June 1, 2005

The Most Harmful Books?

15 conservative intellectuals were polled by Human Events and asked what they thought were the 10 most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries. Here’s the list.

The Communist Manifesto
Mein Kampf
Quotations from Chairman Mao
The Kinsey Report
Democracy and Education
Das Kapital
The Feminine Mystique
The Course of Positive Philosophy
Beyond Good and Evil
General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

Some of those I agree are among the most harmful books. Hardly anyone would quibble with the books in the top two slots.

But The Kinsey Report? The Feminine Mystique? Democracy and Education? Are they serious?

Here’s the complaint against Democracy and Education by John Dewey (a book I admittedly have not read).
John Dewey, who lived from 1859 until 1952, was a “progressive” philosopher and leading advocate for secular humanism in American life, who taught at the University of Chicago and at Columbia. He signed the Humanist Manifesto and rejected traditional religion and moral absolutes. In Democracy and Education, in pompous and opaque prose, he disparaged schooling that focused on traditional character development and endowing children with hard knowledge, and encouraged the teaching of thinking “skills” instead. His views had great influence on the direction of American education—particularly in public schools—and helped nurture the Clinton generation.
Well, Lord help us. Someone wrote a book that “nurtured the Clinton generation.” Better lump that in with Mein Kampf. Bush doesn’t = Hitler. But a Clinton influence apparently ranks with him.

Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin gets an honorable mention. Why? Because it overturns the Book of Genesis? I can’t imagine why else it would be on there.

Meanwhile, nothing by Sayyid Qutb is on the main list or the honorable mention list. Perhaps The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan could be replaced with In the Shade of the Koran. It is to the Terror War what Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto were to World War II and the Cold War. Islamofascism maybe, just maybe, is a tad more harmful than feminism and biology.

Anyway, if you're going to use an exercise like this to gun for your domestic political opponents (John Dewey, and by extension Bill Clinton; John Maynard Keynes, and by extension Franklin Delano Roosevelt) at least go after the likes of Noam Chomsky. Leave the mainstream liberals out of it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2005 12:01 AM
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Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn