Chronicles Magazine Education

The Broken Promise of American Cities

There is a saying used in California when the going gets tough: “At least we have the weather.” No matter how expensive, dangerous, unclean, and generally inhospitable the state’s cities become, “at least we have the weather,” Californians say,...

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  • EDITORIALS

    A Big Beautiful Horse

    Decades of “funding reforms” have replaced local funding with state funding, and greater and greater federal regulation of local public schools has led to school consolidation and the loss of local control in anything but name.

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  • Correspondence

    Student and Teacher Benefits

    It’s nine o’clock on Tuesday. First into the classroom today are my Advanced Placement European History students. I begin the class, as I always do, with a prayer, and then deliver a lecture on such Enlightenment luminaries as Montesquieu,...

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  • Society & Culture

    A Monumental Proposal

    I was recently perplexed to see in the news that Harvard, the oldest institution of higher learning in the nation, had declared that, though master has no etymological relation to slavery (but rather to magister), the word would nevertheless be...

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  • Cultural Revolutions

    Bathroom Break

    On January 1, the state imposed on children Assembly Bill 1266, mandating that all bathrooms, gym showers, and sports teams in public schools be open to everyone, regardless of sex. The bill’s official title is the School Success and Opportunity...

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  • VIEWS

    Moderate Islam?

    “Teachers who teach Western education? We will kill them! We will kill them in front of their students and tell the students to henceforth [sic] study the Koran,” declared Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram,...

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  • Short Views

    The Academic Industrial Complex

    In his farewell address, Dwight Eisenhower warned against a military-industrial complex that would seek to enrich itself through false appeals to the common good. Today, it is higher education that is growing rich by convincing the public that...

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  • The Rockford Files

    Looks Can Be Deceiving

    Whoever came up with the liberal platitude that “Children have to be taught to hate” was either a liar or a fool, or both. He certainly never had children of his own, and, if it weren’t impossible, I’d say he must never have been a child himself.

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  • REVIEWS

    The End of Education

    “Crazy U?” Or “Crazy Me?” A self-deprecating Andrew Ferguson must at least have been tempted by such a title. His self-absorbed son (and what 17-year-old isn’t?) would surely have agreed, had he been remotely aware of the grief that the whole...

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  • VIEWS

    Tarzan's Way

    Last night we watched from the hotel terrace as a giant cargo ship cast anchor in the Tyrrhenian indigo and proceeded to unload fresh water for the whole of our sunburnt island, an enterprise which from that vantage point seemed a triumph of...

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  • NEWS

    A Linguistic Dilemma

    I taught college English for 24 years, and I still search newspapers and blogs for signs of the Beast, which, these days, attacks us mostly through language—errors of agreement, misplaced modifiers, and non sequiturs. That’s how you tear down a...

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  • REVIEWS

    A Holy Craft

    The opportunity for a reconsideration, indeed a reconstruction, of literary history is, in the case of William Gilmore Simms’ poetry, both enticing and rewarding. In Matthew Brennan’s analytical volume, we find the basis, fully elaborated, for...

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  • VIEWS

    Academic Sins

    A graduate student asked if he could take a reading course; sitting at my feet, I thought, talking with the rabbi. He was in his early 30’s, a little older than I was, and he had taught in a private school for boys for ten years.

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  • Perspective

    Break out the Booze?

    No healthy boy has ever wanted to go to school. I know I did not. Parents who are confronted with a son who has played hooky or feigned a stomachache will sometimes try to reason with him, explaining why it is important to get a good education....

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  • The Rockford Files

    Who'll Stop the Rain?

    Rebekah wants to be an algebra teacher. She announced this a few months ago, about the time she turned 15. “You do know,” I said, “to be an algebra teacher, you can’t just study algebra. You’ll have to be proficient in math at all levels,...

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  • VIEWS

    Deconstructing Miss Dixie

    College-football season has begun again in the South. Here in Alabama, football is more like a religion than a sport. Having both attended and taught at The University of Alabama from the 1970’s through the 1990’s, I was at ground zero of...

