It is that time of year when Tommy is taking exams in school. Like any other sane person, he doesn’t like this time of year. So, to lighten his load, I sent him the following bulletin. Take it to heart, all students and parents:
For any exam in history, here is the answer: all human history is the struggle between systems that attempt to shackle the human personality in the name of some intangible good on the one hand and systems that enable and expand the scope of human personality in the pursuit of extremely tangible aims. The American system is the most successful in the world because it harmonizes best with the aims and longings of human personality while allowing the best protection to other personalities.
For your exam in religion: all religions attempt to meet and answer man’s most basic fears and aspirations and reassure man in his wishes to accommodate himself to a very difficult life and a certain death. The religions that do this best are those which offer the most hopeful vision, that which harmonizes best with human personality.
For your exam in art or literature: all great art and literature, all lasting art and literature, attempt to express something lasting and permanent about the human condition and to explain its pains and contradictions and joys through the depiction of the specific and the concrete. Art and literature or music that fails to do this does not last.
I believe he cannot fail to get all A’s now, but then maybe in today’s world he also has to add some notes about Amerikan Imperialism and the repression implicit in the Bush Doctrine.
Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, lawyer, and parent in Malibu and Beverly Hills.
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