The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

February 28, 2021

Sometime in the very near future, I will be launching a new feature at “The Redneck Intellectual” that I’m calling “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”  This new feature is, admittedly, an experiment. We’ll see how it goes. I’m making no promises, but I hope to publish “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” on a weekly basis.

The plan is to share what I’ve been reading, watching, or listening to that I think is brilliant, important, informative, revealing, ennobling, ominous, alarming, vile, or just plain evil. Some of the content I will post could go back weeks, months, years, or even decades

My hope is to provide you with “must read,” “must see,” “must hear” quality content. Much of the content I post will be related to what’s happening in K-12 education and higher ed.

Each issue of the “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” will feature content that will fit under each one of these distinct categories.

Under “The Good,” I will share articles, quotations, videos, podcasts, photographs etc. that are either good in themselves or point to something that is good.  For example, here’s a good essay by UVA Professor Mark Edmundson on why literature professors should teach what they love. Edmundson ends the essay with this inspiring push:

Teach out of love, and the students will return. They are locked in a conformist world in which there is only one way, the standard way—the SAT, internship, recommendations way—to thrive. They need more options. They require more, and more various, visions of the good life. They don’t need to hear again what the good life isn’t. They need affirmations, coaxed from the great writers, of what it might be. Give them that, with conviction, humor, modesty, and maybe a little brio, and let us see what happens. The sun rises every day, a beautiful morning star. Why not, once at least, see if we might not try rising with it?

Teach literature. Teach the literature you love.

With “The Bad” category, I will feature content that is either bad in itself or points toward trends or issues in American life and culture (and sometimes beyond) that are deleterious in nature or direction. For example, in contrast to Mark Edmundson, Professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta, a professor of classics at Princeton, teaches what he hates and wants to destroy. According to Rich Lowry,

It is rare to find other fields with scholars so consumed with hatred for their own disciplines that they want to destroy them from within. Presumably, if an ultra-progressive astrophysicist concludes that his field is desperately out of touch with social-justice concerns, he simply goes and does something else for a living, rather than agitating to have students stop learning about space. 

And “The Ugly” category will aggregate material (hopefully not too much) that demonstrates the ugliness and sometimes the wickedness of those who seek to intentionally harm the lives, the liberties, and the happiness of others. For instance, here is an account by the mother of a Bryn Mawr College undergraduate detailing how and why craven administrators at the school acceded to the demands of a small minority of campus radicals and cancelled their own moral authority to run an institution of higher learning.

What these students have learned—at a Quaker-founded institution no less—is that might makes right, that discussion and debate are for racists, and that the middle-aged elites who run society’s most prestigious institutions will sell them out for their own public-relations convenience, all the while publicly thanking the social-justice shakedown artists who engineered their own humiliation, thus incentivizing more tantrums in the future.

I don’t really want to invade your mental space and time with news that is bad or ugly, but I do believe that we have a moral responsibility to the good to confront, challenge, and defeat that which is injurious to the best within or around us.

Caveat emptor! I can’t promise that you are going to like or appreciate my intellectual interests or my aesthetic taste in music, photography, painting, poetry, architecture, or literature. In fact, I’m pretty sure that some of you won’t or at least not all of the time. If you don’t like what you see or hear, just keep scrolling.

I will try to be a minimalist in the amount of content I share with you. You have more than enough online content thrown at you every day, so “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” will be something of a boutique aggregator.

Oh, yes, and one more thing.

Every issue of the “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” will include a bonus category on “The Beautiful.” This bonus category may be the most important because it represents what I think is most needed in our world today. I am fast coming to the conclusion that any sort of moral-cultural-political renewal in this country must include some kind of aesthetic renaissance. We must combat the ugliness around us with the beauty around us.

Gregori Allegri’s Miserere mei, Deus is the most beautiful piece of music I’ve ever heard. I first heard it driving into Toronto sometime in the early 1980s. I was so moved by the music that I had to pull off the highway and gather myself. I hope you’ll like it as much as I do.

Finally, I would very much like all of you to join me in the search for beauty. I therefore encourage all of you to help me to discover old and new forms of beauty—natural or man-made. Please feel free to send me whatever you think is beautiful and ennobling in the form of photographs, images of paintings, music videos, film outtakes, verses of poetry, passages from novels or non-fiction books and essays, etc. I can’t promise that I’ll post what you send, but if I do I will be sure to give you credit.

You can send your aesthetic content to this email address: Redneckaesthetic@gmail.com. Please always use as your subject line: “The Beautiful.”