The NY Times presents a symposium on reading on a Kindle/computer versus reading a printed book. Each participant offers something worthwhile considering. (David Gelernter is the one identifiable conservative.) My question, which the academics consider more or less, is whether students read any more. At the beginning of a course I ask students to note books they have read that have influenced the way they think and act. The list is thin--maybe someone will list the Bible or an Obama book. You never see a book from political science. Now, more than when Aristotle questioned whether the youth are fit to study politics, the inclination of the young to indulge their passions meets the least intellectual resistance. Given our technology, books or rather reading (books are too long and require too much effort) becomes just another way to fulfil desires: the ideal reading is the cookbook* (with lots of pictures). It is a rare education that shows students another way of looking at books.
*There are variants on such how-to books, but this is a family-friendly site.
Before being involved with the video Jennifer Gil's only goal was to get through high school, get a job and make money.
"I had no big plans, no big aspirations," Jennifer said. "Making the video, and seeing everything that's happened since then because of it, has changed me. Now more things matter to me."
Jennifer has a simple message for the symposium.
"If people want to make change they have to act," said Jennifer, who hopes to be the first Latin American president. "Gandhi said, `Be the change you want to see in the world.' That's how I want to live."
She also wants to address education.
"Everybody wants us to go to college, but with all the cuts, how are we supposed to do that?" Jennifer asked. [Emphasis mine]
Who can refrain from applauding the self-starting sentiment Ms. Gil seems to advocate and the trajectory of her story seems to vindicate? If you want big things in your life, make them. Do them. Find them. Just so. Bravo for her. But doesn't the second part of her comments (i.e., the whiny part about budget cuts making college impossible) seem to undercut everything her experience and her noble philosophy ought to have taught her?
To be fair, Ms. Gil is a very young woman and this kind of intellectual inconsistency is not at all surprising in the young. But it appears to be something that is encouraged by their mentors, those now offering them accolades (including the President) and by the very content of the film that they produced. Another student involved in the production of the film told members of the California Assembly, "We are not the same. We want to do things that make a difference and we will not just sit by and watch while this whole economy thing gets worse." No. They won't sit by. But why not, instead of agitating on behalf policies that will get other people to do something about the poverty they face, simply work and produce and strive (as, clearly they have demonstrated an amazing capacity to do). Why not "be the change you want to see" in your own world? I'm just sayin' . . .
Not according to Dr. No, aka Senator Tom Coburn, md, who seeks to kill National Science Foundation funding for the eclectic discipline. Political scientists banged their begging bowls to save their fed funding.
The latest Nobel Economics Prize winner, political scientist Elinor Ostrom, might note the disappearance of a free rider: No "tragedy of the commons" here, just the comedy of con-artists. Ostrom, former President of the American Political Science Association, presented this paper on her approach to the study of politics, known as public or rational choice, a school of thought that often supports conservative policy objectives. A President who earned her Nobel!
UPDATE: I hadn't noticed that Ostrom's paper is supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation. More on the limits of rat choice later.
Congratulations to this month's winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:
Amy Marie Taylor
Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn't win this month, enter October's drawing.