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  • Perspective

    Stepping Backward

    When Jefferson Davis was a boy, he told his father that he did not wish to go to school. The Yankee schoolmaster, although a kindly man, demanded a great deal of memory work and threatened to punish young Jeff for his failure.

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  • VIEWS

    The School of History

    The seven founders of the abbey had fled their native kingdom of Hungary in 1950 when the anti-Christian reprisals and “land-reform” initiatives of the new communist regime finally moved to close down their 660-year-old mother abbey of Csorna...

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  • VIEWS

    Educating for Faith and Community

    Few realize that the largest Protestant school system in the United States is operated by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. With 1,018 elementary schools and 102 high schools sharing a combined enrollment of 149,201 students, it is an...

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  • Correspondence

    The Walk Up Cemetery Ridge

    The private-school league’s middle-school basketball playoffs were home games for Prep. Prep is the town’s most expensive private school, and their gym is beautiful: spacious, air conditioned, the wall by the entrance made of plastic so the new,...

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  • VIEWS

    Virtual Education Reality

    In his book Decadence and Renewal in the Higher Learning (1978), Russell Kirk wrote of the “personal and social danger” caused by sham schooling in American colleges.

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  • Correspondence

    Left Implosion

    A debate I attended at the Oxford Literary Festival highlighted growing tensions between classical Enlightenment thought and postmodernism—tensions that threaten to cause a fissure on the British left.

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  • VIEWS

    Education to the Rescue

    In the early 1900’s, Reconstruction studies (excluding the work of W.E.B. DuBois) approved quick restoration of states, Andrew Johnson’s strict constitutionalism, and white Southerners’ revolt against military and Republican rule (which consisted...

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  • VIEWS

    Too Much Monkey Business

    Watching a disaster or beholding a disintegration is inherently destructive, but there is also an element of morbid fascination. Might there be, as well, a redemptive element in tracking the entropic parabola of the great fall of yet another...

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  • Breaking Glass

    The Wrong War

    I am nervous about the course I am teaching, this coming fall, about World War II. As I will explain to the class from the outset, there are a few things I do not know about the topic—namely, when the war began, when it ended, where it happened,...

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  • NEWS

    Final Solution

    Public education exacerbates today’s toxic youth subculture. The combined forces of advertisers, television, teen magazines, and internet spammers have lured our nation’s youth into lives of promiscuity.

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  • VITAL SIGNS

    Michigan’s Race Factor

    The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 23 decision striking down the University of Michigan’s race-based undergraduate admissions policy ended a decade-long struggle started by university administrators and finished by conservative legislators and their...

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  • VIEWS

    Classical Education Redivivus

    No one really owns the copyright to the word classical. Even in the realm of education, many are pursuing distinct objectives, and all with a legitimate claim to that word. From neoclassicists to Thomists to classical Protestants, the word...

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  • Correspondence

    Children in the Hellmouth

    In the week before English schools closed for the summer, three educational news items grabbed the national headlines. This is not especially remarkable in itself: English education has been in a state of revolution for years, and unsettling...

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  • Correspondence

    Trick or Treat?

    During my first semester as a graduate teaching assistant, I was fired from my job at a coffee shop for mv inability to act phony. Anyway, this is what I suspected my particularly phony employer meant by a "bad attitude."

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  • VITAL SIGNS

    Real Education Reform

    Over the years, the NEA has amassed some 300 policy positions, itemized as annual resolutions and set out in a published legislative agenda. The publication purportedly reflects all educators’ beliefs on assorted issues, from homosexual advocacy...

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  • VITAL SIGNS

    Bushwhacking Johnny

    At dinner, ten-year-old Johnny is sullen and uncommunicative. It has been a bad day. His parents pass off his ill humor as “going through a phase.” Actually, it was an easy day—taken up with “another stupid school assembly.”

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  • VIEWS

    “Think of the Children!”

    “School cuts would hurt neediest kids,” the headline in the local Gannett paper proclaimed. With the spring primary just days away, the administration of Rockford School District 205 was urging the public to pass the third education referendum...

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  • VIEWS

    Cowboys and Indians

    This little piece requires a head note. Oddly, it is the only thing I have ever written that was honest-to-God censored. I was asked by the Chronicle of Higher Education to write a short opinion piece on the subject of contemporary creative...

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  • Correspondence

    The Asphalt League

    In his 1942 swan song, The New Leviathan, dying British philosopher-historian R.G. Collingwood called the life of the mind "a magic journey." Remarkably free of illusions regarding the life of the university, however, Collingwood argued for...

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  • REVIEWS

    Low-End Education

    Not too far from my house in Phoenix, Arizona, stands a Christian school that may just say everything about the educational reform debate in this country—and why it is so often impossible to make any sense of it, in particular.

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  • VIEWS

    To Hell With College

    I ask my readers not to be shocked by the title of this essay. "To Hell With Culture" was the title of my last essay published in Chronicles, in September 1994. Readers of it saw that I was not an enemy of culture; and now I am not an enemy of...

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  • VIEWS

    In Praise of Elites

    Being a lifelong elitist myself, I have long had a sneaking sympathy for a Trollope character, Sir Timothy Beeswax. In The Dune's Children (1880), Beeswax is a dignified old politician who lives not for power but, quite unashamedly, for the...

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  • VIEWS

    Popular Front U.

    How well I remember, 40 years ago, prowling in the stacks of a college library and reading the books, observing museum pieces in the halls of that library, and attending concerts in the auditorium next door.

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  • VIEWS

    Parietals Then and Now

    As a Columbia University undergraduate in 1956, I resided in Hartley Hall, a stately building on the Morningside campus. During my orientation week I was introduced to my floor counselor who said in an unambiguous way that hijinks would not be...

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  • VIEWS

    When West Meets East

    When Virginia Governor George Allen recently attempted to return the curriculum of his state's public school system to a solid grounding in Western and American history, his plan, greeted with howls of indignation from the National Educational...

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  • VIEWS

    Not Out of Africa

    If radical Afrocentrists have their way, soon all schoolchildren will learn—as some are now learning—a version of ancient Mediterranean history that gives credit for the Greek achievement to the ancient Egyptians.

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  • Cultural Revolutions

    Under Fire

    If one reads through the pompous prof-speak in this committee report, it is clear what the Connecticut Advisory Committee is proposing: faculty members should not be permitted to resist the multicultural agenda.

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  • VIEWS

    Our Classical Roots

    On January 6, 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to his state legislator, Colonel Charles Yancey. As we might expect, Jefferson's letter contains reflections of general interest on many topics, ranging in this case from the dangers of a large...

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  • VITAL SIGNS

    Elizabethtown College

    Elizabethtown College, the liberal arts school which I attend, now has both a radical feminist group called Womenspeak and a homosexual advocacy group called Allies, the latter, of course, filled with sympathetic heterosexuals, primarily women.

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  • VIEWS

    Sexual Harassment and the Academy

    The current situation involving sexual harassment cases seems to underscore the correctness of this bleak vision. But regardless of what status universities may enjoy in the future, the most tragic result of this drama may be its negative impact...

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  • VITAL SIGNS

    Socialization as Schooling

    For 30 years, elementary and secondary education has been taking on a new orientation, away from substantive subject matter toward a mental health agenda. Personality development—i.e., the "whole child" concept of education—has become the primary...

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  • VITAL SIGNS

    Hire Education

    Technology as Reform Higher education has become hire education. That is the message of a series of recent books by Richard Mitchell, Charles Sykes, Thomas Sowell, Roger Kimball, Dinesh D'Souza, and Richard Huber.

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  • Cultural Revolutions

    Thicker-Skinned

    Four years at Harvard have made me much thicker-skinned than I used to be. To be sure, it was more than a little unsettling when my freshman dormitory held a mandatory sensitivity session at which each student was forced to say: "Hello, my name...

