The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, April 16, 2002  


We remember when Carol Iannone first started making a name for herself back in the mid-1980s. A few small pieces in Commentary -- mostly book reviews at first, but later full-fledged articles; then an early association with the National Association of Scholars (N.A.S.); followed by some thoughtful contributions to Academic Questions, the quarterly journal of the N.A.S.; and eventually an essay here or there in journals with a similar ideological bent.

From the obscurity of Iona College, New Rochelle, N.Y., she moved to the, um, more prestigious ground of the Gallatin Division of New York University, a "Universities Without Walls" if we correctly understand the division's advertising materials. Hardly the place one would expect to find a conservative academic, but hey, Washington Square beats Huguenot Street any day, right?

And today we stumble upon her article, "Not Again," in the April 16 issue of the New York Press, where she apparently is standing in for our beloved Taki. We are decidedly unimpressed.

The role of the scholar is to approach all generally accepted wisdom with skepticism, to draw one's own conclusions, and to place those findings within the larger body of scholarship. Sadly, Iannone fails on all counts.

Iannone writes, "I wonder if the diary of Anne Frank [sic] has had as much of an impact on today’s youth as it did on my generation." No, it doesn't, and for good reason. And that good reason is because "The Diary of Anne Frank" (the book itself) and "the diary of Anne Frank" (the "idea" or "concept" to which she seems to refer) has been the subject of considerable academic scrutiny since the carefree days of our youth.

The diary of Miss Frank is no longer immediately accepted as, well, gospel truth. Certainly that is true of the diary entries viewed as a whole. The role played by Miss Frank's father in adding to and embellishing the journals will take some time to sort out. Moreover, information discovered after publication about the fate of Miss Frank and her family -- information that was flatly contrary to that of lesson plans distributed around the country -- only added to the skepticism with which some scholars initially greeted the diary.

In the meantime, students today -- to say nothing of their teachers -- are quite right to find that the book affects them quite a bit less than it did when it was initially released to great fanfare. We would think Iannone be pleased by this development, critical thinking being an important element of the N.A.S.'s platform.

As for the rest of the essay, surely this was a rush job. There is virtually nothing in the article that we haven't heard already from Commentary, Forward, The Moment, and other magazines; the pabulum of little minds afraid of losing access to the pages of these esteemed journals.

Let us pass along a tip, Carol: It's okay to deviate from the party line. Sure, Commentary is apt to drop you immediately, but the injection of a little bit of honesty into your writing would go a long way toward enhancing your standing in the academic community. Trust us, you could use it.

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