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God and Man at Yale at Sixty

by Blake Neff

Posted: Nov 08, 2011 02:47 PM


That William F. Buckley's God and Man at Yale attracted so much attention upon its publication may seem surprising. The book had much working against it: it was written by a twenty-five-year-old, was published by then-obscure Regnery Publishing, and concerned itself with the flaws of a single American university. It did not even succeed in its stated mission. Buckley argued that Yale's alumni should reshape the school's ideology by withholding donations until it no longer advanced atheism or collectivism. This did not happen, of course; Yale is more secular than ever and its endowment surpasses the GDP of ninety countries.

Despite these obstacles, though, the book did draw attention, and deservedly so. It was the first distinctive broadside from one of the era's salient thinkers, the man who would help rejuvenate conservatism. Buckley ably fused the causes of Christian traditionalism and economic freedom into an alliance which has undergirded the conservative movement for half a century. The book's intensely negative reception by the Yale establishment (one trustee likened Buckley to Torquemeda) made him a conservative star, and contributed to the formation of National Review, whose value to modern conservatism is hard to overstate. George Will once said there would be "no Reagan without Goldwater, no Goldwater without National Review and no National Review without Buckley." God and Man at Yale made Buckley, and as such its influence is larger than anybody could have anticipated.

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Another Monumental Dispute on the Mall

by Blake Neff

Posted: Oct 24, 2011 03:24 PM


Disputes over memorials are becoming a beloved tradition in the nation's capital. Thirty years ago the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was attacked as a shameful black gash in the earth, while 2004's World War II Memorial was criticized for imitating fascist aesthetics, and the just-dedicated Martin Luther King Jr. statue took flak for everything from misquoting King to using a Chinese sculptor.

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Rebels Without a Cause

by Blake Neff

Posted: Oct 06, 2011 02:20 PM


The Occupy Wall Street protest is nearing its fourth week and shows no signs of ending just yet. A march across the Brooklyn Bridge drew over a thousand people and led to the arrest of some 700, and similar protests have begun to pop up around America. Hoping to gain some insight into the whole affair, I went there myself last Friday, September 30th. That day, the protestors marched to One Police Plaza ostensibly to demonstrate against police brutality.

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Who needs originality?

by Blake Neff

Posted: Sep 20, 2011 10:53 AM


A bizarre piece on plagiarism by Kenneth Goldsmith, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has appeared over at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Turning the usual line of thinking about plagiarism and academic dishonesty on its head, Goldsmith argues these practices should be embraced as positive things. Modern writing is "in a rut," he says, "tending to hit the same note again and again, confining itself to the narrowest of spectrums…unable to take part in arguably the most vital and exciting cultural discourses of our time." Creative writing has become bland and stale, he argues, so the only option is to avoid creativity and "reconstruct" existing writings into "something new, something contemporary, something—finally—relevant."

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The University and the Rest of Your Life

by Blake Neff

Posted: Sep 12, 2011 11:46 AM


About three weeks ago Mark Edmundson published an interesting essay in the Oxford American. The essay centers around two key points: A college education requires discovering oneself, and a college education should be used to find one's dream career rather than to pursue a lucrative paycheck. Doing this in the at the modern university, however, is not easy:

If you want to get a real education in America you’re going to have to fight—and I don’t mean just fight against the drugs and the violence and against the slime-based culture that is still going to surround you. I mean something a little more disturbing. To get an education, you’re probably going to have to fight against the institution that you find yourself in—no matter how prestigious it may be...To get it, you’ll need to struggle and strive, to be strong, and occasionally even to piss off some admirable people.

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Welcome Praise on the Criterion's 30th

by Blake Neff

Posted: Sep 09, 2011 12:12 PM


Thank you to John Derbyshire for his kind words about The New Criterion on the occasion of our 30th anniversary.

Over at National Review's The Corner, Derbyshire writes:

I have rhapsodized over TNC long and often. Here I was doing so ten years ago at this very website on, of course, their 20th anniversary. I can’t add much to that earlier tribute other than wonder and delight that the magazine is still with us a decade later. (T.S. Eliot’s quarterly The Criterion, in honor of which TNC was named, lasted only 16 years, as TNC editor & publisher Roger Kimball told me last night with modest pride.) I look forward to rhapsodizing again in 2021.

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