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comments on review
|Posted By: Kevin R Kosar on September 24, 2002|
|Dear Mr. Massey:|
I read with interest your review of the latest Saltman book in TCR. You might find my less sanguine (o.k., mostly scathing) review of Saltman's "Collateral Damage" of interest: http://www.educationreview.homestead.com/CollateralDamage.html.
While Saltman and Goodman rightly cast light on creepy corporate efforts to manipulate curricula, I was put off by their generally hyperbolic prose. Collateral Damage read like a rant, and like Strange Love it too was "an anti-capitalist, anti-profit, anti-corporate, anti-globalization". I wish the authors had stuck to straight reporting on corporate misdeeds. This is what the public craves: straight information on what's happening, not, for lack of a better phrase, "radical cultural criticism".
Which leads to this matter: You ask whether this book will resonate with an audience and my estimate is that nobody will read it or be able to stomach except those cloistered about universities, and even they will be limited to those in the softer academic areas (cultural studies,
American studies, and, of course, those persuing graduate degrees in education). In part that is because Americans mostly don't have an appetite for radicalism, but it is also due to the rather far out arguments Saltman and Goodman take. What does the film "Life is beautiful"
have to do with the corporatization of schools and the growing love for a free global market? I doubt more than a handful of people will ever be able to see the connection.
In many ways, it seems, they are preaching to the converted. Thus, you rightly note, "A further criticism lies in the ways that key terms are used without definition. Corporatization, globalization, and neoliberalism appear repeatedly throughout but are never carefully defined." This has long been a problem with radicals: too often they display little interest in conversing with those who don't think likewise. Words are weapons which are employed in the attempt to smash an existing order. The objective isn't preciison, it's impact. Thus, the prose comes off as wreckless, hamfisted, and anyone who doesn't cheer at the performance risks becoming a target for the radical's assault: racist! oppressor! capitalist! apologust for the corrupt power structure! The political scientist or public policy scholar looks at these sorts of books and shrugs: this is all rhetoric, there's no effort to delineate methodology, justify said methodology for the task at hand, gather data, and make nuanced conclusions. Instead, it's grab a postcolonial novel, a film, an example of corporate misbehavior then weave it all together into a scary picture.
Anyway- that's my two cents. It was a well-written if, in my humble opinion, overly kind review.
Kevin R. Kosar
Lecturer in Public Administration
Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
New York University