Month: November 2015

The Weekly Vent, Part Deux: More on Yale

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. In my earlier post on events at Yale, “Heckling, Hate and Halloween”, I noted my opinion that the Yalies had taken the bait and made themselves into a publicity stunt for an organization named FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Somehow, its president had been present during a confrontation between the undergraduates and one Prof. Nicholas Christakis, the Master of Silliman College (one of the residential colleges at Yale). He hit videotape paydirt when one of the Yale students started screaming at the good professor, shouting him down and cursing him out with a string of four-letter words. Of course, he recorded it on his smartphone; FIRE posted his video online and commented freely on it, after which it was picked up and sent viral, first by rightwing bloggers and websites and then by many others. What good luck for FIRE! Publicity!

Turns out the president of FIRE wasn’t there by luck, accident or coincidence. Continue reading

The Weekly Vent: Heckling, Hate and Halloween

The viral news of this week — leaving aside the serious issues of war and peace in the Middle East, ongoing genocide in Africa, incursions into international waters by China, etc. — was the reaction of undergraduates at Yale College to two emails sent to them by various faculty and administrators. The first, send by a group concerned with Intercultural Affairs, reminded students to avoid racially and ethnically offensive Halloween costumes.  The second, sent to students in one of the residential colleges by its Associate Master, criticized the first message and questioned whether it was appropriate for Yale to manage expression by its students or if it would be preferable for Yale students to monitor each other and — gasp! — have thoughtful, respectful conversations about their disagreements.

So far, just another tempest in an academic teapot. But when an advocacy group called FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) got hold of the story, and its president recorded and aired a video showing a confrontation between some students and the Master of Silliman College (who is married to the Associate Master), the story went viral. Lines were drawn in the sand and loud voices at both extremes of the political spectrum have been raised. Score one for FIRE! Free publicity!

Here is my take on it, in part. Continue reading

The Weekly Vent: Death Among the Middle-Aged

For those of you who may not read The New York Times, here’s a sobering piece of news: Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans. Basically, so many white Americans with less than a college education are dying prematurely from things like suicide and substance abuse that they are causing a statistical anomaly. This came to researchers’ attention when they realized that “unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.” So they started digging into the details of that data. ” [P]oorly educated American whites … are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans, Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case found.” Dr. Angus Deaton, by the way, is a 2015 Nobel Prize winner in Economics.

Furthermore, the impact of this sudden increase in death rates in a specific age group is so dramatic, “Dr. Deaton had but one parallel. ‘Only H.I.V./AIDS in contemporary times has done anything like this,’ he said.” Continue reading