I just finished reading an article by an Australian academic who argues that smartphones, tablets and computers have revolutionised learning. "Remembering information is simply not important now," she says. I think that the two parents whose articles are featured below would differ. Zac Alstin worries that gadgets distract from reality and Cris Rowan, a psychologist, cites a number of horror stories about children who have become gadget addicts. I find technology incredibly useful, but also faintly dehumanising. What do you think?
I hardly agree with Stephen Hawking's positions on a range of social and philosophical issues, but there is no denying his brilliance, humour and courage. The freshly-released film about his life, work and marriages, The Theory of Everything, is bound to be an Oscar contender. Check out the review below.
Jennifer Roback Morse observes in her scathing review of a new book on the history of the contraceptive pill that its fans are blind to its negative consequences. "We all live [today] in a society that is trying to say that sex is intrinsically a sterile activity, with all that this implies." A terrific read.
Why have Muslim leaders not vigorously condemned the atrocities of ISIS and other extremist groups? Fr James Schall's analysis is interesting and provocative: "If they, as Muslims, condemn the “terrorists”, they risk violating the Qur’an’s specific wording. If they do not, they are held to be complicit in the atrocities. In either case they lose. So they avoid taking a principled stand on the basis of their own tradition. Muslim leaders also know that they are themselves targeted if they seem to criticize the Islamic State which claims to be the authentic understanding of Islam."
It is not often that news stories mesh so neatly together. In one of today's features, Margriet Krijtenburg reports that Pope Francis recently told the European Parliament that Europe was becoming sclerotic and selfish. In another, we report that Dutch doctors are about to settle arrangements for organ donation via euthanasia. It sounds incredible, but stuff like that is bound to happen in sclerotic societies.
I read the New York Timesobituary for English detective novelist P. D. James today and was impressed by her view of the genre:
Although reviewers frequently lauded Ms. James for “transcending the genre,” she was a champion of the detective mystery, which she called “a literary celebration of order and reason.” She considered it a modern morality drama by virtue of its affirmation of enduring social values. In turbulent times, she said, people turn to detective stories for reassurance as much as entertainment “because they do affirm the intelligibility of the universe, the moral norm, the sanctity of life.”
“It seems to me,” she continued, “that the more we live in a society in which we feel our problems — be they international problems of war and peace, racial problems, problems of drugs, problems of violence — to be literally beyond our ability to solve, the more reassuring it is to read a popular form of fiction which itself has a problem at the heart of it. One which the reader knows will be solved by the end of the book.”
I might just read her now. May she rest in peace at the end of the great morality drama that is one individual's life.
A great angle on the tragic riots in Ferguson from Carolyn Moynihan: "unless the outrage and hand-wringing over Michael Brown’s tragic death gives way to a really honest grappling with the causes of black disadvantage, and recognition of the many ways in which children’s lives are blighted by the lack of a stable, intact family, it will all be in vain." Check it out.
It's Thanksgiving on Thursday in America and a video on our front page gives a very special angle on it: Thanksgiving through the eyes of a man with Down syndrome and his family. It is beautiful. http://youtu.be/bYjMwbVmuxg
As anyone who watches Jon Stewart on The Daily Show appreciates, comedy is a very effective way of making serious political points. Forgive me for saying this, MercatorNet fans in Oslo, but I would have thought that the last place to find effective political satire was in Norway. However, Carolyn Moynihan has discovered the work of Harald Eia, whose ruthless and very funny dissection of gender studies made his government cut funding to a leading institute. Very interesting.
Seventy teachers from the UK were sent to Shanghai to study classroom methods to investigate why Chinese students perform so well. Upon their return, the teachers reported that much of China’s success came from teaching methods the UK has been moving away from for the past 40 years...