Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Centrist Position on the Planned Parenthood Controversy

I support Planned Parenthood.  The great majority of the work they do is beneficial.

Abortion should be safe, legal, and abhorrent.  It is not just another medical procedure.  It is a last resort.

Birth control is our most effective method for preventing abortion.

It is reasonable, when abortion is necessary, to use parts saved from the aborted babies for medical research. It is also reasonable for the abortionist to be paid for their costs, without profit.

But I was troubled by the tone taken by Planned Parenthood officials in those sleazy sneak videos.  I know doctors often grow calloused about the humanity of the bodies they work on.  If I were  Planned Parenthood, though, I would make it a special concern of the whole organization to always speak respectfully of the babies they abort, and their bodies afterwards. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Centre Students Don't Expect to Find Their Friends in Class

This was a profound insight that a colleague told me this week.  

Professors are drawn mostly from the nerd tail of the distribution.  We are more likely to to see class as the best place to find friends and allies on the road to understanding the world.

The modal Centre student, by contrast, finds friends in their social groups - teams, clubs, first-year halls, and, especially, Greek organizations.  They often do not learn the names of their fellow students in a class.  They do not see class as the central arena for the main drama of college.

I don't know whether this is true of most colleges.  I think that it was less so at Swarthmore, where I was an undergraduate, and Brown, where my colleague studied.  Even there, though, class was not the main friend maker for everyone.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Which Woman on the $10?

The Treasury has decided to drop Alexander Hamilton from the ten dollar bill, and replace him with a woman.  They have solicited public input on which woman it should be.

A poll found that the top choices of U.S. adults were:

Eleanor Roosevelt (29%)

Harriet Tubman (20)

Susan B. Anthony (11)

Amelia Earhart (11)

Sacagawea (11)

My choice would be a triple portrait of the three women now displayed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in a sculpture:

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott.

If I could get only one, I would go with Anthony, though she has already appeared on the dollar coin.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

President Obama Tweets a Bad Thing Into a Good

MacArthur High School in Irving, TX displayed a sadly paranoid and probably racist reaction to clever student Ahmed Mohamad's home-made clock.  The school confiscated his clock, had him taken away in handcuffs, and suspended him for several days.  They compounded their foolishness by blaming the child.

President Obama, though, turned this shameful episode to good with one tweet:

Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Japanese Universities Kill the Liberal Arts, Choose Slow Death

The Japanese Ministry of Education wants their universities to close down their humanities and social science departments.  Seventeen have already said they will comply.

Japan has a low birth rate and a very poor record of absorbing immigrants.  Now they want to scale back the education that is the major source of broad understanding and innovation.

What they seem to be missing is that today’s “practical” fields are based on ideas invented yesterday in the liberal arts fields.

Japan was once in the “passing lane”, set to overtake the U.S. and European economies and creative leaders.  For the past generation, though, Japanese society has become increasingly sclerotic, literally and figuratively.

Choosing against the future of educational breadth is, I believe, a choice for slow death of their culture.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Small Town Development is a Quicker Path to Meaningful Work

One of the things that makes people happy is having meaningful work.  Developing a town is meaningful work.  Developing a small town gets you involved in meaningful work in which your personal impact is immediately apparent.

This weekend I got to travel with the Brown Fellows, Centre’s top scholarship group, to Paducah, KY.  We met with local do-gooders and busybodies (my kind of people).  They helped turn their historic, but derelict, Lower Town into a magnet for artists, especially quilters.  Little Paducah, KY, population 25,000, was designated a UNESCO Creative City.

Most interesting to me was how just a few dedicated people could make a difference.  One local woman, who had worked in big cities and foreign countries, said that one of the things that drew her back to her hometown was the chance to make a visible difference quickly.