Saturday, January 21, 2012

Big-Time Sports Did Not Eat Division III College Life

"How Big-Time Sports Ate College Life," by Laura Pappano in the New York Times, is an excellent and sad story.  Two interesting statistics that she reports:

Between 1985 and 2010, average salaries at public universities rose 32 percent for full professors, 90 percent for presidents and 650 percent for football coaches. 

A study of University of Oregon students found that for every three games won by the football team, the grade-point average for men dropped 0.02, widening the G.P.A. gender gap by 9 percent.

The good news is that this is only a problem at Division I schools.  Division III schools, like Centre College, do athletics right.  And not all Division III schools are small, like Centre.  The University of Chicago, for example, or Washington University, are full-scale research universities.  But they keep sports in proportion.

Physical activity is a fine part of a well-rounded education. Athletics is a good addition to academic education. For those who don't want their academic priorities totally distorted by semi-professional sports teams operating near their academic institution, Division III does academic/athletic balance right.

Friday, January 20, 2012

World Population Pyramid Shows Some Big Declines Coming

This world population pyramid is fantastic.

Want to see something scary? Look at the population of Japan, Russia, and Italy now, vs. 2030.

I think world population is likely to stabilize. But some countries are looking at a demographic shrinkage so large that their societies will be fundamentally changed.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Have the Republicans Run Out of Protestants?

With Rick Perry's withdrawal from the presidential nomination race, the Republican Party is down to Romney the Mormon, Santorum the traditional Catholic, Gingrich the newcomer Catholic, and Ron Paul.

Ron Paul is a libertarian.  Libertarians are mostly unreligious, and a strong segment, like Jesse Ventura, regard religion as a crutch for the weak.

But Ron Paul also attends a Baptist church, is pro-life, and has been on both sides of the gay marriage issue.

I think Paul has not fully worked out the relationship between his religious views and his political views. He is clearly against the federal government being involved in moral and religious matters, as a strict libertarian would be.  But whether he would support or oppose the Christian Right position at the state level is not clear.

In any case, the Republican Party, which has made evangelical Protestants the foundation of its base for a generation, has now run out of any clear socially conservative evangelical candidates for president.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

We Should Err on the Side of Internet Freedom

Today many internet sites, my daily tools and haunts, are protesting proposed legislation. The intent of the legislation - to prevent stealing intellectual property - is noble. The proposed method of control, though, seems so burdensome on internet content transmitters that it could really cripple this wonderful tool.

I am not expert enough on the details of the legislation to say more than that about this law or that. And I am confident that our legislative process will work out to a compromise that is not as bad as the proposed law. The political forces are divided and the economic forces are divided. This is the circumstance that makes for compromise.

The internet needs regulation. Every human institution needs rules and regulation. The question is whether our presumption is to err on the side of freedom or on the side of tight control. To take two extreme examples: we need very little regulation of how the rules of children's games work; we need strict regulation of how nuclear power plants operate.

The flow of content on the internet is, I submit, more like the rules of kids' games than it is like nuclear power. Light regulation is appropriate.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

School Your Passion Toward a Real Problem, and Thus Find Happiness

Oliver Segovia has a fine piece on the Harvard Business Review blog with the unfortunate headline "To Find Happiness, Forget Passion."

His main point is that if you want a meaningful life, find a big problem to work on. Since it is a big problem, you will probably find a way to make a living at trying to solve it. And working on something worthwhile is likely to make you happy.

Segovia frames this point with a story of a woman who "followed her passion" into something liberal artsy (subject not specified), who ended up unemployed and depressed. This story, no doubt, is what led the headline writer to say "forget passion."

I think Segovia's point, though, is that working on a big problem that you have an initial interest in tends to engage your passion. Thus, his real message is not "forget passion," but try to school your passion toward something the world can use.

That way does lead to happiness, fulfillment, and probably enough income to live on.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Best Measure of How Far We Have Come On King Day

... is a black president in the White House.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Vocation to Discern Vocations

In Sunday School we have been talking about the Presbyterian calling to teach.  Everyone in the class is or has been a teacher of some sort. I think this is pretty typical for a Presbyterian Sunday School. I think I would not find the same thing in a random sample of adult Sunday School classes in most denominations.

Being called to teach has also meant that Presbyterians are disproportionately involved in creating schools.  The stewardship of society means that these schools are meant to serve everyone, not just Presbyterians.

One point that came out in the class that I had not fully appreciated before comes from putting the call to teach with the call to create schools.  Having a vocation to teach in institutions that serve everyone means that we also have a vocation to help everyone find his or her vocation - whether that includes teaching or not.

The vocation to help discern vocations vastly multiplies the social effect of the Presbyterian call to teach.