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Saturday, May 10

BAPTISTS OUT:

In "Discord Over Edict Leaves 43 Out of Baptist Mission Service", today's New York Times reports that these 43 employees, including some missionaries, left the Southern Baptist International Mission Board because they could not accept the latest revision of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. The statement bans ""all forms of sexual immorality" ("including homosexuality," the newspaper added just in case the readers didn't realize it) and abortion, opposes women serving as pastors, and following St. Paul in saying that wives should submit to their husbands.

13 of them were fired, 10 took early retirement, and 20 resigned. Apparently all the rest of 5,500 workers signed it.

In a letter dated April 11, Jerry Rankin, president of the mission board, set last Monday as a deadline for the group's missionaries to affirm the statement or face dismissal.

Mr. Rankin said today that the board regretted "that any of our missionaries have chosen to resign rather than affirm the faith statement, but we feel it is time to move forward."

"It is not appropriate to expect Southern Baptists to support those who are not willing to work in accord with what the denomination confesses to believe," Mr. Rankin said.


Bully for them. Anyway, the lead and content of the article are instructive. Even though those who have left represent less than one percent of those who needed to sign it, and although The Times know of only one couple who had refused to sign it because of its statements on women, and although it suggests many of the 43 refused to sign it for other reasons (this was the first time they had been required to sign it), the newspaper's lead read:

The Southern Baptist Convention's missionary service said today that 43 people had left the organization, including 13 who were fired, because they refused to endorse a statement of faith that opposes women as pastors and says wives should submit to their husbands.

You only find out in the fifth paragraph how small a number the 43 are and only at the end of the article that

Other missionaries have cited a general and long-standing Baptist antipathy toward creeds that everyone in a denomination must agree on. Critics also contend that the denominationwide statement weakens the autonomy of local congregations.


2:47 PM


Friday, May 9

TYRRELL ON MUGGERIDGE:

Another article on Malcolm Muggeridge, "Saint Mugg", by R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., the editor of The American Spectator, who knew Muggeridge beginning in the 1970s, at the end of his public fame. (See "Muggeridge Celebrated" on Monday, May 5th for links to other articles.)

Tyrrell, about whose religious faith (if any) I know nothing, is gently skeptical about Muggeridge's famous conversion. It

was not an instantaneous Pauline fall from the ass but a long, slow evolution, from extreme skepticism towards modern life to a touching faith in Scripture, the saints, and then the Holy Eucharist. Still, there was logic to it. All his life he had resorted to the usual palliatives for the furies in his soul. When booze and profligacy and laughter failed, he looked longingly heavenward, reliant now on St. Francis of Assisi's sense of amusement.

The only palliative he never shook was fame. He loved it; it contributed to the anguish of his retirement.


"Palliative" is an ambiguous word in this context. I assume Tyrrell means that Muggeridge was a distressed man who found in religion a way of dealing with that distress, a sort of alka-seltzer of the soul or a sedative for the furies. So skeptical people tend to explain religious conversion, and for all I know in Muggeridge's case it may have been mostly true.

But the Christian who has seen conversion in someone he knows or has been converted himself would want to say that faith may be not only a palliative to the furies in the soul but a cure. Faith may remove the thing in him - the particular lusts of the flesh he finds most appealing - that kept him under their power, too weak or too addicted to resist them. A man can tame the furies by giving himself to something better and stronger, something that so absorbs his attention that he stops hearing the furies as they call and over time becomes strong enough to face them and conquer them.

I suspect Tyrrell has misunderstood "the furies in his soul" as well. The skeptic tends to see them as emotional disturbances, the Christian as a sign or hint that the universe is not right. Look at it this way. The furies really aren't furies if you like them. If you like the lusts of the flesh, they're drives or tastes or leisure-time activities. Only a man who knows that something is wrong with him, and that whatever is wrong with him is also wrong with the universe, will see these lusts as furies, as malign creatures to be fought.

One man hates himself because he wants the bodies of women not his wife. Another man lives in the hope that he can have them and get away with it. One man hates himself because he craves attention and fame. Another man calmly betrays his best friend to get on television. One man hates himself because he squanders his gifts. Another man moves not a finger except in self-interest.

The first man suffers from the furies in his soul. The second man is the best friend of his. And the first man has a chance of saving his soul, while the second is going to Hell.

If you are interested in Muggeridge, you will find the article of interest and, as far as I know, fair and accurate. I suspect Tyrrell's closing judgement of Muggeridge's trademark pessimism - that it became rote and tedious - is right.


