Some articles I have been reading. This is an extended edition largely because I spent the last week hiking in the White Mountains and only just got back to the internet.
1. Will Civil War Hit Afghanistan When The U.S. Leaves? – An article in the New Yorker about the fate of Afghanistan. The Afghan interviewed is largely critical of the United States for the failure to create lasting institutions, including and especially a strong national army. It hits on most of the main issues, including ethnic, historical, and religious tensions in the region. The article hedges towards the same view as the Afghan interviewed in accusing the US policy in Afghanistan of being too superficial and transient.
2. In Defense of Cursive – A note about the decline of penmanship. Of course, it focuses mostly on the Declaration of Independence, rather than offering any actual suggestions. I like the idea (although my cursive is rather weak), but a rather superficial plea to keep cursive alive in this age where getting people to write anything by hand is a chore in and of itself is naive (at best).
3. Jackie and the Girls – An article in The Atlantic about John F. Kennedy and the contradiction that is the idolization of him. It approaches Kennedy through Jackie and some of the mistresses, and how Kennedy still managed to play the role of a doting husband and father. It is a fascinating piece, although it is also a little disappointing in that it begins with an account of Jackie Kennedy, claiming that she was a capable woman who “was never playing a short game,” but ends up talking about some other issues and only obliquely returns to this original premise. Fair warning, it does contain quite lurid details.
4. These 600-Year Old World Heritage Sites Might be Rubble by August – An extremist group (Ansar Dine) has seized Timbuktu, banned tourism because it fosters debauchery, and has begun destroying ancient shrines there.
5.Timbuktu tomb attack is an attack is an attack on our humanity – A CNN op-ed about the attacks made on world culture by extremist groups.
6. The Real Reason the U.S. Should Consider Cutting Military Aid to Egypt – An op-ed talking about why the US should (but won’t) cut military aid to Egypt.
7. The Truth About Harvard – A fascinating discussion of the core of the Liberal Arts at Harvard, and by extension, the rest of the academic world. The author argues that most history/English/philosophy professors lack confidence that their work or classes have any relevance to the real world, while those fields that provide practical application have no such issues. The author also suggests that this lack of confidence leads to an increased weakness toward grade inflation. In one of the anecdotes presented, the professor told the class that they would receive two grades: a private grade that is indicative of actual performance, and public “ironic” grade given to the registrar. I will probably have some further comments on this piece later.
8. The Grounded Campus – A suggestion on the Chronicle of Higher Education that suggests that traditional campuses can keep their place in education by focusing on the physical ground upon which they sit.
9. Confessions from the Professorial Side of the Desk – Some thoughts and advice from a professor about student enthusiasm.
10. Knights: The Agincourt Gambit – An excellent comic that combines Chess and History.