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Caution: books may trigger uncomfortable thoughts.

By GREG LUKIANOFF and JONATHAN HAIDT [The Atlantic] — Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. Continue reading “Caution: books may trigger uncomfortable thoughts.” »

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Polls: Ferguson’s anger isn’t shared by most black Americans.

By FRANK NEWPORT [Gallup] — August 3: PRINCETON, N.J. — Despite the significant public attention on confrontations between black citizens and police in Missouri, Maryland and New York over the past year, blacks in 2015 express virtually the same opinions about being mistreated by police as they did in 2013. This year, 18% of adult blacks say there has been an occasion the last 30 days when they personally felt they were treated unfairly in dealings with police, which is virtually the same as the 17% recorded in 2013. This is down from as high as 25% in 2004… Continue reading “Polls: Ferguson’s anger isn’t shared by most black Americans.” »

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Coherence in teaching: An idea so crazy it just might work.

But why would any student spend tens of thousands of dollars and, rather than see the world in all its aspects, instead spend his time being indoctrinated and immersed in the prejudices of the current culture and the opinions of his tendentious professors? The job of teachers is to liberate minds, not capture them. Continue reading “Coherence in teaching: An idea so crazy it just might work.” »

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Planned Parenthood’s modest proposal.

By KATHLEEN PARKER [Washington Post] — In his satirical solution to Ireland’s prolific poor, especially among Catholics whose fish diet was thought to enhance fertility, Jonathan Swift suggested a new menu item: Succulent 1-year-olds for dinner.

His essay “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country . . . ” was intended to shake up the English and remind them that the Irish were, in fact, human beings. This took quite a while to sink in. Continue reading “Planned Parenthood’s modest proposal.” »

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The varieties of secular belief: Academic superiority.

By BRANDON BUSTEED [Gallup] — There are many ways that lifelong learning could be measured. One way is by asking activity-based questions such as how many books or articles someone reads, whether they do research on the Internet, visit a library, have a conversation with someone from a foreign country, engage in debates about important issues with their friends, or cast an informed vote in an election, etc. Decades of Gallup research about what it means to be engaged in your work and thriving in your overall well-being suggests there is a simple but powerful measure of lifelong learning — to ask the direct question: “Do you learn something new or interesting every day?” It’s highly likely that a person doing any of the activity-based measures of learning described above would most certainly agree with this statement. Continue reading “The varieties of secular belief: Academic superiority.” »

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The varieties of secular belief: ‘antiracism’.

By JOHN McWHORTER [Daily Beast] — To someone today making sense of the Nacirema [“American” backwards — ed.], the category of person who, roughly, reads the New York Times and the New Yorker and listens to NPR would be a deeply religious person indeed, but as an Antiracist. This is good in some ways—better than most are in a position to realize. This is also bad in other ways – worse than most are in a position to realize. Continue reading “The varieties of secular belief: ‘antiracism’.” »

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Spender’s last take.

 Stephen Spender, 20 years later

By ANDREW GRAHAM-YOOLL.

spenderBUENOS AIRES, 16 July 2015 – It was twenty years ago on one of those glorious Summer days when England has a knack for living, that the poet Sir Stephen Harold Spender died, aged 86. It was on Sunday, 16 July 1995, the day before Juan Manuel Fangio, Argentina’s five times world motor racing champion died, aged 84. In two days two gentle men had died. They were witnesses of a century who had lived at opposite extremes of speed.

Pardon the apparent oxymoron, but it was what immediately came to mind.   I was back in Argentina when Sir Stephen died and the first thing recalled was his answer to my question about what he knew of Buenos Aires. He had once made a brief visit, courtesy of the British Council. His had been a parting comment, probably during a meeting at Index on Censorship magazine, of which he was one of the founders in 1972. Spender replied that he had read Jorge Luis Borges and he admired Fangio, because they both seemed “very clever and very gentle men”. He was right, of course. Continue reading “Spender’s last take.” »

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Why we called it ‘Charm City’.

TIM KREIDER [New York Times] — H. L. Mencken once wrote that Baltimore was known up and down the East Coast for the excellence of its food, the pulchritude of its women and the genteel charm of its domestic life — all of which, sadly, reads like a joke now. Like Sodom and Hiroshima, it is a city best known for its destruction. The Baltimore where I reeled around drunkenly for years, and got hassled by the cops exactly once — for impersonating a deity — was White Baltimore, which, if mapped, would look like a tenuous network of interconnected nodes laid over the terra incognita where the majority of the city’s inhabitants lived their lives. That other Baltimore, hungry and disenfranchised and heavily armed, written off by politicians, pushed around by the cops and called animals on the Internet, was always a block away. Continue reading “Why we called it ‘Charm City’.” »

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A vocational test for atheist clergy.

