The End of College as We Knew It

Brian Rosenberg, who just finished a long stretch as president of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, observes:

“If one were to invent a crisis uniquely and diabolically designed to undermine the foundations of traditional colleges and universities, it might look very much like the current global pandemic.”

Frank Bruni quotes Rosenberg in his essay “The End of College as We Knew It?” A thoughtful lament on the decline of the humanities.

Rosenberg notes higher education was already on the defensive seeing that it is. . .

“maligned by conservative politicians for its supposed elitism and resented by students and their families for its hefty price tag.”

In my case, Bruni is preaching to the choir when making a case for the humanities. Despite agreeing wholeheartedly with him about the timeless importance of the humanities, his last argument seems specious.

He writes:

“We need doctors, all right, but not all doctors are the same, as Benito Cachinero-Sánchez, the vice chair of the Library of America’s board of directors, reminded me. If he were choosing between two physicians, he said, he would go with one who has read Chekhov, ‘because he’s a fuller human being and he’s going to treat me like a fuller human being.'”

Not everyone who reads classic literature becomes a fuller human being. It’s even more foolhardy to assume someone is going to behave markedly better as a result of having read Chekhov. The ink on the paper is not magic, more important are the institutions’ values and the overall ethos of the place where one engages with classic literature.

But let’s ask every medical student to read Chekhov just in case I’m wrong. Again.

How To Raise An Anti-Racist Kid

By Tara Parker-Pope. Chock-full of good ideas. Among them:

“Supplement your child’s education with books and documentaries, and don’t shy away from conversations about race.”

Every Martin Luther King day The Good Wife read a book about King’s life to our daughters. One on each side of her, sitting on the couch. Even though it was written on a third/fourth grade level, the readings continued into secondary school. That very small investment of time had an oversized impact on them becoming socially conscious young women.

Understanding Seattle

The President and his Fox News co-workers don’t ever reference Seattle’s history. Because they don’t care about it. All they care about is reinforcing stereotypes of people of color being prone to violence.

For historical context, we need Margaret O’Hara’s, “Don’t Be Fooled by Seattle’s Police-Free Zone”.

The heart of the matter:

“Discriminatory mortgage lending and racially restrictive covenants limited Seattle’s nonwhite population to a single neighborhood, the Central District. Fair housing laws opened up new parts of the city and suburbs to minority homeowners and renters after the 1960s, but Seattle’s overwhelmingly single-family zoning limited the housing available to new buyers.

Such zoning has been remarkably difficult to change. The region’s homeowners may vote Democratic and plant racial solidarity signs in their front yards, but often resist higher densities that can increase the affordable housing supply.”

O’Hara sees things getting better:

“. . . this season of pandemic and protest. . . . is forcing our city to reckon with truths that can and should make white citizens like me uncomfortable, and that remind us just how much Seattle is like the rest of America: impossibly divided, and impossibly full of hope.”

Pressing Pause On A ‘National Conversation On Race’

Everyday brings more examples. People regularly write, speak, and/or behave in ways a majority of people would deem racially insensitive, if not outright racist. What should we do about that?

It seems like we’ve decided to make the consequences so severe that the racially insensitive have no choice but to suppress their racist tendencies. Dox them, ostracize them, fire them from their jobs.

Conservative Republicans, who not always, but often are racially insensitive, are quick to label this “cancel culture” which only adds to their persecution complex and makes them even more defensive on subjects of race.

Personally, at this time of heightened racial consciousness, I’m most interested in what militant black men and women are thinking. The more militant, the more I tune in.

Historically, there have been repeated calls by progressives of all colors for a “national conversation on race”. As a life-long educator, that strategy is my preferred one, but I’m not hearing militants make many, if any references to “conversation”.

Maybe that’s because conversation requires slowing down in order to address mutual defensiveness. Instead, activists are accelerating demands for long sought for changes which makes total sense given our collective attention deficit disorder. How long until the media spotlight shifts? In essence, strike now for legislative protections against state-sponsored violence; strike now for the removal of Confederate statues, flags, and related symbols; strike now to destroy white supremacy in whatever form.

As a pro-conversation educator, I’m out of step with the times. Which is okay. Just know I’ll be committed to the conversation long after the spotlight shifts.

