WHAT SHOULD BE a joyful season has become, for too many people, an exhausting shopping ordeal. Battling the holiday crowds in the malls is only part of the problem. Finding a present that fits each person on your list can become a mental burden.
Books are one way out of this problem. For "the man who has everything" -- an increasing number of people of both sexes in this affluent society -- a book that has just been published is probably something they do not have. And it's a one-size-fits-all gift.
For serious readers, this has been a banner year for outstanding new books. Hernando de Soto's new book, "The Mystery of Capital" explains in readable language why free markets fail to produce the same kind of prosperity in the Third World as in countries like the United States, Japan or Germany. In the process, this book makes Americans understand the things responsible for their own economic good fortune.
If you want to know why our schools have been dumbed down and why so much weird stuff and political correctness have displaced academic work in American classrooms, read "Left Back" by Diane Ravitch. It is a history of so-called progressive education theories, from their original guru, John Dewey, to the present. You may not like the education fads any better, but at least you will know what our "educators" are up to, as distinguished from what their spin says they are trying to do.
One of the most recent -- and most destructive -- of the weird notions to seize the education establishment is the idea that the normal behavior of boys is something to be stamped out and the boys re-programmed to fit the theories of radical feminists. Christina Hoff Sommers' new book, "The War Against Boys" explains the ideology behind this -- and the utter lack of evidence behind this destructive ideology. In fact, much evidence contradicts these theories.
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