An actual hour to spare at the end of the day? Well, then, it must be time to jump into something I signed up for months ago — “A History of the World Since 1300,” the Coursera offering I thought I’d take a whirl at.
It is, I figure, the closest I will ever get to Princeton.
Also, I’m writing more about education these days, and online education is a comer. One principal I talked to says every kid in school today should take at least one online class, because that is the future. Who am I to deny the future? Hello, Coursera.
The first shock, however, was as old as 1975, when I first went through the checkout line at the College Book Store in Athens, Ohio: The textbook was something like $80. But you people have been particularly wonderful about using the Kickback Lounge lately, and I have enough Amazon credit built up that it became a what-the-hell purchase. It arrived today, and it’s a very nice textbook, I guess, which is my way of saying: I hope I can sell it in December.
Today’s lecture was in four parts, which is unbelievably convenient, as I was able to watch one part during lunch, another couple before and after my shower, and the last one while I made dinner. “People and Plunderers” was the title, beginning with the concept of wealth and ending with Genghis Khan. Professor Jeremy Adelman is a smooth-lecturin’ Canadian who uses words like “portmanteau” and if he’s unnerved by talking to a camera instead of a classroom amphitheater (because there is no way this isn’t one of those giant classes), he gives no sign.
Because you guys helped pay for the text, I’ll keep you updated on my progress. For now, I need to read Chapter 11.
I have 70,000 classmates, by the way. Are you one of them?
Actually, Genghis was a good end to the day, which wasn’t one of the best in recent memory. Besides the usual annoyances, there was the external stuff — the enervating public discussion about the 47-percent story, plus an armed robbery in Grosse Pointe that…well, I need a new sentence for this. Tell you what: I’m going to italicize all the words that make this story a migraine headache:
On Sunday morning, two young girls, 14 and 11, were walking home from church when they were accosted by a man who shoved one to the ground, showed a gun and stole her cell phone before running off. Oh, and did I mention this? The girls were white, and the man, in addition to being 250 pounds, was black.
Which means that any story about this event will grow repulsive comments like metastasizing cancer, each tumor more irregular around the edges than the last. But because this is Grosse Pointe, it can’t stop there. This was the follow by one of the largest news outlets in the state, yes, which saw fit to mention that the father of one of these girls showed up at the GP city council meeting the following night and had the gall, can you imagine, to call Detroit “a third world country.”
The incident is causing concern among residents of the community, a city that stands in stark contrast, both demographically and economically, to its neighbor Detroit.
Really? There’s a blinding observation for the second paragraph of your story, bub.
Yech, sometimes I think I should have stayed in Columbus. Or moved to San Diego.
So let’s move on to the bloggage, most of which was made obsolete by the terminal velocity of the Romney story. But there was one passage in the David Brooks column that I think needs to be put in neon somewhere:
The final thing the comment suggests is that Romney knows nothing about ambition and motivation. The formula he sketches is this: People who are forced to make it on their own have drive. People who receive benefits have dependency.
But, of course, no middle-class parent acts as if this is true. Middle-class parents don’t deprive their children of benefits so they can learn to struggle on their own. They shower benefits on their children to give them more opportunities — so they can play travel sports, go on foreign trips and develop more skills.
People are motivated when they feel competent. They are motivated when they have more opportunities. Ambition is fired by possibility, not by deprivation, as a tour through the world’s poorest regions makes clear.
And what the hell, here’s The Onion: Romney Apologizes To Nation’s 150 Million ‘Starving, Filthy Beggars’
Outta here, pals. I have stuff to read. Happy hump day.