Nathan D. Mitchell says that his earliest memories of church are attached to smells: the incense, the musty odor of the cloth veiling the priest in the confessional, the aroma of the floor wax in the corridor leading to the parish school. There is, of course, a close connection between smell and memory. Mitchell laments that so much liturgical reform and renewal makes intelligibility of the faith the centerpiece rather than sensory perception. "The unintentional consequence is a liturgy which 'explains' rather than evokes, speaks rather than sings, drones rather than dances, and skulks rather than soars" (Worship, January).
Creationism in the schools
Feb 25, 2011
The majority of public high school biology teachers are not strong advocates of evolution in the classroom, according to a study conducted at Penn State. The study found that only 28 percent of high school biology teachers consistently follow the National Research Council recommendations, which call for introducing evidence that evolution is a reality and using evolution as a unifying theme in the curriculum. About 13 percent of teachers surveyed "explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light." Sixty percent of the teachers try to avoid controversy. They aren't strong advocates of evolutionary biology nor are they explicit proponents of nonscientific alternatives. The researchers fear that this group may be more a hindrance to scientific literacy than the much smaller number who are creationists.
Parts for sale
Feb 24, 2011
Our bodies may be sacred, but given the worldwide demand for organs and other body parts, they are up for sale. A kidney can be purchased in India for $15,000 or in China for $62,000. Desperate people in poor countries like Pakistan, Indonesia or India sell their body parts for a pittance. Sometimes parts are stolen from the recently dead. And sometimes people are killed for their organs (Wired, February).
Feb 23, 2011
A new application for smart phones is being marketed to assist Catholics in making confession. Using the Ten Commandments, the application asks a number of questions to help Catholics identify their sins, as in "Have I wished evil upon another person?" or "Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in my marriage?" When the questions for self-examination are completed, users get a checklist of their sins with a suggested prayer of penance, followed by an inspirational message. A Vatican spokesperson has warned that the application, while a means of preparing for going to confession, cannot take the place of a priest (AP).
Behind the statistics
Feb 22, 2011
A mantra of public school critics is that U.S. schools are failing and falling behind standards attained by countries like China. These claims are often made by private funders of education, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and often by those who promote the privatizing of schools. But some recent studies have shown that the problem is not public schools but poverty. American students rank first in reading and science and third in math when the sample is from schools where the poverty rate is less than 10 percent. Even in schools where poverty levels are between 10 and 25 percent, students still rank first in reading and science. The problem is that in 20 percent of schools in the U.S., poverty rates exceed 75 percent (Dissent, Winter).