How Competition and College Admissions Harm American Families

June 24 2021

“To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections,” wrote the great British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke. His intent was to defend what later political scientists would label “civil society” or “mediating institutions”—families, churches, bowling leagues, volunteer organizations, and other units that bring people together independent of the government. From this observation, Matt Feeney derives the title of his recent book Little Platoons: A Defense of Family in a Competitive Age. Alan Jacobs writes in his review:

If there is any one idea that conservatives are thought to share, it’s the belief that a healthy society needs healthy mediating institutions. . . . The really brilliant thing about Feeney’s book . . . is its claim that in some areas of contemporary American life the mediating institutions are not too weak but rather too strong. And what he demonstrates with great acuity is the consistency with which those institutions, from youth soccer organizations to college admissions committees, have conscripted the “little platoon” of the family to serve their needs—indeed, to get families to compete with one another to serve those institutions’ needs.

Feeney is not by any means opposed to these mediating institutions as such—there’s a wonderful section on how he learned, through walking his kids to school every day and then hanging out for a while with teachers and other parents, how a school really can be the locus of genuine community—but looks with a gimlet eye . . . on the ways that, right now, in this country, a few such institutions form, sustain, and disseminate their power over families.

He’s scathing about college admissions, especially the turn towards “holistic” admissions processes which serve to transform mid-level administrators into eager shapers of souls.

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Read more at Snakes and Ladders

More about: American society, Edmund Burke, Education, Family

 

The Attempted Murder of Salman Rushdie Should Render the New Iran Deal Dead in the Water

Aug. 15 2022

On Friday, the Indian-born, Anglo-American novelist Salman Rushdie was repeatedly stabbed and severely wounded while giving a public lecture in western New York. Reports have since emerged—although as yet unverified—that the would-be assassin had been in contact with agents of Iran, whose supreme leaders have repeatedly called on Muslims to murder Rushdie. Meanwhile U.S. and European diplomats are trying to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran. Stephen Daisley comments:

Salman Rushdie’s would-be assassin might have been a lone wolf. He might have had no contact with military or intelligence figures. He might never even have set foot in Tehran. But be in no doubt: he acted, in effect, as an agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Under the terms of the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in February 1989, Rushdie “and all those involved in [his novel The Satanic Verses’s] publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death.” Khomeini urged “brave Muslims to kill them quickly wherever they find them so that no one ever again would dare to insult the sanctities of Muslims,” adding: “anyone killed while trying to execute Rushdie would, God willing, be a martyr.”

An American citizen has been the victim of an attempted assassination on American soil by, it appears, another American after decades of the Iranian supreme leader agitating for his murder. No country that is serious about its national security, to say nothing of its national self-worth, can pretend this is some everyday stabbing with no broader political implications.

Those implications relate not only to the attack on Rushdie. . . . In July, a man armed with an AK-47 was arrested outside the Brooklyn home of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian dissident who was also the intended target of an abduction plot last year orchestrated by an Iranian intelligence agent. The cumulative weight of these outrages should render the new Iran deal dead in the water.

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Read more at Spectator

More about: Freedom of Speech, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy