Century Marks

Century Marks

Breaking bread

Research indicates that students who sometimes eat with other ethnic minorities in the dining hall are more likely to report good race relations on campus than those who don't. The gap was similar for both whites and minority groups, although overall whites tended to think race relations on campus are better than do ethnic minorities. The impact of racial mingling in the classroom or in the dormitories is nil by comparison. The research­ers believe that the positive impact of racial intermingling in the dining hall has to do with the fact that it is voluntary and the interaction there doesn't have the same kind of scrutiny as in the classroom (InsideHigherEd.com, August 23).

Faith matters how?

Recently Bill Keller argued in the New York Times that journalists need to ask tougher questions of politicians about their faith. In her Time blog, Amy Sullivan writes a rejoinder: they don't necessarily need to ask tougher questions but more relevant ones. Politicians, especially Republican ones, tend to use religion to connect with a certain audience, but they resist getting into specifics. The two main questions they need to be asked are: "1) Would your religious beliefs have any bearing on the actions you would take in office? and 2) If so, how?" Which decisions would be particularly shaped by their faith? On abortion and birth control? Economic policy and immigration? (swampland.time.com, September 2).

Climate-change conversion

Michael Stafford, a conservative and former Republican Party officer, has had a Damascus Road experience on the issue of anthropogenic (human-made) global warming (AGW). He said he could no longer ignore the facts. There is virtually no debate in the scientific community about the Earth warming and a near consensus that human activity is responsible for it. As a Catholic, he says that the leading role played by his church and the pope on this issue has convinced him it is a moral imperative to address AGW. Opinion in the U.S. seems to be moving in the opposite direction due to the tactics of the climate denial industry and the increasing radicalization of the political right and the rise of an extreme form of libertarianism within it (caglecartoons.com, August 11).

Let’s sing

Since World War I, Minneapolis has had a tradition of community singing festivals cosponsored by the Park Board and the Minneapolis Tribune. That tradition was revived last year by Betty Tisel, a local singer and activist. A recent singing festival included songs like "This Little Light of Mine" and "Tenting Tonight," an antiwar song sung by both sides in the Civil War. Tisel points out that if we're going to work together to build a just and sustainable world, we need local cultures that are joyful and participatory. She says that people feel energized and connected by these local songfests and ask, "When can we do this again?" (MinnPost.com, April 7 in Utne, August 17).

Birds of a feather

In his 2008 book The Big Sort Bill Bishop documented how transient Americans are increasingly choosing to live in politically like-minded neighborhoods. While not shocking, the consequence of this is that people are less inclined to encounter others with opposing points of view, and when they do they seem very alien and even threatening. This movement toward homogenous neighborhoods is making it easier for parties to gerrymander congressional districts, which merely exacerbates the problem. Primaries become the real battleground in many districts, and independent voters end up being the losers ("The Cook Report," NationalJournal, August 5).