 

Down Goes Bolton!

If this book review of John Bolton’s tell all was a fight, a ref would’ve stopped it in the early paragraphs.

Early in my academic career, I wrote a lot of book reviews. Overtime, I only agreed to review books that I liked since telling people not to read a particular book didn’t feel like a constructive use of time.

Fortunately, Jennifer Szalai of The New York Times does not share my philosophy.

Her take-down of Bolton is exquisite. Her intro tweet to her review is an appetizer of sort:

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The highlights, or if you’re John Bolton, lowlights:

“The book is bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much. It toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged.”

Szalai on Bolton’s impeachment dodge:

“‘Had I testified,’ Bolton intones, ‘I am convinced, given the environment then existing because of the House’s impeachment malpractice, that it would have made no significant difference in the Senate outcome.’ It’s a self-righteous and self-serving sort of fatalism that sounds remarkably similar to the explanation he gave years ago for preemptively signing up for the National Guard in 1970 and thereby avoiding service in Vietnam. ‘Dying for your country was one thing,’ he wrote in his 2007 book ‘Surrender Is Not an Option’, ‘but dying to gain territory that antiwar forces in Congress would simply return to the enemy seemed ludicrous to me.'”

The finishing touch:

“When it comes to Bolton’s comments on impeachment, the clotted prose, the garbled argument and the sanctimonious defensiveness would seem to indicate some sort of ambivalence on his part — a feeling that he doesn’t seem to have very often. Or maybe it merely reflects an uncomfortable realization that he’s stuck between two incompatible impulses: the desire to appear as courageous as those civil servants who bravely risked their careers to testify before the House; and the desire to appease his fellow Republicans, on whom his own fastidiously managed career most certainly depends. It’s a strange experience reading a book that begins with repeated salvos about ‘the intellectually lazy’ by an author who refuses to think through anything very hard himself.”

Szalai with the technical knock out.

The Lonely Majority

How loneliness could be changing your brain and body.

“A  2018 study. . . found that 54% of 20,000 Americans surveyed reported feeling lonely. In the span of a bit more than a year, the number rose to 61%. Generation Z adults 18-22 years old are supposedly the loneliest generation, outpacing Boomers, Gen X and Millennials, despite being more connected than ever.”

Wowza. The silent, underreported epidemic.

“Loneliness might conjure images of being apart from friends and family, but the feeling runs much deeper than not having plans on a Friday night or than going stag to a wedding. Evolutionarily, being part of a group has meant protection, sharing the workload and increased odds of survival. After all, humans take a long time to mature. We need our tribes.

‘It’s very distressing when we are not a part of a group,’ said Julianne Holt-Lundstad, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University. ‘We have to deal with our environment entirely on our own, without the help of others, which puts our brain in a state of alert, but that also signals the rest of our body to be in a state of alert.’

Staying in that state of alert, that high state of stress, means wear and tear on the body. Stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine can contribute to sleeplessness, weight gain and anxiety over extended periods of exposure, according to the Mayo Clinic.”

What to do? Doug Nemecek, chief medical officer at Cigna:

“‘We need to reach out to some friends and make sure we maintain those connections and have meaningful conversations. It’s important for all of us to be comfortable asking other people how they feel.”

And for the lonely majority to risk being vulnerable when asked.

Bolton Rips Trump

Getting reelected was the only thing that mattered.

It continues to be.

Bolton and Trump deserved each other. Mike Quigley on Bolton:

“At the time the country needed him most, and history will reflect, he chose to sell books,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “It wasn’t a question in his mind of whether or not he should talk about it. It’s whether or not he should profit from talking about it. Not exactly ‘Profiles in Courage.'”

Profiles in Cash Money. Boycott the book.

Dave Chappelle—8:46

A friend, whose politics are different than mine, recently asked me to “keep an open mind”.

He can do the same by spending 27 minutes listening to Dave Chappelle’s June 11th YouTube vid.

Raw. X-rated. Because it will definitely offend some, I chose not to embed it. You can easily find it.

An African-American acquaintance of mine tweeted about it this way:

“Feel how you feel about Dave Chapelle. He isn’t above critique. But this…stand up(?) he just released on YouTube is nothing short of genius.”

I wonder, what will my friend think?