7:13 AM


Thursday, May 8

A BODY PART. OH.

In a chilling decision, the Supreme Court of Connecticut ruled

that a fetus is a body part, akin to teeth, skin and hair that are eventually shed. The ruling unanimously upheld the conviction of a man who tried to induce a miscarriage by slipping his girlfriend labor-inducing drugs.

One justice tried to restrain the logic of the decision, but apparently without facing the fundamental question of who and what that unborn child actually is, which made his argument less than compelling.

Though the court held that the 5-week-old fetus was part of the woman's body, Chief Justice William J. Sullivan issued a separate concurring opinion saying a fetus might have "its own independent existence."

"In other words, the fetus may both be a part of its mother as well as its own individual being," Sullivan wrote.


Might. May. How are we to know? Why don't we know already? What defines "independent" and "individual"? Why is not the unborn child's individual DNA enough to prove his independent existence? At least the other judges were consistent, if inhuman.

The story is reported in "Conn. Supreme Court: Fetus Is Body Part". My thanks to OpinionJournal for the link.


2:34 PM


RADICAL ISLAM'S RESENTMENT OF DECLINE

In Washington, DC, yesterday, Evangelical leaders met to consult on Christian approaches to interfaith dialogue with Muslims. The meeting was sponsored by the National Association of Evangelicals and the Institute on Religion & Democracy (I am on their Advisory Board). Speakers included Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Ted Haggard, President of the NAE, and Paul Marshall of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House.

Marshall, who has written on religious persecution around the world, according to a press release, "explained that radical Islam is not motivated primarily by ignorance of the West, poverty, or even US foreign policy, but a profound resentment of the decline of Muslim civilization." The IRD has posted guidelines for dialogue on their website. Among the guidelines: "Give testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because it is our duty to do so.ŻUltimately, Christ himself is the greatest blessing that we could offer to our Muslim interlocutors." We are Christians, after all.


1:59 PM


FAUX ORTHODOXY:

Sometimes I feel sure that a certain sort of conservative in the mainline Churches - the sort who has "grown" to "accept" some egalitarian innovations (like women's ordination) but not others (like homosexual marriage) - is doomed. I don't say this because I think the position theologically untenable, though it is, but because of the nonsense they talk when defending their compromises. Error (if it is not simply lying) mixed with bad thinking leads to a bad end. Always.

A friend just sent me the the response of the Bishop of Fredericton (New Brunswick) to the plans of the bishop and diocese of New Westminster (the Vancouver area) to "bless" the unions of homosexual couples. The issue is currently the hot one in the Anglican Church of Canada. In his response Bishop William Hockin declares that

Some would argue that there are parallels between this issue and both the ordination of women and the marriage of people after divorce. That just as the Church has passed through these divisive issues so we will pass through the blessing of same sex unions. I disagree.

Whereas both the issues of marriage after divorce and ordination of women have been the subject of debate throughout the history of the Church from biblical times finding their solution in the 20th century, the issue around same sex unions has not enjoyed any such level of discussion until the latter part of the 20th century. Until the whole Church can act with some consensus on this issue no diocese should act alone.


My friend commented:

Hockin was stating why he still has "difficulties" with such blessings, although he has no problems with women's "ordination" or "remariage" after divorce in church. He claimed that all of these have been "matters of debate" in "the Christian Church", the latter two "since the beginning" (which is news to me), but whereas the latter two have been "resolved in this century" (he was writing this in 2000), the latter remains controverted.

I love the idiotic arrogance of "resolved in this century" when what he means, being interpreted, is that a few moribund apostatizing "denominations" on the fringes of historic Christianity have taken swigs of arsenic and strychnine, but are not quite ready yet for the cyanide.


I think this is right, though rather more colorfully stated than I might have done. Retreating to a claim that the church must await a future consensus before it can act is the coward's argument, not the Christian's. (On top of which, Canadian Anglicanism had no such consensus when it first ordained women years ago, and if the Catholic and Orthodox Churches are included in "the whole Church" Hockin invokes, it has none yet, or rather it faces a consensus against.)

The coward tries to put off the debate to the future, which lets him feign "openness" to the innovation and sympathy for the innovators while not having to face the innovation in practice. He tries to keep the peace by demanding that the innovator who is sure that he is write act as if he might be wrong and hope for vindication some far off day in the future. He isn't likely to do so and if he thinks he is right he shouldn't.

