fessor Rorty’s class was supposed to be arnsurvey of philosophy, I supposed I mightrnfind some truth mixed in with the mirth.rnMy hope was disappointed, for therncourse was really nothing more than anrnintroduction to skepticism —not onlyrnabout religious belief, but about the veryexistencernof reason and truth. Advertisedrnas “philosophy,” it was, in fact, anh-philosoph’.rnAs a student, I was in no position tornchallenge the prevailing beliefs of thosernwho posed as teachers. And, like mostrnstudents, I had just enough savoir [aire tornknow that opposing what later becamernknown as “political correctness” amountedrnto academic suicide. So, for the mostrnpart, I kept my own counsel.rnBut even as an artiess undergraduate, Irnhad a half-articulated idea that Rorty’s deconstructionismrnmust necessarily self-destruct.rnFor one cannot make a reasonedrnargument (that is, an argument calculatedrnto convince anyone else) that does notrnposit reason as its standard. There mustrnbe some irreducible truth upon whichrnwe can agree, before we can even beginrnto have the kind of public discoursernabout ideas that philosophy entails.rnRorty’s aim, however, was to demolishrnthe very concept of truth. In doing so, hernalso destroyed his own ability to constructrna cogent argument. Cogency entails supportingrnone’s major point by establishingrnthe truth —or at least the plausibility—ofrnone’s subsidiary points. Rorty utterly failsrnto do this. In fact, he shows himself to berna serial question-beggar.rnTo be convinced that the public wasrnright to reject the supposed hypocrisy ofrnthe Christian Right, one must first hold arnseries of supporting beliefs. One mustrnbelieve that members of the ChristianrnRight do not act according to their statedrnbeliefs, that the public knows it, and thatrnthe public decided to punish them forrnsuch hvpocrisv. More fundamentally,rnone must presume that the entire impeachmentrnwas about illicit sex ratherrnthan the obstruction of the judicial process.rnAnd one must disregard completelyrnthe roles that the media and presidentialrnpolidcs played in the unfolding of events.rnFor all these reasons, Rort}’s thesis thatrnthe public is punishing the “religiousrnright” for its hypocritical attacks on Clintonrnis simplistic in the extreme. And it isrnnot even very original, having beenrnadopted long ago by most middle-browrnpundits.rnThe sloppiness of Rorty’s argument,rnunbecoming a philosopher, is not so surprisingrncoming from a person with an arnpriori commitment to liberal political beliefs.rnFor the true object of Rorty’s Dissentrnarticle is not to meditate on the “largerrnmeaning” of the impeachment, but tornvilify his political adversaries and gloatrnover their defeat.rnThe article illustrates and confirms arnlarger truth about academic “liberals,”rnthe group of “New Yorker-reading academics”rnin which Rorty includes himselfrnIn an attempt to destroy the institutionsrnthey hate (tradition, morality,rnpublic virtue), they seek to destroy thernvery foundations (Cod, reason, truth) ofrnthose institutions. But, in doing so, thernliberals hurt their own cause. Having destroyedrnobjective truth, they have destroyedrnthe only basis on which to engagernin public discourse with people who dornnot already share their conclusions. Discourserndescends to the level of pure assertion,rnunsupported by any reasoning.rnFrom there, it descends even further, intornunadulterated ridicule of one’s adversariesrn—ridicule which has ceased to bernfunny because it merely presumes thernconclusion that one’s enemies are laughable.rnWhen scorners of God and reasonrnwield political power, they are much tornbe feared. They are apt to do just as theyrnplease, precisely because they believernthat there is no ultimate power to restrainrnthem. Indeed, in our national politicalrnlife, those who are a law unto themselvesrnnow appear to hold sway. Even in thernsphere of life we share bevond the narrowrnrealm of elective polities, the “liberals”rnhave attempted to impose their nihilismrn—by force if necessary —on ourrnculture.rnFortunately, Richard Rorty’s solipsistiernmusings pose no grave threat to the futurernof mankind. His Dissent audiencernmost probably consists of people who alreadyrnagree with him. It is not likely torngrow, because he is incapable of makingrna reasoned argument from shared beliefs;rnrather, he has consigned himself to recyclingrnpremises dressed up to look likernconclusions. And he is no longer funny,rnat least to grown-ups.rnPaul R. Scholle, a First Amendmentrnlawyer, writes from Pittsburgh,rnPennsylvania.rnEDUCATIONrnv^/o f if/hscrt7)c:rnfiVOOj -6/69rnPublic Schools:rnThe MediumrnIs the Messagernhy William H. PetersonrnThe shootings at Columbine HighrnSchool in Littleton, Colorado, arernstill reverberating—accentuating somernof the enormous problems with publicrneducation.rnAmerican high schools are plaguedrnwith low academic standards, moral relativism,rnpolitical correctness, student apathy,rnand social permissiveness. All of thisrnhas led to a deterioration in students’rncommitment to learning, their sense ofrndirection, even their willingness to succeed.rnThe root cause of these problems mayrnbe endemic in the structure of publicrnschooling itself. If the public school isrnthe “medium,” then its message is this:rnFirst, an insistence on compulsory attendancernlaws that involve a basic denial ofrnparental and student choice and consentrnby making use of monopoly and coercion.rnSecond, a push for compulsoryrnpublic funding at the expense of localrnand, worse, parental control. Third, a tolerationrnand support of moral relativism orrn”permissiveness.”rnThus does government schooling, arn$300-billion-a-year Leviathan, lumberrnon, breeding academic lethargy and eonfusionrnalong with student frustration andrnaggression. Compare this to private andrnparochial schools, all based on choicernand consent and on the teaching, for thernmost part, of positive values. In privaternschools, rage is rare and academic disciplinernand excellence are common. Canrnyou imagine two students at, say, a St.rnJoseph’s Academy talking up “big troublernat school next week”?rnParental and student consent—itsrnpresence or absence —is crucial. JohnrnStuart Mill saw schools “on the voluntaryrnprinciple” as naturally involving individualrnconsent and wholehearted participation.rnThe anticompetitive principle tiiatrnpublic schools are based on —fundedrnthrough taxes as they are—can creep intornthe classroom, where a statist or generallyrnpro-government view can color thern46/CHRONICLESrnrnrn