Century Marks

Century Marks

Slippery slope

According to Cul­len Murphy (God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World), the church did no worse in using torture than modern states, and there is some evidence to show that the church behaved better. The church put limits on the use of torture: how severe and how often, when it could be used and by whom. But the limits could be stretched. If a second session of torture was prohibited, its use was sometimes construed as the continuance of a previous session (American Scholar, Winter).

Teacher, teacher

A longitudinal study that followed students from fourth grade into adulthood gives empirical proof that good (or bad) teachers do make a difference. Having a good teacher in the fourth grade alone increases by 1.25 percent the likelihood that a student will go to college and decreases the chance by the same amount that a female student as a teenager will get pregnant. Having a very poor teacher is tantamount to a student's missing 40 percent of the school year, an intolerable truancy rate. Nicholas D. Kristof notes that the quality of public school education is hardly getting any notice in the primary campaigns. Improving the quality of education may be the most essential strategy for the nation's economic development and job creation in the future (New York Times, January 11).

Coming out

Some of the children of the wealthiest Americans have been involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement. One held a sign reading, "I have more money than I know what to do with. Tax me more." A sign held by twins read, "You would know our dad, if we told you who he was." Some of children of the 1 percent said it was hard to decide to get involved-it was almost like "coming out" (The Week, December 30–January 6).

Patient care

Dr. Stephen Workman, an internist in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has reflected on what doctors should and shouldn't say when patients are dying. When he senses that death is possible, he says to patients: "You could die during this hospital admission. Is that something you've been thinking about?" He might follow up with, "What have you been thinking, and what are your expectations?" He thinks doctors should not say that a patient is failing to respond to treatment; rather, they should say that the treatments are not working. It is the treatments that fail, not the dying patient (New York Times, December 20).

Facebook fuss

Egyptian authorities detained a Christian Coptic student in late December for allegedly posting a picture of the Prophet Muhammad on Facebook. The 17-year-old denies the charge, claiming that friends posted the picture on his Facebook page. The accusations led residents of his village to attack his house and set fire to other Christians' homes. Some Christian villagers have left in fear, even though security forces intervened on their behalf (AP).