Century Marks

Century Marks

Clueless kids

Many older teens are stumped by tasks—changing a tire, replacing a button, or applying for a job—that their parents would have considered commonplace when they were the same age. One explanation is that teens are remaining dependent on parents much longer, often living with and being supported by their parents into their twenties. Another is that increasingly teens and young adults are living in a cohort bubble, with little contact with other adults—a bubble marked by use of technology and social media. Despite this generational divide, the Culture of American Families Survey shows most parents see themselves as heavily invested in parenting and hope that in the long term they will be best friends with their children. It’s as though they’re looking for a return on their investment (Hedgehog Review, Fall).

Seeking redemption

In 2006 Charles Roberts walked into an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania, shot and killed five schoolgirls, injured another five and then took his own life. The Amish community immediately declared that it forgave Roberts for his heinous acts, and some of them reached out with compassion to Roberts’s mother. Roberts’s brother Zachary is now working on a documentary called Hope, focusing on his mother’s journey since the shootings. “How does the mother of a mass murderer move forward?” he asks. Forgiveness and faith have been the key ingredients in her life (Huffington Post, November 17).

Raising hell

A story is told about Archbishop Desmond Tutu, leader of the antiapartheid movement in South Africa. Upon arrival at the pearly gates, he was turned back and sent to hell by none other than St. Peter, because Tutu’s name didn’t appear in the Book of Life. Tutu did as told and went to hell. A week later the devil showed up at the pearly gates. “You’ve got to take that Tutu guy,” the devil told St. Peter. “He’s giving us hell” (Mark Braver­man, A Wall in Jerusalem, Jericho).

Power of a footnote

Oklahoma is arguably the most politically conservative state in the union, yet it has had the first and best publicly funded preschool program in the United States. A businessman became a major advocate after he studied the evidence of the long-term benefits of preschool education—fewer dropouts, higher incomes, less incarceration, less public cost in the long run—and made the case that it would be a good business decision for the state. It won approval from the very conservative legislature through a sleight of hand: the funding for preschool education was buried in a footnote in an education spending bill (This American Life, November 15).

Earthen treasure

A copy of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book published in America, will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s and is expected to bring between $15 and $30 million, making it the most expensive book ever sold. One of two copies owned by Old South Church in Boston, it is one of only 11 remaining copies published. The proceeds will be used to help replenish Old South’s endowment once $7 million of it is used for deferred maintenance. The church historian resigned over the congregation’s decision to sell one of its treasures, but the rest of the congregation overwhelmingly supported the decision (New York Times, November 15).