My buddy Craig called me a few weeks ago (he’s been very good about staying connected in the age of coronavirus) and we wound up chatting about a wide range of subjects. Somehow, the topic of the India-China border spat came up. (“Somehow” = I brought it up.)
In case you’re not up to date on silly international skirmishes (the list is rather long), apparently India and China have been bickering over a border for decades. Yes, decades. (1962 Sino-Indian War, to be specific.)
The disputed border has the Monty Python-esque name of “The Line of Actual Control.” Or maybe it sounds like something from the old Get Smart TV show.
It would be laughable… if it weren’t for the fact that people are still dying fighting over a patch of dirt. On June 15th, Chinese and Indian troops clashed at the border. More than 20 soldiers died.
soldiers wielded iron bars and threw rocks and punches on the steep, jagged terrain. Many of the deaths occurred when troops fell off mountain ridges
Will we ever get to a day when these border arguments end? You’d think that a pandemic would make us realize how interconnected we are. I keep thinking of the great lyrics of the song “Territories” from Rush:
In every place with a name They play the same territorial game Hiding behind the lines Sending up warning signs
The whole wide world An endless universe Yet we keep looking through The eyeglass in reverse Don’t feed the people But we feed the machines Can’t really feel What international means….
The final couplet really sticks with me:
Better the pride that resides In a citizen of the world Than the pride that divides When a colourful rag is unfurled
Craig sent me a text earlier this week with the line “you can sleep a little easier now” and this image:
Thank heavens they’re working toward “peace and tranquility.” But why has it been going on since 1962?
Maybe, eventually, both sides will realize that there is no Line of Actual Control (literally and figuratively). Much of life is complete chaos. Can’t we respond with kindness, instead of rocks and clubs?
Colleges have come rushing forth to announce that they will be inviting students back to campus this fall. But as I’ve spoken to college officials over the past few weeks — usually not for quotation — I’ve been struck by the difference between their public optimism and their private uncertainty.
Many university leaders aren’t sure how well on-campus living and in-person classes will work during this pandemic. Some acknowledge it may not work at all.
It will require radical changes to the normal campus experience, like canceling many activities, rotating which students can return (to keep dorms from being too full) and continuing to hold classes online (to protect professors).
This approach is likely to frustrate students — and it still might not prevent new coronavirus outbreaks. Nearly all distinctive parts of a campus experience, including parties, meals and extracurriculars, revolve around close social contact, often indoors.
So what explains the surge of “We’re open!” announcements? Competitive pressure, in part. Many colleges will face serious financial problems if they lose a year of tuition and other revenue.
Now professors and administrators have begun publicly criticizing reopening plans:
Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington, noted that the new class of Army recruits at Fort Benning recently suffered a major outbreak, despite universal testing there.
“Colleges are deluding themselves,” Michael J. Sorrell, the president of Paul Quinn College in Dallas, wrote in The Atlantic. Laurence Steinberg, a Temple University psychologist, wrote a Times Op-Ed arguing that the reopening plans were “so unrealistically optimistic that they border on delusional.”
There are no easy answers. Telling students to stay home in the fall also has big downsides. And it’s possible that students will do a better job wearing masks and remaining socially distant than skeptics like Steinberg expect.
But the path that colleges are choosing comes with big risks. American higher education is about to embark on a highly uncertain experiment.
Geez, they even cribbed their final sentence “experiment” language from my blog post header:
Maybe the Giant Cheeto in D.C. is telling the truth for the first time ever… the Times must be “failing” if they are getting story ideas from this blog. Sad!
Looks like it’s time to sic my law firm on the Old Gray Lady…
And we’re adding a tagline to the Dubbatrubba masthead: All the news you’ll find elsewhere a week later.
(To be fair, while all the other articles and tweets linked in the NYT briefing were published after my post, the Atlantic piece, by Michael J. Sorrell, the president of Paul Quinn College in Dallas, was published in mid-May. So he really scooped the rest of us.)
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the hard-hitting, insightful, industry-leading journalism for which this blog is now known.
The death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others is about flaws in the police system, yes. But it’s a bigger problem than that, and if we want to know the root cause, we probably should look in the mirror.
Jamiles and Jon are right. It’s not “those rogue cops” it’s “us.” We’ve robbed people of their dignity, stolen their rights, denied them equality… or at bare minimum been a silent accomplice to these crimes against our shared humanity.