In fact, what Hockin may think is a shrewd strategic move is in fact an act of faithlessness to the Gospel he swore at his ordination to protect. It is to say that we have no reliable authoritative teaching on the matter (though in the statement Hockin had written as if there were). All we really know is that we do not have "some consensus" at the moment, but who knows what consensus might form in the future.

If a man who talks such rubbish, and quails in the face of a concerted challenge to Christian morality, represents mainstream conservativism in the Anglican Church of Canada - the circle around its Prayer Book Society is much sounder, but tiny and marginalized - it has no future. And deserves none.


12:32 PM


Wednesday, May 7

OH, OH CANADA:

Too funny not to pass on, from today's Opinion Journal:

Canada Imitates Bill Murray

*** QUOTE ***

"Why give weapons to our soldiers? If we win without 'em, fine. And if lose, we can say, 'Oh, so you beat us. We didn't even have any weapons. Whaddya want? Big deal!' If you ask me, the best defense our country could have would be an army of poorly equipped, untrained, unarmed women." - Bill Murray http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110003413, "Saturday Night Live," Feb. 9, 1980

"Canadian soldiers are back in Afghanistan, but this time, they don't have any weapons to help protect them. In Ottawa's rush to put Canadian troops on the ground, 25 elite Canadian soldiers arrived in Afghanistan only to find that they are not allowed to carry guns. What makes the situation particularly embarrassing is that the troops have been assigned German bodyguards to protect them." - Global TV
http://www.canada.com/national/globalnational/ , May 6, 2003


6:06 PM


HUMAN CONFERENCE:

While I'm putting you on to conferences, this one looks quite good: Remaking Humanity, the tenth annual conference on bioethics of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and several other groups. The website describes it as:

A major national/international conference providing participants with cutting-edge information and ethical analysis regarding biotechnological issues such as genetic, drug and cybernetic interventions. The conference will wrestle with core questions such as "What does it mean to be human?" and will feature clinical applications.

The speakers include Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago, Wheaton College's David Fletcher, and David Cook, the director of the Whitefield Institute in Oxford.


5:58 PM


CHESTERTON CELEBRATED:

I've mentioned the Muggeridge Rediscovered conference Touchstone is co-sponsoring on May 22nd and 23rd. (The speakers include me, I'm glad to say, mainly because that means I can go to it.) Another conference of interest to readers is:

A Chesterton Aeneid
the 22nd Annual G. K. Chesterton Conference
University of St. Thomas
St. Paul, MN
June 12-14
e-mail: info@chesterton.org

The speakers include the Jesuit scholar Peter Milward of Sophia University in Tokyo, the prolific biographer Joseph Pearce, and Prof. Thomas Martin of the University of Nebraska.


5:48 PM


COLLEGE IS BAD FOR YOUR THINKING:

In an interview conducted by Zenit.org, "Women Deserve Better: Changing the Abortion Debate", the president of Feminists for Life of America wrestles with the difficulty of changing women's minds about abortion. (See yesterday's "Pro-life Feminism" for a link to the first half of the interview and a comment thereon.) Going to college by itself tends to make young women more pro-choice, she notes.

Even as early as 1996 a Gallup poll reported, "Women with a high school education are more pro-life, 47%, than pro-choice, 37%."

But they also found that the college experience for women is "a major - even revolutionary - influence" when it comes to their views on abortion: "Women who have attended college but not completed a four-year program are more pro-choice, 59% - an increase in the pro-choice group of 22 points. The margin of pro-choice over pro-life responses is even greater among women who have completed a four-year college program - 73% to 24%."

As I began lecturing about our rich, pro-life feminist history I began to ask, "Do you know anyone on campus who has become pregnant?" Audience members nod. Then I would ask, "Have you ever seen a visibly pregnant student on campus?" The nodding stopped.

According to Planned Parenthood's research arm, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 10% of all college-age women become pregnant each year. Where have all the pregnant women gone? Most often, women in college have abortions. In fact one in five abortions are performed on a woman in college.


Her answer is the sort of thing I discussed in yesterday's blog. She continues with her proposal for changing the debate about abortion in a way she thinks will change women's minds.

For three decades those of us in America have been arguing at cross-purposes: "What about the baby? What about the woman?" We must redirect the abortion debate by demanding better for women. We should be asking the all-important questions, "What do women want? What do women need?"

Some pro-lifers think this a very good idea and some think it a very bad idea. We have a forum planned for the magazine in the fall on this very question: how we ought to speak of and oppose abortion in the culture as it is and whether we ought to speak of the woman rather than the baby. Frank Beckwith of Princeton, our contributing editor Frederica Mathewes-Green, i, and one or two others I will be contributing.


