Sunday 02.08.2015 New York Times Digest


1. How to Be Invisible

“It is time for all of us to reconsider the beauty, elegance and imagination that can come with being unseen.”

2. The Near Death, and Revival, of Monticello

“The estate, reduced by land sales from about 5,000 acres to 522, sold in August 1831 for $7,000 to James Turner Barclay, an eccentric local druggist whom Martha Jefferson Randolph considered to be a madman. He grew experimental silkworms on the property before becoming a missionary and decamping for the Holy Land.”

3. Insured, but Not Covered

“The Affordable Care Act has ushered in an era of complex new health insurance products featuring legions of out-of-pocket coinsurance fees, high deductibles and narrow provider networks. Though commercial insurers had already begun to shift toward such policies, the health care law gave them added legitimacy and has vastly accelerated the trend, experts say.”

4. Madam C.E.O., Get Me a Coffee

“Professional women in business, law and science are still expected to bring cupcakes, answer phones and take notes.”

5. Good Lovers Lie

“Research shows that on average in an ordinary conversation, people lie two to three times every 10 minutes.”

6. The Best Way to Address Campus Rape

“People often wonder why college administrators try to adjudicate these fiendishly difficult cases, rather than putting them in the hands of the criminal justice system. The reason is that the Department of Education has very forcefully told schools to handle sexual grievances themselves and given them very detailed instructions about how to do so. A report last year from a White House task force on campus sexual assault underscored the importance to a university of following that advice. Even though the D.O.E.’s instructions are presented as recommendations rather than law, its Office for Civil Rights can put any school that fails to follow them on the list of colleges under investigation and even take away its federal funding.”

7. The Futility of Vengeance

“Vengeful acts were what kept our prehistoric ancestors alive. Back then, letting a slap go unpunished marked you as prey. Uncooperative behavior also threatened the survival of the group, which may be why today bystanders feel uncomfortable, if not outraged, when they see injustice and take great satisfaction when offenders get their due.”

8. The Best Decade Ever? The 1990s, Obviously

“It was simply the happiest decade of our American lifetimes.”

9. In Defense of Tinder

“As a psychological researcher who studies online dating, I believe that Tinder’s approach is terrific for pursuing casual sex and for meeting a serious relationship partner.”

10. 15 Minutes of Fame? More Like 15 Seconds of Nanofame

“As the medium gets smaller, so does the fame.”

11. How to Be a Friend in Deed

“While technology does offer support, many still crave the real thing. Crisis is a test of friendship, and success, in this case, is measured in intimacy.”

12. Falling Marriage Rates Reveal Economic Fault Lines

“Although 64 percent of college-educated Americans were married, fewer than 48 percent of those with some college or less were married.”

13. Football Major, Basketball Minor?

“Most college officials have focused reforms on sustaining academic standards and limiting sports participation. But to acknowledge reality — or what some consider the charade of college sports — others propose the opposite: more sports, as in offering varsity athletes academic credit, and perhaps a whole curriculum built around their sport, under the tutelage of learned coaches.”

14. Is Your First Grader College Ready?

“Credit President Obama and the Common Core Standards for putting the ‘college and career ready’ mantra on the lips of K-12 educators across the country. Or blame a competitive culture that has turned wide-open years of childhood into a checklist of readiness skills. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that college prep has hit the playground set.”

15. How to Raise a University’s Profile: Pricing and Packaging

“Instead of focusing on undergraduate learning, numerous colleges have been engaged in the kind of building spree I saw at George Washington. Recreation centers with world-class workout facilities and lazy rivers rise out of construction pits even as students and parents are handed staggeringly large tuition bills. Colleges compete to hire famous professors even as undergraduates wander through academic programs that often lack rigor or coherence. Campuses vie to become the next Harvard — or at least the next George Washington — while ignoring the growing cost and suspect quality of undergraduate education.”

16. A University Recognizes a Third Gender: Neutral and A Gender-Neutral Glossary and For Transgender Students, Business Schools Are a Transition

“Today, a growing number of students are embracing the idea that when it comes to classifying gender, there should be more than two options — something now afforded by the dating website OkCupid and by Facebook, which last year added a tab for ‘custom’ alongside ‘male’ and ‘female,’ with some 50 options, including ‘agender,’ ‘androgyne,’ ‘pangender’ and ‘trans person,’ as well as an option for controlling who can see the customized version.”

17. Mourning Lincoln and Lincoln’s Body and Founders’ Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln

“Abraham Lincoln was the best president the United States has ever had. But we live inside his tomb. For a very long time now, too many Americans have found it easier to think about Lincoln’s body — that brawn, that bullet — than about the bodies of the millions of men, women and children who had been kept in slavery, bodies stolen, shackled, hunted, whipped, branded, raped, starved, murdered and buried in unmarked graves. The mourning of Lincoln has come at the expense of mourning them. And what of the grief on the streets of American cities where the cry rises (because, a century and a half after Booth shot Lincoln, the argument still needs making): Black lives matter. And still the bullets volley, and fall and clatter.”

18. The Test, by Anya Kamenetz

“Kamenetz probes psychometry, or the science of testing, demonstrating its roots in the deeply held racism of the early-20th-century I.Q. movement. She shows why today’s achievement tests, designed to evaluate ability on a specific day, typically at the end of the school year, are poor tools for helping either teachers or students improve their practices in real time. ‘They conceptualize proficiency as a fixed quantity in a world where what’s important is your capacity to learn and grow,’ she writes. ‘They are a 20th-­century technology in a 21st-century world.’”

19. Can We Reverse-Engineer the Environment?

“Like many modern wonders, Chicago’s canal solved the problem it was engineered to solve — the city’s sewage crisis — but it did so by sending the consequences downstream, to the Mississippi Valley and, in unanticipated ways, to all of us. In hindsight, it looks less like a triumph of the heroic age of civil engineering than like a prologue to the chastening age we live in now, the epoch geologists have proposed calling the Anthropocene, the age of the sixth extinction.”

20. Eddie Huang Against the World

“The story Huang tells in his memoir is one of survival and struggle in a hostile environment — a prosperous neighborhood in Orlando. Though the picaresque book is written in Huang’s jaunty mash-up of hip-hop lingo and conspicuously learned references to American history and literature, it is also an extraordinarily raw account of an abused and bullied child who grows to inflict violence on others. The racism Huang encounters in Florida is not underhanded, implicit or subtle, as it often is for the many Asians from the professional classes living in and around the coastal cities where the American educated elite reside. It is open, overt and violent.”

21. My Dad, the Pornographer

“The commercial popularity of American erotic novels peaked during the 1970s, coinciding with my father’s most prolific and energetic period. Dad combined porn with all manner of genre fiction. He wrote pirate porn, ghost porn, science-fiction porn, vampire porn, historical porn, time-travel porn, secret-agent porn, thriller porn, zombie porn and Atlantis porn. An unpublished Old West novel opens with sex in a barn, featuring a gunslinger called Quiet Smith, without doubt Dad’s greatest character name. By the end of the decade, Dad claimed to have single-handedly raised the quality of American pornography. He believed future scholars would refer to him as the ‘king of 20th-century written pornography.’ He considered himself the ‘class operator in the field.’”

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