My child's class reading list is too left-wing even for me

Well, the previous evening I took a look at the proposed reading list, which leaned, believe it or not, heavily communist. I swear I am not making this up. The most right-wing people on the list — not including Joe McCarthy and Dick Cheney, whom I assume will not be taught sympathetically — were Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. The furthest left? Well, it’s hard say. Paul Robeson? Angela Davis? Mumia Abu-Jamal? Michael Moore? It was like a “Saturday Night Live” sketch version of what Tea Party-types think about Upper West Side Jews. So I asked the teacher a Republican-sounding question: “What would you say to a parent who wanted his child be to exposed to a conservative point of view?” (Actually, looking at the list, I would have settled for a liberal one.)

Yes, I get the humor in all this. Nation columnist, scourge of the “idiocy” of the current Republican Party and the “stupidity” of so much of the mainstream media sees his chickens come home to roost on his kid’s eighth-grade reading list and finally learns what “real” Americans have been complaining about all these years…

My primary objection to her teacher’s reading list is that if all you read about on American history are leftists who object to most everything about it, you’d never be able to understand why perfectly decent, smart and committed people think so differently from you. What’s more, your own thinking needs to be tested against theirs to ensure that it remains sharp and relevant. This is true even if you have no sympathy for such ideas. In the preface to “The Liberal Imagination” (1950), Lionel Trilling noted “that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation,” but merely “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.” He was concerning himself less with conservatism than with the need for liberals to have a strong, confident opponent with whom to spar as a boxer might to stay in shape.