Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Capitalism

Why Our Schools Don’t Work

One of the difficulties with writing about education is that by the time educational reformers manage to make their voices heard, they are too old. They have forgotten what it is like to be a young person in school, and the schools have changed so much during their own lifetimes that to the extent that they do remember, their memories are no longer relevant. One of the paradoxes of life is that at 22, I still remember a lot of experiences from school that remain relevant to the contemporary debate, but because I am 22, no one really pays attention to much of what I say. But I digress. Today it has occurred to me that the reason our schools do not work is that our society has three distinct purposes for its schools, and that these purposes contradict each other in fatal ways.

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Misconceptions: “Minimum Wage Jobs Aren’t Supposed to be Careers”

The other day, I saw one of my Facebook friends post this image:

The claim that minimum wage jobs aren’t supposed to be careers, and that consequently any adult who still has one deserves a wage that cannot be lived on, is dangerously misleading. Here’s why.

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Leave Thomas the Tank Engine Alone

A recent article on The Guardian‘s website by one Tracy Van Slyke has stirred up controversy among parents and culture critics as to whether or not Thomas and Friends is a suitable television program for children. Van Slyke slates the show, claiming that it’s authoritarian, sexist, anti-environmentalist, and even racist. Van Slyke says that she is thankful her son “never went through a manic train fascination like so many other children.” I’m 22. I don’t have any children. But Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends  originally came out in the 1980s–unlike so many of the people writing about this show, I remember what it’s like to have “manic train fascination”. I still have the old episodes on VHS, I still have my wooden magnet trains, and once in a great long while, I even get them out and play with them. So here follows a defense of Thomas from someone who knows what it’s like to be a kid who loves Thomas and loves trains.

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Thomas Piketty is Not a Marxist

I subscribe to a weekly news magazine called The Week. It’s an excellent magazine highlighting the various things commentators have been saying in the popular press over the past week. In the most recent issue, however, I saw something strange. In the banner, there was a picture of Karl Marx, and the question “Is Marxism Back in Fashion?” This struck me as quite bizarre–I hadn’t seen any mention of Marx or Marxism in the last week. I turned to the relevant article and discovered that the controversy being highlighted was over Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Many commentators, particularly those writing in right-leaning publications, were referring to Piketty and his work as Marxist (for an example, see Kyle Smith’s piece in the New York Post) This apparently is so uncontroversial that The Week felt comfortable guiding people to the story with a Marx reference. I found this extremely troubling, both because Piketty is most certainly not a Marxist and because the practice of calling all those with radical left-wing views “Marxist” is an attempt to straw man those leftists and prevent people from thinking seriously about their views. I’d like to elaborate on both themes today.

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Is Britain a Christian Nation?

In the United States, we’re used to hearing republican politicians claim that America is a “Christian nation”. Sarah Palin certainly said so:

 

What we’re not used to hearing is a British Prime Minister saying the same of the United Kingdom.  Current PM David Cameron has done just that.  Is his argument any good? Let’s look at it.

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