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Published by David French -- Harvard Law grad, former lecturer at Cornell Law School, author of books no one reads, master of the three point shot, constant critic of Duke Basketball, Playstation2 addict, owner of a cool new Sony DCRTRV25 MiniDV Digital Handycam, father of two and husband of one extremely hot wife


The Culture Curve
Wednesday, July 03, 2002  
QUESTIONING TERRORISM. It appears that some Palestinians are beginning to question the effectiveness of suicide bombing. According to the New York Times, a published letter by several Palestinian leaders that said suicide attacks were not "producing any results except confirming the hatred, malice and loathing between the two peoples'' and endangering "the possibility that the two peoples will live side by side in peace in two neighboring states'' has garnered surprising levels of support.

Is this letter evidence of a Palestinian moral awakening, or merely confirmation that the IDF's current strategy of killing terrorists, re-occupying Palestinian land and destroying terrorist infrastructure is working? I tend to believe the latter.

7:55 AM

MORE ON THE VOUCHER BATTLE. An insightful Washington Post op-ed makes an important point about the looming voucher battles. According to these columnists, the most effective opposition to school vouchers will come not from the public education establishment but from suburban parents:

"People in the suburbs are generally satisfied with their neighborhood schools. They want to protect the physical and financial independence of those schools, as well as suburban property values, which are tied to local school quality (real or perceived). School choice threatens the independence of suburban schools by creating the possibility that outsiders, particularly urban students, will enter them and that local funds will exit them."

Voucher proponents need to counter suburban complacency by pointing out that general satisfaction with suburban public schools does not mean that those schools are objectively satisfactory. In fact, the suburban public education in this country is mediocre, with American middle class kids generally performing significantly worse on standardized tests that European or Japanese children. The competitive effects of vouchers can only make these mediocre schools better.

Additionally, these suburban schools -- while only marginally adequate at teaching reading, writing and arithmetic -- are increasingly becoming centers of liberal moral indoctrination. Extreme leftist and liberal views of abortion, evolution, the environment, gender politics and sexual morality are the norm in suburban public school classrooms. In fact, most of the worst examples of public school indoctrination that I outline in my book come from suburban school districts.

The suburban public school -- heavy-handed indoctrination combined with a mediocre education. The time has come to shake suburban America out of its educational slumber. The status quo is not worth defending.

7:45 AM

THE IMPORTANCE OF MILITARY HISTORY. Throughout the War on Terror, I have found Victor Davis Hanson to be a truly indispensable voice. His military, historical and cultural observations have been proven accurate again and again. Today he writes on a subject near and dear to my heart: military history. His basic point is that only through a study of military history can we begin understand the proper uses of force and the actual effects of force on the course of nations. A million chants of "peace now!" can't change the fact that virtually every major historical evil has been defeated by military power.

Hanson's summary of the historical lessons applicable to the War on Terror is spot on:

"We should all promote the teaching of military history precisely because we wish to avoid wars and seek to preserve lives. Instead of listening to lectures about the snows of Afghanistan, the graveyards of the British and Russians, and the horrific nature of warlords, Americans should rediscover that their own record of war-making, far more than that of others, has been frighteningly lethal and effective. The Taliban and al Qaeda have never turned out geniuses such as Stonewall Jackson, W. T. Sherman, Nathan Bedford Forrest, or George Patton. And the world has rarely seen armies arise like Sherman's Army of the West, Patton's Third Army, Ridgeway's reconstructed Korean forces, or the American armada in the Gulf. I think I would still place bets on Sherman's Midwesterners with muzzle-loading cannons marching against the combined high-tech forces of the current Gulf States.

"We should also remember that such deadly militaries have been used for moral causes: to end slavery, ruin Nazi fascism, hold off Communism, and neutralize Iraqi aggression. Had we read military history in the recent crisis, and not journalistic warnings of Vietnam redux or snippets about Afghanistan on the Internet, then we would have known that the challenge of ending the Taliban was not if we could, but how we should. In the present war, the only two impediments in the world to the United States military are the American public's own sense of economy and morality. Our forces cannot be stopped by al Qaeda or Saddam Hussein, but only when — or if — we, the people, conclude that the fighting has become either antithetical to our own interests or abjectly unethical."

One final note: Hanson's most recent book, Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power is one of the most informative and eye-opening books I've read in some time. His description of the long-running (thousand-year) military conflict between Islam and the historically Christian countries of Western Europe is particularly interesting. Read it, and it will transform your thinking about our current War on Terror and about the "Religion of Peace."

