Books, Parenting, Vaccines and Some Politics (Recent Reads)

What Kind of Book Reader Are You?

Do you start a book, read it straight through, then move on to another?  Do you just have books around because you like how they look, but you don’t really read them?  Do you only read at bed-time?    Do you hate to read?  This fun article helps you discern which type of reader you are.  I am not sure where I fit.  I think I would be considered a multi-tasker, as I tend to have a couple books going at a time.

What Matters More to My Kids’ Future: Their School or Quality Time with Parents

Teachers are amazing, but even good teachers can only do so much.  How to improve education in America is a debate that will always draw passionate opinion.  After all, everyone has been to school and thus has an opinion.  Are teachers to blame when kids fail?  Does that make them “bad” teachers?  Would it be better if schools had more money for resources?  Should kids spend more time at school?

This article demonstrates that the most important thing is time spent with parents.  Involved parents do more to improve students education than any other factor:

Mayer found that the things that make a difference are relatively inexpensive: the number of books a kid has or how often his family goes to museums. She argues that all the other stuff — summer camps, tutors, trips to Paris — are like upgrades on a Lexus. They’re nice to have but immaterial when it comes to getting from one place to another.

Of course, this does not diminish the importance of good teachers.  It just means that teachers are not miracle workers.  They can do a fantastic job between 8 AM and 4 PM each day, but kids succeed whose parents help the rest of the time.

The GOP’s Moral Creed

I have really been enjoying reading John Fea’s blog.  Fea is a professor of history at Messiah college.  As a historian, he brings a helpful and important understanding to the political conventions.  His point is that the Republicans talked a lot about America being a moral nation, and this is difficult to square with their huge emphasis on individualism:

The GOP used its convention to tell a story of ambition, rights, and personal freedoms.  All of these things are good and deeply American, but a healthy society cannot be sustained on these ideas alone.  Moreover, the Ben Franklin-Horatio Alger-Andrew Carnegie vision of the American dream fails to recognize a fundamental fact of history, namely that people–even Americans–have struggled to make this dream a reality.  Certainly people have contingency to direct their lives along the paths they want to go, and this is something that makes America unique, if not exceptional, in the annals of modern history, but we cannot ignore the fact that people are also shaped by the circumstances of their past. We are not autonomous individuals.

I do not think I heard the word “common good” at any point during the GOP convention.  I heard nothing about the cultivation of a civil society in which people learn from their differences and forge a national community.  It was all personal stories of rising from poverty or the working class to “make it” in America.

Of course such rhetoric will work well among people who do not like government intervention.  And it works particularly well when you are trying to unseat a president who believes that the government has an active role to play in people’s lives.  But such a view of America only gets the Founders half-right.  As the grandchild of immigrants, a first-generation college student, a son of the working-class, and a beneficiary of the American Dream, the message I took away from the GOP convention left me hollow.  I think it would have left the Founders hollow as well.

Fea criticizes the Republicans, but he moves on to criticize the Democrats also.  In a recent post titled, Abortion, Democrats and Change over Time, he talks about how the Democrats have become more and more pro-choice over the years.  He even includes a link to an article reporting Democrats are not open to dissent in their party.  This refusal to even aknowledge a pro-life position makes me doubt whether I could vote for the Obama this year (though, I don’t think I can vote for Romney either, for other reasons of course).

Love Your Neighbor, Get Your Vaccines

This ties in well with my previous post on whether Christians are anti-science.  One of the least fun things about being a parent is taking your baby in for shots, holding her as she screams (though, Junia is a trooper and does not cry much).  Vaccines are not fun.  But they are more fun then polio, measles and other diseases that used to kill tens of thousands annually.  I am very grateful to live in a time when science has created vaccines for so many deadly diseases, and I cannot understand why some do not get their kids vaccinated.

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