Friday, October 1, 2010

A Few from the Pile

Large pile of newspapers
When I started this blog, it was in part to get control of my filing cabinet, which contained clippings of media oddities and goodies. You can see from the pile above that I have made great progress on that goal.

So here's a small attempt to thin out the pile.

Pink ribbonAllison Kaplan in today's Pioneer Press on The Problem with Pink. One of the few mainstream media stories I've seen on the "pink washing" of products, including quotes from Think Before You Pink. The upshot: Ask where the money goes. Ask how much money is donated. Does money from each product purchased donated, or is there a cap that may have already been passed? And most importantly, does the product or company itself a possible cause of breast cancer? (Be sure to read it before the PiPress takes the story off the website in 30 days or so.)

What Were We Thinking? by Princeton philosophy prof Kwame Anthony Appiah, an op-ed reprinted in the Star Tribune from the Washington Post. It's easy to wonder how "those people" of the past tolerated slavery or lynching, but what aspects of our society will seem unthinkable to future generations? Appiah supplies a three-part test: 1. Some people argue against the practice in the present day on moral grounds. 2. Defenders don't offer moral counterarguments, but rather use reasons like human nature, economic necessity or tradition. 3. Those who benefit from the practice remain strategically ignorant of its details. Four topics he tests briefly are our prison system, industrial meat production, the institutionalization and isolation of the elderly , and the environment.

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker ruminates on city vs. country in When Do Rules for the Common Good Cross the Line? Having moved relatively recently from a rural area to New York, she notes how frequently the red state/blue state divide aligns with a rural/urban split, and wonders if it's not caused by the resulting differences in the need for centralized control in dense or open areas.

Football on a pile of moneyA recent op-ed called College: Where the Money Goes raised my eyebrows a bit. After noting that private college tuition is about three times what it was in 1980, even controlling for inflation, the writers (Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus) point out several areas they see as wasteful:

  • Athletic teams: All but 14 of 629 football programs lose money, let alone the thousands of other sports teams.
  • Administration, with its doubled number of positions since 1980.
  • Faculty salaries, which at top-ranked schools like Yale and Stanford average 60 percent more, post inflation, than in 1980. These salaries go to senior faculty, of course, leaving underpaid junior and, increasingly, adjunct faculty to teach most of the courses.
  • Symbolically, college presidents' pay is a microcosm of the salary issue. Examples are given of salaries two to almost three times higher than salaries in the early 1990s.
Local garden writer Bonnie Blodgett recently published an essay that integrates a lot of troubling topics into one argument in the Star Tribune op-ed pages. Tying together the recent Minnesota floods, gardening, climate change and the attempted suppression of the "Troubled Waters" documentary, her piece Deluge Sweeps the Elephant into the Room is worth a read.

Perfume bottle labeled Eau de DangerThe Star Tribune's new Fixit columnist reports that perfume is considered hazardous waste because it contains alcohol and is flammable. Which seemed obvious once I read it, but I would never have thought of it on my own.

There, now. I feel a little bit better, although the pile is still just about the same size.

1 comment:

Claudia said...

HI Daughter Number Three: The op-ed that interested you on college costs, is part of a larger book that Andrew Hacker and I have done, "Higher Education?"

We have a website, www.highereducationquestionmark.com and we're hoping that people (yourself)will dialogue there about the issues.

Best, Claudia Dreifus