According to a recent Pew Center report, “Record levels of bachelor’s degree attainment in 2012 are apparent for most basic demographic groups.” 33% of 25- to 29- year-olds are completing both high school and college. According to the report, this number is up from five years ago and at record levels for the United States in general. But what does it mean? Statistics like these are constantly being produced, but they are no good to us if we do not know how to interpret them. After attending the joint Acton/Liberty Fund conference this past weekend on Acton and Tocqueville, I have Tocqueville on the brain and wonder if, perhaps, he might have some insights that are still relevant today. (more…)
Our world desperately needs heroic people—people who shape events, who act rather than watch, who are creative and brave. Such people are needed in every field, in every realm of life—not only in law enforcement and disaster response but also in science, education, business and finance, health care, the arts, journalism, agriculture, and—not least—in the home.
Rev. Robert Sirico and Jeff Sandefer, in their about-to-be-released book, have written a “blueprint” to the heroic life. The two joined Acton last week to talk about their endeavor (listen to the podcast here), and discuss some of the themes of this book. Both stressed the need for people of all ages to strive for living not just a good life, but a heroic one:
We need brilliant men and women…we need people with a broad vision of what can be and what really is of lasting value, people with the strength to surmount obstacles and maintain a definition of success that is deeper and more authentic than what we find in today’s celebrity tabloids.
The book will be ready for sales for the Christmas season, in both print and e-versions. Watch the blog for the upcoming release date.
Timothy Dalrymple wonders whether education reform should be one of the great objectives for American Christians in the twenty-first century. Taking up that cause will require overcoming the intransigence of the teachers’ unions:
Try firing an ineffective teacher. Roughly 1 in 50 doctors lose their medical license. Only 1 in 2500 teachers ever lose their teaching credentials. Process that for a moment. It’s much easier to become a teacher than a doctor, yet teachers are fifty times less likely than doctors to be removed from the profession. One of the statistics cited in Waiting for Superman, an extraordinary documentary on the crisis of American public education, is that only 61 out of Illinois’ 876 school districts have attempted to fire even one teacher, and only 38 of those districts were successful. The tenure system — designed to give the most accomplished university professors the freedom to advance new ideas in their teaching and writing without fear of reprisal from their employers, and gained only after many years and rigorous examination — has become an iron shield protecting ineffective teachers who earned their tenure after two years. Good teachers are a national treasure. Bad teachers who refuse to change their ways are leeches on the system who cannot be removed and who miseducate our children into truancy and joblessness.
Now that the presidential race of 2012 has ended it is time—whether we are ready for it or not—for the presidential race of 2016 to begin. Since the next election will not include any incumbents, the question of who has the relevant “experience” to be the chief executive will once again become an issue of primary concern.
What has been missing from previous discussions, however, is a plan for helping future presidential candidates acquire the skill-set needed to be the leader of the free world. That is why I’ve decided to design a preparatory course that would help prepare future candidates for the job, one that would (Acton bias alert) promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.
Here’s how it’d work. Candidates for the course would signal their intention to run for the highest office in the land by applying to head of their political party. Once the candidate was accepted, the DNC, RNC, or third party organization, would fully fund the cost of the schooling and pay the “student” a salary equivalent to a second-term Congressional representative. Candidates would be provided with full health and dental benefits as well two weeks vacation per year.
The 105-week curriculum would begin the week before Inauguration Day and end just in time for the student to organize their campaign for the coming primary season.
The course would include the following eight sections:
Laurel Broten, the Education Minister of Ontario, stated on Oct. 10 that the “province’s publicly funded Catholic schools may not teach students that abortion is wrong because such teaching amounts to ‘misogyny,’ which is prohibited in schools under a controversial anti-bullying law.” Ontario enacted Bill 13 in June and it casts a wide net against bullying in schools. It is under this law that Broten has declared that Catholic schools may not teach that abortion is wrong.
Bill 13 has in it a clear indication of ensuring that our schools are safe, accepting places for all our students. That includes LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer] students. … Bill 13 is about tackling misogyny, taking away a woman’s right to choose could arguably be one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take.
Broten is equating the Catholic Church’s pro-life stance with the hatred of women, and deems the Church’s teaching now illegal, disallowing freedom of conscience, clearly putting the state in a position of telling a church what it can and cannot teach.