We’ve got to address the root issues. And while we’re at it, let’s not paint all police officers with a broad brush. Let’s not conflate peaceful protest with rioting. Let’s be thankful for the millions of brave men and women who uphold their oath to “serve and protect.”
Let’s look beyond the surface, the 30-second news clips, the shouting and the screaming and the finger-pointing… and let’s all (“we the people”) find ways to move our society toward those cherished ideals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
“The more that we allow our hearts to expand to love, deeply appreciate, and feel inextricably tied to the places, things and people of this world, the more we are likely to take a stand on behalf of what we value.”
Slowly but surely, more and more colleges are scheduling a return to campus for the Fall, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and a predicted “second wave” when the weather turns colder.
The University of Notre Dame was one of the first to announce a return — they have 74,933 reasons to do so for each student:
Most college kids (mine included) were sent home around mid-March this year. Shortly thereafter, a lot of parents probably started doing some math… “What are we paying for if Junior is just staring at a laptop screen in our living room?”
Sure, most universities pro-rated room and board charges and sent a refund check to parents, but tuition for virtual learning was still taking a big bite out of their actual wallet.
Without the trappings of college… the football and basketball games, dorm life, the frat and sorority parties, homecoming weekend… why should someone fork over 30, 40, 50, 60, even 70-grand a year so Junior can get his degree?
Heck, online schools like Southern New Hampshire U. offer a lot of the same programs at a fraction of the cost, and the kid would still be staring at the same laptop screen. Those schools have been doing online courses for a long time too, so the programming is more polished, and the student experience is probably better. Kids are getting used to learning stuff via videos anyway… maybe instead of dropping $70K at ND, you can just pay $50 a month for a good wi-fi connection, and send the kids to YouTube U.
I’m not saying kids will drop out of college in droves, but I am saying the pandemic is a wake-up call for higher education. They’re realizing they need to up their game, and show a better ROI than “prestige”… especially when they’re competing for a smaller pool of students:
U.S. demographics are also shifting. The number of high school graduates is flat — and in some cases declining — because of lower birth rates about 20 years ago. Those numbers are also projected to decline, so the trend of fewer students coming from high school isn’t going away anytime soon.
You can’t spell “pandemic” without “panic” and my hunch is a lot of college administrators are getting a bit worried about a serious outbreak of tuition attrition.
Maybe all these colleges have a thoroughly vetted plan for bringing kids back to campus in a couple of months and keeping them safe. But some of the biggest COVID-19 outbreaks so far have been in prisons, and the dorms at most colleges have a pretty similar layout. (I know firsthand about the latter… not the former. Honest!) I have a hunch that a lot of schools are basing back-to-school on a wing and a prayer… and “business as usual” is more about the health of their business than it is about the health of their students.
Like most Americans, I’ve spent the past several days searching for answers to the latest (but sadly probably not the last) senseless murder of an African American. I’ve been reading a lot. This CNN article lays out racial inequality pretty simply and starkly. It started with slavery, but it’s continued to fester. Reconstruction. Jim Crow laws. Segregation. Redlining. Building interstates through black neighborhoods. Basing school funding on property taxes. The list goes on and on.
I’ve also been listening to quite a few podcasts that cover not just the George Floyd case, but the underlying causes of these sad outcomes. The Fresh Air interview below is one of the best I’ve heard. Terry Gross interviews Wes Moore, the author of several books about racial disparities, including his new one Five Days about the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore in 2015. (A similar situation to George Floyd… we haven’t really made much progress in the past five years.)
The entire interview is below, but here’s a five-minute snippet that really brought things home for me:
“We have be able to address this level of inequitable policing that takes place in our societies and the lack of accountability that takes place when improper actions happen. We also have to deal with the underlying conditions that our citizens — and oftentimes our citizens of color — are repeatedly being allowed and being forced to endure. And if we don’t address both those two things together, we will continue just having to deal with the pain of the consequence of the one.”
I couldn’t agree more. This is about much more than rogue cops… that’s just a symptom of a much larger disease. The systems are broken: poverty, systemic racism, housing inequalities, economic opportunities for minorities, health care.
We have to change the systems. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. But watching the peaceful protests, I’m hopeful and optimistic that the tide is finally turning… and a change is gonna come real soon.