Patterned after Reader's Digest's useful "Points to Ponder," this page subscribes to the notion that a good paragraph is harder to write than a good essay -- a short time in which to persuade produces some of the best persuasion. 

Learn First, Surf Later
David Gelernter
Yale computer science professor
I've never met one parent or teacher or student or principal or ever computer salesman who claimed that insufficient data is the root of the problem. With an Internet connection, you can gather the latest stuff from all over, but too many American high school students have never read one Mark Twain novel or Shakespeare play or Wordsworth poem, or a serious history of the U.S.; they are bad at science, useless at mathematics, hopeless at writing - but if they could only connect to the latest websites in Passaic and Peru, we'd see improvement? 

The Internet, said President Clinton in February, "could make it possible for every child with access to a computer to stretch a hand across a keyboard to reach every book ever written, every painting ever painted, every symphony ever composed." Pardon me, Mr. President, but this is demented. Most American children don't know what a symphony is. If we suddenly figured out how to teach each child one movement of one symphony, that would be a miracle…It's as if the Administration were announcing that every child must have the fanciest scuba gear on the market - but these kids don't know how to swim, and fitting them out with scuba gear isn't just useless, it's irresponsible; they'll drown. 

The Ugly Side of the Jock Culture
Teri Bostian
Grinell College writing teacher 
As a lifelong jock, I believe in the athlete's creed of sportsmanlike conduct, fairness, good will, teamwork, respect, and personal integrity. I know that many coaches and parents teach these ideals, and many athletes try to live by them every day, on and off the playing field. But there is another set of values bred in jock culture: aggression; hypercompetitiveness; survival of the fittest; strict conformity of thought and action; and a sense of superiority over the "losers" whose talents are deemed less valuable. And young athletes, fighting hard to develop their own identity and self-esteem, often express these values brutally…And the distinctions that we routinely make between jocks and the rest of our young people breed a resentment that occasionally must manifest itself as it so tragically did in Littleton. 
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Yes, the media do make us more violent 
Gregg Easterbrook
The New Republic 
The new Hollywood tack of portraying random murder as a form of recreation does not come from schlock-houses. Disney's Miramax division, the same mainstream studio that produced Shakespeare in Love, is responsible for Scream and Pulp Fiction. Time-Warner is to blame for Natural Born Killers and actually ran television ads promoting this film as "delirious, daredevil fun." (After it was criticized for calling murder "fun," Time-Warner tried to justify Killers as social commentary; if you believe that, you believe Godzilla was really about biodiversity protection.)... To say that nothing should be censored it very different from saying that everything should be shown. Today, Hollywood and television have twisted the First Amendment concept that occasional repulsive or worthless expression must be protected, so as to guarantee freedom for works of genuine political content or artistic merit, into a new standard in which constitutional freedoms are employed mainly to safeguard works that make no pretense of merit. In the new standard, the bulk of what's being protected is repulsive or worthless, with the meritorious work the rare exception...When television producers say it is the parents' obligation to keep children away from the tube, they reach the self-satire point of warning that their own product is unsuitable for consumption. 
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Let Freedom Chillingly Ring 
Steven Brill
Brill's Content 
As I was talking with [Chinese journalists] I kept thinking of a scene played out on C-SPAN about two weeks before. It was the annual Radio & Television Correspondentss' Association dinner in Washington, and, as is traditional, the president was a guest on the podium. As the plates were cleared, President Clinton had to sit there as an award was given to ABC's Jackie Judd for her coverage of the Monica Lewinksy affair. I wrote last summer, and still believe, that Judd's coverage had been reckless and biased; it's a mystery how the group could have ignored the fact that in addition to Judd's scoop about the stained blue dress, Judd has also reported a few days later that there was no blue dress and then had reported, also falsely, that a witness had interrupted the president and Lewinsky in the act. Nonetheless, I loved seeing Judd get her award -- because watching President Clinton having to sit there and then seeing him stand to shake Judd's hand was a spine-chilling affirmation of what a truly free country is all about. 

Women's soccer prompts society
Jim Caple
Pioneer Press 
There has been controversy over Brandi Chastain peeling off her jersey and revealing her sports bra for all the world to see after scoring America's winning goal. I guess parents are concerned their daughters will copy her just as boys duplicate the ridiculous celebratory dances and high-fives of professional athletes. They're missing the bigger point. Chastain, appearing on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated in her sports bra, is certainly a better image for girls than Heidi Klum appearing on its cover in a thong bikini. That's the great thing about this World Cup team. These are women who are 5 feet, 135 pounds, 5-8, 150 pounds, or whatever, and that's a healthier body type to appear on a magazine cover than a 5-11, 105-pound model who subsists on rice cakes and skim milk...This could be problematic if female athletes had to be attractive in order to be popular. But that isn't the case. Instead, this is a rare case of women forcing society to change its conception of what is attractive, not the other way around. 
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Specialization should not be special
Rober Heinlein
The Notebooks of Lazarus Long 
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, write a sonnet, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, solve equations, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects 