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  • Cultural Revolutions

    Site of Cultural Conflict

    Stanford is adding to its fame as a site of cultural conflict. When a disturbance broke out during the showing on campus last May of a short film about grape pickers and the perils of insecticide, local print media played up the claim that...

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  • Perspective

    Jesting With Pilate

    Americans pretend to be shocked whenever one of their national celebrities gets caught out in a lie. Is it really so surprising that Michael Jordan should attempt to conceal his gambling or that Bill Clinton should hide his cochonnerie?

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  • VIEWS

    Mimesis and Perjury

    A tidal wave of intellectual, and sometimes financial, fraud is hanging above the happy tropical village of American academia, threatening to crash down on it and sweep it away into the off-shore reefs.

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  • Correspondence

    On Buffalo and Bias

    Sheldon Hackney, president of the University of Pennsylvania, was recently chosen to head the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Hackney has been described by the Chronicle of Higher Education as something of a moderate with a passion for...

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  • VITAL SIGNS

    Taboos and Blasphemies

    When I first read that the now late Ayatollah Khomeini had sentenced Salman Rushdie to death, I, like most of you, reacted with both horror and disgust. The leader of Iran sent out an order to kill a citizen of the United Kingdom for something he...

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  • Correspondence

    Passing the Bottle

    In the aftermath of a conference not long ago, a dozen of us spent a night in downtown Little Rock. (No, this wasn't the Economic Summit. It was a gathering of poets, novelists, and essayists to discuss Southern autobiography, and the talk was a...

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  • VIEWS

    Notes From the Abyss

    How are we-the campus conservatives-to think of ourselves in the sea of political correctness? Perhaps we adopt the attitude of the left, and view ourselves as the real but unacknowledged victims of oppression, casualties in the war for diversity...

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  • VIEWS

    Ignorance and Freedom

    Important educators, including Benjamin Rush, attacked the traditional classical education, but the example and precept of Jefferson and other Founders kept America's leaders educated for freedom and creativity by maintaining their direct contact...

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  • REVIEWS

    Cultural Commodities

    The "free and open exchange of ideas" lies at the very heart of what was once called, in more innocent times, liberal education. These days, the American university is the last place to look for that unhindered flow of thought.

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  • Cultural Revolutions

    Signed Into Law

    National Education Day was signed into law by President Bush and Congress last March 20. At first sight this new holiday looks like the President's bid to be taken seriously as the "education President." In fact, educators nationwide celebrated...

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  • REVIEWS

    Intermediate Frisbee

    Jacques Barzun, for nearly half a century, has been telling us what is wrong with our schools and what we might do to improve them. This he continues to do in his most recent book, Begin Here.

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  • Correspondence

    Life Lessons

    Academics have no more human frailties, I suppose, than are rampant in any other occupation. But those frailties are far more repellent, and far funnier, in a profession ostensibly dedicated to the disinterested search for truth.

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  • Cultural Revolutions

    A Disaster

    K-12 education in America is, nationally, a disaster—that is something everyone seems to agree on. But on the local level, the parents of schoolchildren are hearing a different story.

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  • VITAL SIGNS

    Racism at Stanford?

    The resurgence of campus racism has been a big topic in the news for nearly a year now. According to the often-cited National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence in Baltimore, the number grows all the time.

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  • VITAL SIGNS

    Wimin's Work

    The women's movement is in considerable disarray. While most self-described feminists are concerned mainly with job prospects, equal pay, and abortion rights, the radical wing of the movement is busy advocating everything from witchcraft to...

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  • Cultural Revolutions

    Flag Amendment

    A Flag Amendment—what would be the effect? In one school of thought that goes back through Acton to Jefferson to Plato, the health of a society is inversely proportional to the amount of written law (and the number of lawyers) it has.

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  • Cultural Revolutions

    Bias in the Questions

    Girl's SAT scores are lower than boys because of bias in the questions, charges a Center for Women Policy Studies report. Nationally, boys score higher on 4 of the verbal questions and 17 of the math, and the fact that they do better is alone...

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  • REVIEWS

    Those Who Can't Do . . .

