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Mark Bauerlein is Senior Editor at First Things and Professor of English at Emory University, where he has taught since earning his PhD in English at UCLA in 1989. For two years (2003-05) he served as Director of the Office of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts. His books include Literary Criticism: An Autopsy (1997), The Pragmatic Mind: Explorations in the Psychology of Belief (1997), and The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (2008). His essays have appeared in PMLA, Partisan Review, Wilson Quarterly, Commentary, and New Criterion, and his commentaries and reviews in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Weekly Standard, The Guardian, Chronicle of Higher Education, and other national periodicals.

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Standardized Culture

From the January 2015 Print Edition

When standardized tests were first developed long ago (the SAT started in 1926), they had a virtuous purpose. Educators wished to give all high school students a chance to show their talents and earn admission to elite colleges. From then on, the disciplined, high-IQ son of a shopkeeper in Salina, . . . . Continue Reading »

The Power of “Heteronormativity”

From Web Exclusives

For twenty-five years, the term heteronormativity has been a strategic usage. The basic definition isn’t complicated. Heteronormativity is the act of interpreting heterosexual desire as the normal, natural way of human being and society. The term doesn’t signify the normal-ness of heterosexuality. It signifies the disposition to normalize it.For twenty-five years, the term heteronormativity has been a strategic usage. The basic definition isn’t complicated. Heteronormativity is the act of interpreting heterosexual desire as the normal, natural way of human being and society. The term doesn’t signify the normal-ness of heterosexuality. It signifies the disposition to normalize it. Continue Reading »

Public Schools and the Wall of Separation

From First Thoughts

The famous phrase “wall of separation of church and state” today enjoys the status of legal precedent, but here’s a curious fact. The phrase comes from the letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Connecticut Baptists who feared that state politicians would suppress them. When the Baptists received the letter, however, they didn’t celebrate and publicize the statement. They didn’t even record it in the minutes of their proceedings. “They pretend it never existed.” Continue Reading »

In A Tight Place with Profanity

From First Thoughts

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do, and sometimes it isn’t. The other night I had a flight to Atlanta and was lucky to get upgraded to business class. It was late, I was tired, and lights were low. People were reading, checking their phones, watching their tablets. I leaned back and drifted into half-slumber until a voice exclaimed, “Oh man, that’s f—-in’ awesome.” Continue Reading »

Michael Lomax and College Completion

From First Thoughts

In October 2013, 132 Catholic professors signed a letter addressed to America’s Catholic bishops objecting to the adoption of Common Core standards by Catholic schools. The letter stated that the standards lower expectations for high school graduates to a basic-skills, workforce-preparation focus, neglecting “Catholic schools’ rich tradition of helping to form children’s hearts and minds.” Furthermore, Common Core aims to make students “college-ready,” but the standards are “geared to prepare children only for community-college-level studies.” Continue Reading »

The Rhetoric of the Houston Ordinance

From First Thoughts

In the controversy over the subpoena issued to local pastors in Houston who opposed an anti-discrimination ordinance, it is wise to heed the rhetoric of its defenders even as the subpoenas have evoked national protest. We had two prime cases in the Wall Street Journal from last Thursday. The article bears the title, “Mayor Tries to Calm Pastor Uproar,” but you have to wonder about how Mayor Parker goes about doing so. Continue Reading »

Angels in Ferguson

From the November 2014 Print Edition

When the New York Times printed a short profile of Michael Brown just as mourners were preparing to lay him to rest, the editors probably thought readers would appreciate it as a humane complement to the political stew still boiling in Ferguson, Missouri. They didn’t. Journalists and bloggers . . . . Continue Reading »