2:01 PM


MS. IRELAND'S EVASION:

A reader sent us this:

Did you see The O'Reilly Factor on Fox Tuesday evening, May 6? Former NOW President, Patricia Ireland, has been appointed the new CEO of the YWCA. When O'Reilly asked her if she was a Christian, she refused to answer, and instead brought up McCarthyism. She would do no more than say she "comes out of a Christian background".

Her obvious discomfort trying to avoid the "C" word reminded me of the Wicked Witch of the West realizing she was just hit with a bucket of water.


1:02 PM


Tuesday, May 6

PRO-LIFE FEMINISM:

For those who don't know anything about the subject, Zenit offers an interview with Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life of America. She tells the story of the transformation of American feminism from the late nineteenth century, when "Without known exception, the early American feminists condemned abortion in the strongest possible terms," to the 1960s, when it became an ardent and defining issue for feminists. It is not a nice story.

I am not, myself, entirely in agreement with the group, because I think their feminism a somewhat utopian construction that ignores certain realities. I admire them, but it does strike me as a conservative, pro-life version of the Yuppie idea that we should have, must have, and can have it all. And that having it all requires success in the outside world.

Foster declares at the end of the interview that "We should refuse to choose between giving up our education and career plans and sacrificing our children," but most women must choose. Most women can't make their way up the corporate or academic ladder if they want to be mothers available to their children. (The same is true for many men as well, though a lot of men forget it.) A society cannot achieve the "equality in the workplace" they want if a good portion of one group of workers are likely to drop out completely from time to time, sometimes for years, and unpredictably too. And if a lot of those women - polls suggest a goodly majority - would really rather be full-time mothers anyway.

FFL, for example, wants laws making it easier for women to leave their jobs for a while to raise their young children and then return at the same position and salary. I, on the other hand, think this is economically impractical - which isn't, please note, a conclusive argument against it, some impracticalities being worth the cost - and that we would do better to ensure that one parent, which in the course of things will usually be the father, could earn a family wage. FFL wants "affordable child care," which must mean government subsidized child care. I want the economic burden on families with children so greatly reduced that mothers can afford to take care of their children themselves.

FFL's proposal would cause economic inefficiencies and higher taxes directed to the advancement of a relatively few women at the cost of those who want to stay home with their children. It has, in other words, a class bias, which is a bias to the class that has the advantage anyway. The "for life" part is wonderful, but the "feminists" part problematic.

To go to the Feminists for Life website, click here. Zenit promises a second part to the interview, on "redirecting the abortion debate," tomorrow.


2:29 PM


CORRECTION:

I said in yesterday's blog on Smith College's new language policy ("Gender neutrality for all the genders") that the "Off the Record" department of Catholic World Report is a subscriber only feature. This the editor informs me is wrong.

My apologies to him and to you, and my recommendation that you check it regularly, even if you are not a Catholic. Some of the news will obviously interest Catholics more than anyone else, but the writers regularly comment on all sorts of matters any believing Christian will find helpful. Like Smith College's brave new vocabulary. And of course the life of the Catholic Church today is a model or test case or experiment for what has or may happen in other bodies. (Alas.)


7:43 AM


BLOWIN' IN THE WIND:

A friend just sent me part of a news story about the pope's comments on Bob Dylan, after he heard Dylan in concert in 1997:

After Dylan's rendition of his most famous ballad, "Blowin' in the Wind," the Pope was ready with an answer. "How many roads must a man walk down?" the song's lyrics ask. "One!" the Holy Father replied. "There is only one way for man, and that is Christ, who said, 'I am the way.' It is he who is the way to truth, the way to life."

Continuing to pick up on Dylan's lyrics, the Pope continued: "The answer to the questions of your life is blowing in the wind; that's true. But this is not the wind that disperses everything into the nothingness; but the wind which breathes the voice of the Spirit, saying: 'Come!'"


Well, I thought this was rather good.


6:42 AM


MUGGERIDGE AND AUGUSTINE:

A reader wrote in to say that the March/April issue of The American Spectator has an article on Malcolm Muggeridge. It isn't available on their website, alas, but I did find an interesting article on teaching St. Augustine to college students, "Identity Crisis" by John Dunlap, a professor of classics at Santa Clara University.

Santa Clara University is a Jesuit school, which means that it is not exactly committed to Catholicism. Dunlap describes picking up one of Jacques Maritain's books in the library and finding that it had been taken out regularly . . . until 1971, but not once since then.

On a hunch, I looked up a few other Maritain titles. Then I got into it, and spent the next hour combing the stacks and pawing through the library's huge collection of, to me, familiar Catholic writers: Knox, Guardini, Newman, Chesterton, Belloc, Gilson, Pieper, Benson, Dawson, Lunn, Dimnet. With few exceptions (often as not, a date when I myself had checked out the book), the due slips told the same story, again and again: a long series of check-out dates stopping, suddenly, in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

. . . Here, I thought, was a kind of archaeological evidence for the collapse of Catholic identity at an historically Catholic university.


He then traces the effects of rejection of a Catholic identity by Catholic colleges like his - he is the only Catholic in the classics department - beginning with something called the "Land O'Lakes Statement" from 1967, in which Catholic educators declared themselves to "have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself." That this is not terribly bright they do not seem to have realized.

The academic community at its best is only a collection of people who like to think and teach, but it does not itself supply the principles from which they may think and teach nor the end to which they must think and teach. (This is my argument, not Dunlaps's.) The matter needed a more subtle understanding of the relation of authority to the intellectual life, but subtle understandings do not make good manifestoes.

The universities declared their independence of external authority and wound up a few years later under the effective authority of the world (in the New Testament sense of a realm opposed to the things of God). The world is that to which we fallen men naturally sink, whatever we are doing, teaching biology or epistemology or digging ditches, unless we work hard to avoid it, which means unless we affirm, love, and submit ourselves to the authority of the Church, properly understood and exercised.

Now back to Dunlap's article. After an apposite quote from Ronald Knox's book Enthusiasm, he quotes the university's latest attempt to define its identity - you can add the quote to your "pretentious but inane things religious people say, especially when they're in committee" file - and continues:

Which reminds me: Cheap ideas, Augustine likes to say, often come dressed in gaudy patter. But he also allows that the motives behind the ideas are inscrutable.

And so the Augustine course takes a peculiar toll of a sort I didn't precisely anticipate back when I agreed to teach it. It casts the secularization of an erstwhile Catholic university into a relief of painful clarity. Think of it. In just over a generation, a great many influential American Catholics, inscrutably, have traded a heritage of nuanced and soaring thought for a pottage of murky bromides and gummy jargon.


His analysis is well worth reading, not just by Catholics interested in "Catholic" education but anyone interested in the self-secularization of Christian institutions.


6:40 AM


Monday, May 5

GENDER NEUTRALITY FOR ALL THE GENDERS:

The students Smith College, the famous girls' school in Northampton, Massachusetts (once home to Jonathan Edwards) have voted to replace "she" and "her" in student government documents with "gender-neutral terms," according to a story in the Northampton Gazette. "She" will be replaced by "the student" and "her" either deleted or changed to "the."

The student government vote is an indication of a deeper issue facing Smith College, and other same-sex institutions, which is that a growing number of students identify themselves as transgender, and say they feel uncomfortable with female pronouns.

"Smith College is a college for women, and within that there is a place for all kinds of women," said Brenda Allen, director of institutional diversity.

In addition to the issue of gender identity, within the transgendered movement there is also the matter of sex-reassignment surgery, formerly known as sex-change operations.

. . . "There are a lot of students here who identify as transgender but don't identify as male. They identify in a more gender-ambiguous way," explained Mencher. "They have come to a campus where that's very much supported."


Mencher is a local psychotherapist "who was recently hired to serve as transgender specialist at the college."

My thanks for the link to Fr. Paul Mankowski writing in the "Off the Record" department of Catholic World Report. He began his entry "It had to happen sooner or later."


7:55 PM


A READER ON THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS:

A response to Friday's "Public Unschooling" from a reader:

Oh, I could say so much...before the good Lord guided me into the legal profession I was a high school history/social studies teacher for a few years. This having been my long held first love I hit it with a passion. I soon learned all of the lessons you have set forth in your piece. A few comments:

1. You really hit the nail on the head with your observation regarding the contemporary commitment to universal, public education. This is unprecedented in the history of the world, and supported by a host of rather dubious egalitarian, social, i.e. pop, theory. The problem is questioning it without being immediately condemned as an elitist, or worse. Of course, the facts do speak for themselves and your solution is a sound and fair one that I have supported of a long time.