Fr. Tim Boyle, a Catholic priest from Mattawa, Ontario, says this,
Minister Broten ignores … the fact that her decision also violates section 93 the Canadian Constitutional Act which enshrines the rights of Catholics in Ontario to a school system in which they can teach their children in a Catholic environment without government interference. While it may be debatable whether or not Bill 13 in its entirety might be constitutional, a matter soon to be taken up by the courts, it’s clear that prohibiting Catholic schools from teaching that abortion is wrong is a clear violation of this legal guarantee of the separation of Church and State.
Of course, one of the issues here is that Catholic schools in Canada do receive public monies. Recently, Catholic Charities of Tulsa, Okla., chose to stop all government funds, relying instead on private donations.
“What Catholic Charities of Tulsa is doing is showing the way forward for Catholics and other Christians who want to be faithful to the ancient Church’s age-old moral teachings, and who want to assist those in need without compromising the truth of the Gospel,” wrote Dr. Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty…
Fr. Robert Sirico, the president of Acton, agrees. “I think we need to separate the giving from the mechanism of the state,” he said. “There’s the threat that he who drinks the king’s wine sings the king’s song.”
It remains to be seen if the Catholics of Ontario will be satisfied with the king’s song and dance.
Don’t miss out on your chance to apply for a scholarship for the spring 2013 semester!
If you or someone you know would like to be considered for a Calihan Academic Fellowship, the deadline to submit application materials is Monday, October 15. Eligible candidates include graduate students or seminarians pursuing fields such as theology, philosophy, economics, or related themes promoted by the Acton Institute. Visit the Calihan Academic Fellowship page on Acton’s website for more detailed information on eligibility and the application process. Contact Michelle at email@example.com with any scholarship-related questions.
In case you haven’t already heard the rumor, allow me to fill you in: AU Online has an awesome, newly revamped website and digital learning platform. AU Online is designed to make the resources and tools of a typical Acton conference available through a university-level, online environment. The AU Online team hopes the new features and functions will make this program your go-to destination for the integration of faithful intentions and sound economic reason.
To kick off the 2012-2013 schedule of online courses, Acton’s director of research, Dr. Samuel Gregg, will present a four-part lecture series, Freedom and Virtue in the Developed World. The first live, online session is scheduled for 6:30pm EDT on October 23.
If you haven’t done so, we encourage you to visit the AU Online website to see for yourself what all of the hype is about! If you have any questions, please contact the AU Online team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On an unrelated note, registration for the 2013 Acton University conference opens November 15! Be sure not to miss out on your chance to apply.
At the height of the housing crisis, it was estimated that 11 million homes in America were mortgaged for more than they were worth. That debt crisis may soon be dwarfed—if it hasn’t been already—by the student loan debt problem:
With college enrollment growing, student debt has stretched to a record number of U.S. households — nearly 1 in 5 — with the biggest burdens falling on the young and poor.
The analysis by the Pew Research Center found that 22.4 million households, or 19 percent, had college debt in 2010. That is double the share in 1989, and up from 15 percent in 2007, just prior to the recession — representing the biggest three-year increase in student debt in more than two decades.
Unlike an negative equity mortgage, student load debt is not dischargeable in a bankruptcy. It’s also non-transferable—the college degree that was “bought” with the debt cannot be sold or traded. That makes degrees that are not “marketable” or that were acquired for reasons of personal growth an expensive luxury good.
Obviously many people (including me, with some qualifications) believe that the value of obtaining a liberal education is worth taking on debt. But what about graduates who will receive neither a life-broadening education nor a vocationally useful skill-set from getting a college degree? Should we continue to encourage them to take on debt to pay for higher education?
In a recent New York Times article (here), Ted C. Fishman offers and in-depth feature on the Kalamazoo Promise:
Back in November 2005, when this year’s graduates were in sixth grade, the superintendent of Kalamazoo’s public schools, Janice M. Brown, shocked the community by announcing that unnamed donors were pledging to pay the tuition at Michigan’s public colleges, universities and community colleges for every student who graduated from the district’s high schools. All of a sudden, students who had little hope of higher education saw college in their future. Called the Kalamazoo Promise, the program — blind to family income levels, to pupils’ grades and even to disciplinary and criminal records — would be the most inclusive, most generous scholarship program in America.
Since 2005, all graduates from Kalamazoo public schools who have attended since they were freshmen have been eligible for a scholarship program that sends them to college while they (and our government, for that matter) incur little to no debt at all. Given our country’s looming higher ed bubble, this fact alone makes the Promise a significant achievement. However, Fishman’s article highlights many social gains and lessons worth highlighting here as well. (more…)