DOUGLAS TODD [Vancouver Sun] — The trouble is [atheist-Unitarian “minister” Gretta] Vosper and supporters somehow think the “interventionist” God is the only God there is. If you reject their over-simplified understanding of this theology, they argue you have to be an atheist.

Nothing could be further from the way it is. There are many alternative understandings of God, and one umbrella term for them is panentheism. Continue reading “A vocational test for atheist clergy.” »

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Politics in Athens: Biker-chic and broke.

greek-bureaucratPETER COY [Bloomberg Businessweek] – The rest of Europe doesn’t want to hear what Greece has to say anymore. In vowing that he has the upper hand in negotiations, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sounds as detached from reality as the Iraqi information minister who promised Western reporters in 2003 that U.S. troops would be smashed by the forces of Saddam Hussein. Varoufakis is a bad-boy academic who likes showing up on a motorcycle and wagging his finger at the diplomats. Here’s Varoufakis again, this time from a Twitter message in April: “FDR, 1936: ‘They are unanimous in their hate for me; and I welcome their hatred.’ A quotation close to my heart (& reality) these days.” This needs to be about Greece, not Yanis. Continue reading “Politics in Athens: Biker-chic and broke.” »

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Tweeting like Diogenes.

Passion with dignity: Being your best self on Facebook and Twitter.

By MARCUS BANKS.

diogenesh2oTEN YEARS AGO I began to blog. It was January 2005, and New York liberals like me were facing the gut-punch reality of the impending new Bush administration. Yes, George W. Bush—the president who sought to enshrine opposition to gay marriage in the United States Constitution during his first term. As marriage equality moves ever closer to reality today, it is worth remembering just how far we’ve traveled. Continue reading “Tweeting like Diogenes.” »

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Art Basel: The fall of the Arab spring.

BEN LUKE [Art Newspaper] — “Arab Spring” (2014) [in the “Unlimited” section of Art Basel 2015] consists of 16 glass vitrines, empty but for stones that have shattered their glass; more boulders and bricks lie at the cabinets’ feet. The work was triggered by the plundering of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in 2011, and uses the same traditional display cabinets that were raided by the looters. Continue reading “Art Basel: The fall of the Arab spring.” »

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The Waterloo brand: Sideways hat, a big capital ‘N’, plus bees.

By CLAIRE WRATHALL [Christie’s Daily] — When Andrew Roberts’ masterly biography Napoleon the Great was published last autumn, Penguin’s art editor, Isabelle de Cat, intentionally eschewed portraits and images of battle scenes for its cover, opting instead for a large ‘N’ surrounded by an orderly swarm of golden bees. She was taking, she said at the time, ‘a symbolic approach, with the cover creating a sort of “brand” for Napoleon.’ Continue reading “The Waterloo brand: Sideways hat, a big capital ‘N’, plus bees.” »

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AWP: A ‘writers program’ that censors writers?

NATIONAL COALITION AGAINST CENSORSHIP [website release] — In a bizarre and counterproductive attempt to escape controversy, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) ousted poet Vanessa Place from a 2016 conference subcommittee because one of her creative projects was attacked as “racially insensitive.”

The project in question is a Twitter feed of the text of Gone With the Wind accompanied by a profile image of Hattie McDaniel, the actress famous for her portrayal of Mammy in the 1940 film. The goal, according to Place’s artistic statement, was to “show the inherent whiteness behind the blackface,” pushing the racism contained within the words to the forefront. Continue reading “AWP: A ‘writers program’ that censors writers?” »

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O the humanities!

By BROCK READ [The Chronicle of Higher Education] — There are plenty of reasons why disciplinary societies’ annual job reports can’t give us a bulletproof, thoroughgoing sense of the labor markets in their fields. For one thing, the reports draw from job boards—like the Modern Language Association’s Job Information List or the American Historical Association’s Career Center—that have competitors. (One job, no study logging it.) For another, jobs with an interdisciplinary bent might get cross-posted on multiple boards. (One job, several studies logging it.) Continue reading “O the humanities!” »

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