How Green Was My Cali
The critics are ganging up on social critic Mike Davis, the MacArthur fellow and Marxist deflater of Los Angeles' dreams and delusions. Local columnists have pointed out a number of errors and unsubstantiated stories in Davis' two books about Los Angeles: City of Quartz (1990) and Ecology of Fear (1998). The errors range from the trivial (misspelling the name of former Gov. George Deukmejian) to the significant (reporting that there are 2,000 gated communities in Los Angeles when there are, in fact, 100). The spat has attracted attention in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and the Economist. Davis-bashing social critic Joel Kotkin declared, "What bothers me even as a person who was trained as a Marxist is that somebody would so bastardize Marxist theory to the point of making things up." But in The Nation, University of California, Irvine historian Jon Wiener contends that Davis is the victim of a campaign by city boosters to run their most persistent critic out of town. Davis, ironically, has accepted a history appointment 3,000 miles away--at Long Island's State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Harvard education guru Howard Gardner made a name for himself years ago with his theory of "multiple intelligences," which posited that many different kinds of intelligence--musical, spatial, linguistic, interpersonal, etc.--balanced differently in different people. A few months ago, James Traub, assessing the impact of Gardner's theory in the New Republic, charged that the multiple-intelligence movement has dumbed down the curriculum in many schools. But in the February Atlantic Monthly, Gardner renews his call for cognitive pluralism: Not only is there more than one kind of intelligence, but those intelligences, as he calls them, are only part of the story. He writes, "We should recognize that intelligences, creativity, and morality--to mention just three desiderata--are separate. Each may require its own form of measurement or assessment, and some will prove far easier to assess objectively than others."