David Kirp

David L. Kirp, James D. Marver Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, is the author of Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America's Schools, from which this article is adapted.

Recent Articles

Satanic Virtues

The avalanche of publicity for Hannibal has made it the most widely anticipated film of the season. Small wonder: Only the bravest of moviemakers would dare to carry on the story of Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling, told with such stunning effect 10 years ago in Silence of the Lambs . That these stories are meant to be more than horror-cum-detective tales is evident from the names of the protagonists. It's not too lit-crit to point out that "Hannibal" calls to mind the brutally triumphal ruler and "Lecter" (lecturer) the pontifical voice, while "Clarice" is a reworking of Clarissa, the morally unsullied heroine in Samuel Richardson's eponymous eighteenth-century novel--a character fatefully entangled with a man at once her protector and the cause of her destruction. Such lofty references could be pure pretense, of course, but the conceit actually works. Silence of the Lambs introduces its audience to a face of evil previously unimagined. Just as ambitiously, Hannibal endows it...

Death at an Early Age

Loss within Loss: Artists in the Age of AIDS, edited by Edmund White. University of Wisconsin Press, 305 pages, $29.95. In the aftermath of the terse 1981 announcement by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that a strange new disease was killing homosexuals, gay men mastered the art of throwing a funeral. This was not something for which we were prepared or trained--no Martha Stewart or Miss Manners to offer helpful hints--but, of course, no one was prepared for AIDS. Like the citizens of Oran, about whose plight Albert Camus writes feelingly in The Plague, we were devastated by the kind of wild contagion that, not long before, scientists had confidently pronounced to be a thing of the past. Gay men and their allies had to learn a great many things, and quickly too--how to administer IV drips and change soiled bedsheets, how to organize for decent health care and mobilize friends for around-the-clock attendance upon the sick among us. So, too, with funerals. With so many young men...