Century Marks

Century Marks

No exit

The popular uprisings that deposed autocratic governments in Tunisia and Egypt were initiated by people whose lives were so desperate that they felt they had nothing to lose. Before the revolts, many in North Africa thought their only hope was to immigrate to Europe. In 2007 a cobbler in Tunisia said to David Cook, a scholar from Rice University: "Do you think that any of us would be here if we could move to France? Everyone would be gone in a week if they would let us in!" (Hedgehog Review, Fall).

Tax free

A comprehensive study of the 280 most profitable Fortune 500 companies shows that 78 of them paid no income tax in one out of the past three years and 30 of them had a negative income tax rate during that three-year period. In the 1950s a quarter of federal outlays were paid by corporate taxes; in fiscal year 2010 corporate taxes paid only 6 percent of federal government expenses. The report, done by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, notes: "Most Americans can rightfully complain, 'I pay more federal income taxes than General Electric, Boeing, DuPont, Wells Fargo, Verizon, etc., etc., all put together'" (Salon, November 3).

Back of the bus

When Melissa Franchy sat at the front of bus B110 in Brooklyn, she was told by a Hasidic Jewish man that she needed to move to the back. When she asked why, he said that this was a private Jewish bus and that it was decreed by God that men and women should be separate. The bus, which runs between Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, is operated for the city by a private company. The city has said that the practice of gender segregation is against New York civil rights laws and has asked the private bus company for an explanation (NPR.org).

The Wounded Right

Jon Meacham says the religious right has attacked Mitt Romney's Mormonism because it has already lost some culture war arguments, such as prayer in school and abortion, and is likely to lose the battle over gay marriage. "A wounded foe is always more dangerous than a healthy one," he says. Meacham believes that "American believers may have to step up" to oppose religious tests for office in order "to save religion from the religious." The separation of church and state protects the church from the corruption of the state as much or more than it protects the state from the church's influence (Time, October 24).

Beyond the three Rs

In his composition class for college freshmen, teacher-writer Erik Reece asks students to evaluate their high school education. Students report that their high school teachers lacked passion and didn't know their subject matter very well. Teachers seemed to have low expectations of students, the students say, and were afraid to engage students in critical thinking. What was taught seemed irrelevant to the lives of the students, and the teachers mostly taught to the tests. School reform, Reece concludes, will have to address three major areas: quality of teaching, what is expected of students and the relevance of subject matter to "real life" (Orion, September-October).