Weekly Meanderings, 29 September 2018

Weekly Meanderings, 29 September 2018 September 29, 2018

Good morning!

Joel Shannon:

For months, a Pennsylvania man diagnosed with terminal cancer has been holding regular yard sales to help pay for his own end-of-life expenses. Now, those costs aren’t a worry any more thanks to the kindness of strangers.

David Dunkleberger is one of the organizers of a fundraising effort, which has raised tens-of-thousands of dollars. He told USA TODAY that he met the man in need — Willie Davis, 66 — in early August.

Dunkleberger and a friend attended one of Davis’ yard sales, not knowing that the man was struggling with a terminal diagnosis. As they left, Davis told Dunkleberger that the sale was to raise money for a funeral.

“Who’s funeral?” Dunkleberger remembers asking.

“Mine,” Davis replied.

Dunkleberger — 27, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania — says he was haunted by the man’s words. He soon decided to set up a crowd-funding campaign.

After local and national media attention this week, Dunkleberger’s campaign has raised more than $30,000, which will be used to help meet Davis’ final wishes. The campaign has repeatedly raised its goal as the donations kept coming in.

The campaign’s GoFundMe page says Davis is a single man who hopes to be buried with his parents in Virginia. He is suffering from Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma.

Carl Trueman:

As a new teacher at Grove City College, I thought it appropriate to start my upper-level humanities course by informing the students of my broad educational philosophy:

I am over fifty. I no longer care what anyone except my wife thinks about me. That particularly applies to anyone under the age of thirty-five. You should therefore feel free to disagree with me on anything I say because it is virtually impossible to offend me. But I must also add that, old and closed-minded as I am, I have no vested interest in holding an incorrect opinion on anything. Therefore, if you think I am wrong on some issue, be it historical, philosophical, or ethical, then you are under a moral obligation to persuade me to change my mind. But when you do so, please give me an argument, not some emotional plea based on your feelings. After all, if you simply feel I am wrong and I simply feel I am right, we’ll quickly find ourselves at an impasse.

That is my philosophy of education in miniature: I want to teach my students to think, which means the classroom must be a place where I challenge them and where they are free to challenge me. That is the only way true learning can be achieved in an ethical manner. It is not political, in that it privileges neither the right nor the left. It privileges only the common humanity of teacher and student. And yet it seems  such a philosophy is under increasing pressure from the usual suspects. In today’s world, loud voices claim that free inquiry and open discussion are no longer part of the solution to society’s ills; they have become the foundation of the problem.

Amy Hollingsworth:

I have had two breakdowns in my life, and Mister Rogers was there for both of them. He was there literally the first time, in constant communication through calls and letters, and in spirit the second time, through the lingering lessons of our nearly decadelong friendship.

I was a young mother of two working in television when I had the idea to contact Fred Rogers for an interview. “Good luck,” I was told by my network. “We’ve been trying for 20 years.”

I reached out to his staff, but weeks went by with no response. Then, one evening, I was reading the newspaper and discovered a mean-spirited editorial calling out Mister Rogers and his “psychobabble.” I wrote a nasty letter to the syndicated columnist and sent a copy of my letter and the article to Fred Rogers’ publicist, as a heads-up about the bad press.

A short time later, I got the call that Fred had agreed to the interview. My defense of him, not as a journalist but as the mother of small children, convinced him I was sincere enough to be trusted.

A few weeks later, I was sitting across from him on the set of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” where he had been taping a series of episodes on “fast” and “slow.” And so I framed my first question around that idea, his ability to slow the pace and allow time for reflection. Was that the essence of his appeal? He paused, of course, before answering.

“I think for me, I need to be myself,” he replied.

Another pause.

“And I’ve never been a kind of a hyperactive runaround kind of person. I think one of the greatest gifts that we can give anybody is the gift of one more honest adult in that person’s life ― whether it be a child or an adult,” he said. “And so for me being quiet and slow is being myself, and that is my gift.”

“Now somebody who is naturally very effervescent, I would think that that wouldn’t be a directive for that woman or man,” he added. “That person would be best being herself or himself. Do you understand what I mean?”