2. My first teaching assignment was in a vocational-technical school. It was the most enjoyable experience of my short career. The kids were for the most part the most well behaved, respectful and dedicated lot I have had the privilege of working with. The fact that they had a practical alternative to "college prep" meant that they could get on with
interesting and productive lives without wasting years in classrooms where they felt and were made to feel out of place and inferior.

There will always be time later on to pursue learning outside of the classroom for those who develop the interests as they mature. My grandfather, God rest his soul, only had a tenth grade education (he was a draftsman-carpenter), and in his ninetieth year spoke Latin, read voraciously, and was as well informed on current events as any of my college profs.

3. The key to the solutions that are needed is courage and common sense. Do away with Dewey and the gang of progressive nitwits, and bring back choice and competition to the educational field.

4. I love your comment about those educrats who would rather manage a problem (which is what students and parents are to them) than solve it, and that they manage by ignoring it. I could go on all day with personal stories from my many years of experience in both secondary and higher education, but I will leave at this point with a well done, and God bless.


3:01 PM


SCHOOLING MONOPOLIES:

In "Two Decades of Mediocrity", Pete du Pont offers more on the "mediocrity" (his word) of the public schools, which I mentioned in "Public Unschooling" last Friday.

In the twenty years since the "devastating" report "A Nation at Risk" appeared, we have spent a lot more money on public education - $480 billion - and "inflation-adjusted teacher pay is up 12% and per pupil spending is up 60%." Classes are a little smaller and "there is more emphasis on English and math," though he does not say what this means. But, du Pont continues,

has performance pay for teachers been implemented? No. Teacher assessment? No. Is there a longer school day? No. School year? No, it is actually shorter. More homework? No, it still averages one hour per day. Do teachers work 11 months, as recommended? No, still nine. Are there more teachers with basic teaching degrees? No, there are a few less. Are there more teachers with master's degrees? No, 70% less.

You notice that the reforms not made are those affecting teachers and holding them to standards of performance the tax payers who support them must meet in their jobs. I am, however, not quite so upset as he about the reduction in teacher's with master's degrees, because I expect that most teachers would be earning masters of education degrees, which are not exactly strenuous or useful, rather than master's in the subjects they are teaching, which would (okay, should) be.

And students do not seem to be learning more now than they did twenty years ago:

SAT scores have declined. National Education Assessment Program test scores have risen marginally. Graduation rates are down, and on international education measurements, relative to other nations American children do worse the longer they stay in school.

When the NAEP test scores were released in 2001, only 32% of American fourth-graders could read proficiently or better. As The Wall Street Journal summed it up: "63% of black fourth graders, 58% of Hispanics, 60% of children in poverty, and 47% of children in urban schools scored at 'below basic' competency levels, which means they can't read."


Which is bad news for newspapers and magazines, by the way. Du Pont goes on to argue that the schools have not improved because they are monopolies with (quoting Chester Finn) "a captive student body and a guaranteed source of income forever." While schools in more affluent communities have gotten better - though heaven knows they are not nearly as good as they should be - the teachers's unions in poor communities "fiercely resist choice and performance pay."

Unions don't resist performance pay in competitive industries - automobile manufacture, for example - because they know they have to survive in the marketplace to keep their jobs and higher pay encourages better performance. It is unions in protected monopolies that are the problem, for their members do not have to improve to survive.

The reason our public education system is failing our children is that monopolies don't work.


I think this is true. I once worked in a social welfare bureaucracy (as a writer) and these things have a life of their own, and inevitably run to suit those who run them, especially if the workers are unionized. The problem worker whose incompetence or laziness or maliciousness harms his clients comes to be seen as a worker who needs all the protections a union can provide from the management, which is assumed (and frequently quite reasonably) to be hostile to workers. This is the way organizations naturally work.

What everyone sees, especially in the incompetent worker, is good old Sam, Sam who means well, who gets along with people, who (most of all) does not cause his bosses any problems. He may not be perfect, his bosses think, but hey, he doesn't cause them problems and a man like that is worth keeping. What no one sees are those who are not served because good old Sam forgot to file the papers, or could only finish helping three families a day when he's supposed to help six, or couldn't figure out the latest regulations. And when management does try to discipline good old Sam, they find that proving he's incompetent is actually quite hard, because he has a plausible reason - plausible, that is, to the independent board who will review any action taken against him - for being slow or making mistakes or even for forgetting to file the papers (he had to get some information from another department, say, and by the time it arrived had missed the deadline).

