Comments: Week of May 22, 2023


“Indoctrination Nation,” May 8–21

For New York’s most recent cover ­story, Jonathan Chait detailed how ­Republicans — convinced that the education system poses an existential threat to their party’s future — are trying to take ­control of the American classroom. “As someone who has been the right’s target, @jonathanchait is spot on,” wrote Randi ­Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. Education histo­rian and activist Diane Ravitch called Chait’s analysis “incisive” and “a good primer for the elections of 2024. Implicit are the many reasons why Democrats must be prepared to ­defend teachers and professors, to protect both schools and universities from the takeovers planned by Republican legislators, to gear up for the fight against censorship, to resist ­incipient fascism, and to hold the line for our democratic principles.” Anne Lutz ­Fernandez, the author of Schooled, added, “This piece includes a great deal of helpful evidence supporting the idea that the GOP assault on education is not just a culture war side show (as many of us have been saying for a while), but a dangerous ­attempt to use the system to authoritarian ends.” Some on the right agreed with Chait’s assessment of their aims. “It has taken conservatives 2 generations of getting screwed over but we have finally started taking the liberal control of the education system seriously. Good start but just a start. This will take decades,” wrote @DastDn. And on Twitter, Christopher Rufo, the ­conservative activist whose work Chait ­discussed, called the story’s headline “unintentionally based.”

Photo: Jeannette Montgomery Barron


“Late Work”

In “Late Work,” Kerry Howley wrote about the Pulitzer-winning poet Jorie Graham and how she created one of the ­finest books of her career in the face of both cancer and grief. Representative ­Jamie Raskin of Maryland said it was an “­exquisite profile … on the spellbinding work and ­irrepressible spirit of poet @jorie_graham, the unacknowledged legislator of our times.” The poet and critic David Baker ­responded, “­Graham is one of three or four ­living American poets whose work is both groundbreaking and ever-evolving — and aimed for greatness. While she’s never been as reclusive or secretive as one of her deep sources, Emily Dickinson, she has also
never been particularly confessional or prone to indulgent self-image-making. ‘Late Work’ is a revelation, then, as ­Howley ­compels us to read ­Graham intimately — ­especially through family ­relationships, particularly with her ­mother, the sculptor Beverly ­Pepper, and her daughter, Emily. Howley shows the matrilineal to be a vital strand in reading Graham’s poetry, along with her connection to nature and time (human and, impor­tantly, geological time), and her restless configurations of the poetic art itself: ‘As long as I’m alive, my job is to enter the next room and potentially be mauled or changed or fail.’ ” Graham’s daughter, ­Emily Galvin-­Almanza, called the story “a really excellent portrait of my mom, and my grandmother,” adding, “I get to make a ­cameo as a poker-playing 4yo with a ­martini glass full of milk.”


“What if E. Jean Carroll Doesn’t Win?”

Rebecca Traister’s latest column asked “What If E. Jean Carroll Doesn’t Win?” The day after it was published online, a jury found former president Donald Trump ­liable for defamation and battery and awarded Carroll — who first publicly ­disclosed her experience in a 2019 New York cover ­story — $5 million. On CNN, ­Christiane Amanpour told Traister that the trial would “have a lasting impact and ramifications for many, many victims that fit her profile” and that Carroll said she has “changed the general perception of the ­victim.” And in an interview on MSNBC, journalist Alex Wagner said, “If you’d told me ten years ago, 20 years ago, that a ­woman was going to come forward with charges that were ­decades old, she didn’t remember when they happened, she didn’t scream, she didn’t even really know or ­understand what had happened to her in the minutes after this ­assault — I would have said there’s no way you can litigate that in court. There’s no way. And yet E. Jean ­Carroll won.”


In Other News:

New York’s book critic, ­Andrea Long Chu, won the 2023 ­Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. The award committee lauded how Chu’s ­reviews — ­including close readings of novels by Hanya Yanagihara and Ottessa ­Moshfegh — “scrutinize authors as well as their works, using multiple cultural lenses to ­explore some of society’s most fraught ­topics.”

In “Tom Sachs Promised a Fun Cult” (March 13–26), Katy Schneider and Adriane Quinlan uncovered allegations of toxic workplace behavior by the artist. This month, Nike announced it was ending its decade-long partnership with Sachs.

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Comments: Week of May 22, 2023