Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Viewpoint Diversity

The Wall Street Journal ~ John Cuneo
Amy Wax, a law school professor, has been running the gauntlet of political correctness erected by the dean and her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Wax's problems began when she and Larry Alexander, a law professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, bylined an op-ed, Paying the price for the breakdown of the country's bourgeois culture, in the Philadelphia Inquirer last August.

Wax and Alexander suggested that tenants of bourgeois culture after World War 2 like marriage before (and after) children, faith, hard work, patriotism, service, and charity were the things that helped ensure success and bind a nation toward common purpose and progress.
"The culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime."
These opinions earned Wax an open letter from 33 of her law school colleagues who accused her of attacking the school with racist views, and invited students to report her for any further stereotyping and bias. The dean then piled on and asked Wax to take a leave of absence and  no longer teach a required first-year course.

Such ideological confirmation bias and echo chambers are becoming the norm on campuses as evidenced by Jonathan Haidt's work examining viewpoint diversity and freedom of expression, as well as the work of Canadian Jordan Peterson. Next up? Workplaces like Google.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Road Maps

When I was a boy I loved to study maps. Old maps, local maps, interstate maps, the spinning Replogle globe that sat in the middle of a family room coffee table, and especially the big blue hardcover book of world maps published by National Geographic. After I learned to drive in the mid-1970s, I used Rand McNally's Road Atlas to plan my travels throughout New England. What remained elusive were directions to "last mile" destinations like museums, parks, stores, and private homes. Getting to these places often required stops at the gas station to get turn-by-turn directions.

This 1940 film, Caught Mapping, from General Motors' Chevrolet division, tells the story behind map making.

"Presto! And right at their fingertips, the modern motorist can have an information bureau for any road they may wish to take."

GPS technology has changed the game through onboard GPS maps with audio cues in our vehicles and Google Maps on smartphones. It's certainly easier and safer, but learning to read and use a roadmap is now a lost skill that engaged both driver and navigator, and taught us to be more mindful while driving and aware of our surroundings.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Starry Night

Jupiter's northern hemisphere cloud cover captured last October by NASA's Juno spacecraft from a height of 11,747 miles.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Youth is wasted on the young

Is it a coincidence I read two articles this week about age and happiness, one in The Wall Street Journal and a second in the Martha's Vineyard Times?

In What is Your Perfect Age?, the WSJ's Clare Ansberry reports that many variables notwithstanding, the 50s are the best.
"If people could live forever in good health at a particular age, it would be 50, according to a 2013 Harris Poll. Gender and geography play a role. In the poll, men said the perfect age is 47, the women 53. In the Midwest, the perfect age is 50. In the East, it's 53 and the West it's 47."
In Finance 101: We get Happier as we age, John Kageleiry at the MV Times agrees that our 50s are when people get happier, and we get even happier as we age:
"It seems that at that time of our lives, we start to shed a lot of our illusions and disappointments and start appreciating what we have and where we want to make a difference -- literally forgetting about the Joneses or regrets. Instead we turn our eye to those most important to us, like family, friends, and others in our tribes."
The Brookings Institution has reported frequently on the relationship between age and happiness. According to Carol Graham in Happiness, stress, and age: How the U-curve varies across people and places:
"Among these relationships, the one between age and happiness -- often referred to at "the U-curve" -- is particularly striking due to its consistency across individuals, countries, and cultures. Happiness declines with age for about two decades from early adulthood up until roughly the middle-age years, and then turns upwards and increases with age."
Then again, Groucho Marx said, "Age is not a particularly interesting subject. Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough."