Monday September 01, 2014
August 14th, 2014
Americans, it must be admitted, are not always the most engaged people on world issues. It's a sad truth.
But the world, at this moment, is aflame, and more Americans must perk up and pay attention. Before we know it, we will have already been drawn into these conflicts.
When I first encountered Neil deGrasse Tyson, I thought, "What a nice man." He was on the TV screens at New York's Hayden Planetarium, where he's director, urging us to behold the wonder of -- to use the biblical term -- the heavens.
That impression only grew on seeing his television show, "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey." Here he bursts with elation over the great scientific breakthroughs, guiding us into the subject with the kindly enthusiasm of the gifted teacher.
Robert Sagastume is Honduran by birth, American by choice and legally stuck somewhere in between by politics. He is also the embodiment of the humanitarian problem at the heart of our border crisis.
Now a 26-year-old Midwestern college student, he escaped as a teenager from San Pedro Sula, the Honduran city widely cited as the most violent city on earth. This is the area from which the majority of the stranded Central American children have fled.
Every once in a while, research quantifies the effects of certain education policies on students. Then, the results are often shelved in favor of the prevailing "common sense." As in: If you want more scientists, mandate more science courses in school.
With so many homeowners and businesses making greener energy choices, private utilities — along with big oil, gas, coal, and nuclear companies — see the writing on the wall.
Unlike some other denizens of the fossil-fueled set, this gang isn’t beating oil wells into solar panels, retiring nuclear reactors, or embracing wind and geothermal power. Instead, these guys are trying to coax lawmakers into rigging the rules against increasingly competitive new energy alternatives.
You can lead a kid to vegetables, but you can’t make her eat. Especially if the food doesn’t taste good.
That’s what the government found out in the wake of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
When the news rippled out on Monday that Robin Williams had committed suicide, even I thought -- for a moment -- "but he had everything." As if suicide is a "choice."
I say "even I" because I know better. My mother was seriously depressed for much of her life. A close friend's husband committed suicide years ago, and he had everything, too. Then there was our neighbor's son, whom I babysat for -- I heard it was a psychotic break.
It is the very essence of the American Dream: an irrepressible confidence that our children will live better than we do.
And now it is gone.
It has been slipping for some time, really, but a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll this month put an exclamation point on Americans' lost optimism.
Sitting on a deck chair on the family-friendly boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, typing into my digital tablet, I am wondering why people are giving President Obama such a hard time for taking a vacation.
I can understand why citizens would be upset if, say, a big-city mayor didn't rush home from a tropical paradise to oversee reaction to a mid-winter blizzard.
What use could the humanities be in a digital age?
University students focusing on the humanities may end up, at least in their parents' nightmares, as dog-walkers for those majoring in computer science. But, for me, the humanities are not only relevant but also give us a toolbox to think seriously about ourselves and the world.