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Showing posts from October, 2018

How Much Longer Till We Get There?

How Much Longer Till We Get There?
What’s the most annoying thing that kids do?  This is a tough contest, but for me, the prize goes to insistent repetitions of my title question on cross-country drives.  What do I hate about it so much?  Is it that it’s an expression of impatience dressed up as something beautiful, a question?  Is it the fact that the demand—I need to be there now!—is one I cannot meet, and the kid knows full well I cannot meet?  Is it the prospect of bottomless possibilities for repetition that stem from its re-askability at every “now”?  Is it, perhaps, that I am wondering the same myself, and grumpy that there is no one can nag?  (When one of my TAs came to my office to cry about having made a student cry, I wondered, “Whose office do I get to cry in?”)
It doesn’t really matter why I hate this so much, the important thing is that I do.  And I have three children, all of whom are genetically related to me, which is to say, none of them is a paragon of patience. …

The American Conversation Problem: Three Proposals

Tonight over dinner, my family was pondering the fact that, like most families, we lie inside an ideological bubble, shut off from understanding the points of view of many Americans.  We have not engaged much with people who live in different parts of the country, or differ from us with respect to ethnicity, socio-economic status, or religion.  Or what about Americans who face (or don’t face) various disabilities that we don’t (or do) face?  And my children were alarmed to learn that conversations of this kind online often do not go well.  
Call this, “the American Conversation problem”: how can we get better at talking civilly to people who are very different from ourselves, and whose points of view we are thereby likely to caricature?   
We came up with three proposals.  
(1)  Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Arguments App
This is an app that would anonymously pair demographically different people for a brief argument about some political issue of their choice.  Think of it: you are waiting for t…