7:20 AM

Tuesday, July 02, 2002  
WHERE DID I HEAR THIS BEFORE? I was perusing Andrew Sullivan's latest column in the Sunday Times of London when I came across this statement regarding the recent spate of corporate financial scandals:

"Moreover, what we're seeing now is less a portent of the future than a retroactive snapshot of what was going on a few years ago. From Enron to Andersen to Tyco, these were Clinton era abuses, in some cases exposed by the Bush era Securities and Exchange Commission. The same goes for Xerox and WorldCom. If these abuses had occurred as the first stock meltdown had been occurring, they might have been able to define an era. But now, in a different, more sober age, they seem like symptoms of a period already past. In some ways, they were deeply consonant with Bill Clinton's cultural ethos. When the president of the United States acted as if the only ethical criterion that mattered was what he could get away with, it's not entirely surprising that this attitude seeped outward into the general zeitgeist. I'm not saying Clinton was responsible for this corporate corruption - just that his administration was responsible for policing it and for setting the moral tone of the country.. And the boom began to spiral out of control at exactly the time that Clinton was fighting impeachment and desperately needed economic exuberance to insulate him from potential political suicide."

Where did I first read about the moral connection between our corrupt corporations and the Clinton-created culture of prevarication? In the Curve -- last Wednesday.

The Culture Curve . . . making its points before the pundits.

7:29 AM

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE VOUCHER DECISION. Even after a long weekend at Center Hill Lake near Nashville, I'm still exuberant over the Supreme Court's voucher decision. As historians look back on the tumultuous week of June 24, 2002, the outrageous Pledge case will most likely be a mere footnote to history -- reversed within months. The voucher decision, however, could very well herald the beginning of an educational and constitutional revolution. Unfortunately, most Christians and conservatives are still spending more time fuming over the Pledge issue than they are celebrating -- and mobilizing in response to -- the voucher decision. It is up to the Curve to provide the perspective we need.

Let's examine the decision's two (potentially) revolutionary aspects:

1. The education revolution: It is difficult to overstate the importance of vouchers to educational reform. In any jurisdiction where vouchers become available, the number of students enrolled in Christian academies and parochial schools explodes, and these children receive not only a generally higher-quality education but also an unvarnished presentation of the gospel -- not from the government but from people who actually believe.

Since children have the freedom to leave failing schools, educational and economic opportunities for some for the poorest, most marginalized members of society would increase substantially. As I've noted before, I spent a year on the admissions committee of Cornell Law School, and I have seen firsthand evidence of the lasting effects of substandard public school education on poor and minority children. Parents without money, without choice or hope, would at a stroke find themselves empowered and able to take control of their children's futures. No longer would children be forced to listen to the government's message. No longer would children be trapped in schools that expend precious resources on condom awareness but graduate entire classes of nearly illiterate students.

White evangelical support for the voucher movement can also help heal breaches with African-American Christian community. Strong majorities of black parents support vouchers -- largely because their children are disproportionately concentrated in America's poorest and worst public schools. While vouchers are largely meaningless to many upper-middle-class whites -- who are either happy with their suburban public schools or already able to put their children in private academies -- they represent a social and political lifeline to millions of others. Vouchers extend the economic freedom many take for granted to children of all races and social classes.

2. The constitutional revolution: There's a good reason why groups like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the ACLU immediately issued press releases condemning the voucher decision: it strikes a crippling blow to the heart of their agenda. For years now, the Supreme Court's consistent misreading and misapplication of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment pushed religious expression the fringes of modern American life. Because Christians were completely shut off from receiving state funding for their educational programs, drug treatment programs, prison rehabilitation efforts, etc., they were forced to solicit donations from individuals who had already paid their (ever-higher) taxes. With diminished resources available, even the most dynamic and effective Christian educational and social organizations faced immense challenges merely surviving -- much less expanding. Some of the most famous Christian social organizations -- like Teen Challenge -- have faced financial crisis after financial crisis.

The school voucher case could herald the beginning of a new era of true government neutrality towards religion. Prior to the voucher decision, if the government created a benefit or incentive for private organizations, that benefit carried an explicit condition -- religious individuals need not apply. The voucher case breathes new life into President Bush's faith-based initiative, and it casts doubt on a generation of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that erected an odious "wall of separation" between the government and its millions of religious citizens.

Christian speech is still less protected than secular speech. Christian teachers still have less academic freedom than secular teachers, public schools still have the freedom to indoctrinate explicitly against Christianity, and Christian speech is still under siege in the secular workplace -- but the tide may be turning.

The voucher decision will be meaningless, however, if we merely sit back, applaud the Court's legal insight and then go about our daily lives. The educational establishment will fight vouchers in ever state and every school district in the country. The voucher decision did not establish a voucher system, it merely said that such a system is constitutionally acceptable. It is up to us to persuade our school boards and our state governments that they should be more concerned with giving poor children choice and hope than with protecting a tottering, failed public school bureaucracy. It is up to us to reach across racial and socio-economic lines to forge new alliances with African-American parents and activists.

In sum, it's time to open a new front in the culture war.

7:19 AM

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