I did understand; he had just drawn a line between our two personalities. I was a hyperactive runaround kind of person who was the mother of a hyperactive runaround kind of toddler. I would never have met Mister Rogers had he not cast an almost hypnotic spell on my son, causing him to sit quietly for a half-hour each day. Though I was working full time from home and could use the half-hour of free babysitting, I would often join my son, and later my daughter, to watch the program.

I needed one more honest adult in my life, too.

Pastoral misconduct in the 17th Century:

[John] Cotton’s ministerial career, however, began and ended with scandal. During a probationary post in Wethersfield, Connecticut, the recently married pastor was accused of what we would today call sexual misconduct. Several woman made accusations against Cotton, and the allegations ranged from untoward behavior to adultery. Cotton allegedly talked his way into one woman’s “chamber” by pretending an interest in her furniture. Another woman accused Cotton of “sinfull striving.” In response, Cotton compared himself to Joseph and his accuser to Potiphar’s wife. She had pursued him. A court-appointed committee of two magistrates and two ministers found insufficient evidence that Cotton had committed a “more grose acte” but criticized his “sinfull Rach [rash] unpeaceabell” expressions. In particular he had defamed the daughter of Connecticut’s governor. Perhaps they felt incapable of sorting out the truth of the other allegations, but there was no way Cotton was going to become Wethersfield’s pastor.

A disgraced Cotton slunk back to Boston. According to Michael G. Hall, Cotton confessed his sexual misdeeds to Increase Mather. Mather then conferred with Bay Colony magistrate John Leverett, a prominent member in Boston’s First Church, to which Cotton still belonged. Mather and Leverett agreed that church members would meet privately to discipline Cotton, who was excommunicated for “lacivious uncleane practises with three women and his horrid lying to hide his sinne.” Cotton now openly confessed his sins to the congregation, which soon restored him to fellowship. A promising ministerial career had shipwrecked.

Cotton probably envisioned filling the pulpit of his father’s church or of another prominent church in Massachusetts Bay. Those opportunities now closed, but he slowly rehabilitated his career. He soon moved with his wife and two children to Martha’s Vineyard. There is no way to know what Joanna Rosseter Cotton made of her husband’s fall from grace, which must have proven deeply humiliating for her. She remained with her husband, bearing a child roughly every two years in the 1660s and 1670s. Perhaps she, he, and Boston’s leading citizens chose to understand Cotton’s misdeeds as youthful indiscretions.

Surprisingly, Cotton stayed out of serious trouble for the next three decades. On Martha’s Vineyard, he clashed with the island’s proprietary governor, Thomas Mayhew Senior, to the point that the commissioners of the United Colonies recommended that Cotton take his talents elsewhere. There was no hint of scandal, however. That Plymouth called the checkered Cotton as its pastor illustrates the struggle that relatively poor Old Colony towns had recruiting ministers.

OED, digital, and #awesome!

My then-boss, general book publisher Robin Denniston, proposed that we should undertake the last cut-and-paste job of the 20th century. We would cut up the various editions, stick the bits down on sheets of paper, paste the paper with cow gum, and then turn the page into film ready for printing. The idea was good, the technology not quite right–even for the 20th century. It was obvious that we need an electronic file which could be manipulated to merge, purge, and reformat for print and eventual digital distribution.

We toyed with the idea of finding the paper tape which had been used to drive the typesetting of some of the volumes. It had disappeared. We tried a very new Kurzweil technology for optical character recognition but it was unreliable.

We would have to re-key the whole thing from scratch at enormous–and at the time unaffordable–cost.

The then-editor of the OED, Bob Burchfield, did his best to block the project on the grounds that computers couldn’t replace human beings.

A professor of English literature insisted that we update all the citations before issuing a new edition, an absolutely huge task that would have delayed the project by decades.

A famous academic thought that the dangers of electronic piracy were so great that we shouldn’t contemplate creating a digital version at all.

A senior member of the finance committee thought the risk-reward ratio was out of kilter and was only persuaded when it was pointed out that the original OED would be out of copyright shortly and thus we would lose control of our greatest intellectual property asset unless we adapted it in some way. In other words, the risk of doing nothing was more damaging than the risk of doing something new.

