12 May Articles I’ve been reading lately
Swimming Without A Suit (NY Times Op-Ed, Thomas Friedman):
An excellent piece about the failure of the American education system and its impact on the financial future of the USA. An especially poignant quote: “There are millions of kids who are in modern suburban schools ‘who don’t realize how far behind they are,’ said Matt Miller, one of the authors. ‘They are being prepared for $12-an-hour jobs — not $40 to $50 an hour.'”
In addition to what Friedman points out, I would suggest that the complacency shown by the last couple generations is at fault. We are convinced that “childhood” runs through the teen years and that it’s more important to experience life and “find ourselves” than to use those years to prepare ourselves by hard labor and education. As anyone who has been in an American high school anytime recently knows, another major problem is our lack of discipline. If a teacher so much as touches a student, he/she will probably get fired. In other countries? Not so much. Those countries that are spanking us in achievement Tend not to be so averse to corporal punishment.
The bottom line is that we are not only “a nation in decline” as Friedman has said, but a declined nation. As Herodotus observed when writing about Croesus and the Persian invaders, a high standard of living makes a nation soft and ultimately leads to its downfall.
End the University As We Know It (NYT Op-Ed, Mark C. Taylor):
Some completely awful suggestions from the chair of the Dept. of Religious Studies at Columbia. If we did away with tenure, we would cut away the last remaining protection against the dangerous herd mentality already present in scholarship. We need the ability to do radical research that thinks outside the box without fear of losing jobs. He also suggests a program-based approach to research that would essentially eliminate any chance of getting any real work done. The letters to the editor in response to Taylor’s Op-Ed do an excellent job of displaying many (though not all) of the flaws in this abysmal Op-Ed.
Twittering in Church (Time article):
Some interesting developments in the attempt to incorporate technology into worship. I’m not sure I’m thrilled with how this is being implemented in every case, but I can definitely see some advantages to incorporating technology in some way.
God Talk (NYT Op-Ed, Stanley Fish):
An excellent review of Terry Eagleton’s book “Reason, Faith and Revolution,” which argues that faith continues to have a place in the modern (scientific) life. Eagleton makes the (legitimate, though unoriginal) point that science, liberalism, capitalism, etc. don’t adequately provide a reliable guide for life and ethics. Religion (so Eagleton argues) is the only thing designed for asking and attempting to answer the most important questions. To argue (as Dawkins and Hitchens have, for example) that scientific advances have made religion obsolete misses the point: they are not asking the same questions. Science is unequipped to draw conclusions from anything that is beyond the field of natural observation. Fish cites several clever scenarios used to draw the point and gives some worthwhile commentary.