Masculinity crisis
Susan Faludi
Ornamental culture has proved the ultimate expression of the century, sweeping away institutions in which men felt some sense of belonging and replacing them with visual spectacles that they can only watch and that benefit global commercial forces they cannot fathom. Celebrity culture's effects on men go far beyond the obvious showcasing of action heroes and rock musicians. The ordinary man is no fool: he knows he can't be Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nonetheless, the culture re-shapes his most basic sense of manhood by telling him that masculinity is something to drape over the body, not draw from inner resources; that it is personal, not societal; that manhood is displayed, not demonstrated. The internal qualities once said to embody manhood — sure-footedness, inner strength, confidence of purpose — are merchandised to men to enhance their manliness. What passes for the essence of masculinity is being extracted and bottled and sold back to men. Literally, in the case of Viagra. 
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FCC's regulations are shrinking local voices 
Seattle Times 
Borrowing an argument used by broadcast conglomerates, the [Newspaper Association of America] says cable, satellite and the Internet have vastly expanded consumer choices for information so there's less need to regulate ownership. ... At first glance, the association's arguments seem to have merit, but consider this: The rapid change in communications has vastly expanded choices but has diminished, not expanded, sources of local commentary, debate and public-affairs programs aimed at a broad local audience, especially voters. The flurry of buyouts and mergers in broadcasting has been accompanied by a reduction in coverage of issues that define a community. Local TV news has expanded across the TV listings, but its obsession with traffic jams has crowded out ideas and debate. The heavy emphasis on crime presents citizens as victims, not voices. ... Putting stations and newspapers into fewer hands runs contrary to the public interest, as [local public access station] KONG's mediocrity proves daily. Putting both in one is equally bad. 

Kevin Smith's messages inconsistent in "Dogma" 
Phil Christman
Calvin College Chimes 
Smith insists that he is a devout and sincere Catholic, a claim I have neither right nor desire to dispute. What I can say is that “Dogma,” as a story of Good vs. Evil, is held in check by a flat picture of both. Smith spends much time denouncing sin, ’90s-style, which means that he comes down on the sins of the rich and conservative (Loki bulletholes the board of an entertainment company for idolatry; the Church gets it for materialism) but not on the cheerio misogyny of Jay. Neither does Smith touch on the implications of Bethany’s involvement in the abortion industry; the clinic is there, it seems, solely so Smith can make fun of the protestors congealing around it. In effect, he renders certain sins “cute” while demonizing those of the cultural groups that don’t go to Kevin Smith films. Bartleby’s spiritual corruption relieves this imbalance somewhat, since the audience identifies with Bartleby; but insofar as the film is used to demonize those with whom Smith disagrees, it is a cheap and unworthy piece of art. 
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Robinson had century's greatest 
sports achievement
Keith Olbermann
KFWB Radio
In the week since I went against the grain and said Jackie Robinson and not Michael Jordan nor Babe Ruth was the century’s greatest athlete, I’ve gotten a lot of unexpected support for this idea, so to try to run the table I’m also going to suggest the greatest accomplishment in sports in the millennium was Robinson’s 1947 season in which he hit - .297. Huh? Well, what would have happened if he had hit .197, if racists could have said, The black man can’t cut it in the big leagues? When would baseball have tried integration again? Or is that too presumptuous – would things have not only not gotten better but actually gotten worse? Might we never have seen Mays nor Aaron nor Ali nor Jordan? How would the Brown v Board of Education court case have turned out? Would there have been a civil rights movement? Or would we have become a more northern South Africa? Jackie Robinson knew it meant all that. His .297 batting average is, to me, the equivalent of a Ted Williams hitting, say, .506.

Jesse Jackson's racism charge hurts own cause 
Dan LeBetard
Miami Herald
Dear Rev. Jesse Jackson, Just as you were heard when you wrote Packers General Manager Ron Wolf recently, implying racism was involved in the firing of coach Ray Rhodes, I hope that you will hear this, too. This criticism is well-intentioned, coming from someone who admires your myriad good works, but you have to stop using your substantive power to pick the wrong fights. You are hurting your cause in sports a lot more than you are helping it when you wrongly rush to the defense of Rhodes, crying wolf so loudly and blindly that people can now roll their eyes and tune you out a little more the next time you decide to challenge sports owners in a case that actually does seem to involve prejudice. Like Art Shell’s, for instance. Or Sherm Lewis.’ More than 50 years after Jackie Robinson, we still see prejudice seep into sports – everywhere from hockey, where racial slurs are always popping up in fights, to baseball, where you won’t find a single black general manager. But for all the weight your voice carries, Jesse, enough weight to free hostages, it isn’t going to be heard if you turn up the volume at the wrong times.
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Negative ads serve parties' core
Molly Ivins
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
One thing you might keep in mind about this unedifying [negative] ad mess in both the Democratic and Republican primaries is that attack ads wind up lowering our opinions of both candidates in a race and turn us off both of them. We end up with that sour, cynical, “Oh-why-bother-to-vote?” feeling. And that, beloved readers, benefits the party favorites by turning off independents and nonvoters and young voters and everyone except ideological zealots and party hacks. Hope it doesn’t work this time.
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© Copyright 2000 Nathan Bierma