A school bureaucracy will have all these problems, but making a school system an effective monopoly makes the problems much, much worse. The only way to avoid them - the only way, given how organizations work - is to break up the monopoly so that schools have to structure themselves to do the job their market demands. This would have the added benefit of returning some control of their children's education to parents, from whom it has been taken away by the extra requirements placed upon home-schoolers, which prevent many from home-schooling, and the burden of school taxes that prevent many from sending their children to private schools.


2:56 PM


THE WAR SUMMIT IN CHICAGO

Last week in Chicago, a "summit of religious leaders" a group of about 80 interfaith religious leaders-"most of whom opposed military action in Iraq-gathered to consider the humanitarian, spiritual and civil consequences of that war," according to the Episcopal News Service story dated May 5. (The meeting took place April 30.)

I thought for a minute about going out to O'Hare to cover the meeting for Touchstone, but I had something better to do, like taking a bus up to Wisconsin to pick up my car stranded there the previous three-days awaiting a new transmission. I didn't miss much.

As usual, Bob Edgar general secretary of the National Council of Churches, sponsor of the summit, led the charge, noting, "The purpose is to look at the next steps in the healing process and to talk about the consequences of war."

In a joint statement, "An Urgent Call for Reflection, Hope and Action," the Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders argued that American society is "at a moment of choice even more urgent than before the war in Iraq began." The statement added, "As many Americans celebrate a moment of military victory, we as people of faith ask all people to make this a time of deliberate reflection... War is a blunt instrument which provides no lasting solution but too often leads to further violence."

I really am not arguing for the war in Iraq, but this sort of rhetoric cannot be taken seriously: no lasting solution? Well, I wouldn't exactly call going on 60 years of a Nazi-free Europe, with not much violence to boot, evidence in the NCC's corner. I am not "for war." But I certainly am against pointless summits.


1:45 PM


THE LANGUAGE OF HELL, PART 793,129:

An interesting, and very short, article by Fr. Kris Stubna of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh "Stripping Away the Rhetoric". He offers four ghastly examples of deceit:

[W] are told by some proponents of euthanasia that the termination of a life of an elderly person in a nursing home who is judged to be simply unproductive is not killing but rather "facilitating the conclusion of the biological process."

In the partial-birth abortion debate, where we are dealing with the killing of a child who has completely exited the birth canal except for his or her head, a spokesperson for one national reproductive rights organization described the killing of the baby as a medical procedure that "terminates in demise." In the embryonic stem-cell issue, few who support this type of research are prepared to speak about the human embryo as the beginning of human life. One article recently spoke of embryos as "property ripe for commercial development."

In the context of the manipulation of language, we can turn to a recent column in the Valley News Dispatch where the syndicated columnist, supporting the destruction of embryonic human life, does so by designating it as "pre-functional."


1:02 PM


MUGGERIDGE CELEBRATED:

Those of you anywhere near Wheaton, Illinois, on May 22nd and 23rd may enjoy the Muggeridge Centenary Conference spsonored by Wheaton College, Touchstone, and others. The "Schedule" link on the website does not seem to be working, but the conference will include a keynote address by William F. Buckley on Thursday night and on Friday plenary addresses by Thomas Howard and others and shorter papers by lesser mortals. The lesser mortals include me, who am speaking on Muggeridge's use of language.

The College's library offers a short biography of Muggeridge and another site, titled Malcolm Muggeridge: the iconoclast offers some links to a few articles about him and by him.

I have just been doing a search of the web for articles on Muggeridge and found surprisingly few. I don't know what this means, though I suspect few people write on him because he is a harder writer to write intelligently about than Lewis or Tolkien. I did find him mentioned a lot in aggressively atheist sites (they do not like him). The most interesting articles on him I found were:

- Christopher Hitchens' review of Gregory Wolfe's biography of Muggeridge, "A hundred years of Muggery", published in The Weekly Standard, thugh it does reflect Hitchens' own religious views (linked from the Conference's site);

- John Gross' "An infinitely worldly clubman", published in The New Criterion (linked from the "Iconoclast" site); and

- David Virtue's "The collision of two minds: Malcolm Muggeridge meets Francis Schaeffer, published in Touchstone.


9:13 AM


EDUCATIONALISTS MARCH ON:

The tender minds of the young are being protected by the ever vigilant education industry.

Dr. Diane Ravitch, must have had a great deal of fun writing The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn. The National Post reports

The classic children's story The Little Engine That Could has been banned in some U.S. jurisdictions because the train is male and The Friendly Dolphin rejected because it discriminates against students not living near the sea, according to a major study on education policy.
The study found officials who approve classroom materials want references to dinosaurs removed, because they prompt questions about evolution, and owls stricken as they are taboo for Navajo Indians.
Ketchup and french fries, bacon and eggs and ice cream and cake are also on the outs because of concerns over healthy eating habits.
Even birthday parties have been forbidden because they could upset children who do not get invited to themÄ.


5:52 AM


Sunday, May 4

CONSEQUENCES OF A LOW BIRTH RATE:

Canadians do not have enough children to replace themselves, but a modern economy still needs workers. CBC News reports:

Canada needs to attract hundreds of thousands of skilled workers from abroad to make up a labour shortfall, Immigration Minister Denis Coderre said Saturday.
The figure may be as high as one million in the next five years, he said.


Immigrants also stick to the major cities:

In addition to increasing the number of immigrants, Canada needs to encourage more of them to live in smaller communities, Coderre added. Right now, 60 per cent move to Toronto, 15 per cent to Vancouver, and 13 per cent to Montreal.
"There is a situation where we will find two different Canadas," Coderre warned. "The three major cities and the others
."

Toronto especially is losing its traditional identity (those who remember its English cooking will mutter a quiet Laus Deo); it may be better, but the new Canada feels (to an outsider) very little like the old one that still hangs on in Halifax and Victoria.


3:52 PM


ADAM, WHERE ARE YOU?

It is summery in Naples and the traditional black clothes of the cat burglar are just too much.\

Naked burglar suspect arrested near Naples condo


The description of the suspect was one of the more simple yet descriptive ones.
Naked.
Early Saturday morning, another naked burglar was spotted - and this time caught within 10 minutes - when Naples police spotted him in the altogether walking across Gulf Shore Boulevard South.


Michael Shands (20) broke into Elanor Raleigh's (81) apartment; she through an alarm clock at him and ran outside and met a neighbor.

The two women were standing together outside when the naked man came out of the condo and walked casually past them. Once again, he put his finger to his lips, telling them to be quiet.
"I love you," Shands told Raleigh as he walked by, according to police.
He then ran off.
Police were in the neighborhood when they spotted their suspect in the 800 block of Gulf Shore Boulevard North, trying to hide behind a tree.

The telltale clue that he was their man: He was nude.

It is usually marijuana that convinces people that clothing is unnecessary; Sands seemed to be more inclined to traditional mind altering substances.

Shands is facing burglary, disorderly intoxication, resisting arrest without violence and exposure of sexual organs.

I presume orderly intoxication is lawful in Naples,at least if you are wearing clothes.


3:30 PM


THE DOCTOR IS IN:

In writing my book on the Catholic scandals I have been stumped by the reactions of the bishops to child abuse. Why didn't they react the way almost everyone else did and would? In the 1950s some bishop expressed normal revulsion, and some priests did throughout the worst period of abuse. But later bishops didn't- from the Pope on down, until their faces were rubbed in the mess by the newspapers.

Some personality characteristic shared by most members of the hierarchy led them to have such a muted reaction to child abuse, the suicide of the abused children, the sacrilege. Perhaps these comments on Saddam Hussein from the New York Times give a clue:

Malignant narcissism, as defined by psychiatrists, is a severe form of narcissistic personality disorder. Like classic narcissists, malignant narcissists are grandiose, self-centered, oversensitive to criticism and unable to feel empathy for others. They cover over deep insecurities with an inflated self-image.
But malignant narcissists also tend to paranoia and aggression, and share some features of the antisocial personality, including the absence of moral or ethical judgment, said Dr. Otto Kernberg, a psychiatry professor at Cornell University and an expert on personality disorders.
Far from being psychotic, malignant narcissists are adept at charming and manipulating those around them. Political leaders with this personality, Dr. Kernberg said, are able to take control "because their inordinate narcissism is expressed in grandiosity, a confidence in themselves and the assurance that they know what the world needs.


The abusers were definitely narcissists, And the bishops? And the Pope?

"The overarching theme is the centrality of the self - that he is Iraq," Dr. Post said. This self-glorification, he said, was combined with "a deep-seated need to reassure himself through public adulation of how magnificent he is."

The Renaissance Popes adopted the Roman Imperial custom of having a servant stand by them during their coronations, burning a wisp of tow, and saying "Holy Father, thus passes the glory of the world." Not a bad custom. There has been all too much of "L'eglise, c'est moi" in the attitude of the Catholic hierarchy.


9:39 AM




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