class people (that being the operative meaning of “middle class” these days) or on minorities and the truly indigent. Conservatives, whether of the established party, Tea party or Libertarian party, are rather cold-hearted, lacking in empathy and blindly loyal to the near-religion of the free market.
This is one side of the politics of mutual defamation. Another book could be focused on some of the simple-minded epithets hurled by liberals against conservatives. At any rate Voegeli has done half of the job and done it very well. Here he is in a conversation in which the proprietor of the podcast required himself to take the role of the defender of the works and ways of liberalism.
Does Voegeli, a senior editor at the Claremont Review of Books, in fact hit the mark? I will be sending this one (the conversation, not the book) to some of my liberal friends. Perhaps you might want to do the same. Or can you easily anticipate how and with what counter-rhetoric they would fend it off?
Anyone who teaches in an American college or university and is over fifty knows—but may not admit or confess–that the average freshman, just arrived from secondary school, is below–often far below–what was average even as recently as twenty years ago. The deficiencies are in math skills, history, knowledge of science and, of course, in the ability to write or comprehend real English. Nor are theses deficiencies necessarily corrected by the time the freshman has become a senior.
The “Common Core” movement is the latest panacea and is financially backed by the federal government. It is in operation in some states and debated, with increasing anger, in all of them. Here, drawing from the recent book in which they debated whether the common core should be implemented or discarded, are two leading conservative observers of the educational scene. On the pro-side is Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute. On the con-side is Peter Wood, President of the National Scholars Association. The disagreement is intense and the stakes are very high for a country that spends more than any other on education and yet is exceeded in educational attainment (and, perhaps even in the essential skills of literacy) by half of the rest of the world.