In any event, the project started in 1981 and was completed within budget and on schedule in 1989.

As Walton Litz of Princeton University and an adviser to the project told Time magazine, “I’ve never even heard of a project that was so incredibly complicated and that met every deadline.”

There will probably never be a third printed edition, but the online edition is in great health, builds every year, extends our understanding of English, our linguistic and cultural history, and stands as one of the great digital projects of all time.

Without a courageous organization committed to publishing and courageous people in academe and technology, the OED would have decayed into a printed fossil.

I’m proud to have played a part in this project and to have this opportunity to say thank you to all those who contributed–and apologies to those not mentioned because of my failing memory. [HT: JS]

Carey Goldberg, Harvard, and sleep:

For the first time, Harvard is requiringthat all incoming first-year students complete an online course about sleep health before coming to campus.

Research finds that college students tend to sleep too little and too erratically — habits that can affect everything from mental health to athletic and academic performance.

“College students pull all-nighters in order to do great in their exams, and that’s kind of the worst thing they can do,” says media celebrity and sleep champion Arianna Huffington in the course’s introductory video. “Because memory consolidation is harder, retrieval of information is harder, everything is harder when we’re sleep-deprived.”

The course, which takes about 45 minutes, goes on to include practical information on how to optimize sleep and what can get in the way.

At Harvard, the impetus to teach better sleep arose from a freshman seminar taught by leading sleep researcher Dr. Charles Czeisler. He highlights three main factors in healthy sleep: “The first one is making sure that you have enough time for sleep. The second is, be consistent, and so the timing of sleep is very important as well. And third is the quality of sleep.” [HT: JS]

Free Range Kids, now defended by mom:

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — People all over the country have been calling Lenore Skenazy “America’s Worst Mom” for 10 years. Now, she wears it as a badge.

“To be called America’s worst mom is kind of great,” Skenazy said.

Skenazy, who spoke Tuesday at Johnson County Community College, earned that dubious title in 2008 when she wrote a newspaper column explaining why she allowed her 9-year-old son to ride the subway in New York without his parents.

After a tsunami of parental outrage exploded across the internet, an unfazed Skenazy founded her ‘Free Range Kids’ movement.

“I want to raise my kids the way my mom raised me,” she said. “Let them walk to school and let them play in the car while running to get the milk. That’s not negligence.”

Skenazy’s movement has gained steam in recent years after parents in some states were charged with neglect for allowing their kids to walk to parks and schools without supervision.

Last spring, lawmakers in Utah passed the nation’s first ‘Free Range Parenting’ law. The law stipulates that a parent cannot be charged with neglect if a child of ‘sufficient age or maturity’ walks to school, a park or a store without supervision.

“I’m hoping Kansas and Missouri are going to pass the same law,” Skenazy said.

Skenazy argues the so-called “helicopter parenting,” where caregivers smother and coddle young children, can have a negative impact on a child’s development.

“If you don’t let kids have any experiences because you’re afraid that something bad is going to happen, something bad could happen. And it’s called being a little stunted,” Skenazy said.

Are we crazy?

(CNN)See if you can wrap your mind around this eye-popping price tag for a renovated college football stadium in Texas: half a billion dollars.

That’s right, five years ago Texas A&M expanded and improved Kyle Field to the tune of $485 million. That equals more than half a billion in 2018 dollars.
That’s more money than the gross national product of some small nations.
In fact, many universities in places like Tennessee, Kansas, Arizona and elsewhere are shelling out astronomical funds to build shiny new stadiums, or to make their existing facilities bigger and better.
A lot, if not most, of the money for these multimillion-dollar facilities comes from private donors, but the ultra-high numbers speak volumes about the role of sports in America’s education system.
Sporting events, particularly football, have become cash cows that are critical to the overall economic success of many institutes of higher learning.
Even after adjusting for inflation, experts say the cost of modernizing or replacing aging stadiums is generally pricier than a generation ago.
Design and construction standards are generally higher.
And so are the expectations of 21st century fans.
They expect amenities like club level seats, premium concession areas, video screens throughout the stadium and robust connectivity.

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