January 2, 2013 |
The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago this week, has often been criticized by blacks, by radicals and also by mainstream historians who doubt its significance as a turning point in the Civil War and in American history. The skeptics range from conservatives in Lincoln's time, to Howard Zinn and Gore Vidal more recently, and include Richard Hofstadter, who wrote in his classic 1948 book "The American Political Tradition" that the Emancipation Proclamation "had all the moral grandeur of a bill of lading.
December 2, 2012 |
Despite the increasing number of those who hold other faiths or no faith, Christians still wield substantial influence on our nation's cultural and ethical norms. After all, 73% of Americans still identify as Christian, according to a 2012 Pew Forum Study. So the fact that many churchgoers have changed their views about gay civil rights in recent years is one of the major under-reported reasons why same-sex marriage is now legal in nine states. It is also one of the reasons that the constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, which took away gay Californians' right to marry, may get a hearing in the Supreme Court this term (an announcement is expected on Monday)
July 17, 2012 |
Cheating was, is and probably always will be a fact of life. Recently, technology has provided new ways to cheat, but advanced electronics can't be blamed for our increasing willingness to tolerate it. Once upon a time, being an honorable person included the notion that your word was your bond, and integrity was a crucial element in establishing a good reputation. At least, that was part of the narrative that made up our social compact. My teaching experience tells me, however, that lying and cheating are seen by a lot of kids today as a crucial part of any path to success.
September 27, 2010 |
For all the talk these days of porous borders and external threats to the United States, the core of our sense of security and identity as a nation has always come from within. What's surprising, perhaps, is that it derives less from our vaunted democracy or our freedoms than it does from that rather nebulous notion we call the American dream. The dream is the glue that keeps us all together. It's the vague promise that our lot will get better over time that gives us the patience to endure whatever indignities we suffer at the moment.
April 22, 2013 |
When I heard that a national law to ban loud TV commercials had taken force in December, I was skeptical. Why did we need a Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM), I wondered, when more urgent issues demanded action? There were nations to invade, marriages to prohibit, guns to enshrine. Loud commercials were just an itch - to scratch it would be like trying to pay the mortgage and replace a burned-out light bulb. If we can ignore global warming, we can ignore loud commercials.
August 22, 2013 |
Contrary to stereotypes, there is no evidence that people on welfare are lazy. Indeed, surveys of welfare recipients consistently show their desire for a job. But there is also evidence that many are reluctant to accept available employment opportunities. Despite work requirements included in the 1996 welfare reform, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says less than 42% of adult welfare recipients participate in work activities nationwide. Why the contradiction? Perhaps it's because, while poor people are not lazy, they are not stupid either.
February 23, 2014 |
PARIS - Not long ago, I attended a colloquium of French scientists and philosophers in Corsica, France, called "How to Think About the Future. " With few exceptions, the astrophysicists, economists, physicians and social theorists on hand offered dark visions of tomorrow. A new financial crisis, water and grain shortages, endless war, a general collapse of ecosystems - we were spared no catastrophic scenario. A month earlier, I had been invited by the environmentalist think tank Breakthrough to San Francisco, where I reflected with a group of thinkers on the Schumpeterian economic idea of "creative destruction" and its application to energy production.
September 15, 2013 |
Would you be willing to share with your employer how much you eat, drink, smoke or exercise? And would you be willing to make lifestyle changes in return for a break on the cost of your health insurance? The University of Minnesota offered such discounts to its workers. Actions such as completing a health questionnaire, biking to campus or setting personal fitness goals earned insurance discounts beginning at $300. Nearly 6,000 employees accepted the bargain. But do such programs have the intended effect of healthier employees and lower healthcare costs?
April 7, 2013 |
In May 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the White House. It was 17 months after Pearl Harbor and a little more than a year before D-Day. The two Allied leaders reviewed the war effort to date and exchanged thoughts on their plans for the postwar era. At one point in the discussion, FDR offered what he called "the best way to settle the Jewish question. " Vice President Henry Wallace, who noted the conversation in his diary, said Roosevelt spoke approvingly of a plan (recommended by geographer and Johns Hopkins University President Isaiah Bowman)
May 21, 2013 |
I was in Detroit preparing to give a speech last week when the news came across my Twitter feed: "Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine donate $70 million to USC to create new degree. " As one of the first university presidents from the hip-hop generation, I had to stop and read the story immediately. The two music moguls and co-founders of Beats Electronics - recognizing that they needed a new type of creative talent for their growing music technology business - are funding a four-year program that blends liberal arts, graphic and product design, business and technology.