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Friday Ephemera

Elsewhere (82)

Theodore Dalrymple on tax, altruism and Gérard Depardieu:

Suppose that Gérard Depardieu were to undergo a conversion experience and see that his wealth was not unjust but unseemly in view of the difficulties or hardships of others, and that as a consequence he decided to give it away to those most in need (as determined by him) in exactly the same proportion as he would have been taxed. Would that be acceptable to all those who criticised him for refusing to pay his tax? I suspect not: for in the modern world, the state claims the monopoly not only of force, but increasingly of compassion as well.

Dalrymple refers to a Libération article by Marcela Iacub, who tells us, “a rational and just society must prevent the accumulation of capital by individuals above a certain level.” Presumably Ms Iacub is much less troubled by an accumulation of power by the state – say, to limit what an individual may lawfully earn. 

KC Johnson on the politicised narrowing of American history: 

If, in fact, there’s nothing to be ashamed of in purging “traditional” approaches to the American past, why don’t we see departments and colleges boasting of the fact? Departmental websites could explain how the study of U.S. history must occur through the prism of race, class, and gender; or how the university eschews such old-fashioned topics as political, diplomatic, or military history. But with rare exceptions colleges have followed the opposite approach, doing everything they can to obscure just how one-sided their approach to U.S. history has become. For those parents, students, or alumni who don’t have the time to drill down and comprehensively examine curricula, the assumption remains that all elements of the American past continue to be taught.

Related, this report by the National Association of Scholars:

The root of the problem is that colleges and universities have drifted from their main mission. They and particular programmes within them, increasingly think of themselves as responsible for reforming American society and curing it of prejudice and bigotry. When universities and university programmes consider it necessary to atone for, and help erase, oppressions of the past, one way in which they do so is by depicting history as primarily a struggle of the downtrodden against rooted injustice. This pedagogical conception may be well-intended, but it is also a limited and partisan one, and history teaching should not allow itself to become imprisoned within a narrow interpretation… The dominance of race, class, and gender themes in history curricula came about through disciplinary mission creep. Historians and professors of United States history should return to their primary task: handing down the American story, as a whole, to future generations.  

Apparently it’s all too easy to conflate education with political activism, especially among those educators who see themselves as “critical thinking change agents” – as gadflies and rebels, “enlightened leaders” - for whom the classroom is a place “to transcend the negative effects of the dominant culture” and where “education is a political act.” Which is to say, the act of describing the world through a Marxoid filter of rhetorically convenient oppressors and victims, while “speaking on behalf” of those they, our self-appointed leaders, deem oppressed. A much more glamorous and flattering function than merely teaching history or literature as commonly understood. And we’ve seen what happens when these “change agents” are challenged by students and peers on points of fact, probity and rudimentary logic. 

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