Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Get Your Hackles Up

I've stalled on the completion of my posts about Montaigne's essay "An Apology for Raymond Sebond." I haven't had much time to spend thinking and writing about it, but I will get to it, 'cause I know the world is waiting. Ha! Please accept these humble links as an effort to cure the midweek blahs.

  • There have been lots of folks tagging Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries at so I thought I'd bring it to you here. Human Events, a conservative weekly magazine, put together a panel of conservative public policy leaders and scholars and asked them to compile a list of the ten most harmful books. You can probably guess a good many of them if you think about it. But in case your brain is not working at capacity at the moment, The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels came in at number one. Some others that made the list causing me to both laugh and cry: At number four, The Kinsey Report for giving "a scientific gloss to the normalization of promiscuity and deviancy"; at number five is Democracy and Education by John Dewey for "disparaging schooling that focused on traditional character development and endowing children with hard knowledge, and encouraged the teaching of thinking 'skills' instead" (because we all know that character is more important than being able to think); at number seven is Betty Friedan's Feminie Mystique which "disparaged traditional stay-at-home motherhood as life in 'a comfortable concentration camp'” (note that the only woman on the panel choosing these books is Phyllis Schlafly). Some books that garnered honorable mentions: On Liberty by John Stuart Mill, Origin of the [sic] Species by Charles Darwin (I'm surprised this didn't make the top ten), Madness and Civilization by Michel Foucault (I'm not sure how this can even make the list since I'd bet if you asked ten Americans walking down the street not one would know who he is/was), and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Also on the honarable mention list is Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed. I guess the panel thinks seat belts and other safety standards on cars are a bad idea. At any rate I'm saving the list and will do my best to make sure I read every book mentioned.
  • To go along with the above list is Mark Danner's commencement address given to the graduating English majors at Berkeley. The theme is something every English major has heard many times when they tell someone what their degree is in, "what are you going to do with that?" Here's an exceprt:
    It's not easy to be an English major these days, or any student of the humanities. It requires a certain kind of determination, and a refusal -- an annoying refusal, for some of our friends and families, and for a good many employers -- to make decisions, or at least to make the kind of "practical decisions" that much of society demands of us. It represents a determination, that is, not only to do certain things -- to read certain books and learn certain poems, to acquire or refine a certain cast of mind -- but not to do other things: principally, not to decide, right now, quickly, how you will earn your living; which is to say, not to decide how you will justify your existence. For in the view of a large part of American society, the existential question is at the bottom an economic one: Who are you and what is your economic justification for being?
    I graduated from college with a degree in English and then went to grad school for more. My current paying job has nothing to do with my degree but by golly I learned how to think (in spite of occasional evidence to the contrary)
  • English majors rock!