MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 31

Guests on Volume 31: David Orgon Coolidge, on Dale v. Boy Scouts, which requires the Scouts to admit homosexuals; James Twitchell, on how American culture has eliminated shame from our experience; Thomas Frank, on how advertisers came to link their products with the idea of self-fulfillment; Keith Windschuttle, on the killing of the discipline of history; Wilfred McClay, on history and academic advancement; David Harlan, on history as moral reflection; Wilfred McClay, on historian David Harlan; and Gilbert Meilaender, on C. S. Lewis’s self-denying gospel.

Part 1

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    David Orgon Coolidge on Dale v. Boy Scouts, which requires the Scouts to admit homosexuals

    The Seal of the Boy Scouts of America

    In August of 1990, Assistant Scout Master James Dale was prohibited from being in the Boy Scouts because it was discovered that he was a homosexual. Recently, however, a New Jersey appellate court ruled in his favor, stating that under state law he was not allowed to be discriminated against for his sexual orientation. David Orgon Coolidge, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and of the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University, believes that this ruling is faulty because the court erroneously contends that the Boy Scouts of America have only recently tried to define what it means for an individual to be "morally straight." Coolidge views the Boy Scouts' approach as civil and tolerant, seeking to focus their members on other more important matters.

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    James Twitchell on how American culture has eliminated shame from our experience

    For Shame: The Loss of Common Decency in American Culture (St. Martin's Press, 1997)

    James B. Twitchell wrote For Shame: The Loss of Common Decency in American Culture to document the growing trend of shamelessness that characterizes our culture. Previously, Americans responded to the "hard sell": highlight a particular shameful condition (halitosis) and buyers would respond accordingly (purchase mouthwash). Modern Americans, he explains, are now more drawn to the "soft sell": you deserve a break today, you're worth it, etc. In other words, values of consumption (association with the right brands) have replaced virtues of community (social standards of right and wrong). Twitchell explains that the forms of popular culture, primarily the medium of television, have altered the way we look at ourselves.

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    Thomas Frank on how advertisers came to link their products with the idea of self-fulfillment

    The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism (University of Chicago Press, 1997)

    Thomas Frank, author of The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, looks at the history of advertising in the second half of the twentieth century in order to dispel the myth that the advertising industry subsumed the counterculture to reign in its dangerous influence over the status quo in the field of advertising. Frank argues that, instead, the advertising industry identified with the sentiment of the counterculture and marketed their products to this market. He also argues that the anti-establishment ethos of the counterculture was not a new phenomenon in the 1960s but present in pop culture in the 1950s as well.

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    Keith Windschuttle on the killing of the discipline of history

    The Killing of History: How a Discipline is Being Murdered by Literary Critics and Social Theorists (Macleay, 1996)

    Keith Windschuttle, author of The Killing of History, speaks about the change that has happened in historical studies. Windschuttle says that the ideological roots of this change began in Paris as thinkers conflated the ideas of Marx and Neitzsche and reduced all facts to matters of interpretation. This ideology allowed the victimized to subvert the orthodox historical praxis and contradict data with perspective. Windschuttle ends by giving an example of this in prehistorical studies of the origins of certain aboriginal peoples.

Part 2

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    Wilfred McClay on history and academic advancement

    Wilfred McClay gives a brief response to the previous interview with Keith Windschuttle. He speaks about the structural reason that encourages new academic trends. These include the negation of the work of preceding historical study and the pressure put on historians by their peers to innovate regardless of the factual basis.

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    David Harlan on history as moral reflection

    The Degradation of American History (University of Chicago Press, 1997)

    David Harlan, author of The Degradation of American History, laments the replacement of moral reflection as the end of historical study by the study of the context within which an author writes a text. Harlan sees the role of the historian as resuscitating texts and finding an interpretation through which they can speak to the present. Harlan discusses how this understanding of history can allow one to be corrected by the past and gain a personal and communal sense of the past.

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    The Degradation of American History (University of Chicago Press, 1997)

    Wilfred M. McClay critiques the thought of David Harlan. He doubts if David Harlan's ideal of moral reflection is possible with no broader moral framework than the individual. He sees Harlan as holding two mutually exclusive desires: his desire to write philosophy of history and his desire to speak to the present from the past. McClay concludes with his own ideas about the validity of history as a teacher who both admonishes and nourishes.

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    Gilbert Meilaender on C. S. Lewis's self-denying gospel

    The Taste for the Other: The Social and Ethical Thought of C. S. Lewis (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998)

    Gilbert Meilaender focuses on C. S. Lewis as apologist, storyteller, teacher, and believer. He emphasizes that Lewis's career did not reflect just one of these callings, but in fact was the collective mission and message of all of these interwoven tasks. More than simply arguing people into the faith, Lewis sought to convey to his readers (by the stimulation of their imaginations) a concept of how Christianity's realities ought to shape the reality of their own world and their existence as created beings. Meilaender further notes that today's Christians display an attitude toward faith that tends to deny the very reality of pain in the Christian life, a reality that Lewis held central to the experience of knowing God.