Weekly Newsletter

Note: Next week will be the arbitrarily but mostly correctly determined 6th month anniversary of my newsletter. If you have any ideas for interesting things I could do for this, I’d love to hear them. So far, I’ve considered a “Best Of” week or piece written by me reflecting on the newsletter and explaining in detail why I put so much time into this.

Languages #

Utopian for Beginners
Tells the story of one man’s created language and its journey into the world. Also discusses the history of language creation, which fascinated early philosophers such as Descartes and Leibniz.

Conflict and Society #

Sebastian Junger Knows Why Young Men Go To War
Interviews Sebastian Junger, the director of Restrepo, Korengal, and The Last Patrol, all of which follow American soldiers. There’s a lot of good stuff within this relatively short interview - intelligent discussion of masculinity in modern society, the power of choice, and the evolutionary roots of war.

Environment #

Is There Enough Meat For Everyone?
Bill Gates argues that a moderate approach to meat consumption reduction will yield better results than renunciation.

Education #

The Slow Death of the University
A British professor argues that the British university system is on the decline due to increased pressure to conform to modern trends. Frankly, I don’t agree with the tone or sentiment of this article, but I think that there is value in reading it. The author’s view is common enough that it’s important to understand, and he discusses the obstacles generally facing the British higher education system.

Digital Natives, Yet Strangers to the Web
Argues that education administrators are so focused on warning students about the perils of the Internet that they neglect to teach them about its “intricacies and dynamics,” preventing them from learning how to use it responsibly. I really enjoyed this article as I’m receptive to almost any argument that replaces a Luddite approach with a forward thinking but nuanced one. Add to that my belief that the Internet is potentially the most powerful tool our society’s ever produced and you can see why I enjoyed this article so much.

Other Contributions #

The Myth of Police Form (Emily Feng)
Questions the notion that police reform can solve social problems. A quote from the article summarizes its themes well:

“Police officers fight crime. Police officers are neither case-workers, nor teachers, nor mental-health professionals, nor drug counselors. One of the great hallmarks of the past forty years of American domestic policy is a broad disinterest in that difference. The problem of restoring police authority is not really a problem of police authority, but a problem of democratic authority.”

Sale of U.S. Arms Fuels the Wars of Arab States (Emily Feng)
This article goes well with the article included last week about US involvement in the Middle East (U.S. Military Should Stay Home: America, Not Iran, Is Biggest Threat to Mideast Stability) The submitter of this article described these two articles well:

“The impression I get after reading both articles is a bit Daoist in flavor; through inaction we create positive results. Conversely, proactive engagement sometimes messes things up further by creating unintended consequences downstream…most famous example being the mujahideen of Afghanistan re: the Taliban.”

Also, as an aside, I recently read Ursula K. Le Guin’s translation of the Tao Te Ching and enjoyed it quite a bit. Lao Tzu, the author, seems like he was the chief contrarian of his time – a label that I respect. It’s also fun to read, because Le Guin does a good job of adding (or emphasizing depending on your point of view on the original text) an element of humor and play to the work.

The Moral Bucket List (Kevin Francfort)
David Brooks, Dartmouth’s upcoming commencement speaker, discusses the idea that certain people radiate an “inner light” that reflects their morality. The first time I read this article, I dismissed it as cheesy. However, the second time I read it, I liked it more. I still think it’s pretty cheesy, but I also latched onto the idea that cultivating morality can be thought of as a skill rather than a inherent quality of someone’s character. My recent reading of Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall, the author of Born to Run, reinforces this view in my mind.