Three cheers for dead, white men
February 20, 2008
Dead, white male authors are much maligned but not forgotten. Thousands of educators continue to teach F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, for example, despite repeated salvos from the forces of political correctness. Sara Rimer reports in the New York Times that high school and college teachers, as well as students, still identify with the book's main characters and its themes of aspiration and striving. Rimer notes that the story resonates especially with urban adolescents from first- and second-generation immigrant families. Jamaicans, Dominicans, Chinese, and Vietnamese students--all are enriched by The Great Gatsby's universality, belying goofy multiculturalist notions that "ethnic" kids should read works by authors of their same background. This not only deprives students of the vast richness of Western literature; it also leads to cultural balkanization. Bill Kristol reinforces the point in his latest New York Times column, in which he writes that the English poet Rudyard Kipling, for all his flaws, elucidated timeless truths about the nature of power. What is important about the works of Fitzgerald and Kipling, among many others, is not their author's race or gender or personality, but their ability to capture human truths that speak to readers generation after generation.
"Gatsby's Green Light Beckons a New Set of Strivers," by Sara Rimer, New York Times, February 17, 2008
"Democrats Should Read Kipling," by William Kristol, New York Times, February 18, 2008