    I wanted to hate this sustained attack on the academy, which condemns everything to which I have dedicated my life, but I loved every word. This man is a truth-teller, therefore he is shrill, obnoxious, abusive, aggressive, offensive, and...

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  • Correspondence

    Doctoring Honor

    Commencement has come and gone, and with it another crop of eager graduates. Yet given far more of the spotlight at any of these commencements than bachelors', masters', and doctoral candidates were those being awarded honorific degrees and...

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  • Correspondence

    Talkin' Freedom Blues

    I was sitting here listening to the University of North Carolina's student radio station play "Hotrod to Hell," a cut from Elvis Hitler's new album Disgraceland, and somehow the time seemed right for another round-up of Southern news that they've...

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  • Cultural Revolutions

    A Free-For-All

    A lot of Americans are worried about the way universities are teaching our children. During the second weekend of November 1988, equally concerned members of the National Association of Scholars gathered at the old Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

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  • VIEWS

    Education for a Conquered Nation

    Declining test scores. Illiterate, spiritless, and passive graduates who have little motivation to find a job or succeed. Youngsters with no skills to compete in the marketplace. This is the tragic record of American public education, after...

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  • Cultural Revolutions

    Practical Items

    School decentralization was one of the few practical items on the New Left's agenda of the 1960's. It was a genuinely radical idea, since the entire history of public education in the US has been the steady progress of consolidation and...

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  • VITAL SIGNS

    Who Is Pete Schaub?

    When Pete Schaub, a business major in his senior year at the University of Washington at Seattle, couldn't get into an overenrolled business course for the first quarter of 1988, he signed up for "Women 200: Introduction to Women Studies" instead.

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  • Cultural Revolutions

    Come to a Close

    The Bennett interregnum has come to a close at the Department of Education. The former secretary of education had his shortcomings, but the vice with which he was most frequently charged—being "confrontational," failing to "build coalitions with...

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  • Cultural Revolutions

    Staging A Takeover

    Four black students, representing the Union of African Student Organizations, staged a "takeover" at a recent Rutgers University conference on race relations. They grabbed the microphone and proceeded to criticize the audience for its...

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  • Cultural Revolutions

    A Bizarre Psychotic

    Laurie Dann, a bizarre psychotic who sent poisoned food to acquaintances and former employers and once stabbed her husband with an ice pick, shot up a second-grade classroom in Winnetka, Illinois, murdering one child and wounding several others...

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  • VIEWS

    The Color of Culture

    As an observer of the educational scene at Stanford University during the last 14 years, I am taking the liberty of offering some comments on the proposed reforms in the course on Western culture.

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  • Correspondence

    Swan Song

    Tucked away in the residential area along suburban Philadelphia's main line lies the idyllic campus of Eastern College. For the last four years this Christian academic institution has sponsored the Evangelical Roundtable: an attempt to find...

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  • REVIEWS

    Harvard Goes South

    This curious big book is an amalgam of left-wing scholarship and commercial panache. On the one hand, the author, a Harvard Ph.D. in American Civilization and a missionary to South Carolina, seems to have enjoyed extended foundation support...

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  • Correspondence

    Letter From College

    The much-ballyhooed young conservative movement of the early 1980's may soon come to an inglorious and grinding halt. While the early 80's were marked by a certain gusto on the part of conservatives fighting to overthrow entrenched liberals, the...

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  • VIEWS

    Renaissance in Education

    When I accepted President Reagan's appointment to be chairman of the National Council on Educational Research, I did so because I welcomed the opportunity to learn firsthand how professional bureaucrats approached America's many and increasingly...

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  • REVIEWS

    Passé Passions

    Irving Bernstein graduated from the University of Rochester in 1937, the same year as the spectacular series of sit-down strikes in the Midwest industrial heartland, the Memorial Day "massacre" at the Republic Steel plant in South Chicago, and...

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  • EDITORIALS

    Scrambling the Schools

    Any university worthy of the name must be both universal in scope, attending to all important fields of knowledge, and unified in thought, bound together into a single coherent philosophical framework. Most contemporary "universities" are...

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