Have babies, because people are not just economic units

Children bind, deepen a commitment and give purpose. Love is the point, the key ingredient

Have babies, because people are not just economic unitsThe title ‘philosopher,’ like ‘poet,’ carries prestige that’s usually unearned. I say unearned because many poets, who are supposed to understand beauty, write beauty-free verse, and plenty of philosophers, who are supposed to be wise, counsel unethical foolishness to the world. This sad fact – that so much contemporary philosophy is not merely unwise but…

Ont. court to doctors: choose your conscience, or your career

An Ontario court decision reveals a vision that’s equal, equitable and a la carte – and defies doctors freedom of conscience

Ont. court to doctors: choose your conscience, or your careerThis is one of those times I’m glad I’m not a family doctor. Or, more specifically, a family doctor (any medical doctor, really) who objects to certain procedures based on my conscience. Because if I was, and if I was working in Ontario, I’d find myself choosing between my career, and all I’ve worked for,…

Are 23 million missing female births enough to raise concerns?

These parents didn’t want daughters. It’s misogyny in one of its most explicit forms

Are 23 million missing female births enough to raise concerns?One topic you should never argue about in polite company is abortion. The politics are volatile, the emotions fraught. With the conversation climate the way it is (stormy), the only people who can talk about the issue are either diehard abortionists or martyrdom-craving anti-abortionists. Anybody else who speaks on the issue will find themselves banished…

Notre Dame inferno a towering metaphor for modern society

A building like the great cathedral casts us moderns, who think we’re so smart, in a pallid light

Notre Dame inferno a towering metaphor for modern societyFire destroyed much of Notre Dame de Paris on Monday. The loss is impossible to calculate. Whatever rebuilding efforts the French government and the Catholic church mount, the building will never be what it was. It’s almost best that they leave the ruins as they are. But rebuild they must. I visited Notre Dame once.…

The fine (and disappearing) art of handwriting

What does an illegible scribble say about the writer? Certainly more than it tells anyone trying to decipher those disjointed lines

The fine (and disappearing) art of handwritingI once worked with a man who took everything slowly. His coffee. His work. Even stuffing an envelope took a day and a half. It had to be just so. The man’s excruciating deliberateness in everything was annoying and seemingly pointless – except when it came to his handwriting. He carved museum pieces with his…

Russian rap: turning rants and raves into culture

Vladimir Putin wants Russian bureaucrats to regulate the nation’s rap music. What could go wrong?

Russian rap: turning rants and raves into cultureOver the weekend, news reports circulated that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants Russian bureaucrats to regulate the nation’s rap music. Without regulation, Putin says, Russian rap – obsessed as it is with “sex, drugs and protest” – could lead Russia down “a path to the degradation of the nation.” Putin showed ample wisdom by advising…

Teaching is a constant uphill climb

The best teachers know what they want students to become. They form students into free people

Teaching is a constant uphill climbTwice in the last couple of months, I had occasion to tell an old joke about teaching. The first time came at a teachers’ book club. The second when a man saw me reading school assignments on the train and struck up a conversation about teaching. The joke goes like this: the first time you…

Bad news makes headlines, good acts make humanity

For all the advances in the last century, a legacy of wars, gulags and holocausts remind us that things were never good

Bad news makes headlines, good acts make humanityThe news is usually bad. And right now, things look dire. So I don’t blame my friends and colleagues who have stopped reading the morning newspaper. Shutting the drapes on the storm raging can return a sense of normalcy to the breakfast table. As somebody who can’t stop reading the news, I can say that…

The pure university we apparently need

Author Warren Treadgold wants conservatives to be in charge. But that doesn't balance the scales, it merely flips them

The pure university we apparently needAre universities hotbeds of radical left-wing activism? The question has possessed conservative writers for decades. But only in the last few years have centrists and left-leaning scholars taken the question seriously. Recent studies of U.S. colleges and universities indicate that in most disciplines, conservative-minded professors are rare. Just nine per cent of American professors define…

The gutter-low standards of academic journals

They don’t fact check. They don’t edit for clarity. They care nothing about meaning. And a trio of writers have exposed them

The gutter-low standards of academic journalsTo have somebody say you “write well in an academic context” is like being called the handsome one in an ugly contest. Academic writing has a bad reputation – a reputation it usually earns. Academic prose is dense, dry, formulaic, habitually bloated and often pretentious. By straining to look intelligent, the worst of it just…

What’s to keep universities from turning into stoner schools?

How marijuana use is reflected in attendance, participation, dropout and failure rates could make a persuasive story

What’s to keep universities from turning into stoner schools?With the exception of those people who smoke marijuana for medical purposes, I haven’t met many people who were improved by smoking up. In my experience with marijuana – and I admit my experience is limited to the second-hand variety – the stereotype of the bored and boring toker rings true. I’m among the few…

We can’t put a price on free speech

Universities should defend unpopular speech, not politicians who use funding as leverage

We can’t put a price on free speechLike a soundtrack on endless repeat, universities have come around again to the one about free speech. It’s an old song. The chorus goes something like, “Universities must support freedom of expression.” It’s not the catchiest tune but like the national anthem, it’s a song to sing with heart. One person who sings loudly and…

Classroom surveillance and sex ed in Ontario

Is this the kind of workplace we want to create for teachers, where any remark might be taken as either perverse or oppressive?

Classroom surveillance and sex ed in OntarioIn Ontario, sex education remains one of those writhing cans of worms that nobody wanted opened and nobody can close. The centre of the squirming mess is a debate over whether sex ed – and by extension, sexual morality – is a private or public concern. Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives won the last Ontario election,…

France’s phone hang-up is a conversation starter

Smartphones have undermined everyday social interactions by eroding our ability and desire to talk to one another

France’s phone hang-up is a conversation starterFrench legislators recently passed a law banning children between three and 15 from using smartphones in class. The government of President Emmanuel Macron said the move will help combat an epidemic of screen addiction among France’s children. At first glance, it looks as if the legislation will help to curb screen addiction. Even if it…

The trashy state of Ontario schools will only get worse

If schools look like internment campus, we shouldn’t be surprised if students try to escape

The trashy state of Ontario schools will only get worseOntario politics is never as interesting as when a Ford plows through the legislature and smashes everything. Since taking office as Ontario’s premier a month ago, Doug Ford has dumped a controversial sex ed curriculum, cut cap and trade, and promised to cull the number of councillors in Toronto’s city council. These decisions brought foam…