JOHN BREDIN To the Editor: In case you’ve been on another planet for the past decade, the hottest buzzword in education circles today is “STEM” – an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM has become a holy grail of sorts for certain educational administrators and politicians, who blindly worship before its altar, and are eliminating what once constituted a classical liberal arts education from time immemorial: literature, philosophy, and history.Now, don’t get me wrong, science and technology deserve a rightful place in our educational programs, shouldn’t be neglected, and, if anything, ought to be strengthened (strategically), with more funding for critical areas like medical research and green energy.But what’s to become of the humanities? Are we to simply let them go? These are the very subjects, after all, which add a spiritual richness to our lives, help us appreciate the world around us more, and deepen our moral sensibility. Matthew Arnold talked of the “sweetness and light” that comes from reading “the best that has been thought and written” – think Plato, Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, and Proust – still a profound insight for those of us, myself included, who believe in teaching for a happier, kinder, more joyful world that still might be.Another great benefit of the humanities is that they strengthen democracy; in more ways than one. By encouraging open dialogue in literature classrooms, for example, we produce what the great literary theorist and educational philosopher Louise Rosenblatt believed is the ideal training ground for life in a democracy.Empathy is another quality, crucial to the functioning of a decent society, that we get more from reading novels and studying art than classes in I.T., business analytics, or entrepreneurship studies. However justifiable such narrower courses might be, they do nothing to develop human personality or deepen the heart and soul. Nor do they help you love your neighbor, build community, or care about the less fortunate of our planet.My wife Claudia and I recently featured two of the world’s most noted literary scholars, Harold Bloom and Stanley Fish, as guests on our nonprofit TV show “Public Voice Salon.” Both of these intellectual titans are deeply pessimistic that literature and the humanities can survive the current technocratic, market-based onslaught in education. Though their prescient warnings ought to be heeded, they also left us with a glimmer of hope I’d like to build on.Would it help to build a political movement around saving humanistic education? Why do YOU think the humanities matter? What novels, films, or plays have made you a better person or citizen? Why don’t they talk about this stuff on the other TV shows? As you ponder these questions, feel free to reach out in dialogue to me at [email protected] Let me know what you think so we can do a better job resisting the disastrous march away from humanistic learning, and toward a new dark age—call it a “digital dark age”—of the mind and soul.
The Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF) has tacitly endorsed a mandatory pension system as the least complex and costly reform option if the current government wishes to boost participation rates.The industry body also suggested that a shift towards an auto-enrolment or a compulsory pension savings system could warrant the launch of collective defined contribution (CDC) funds, and said government should let the private sector operate any scheme unless it felt the need for a provider of last resort.In its response to the Universal Retirement Savings Group (URSG), which launched an informal consultation with stakeholder groups following its launch in February, the IAPF did not explicitly endorse a mandatory system and said it accepted the “political reality” that auto-enrolment may be easier to deliver.Despite this admission, the IAPF said complexities arising from an auto-enrolment approach would easily fall away if the government chose compulsion, suggesting there were “clear advantages” to a mandatory system. “Overall, it should be less complex and costly to administer, there is less need for compliance checking and establishing who should be included and when.”The IAPF’s words echoed those chosen by the OECD when it reviewed Ireland’s pension system in 2013.The think tank’s report backed compulsory saving and suggested auto-enrolment was a second-rate policy, with the former a “less costly and more effective” means of increasing coverage.In a letter to the URSG, IAPF chief executive Jerry Moriarty said the association had “some difficulty” in answering the consultation, as it did not set out a clear objective for the proposed Universal Retirement Savings Scheme (URSS).“We believe that if this had been done and the population of likely participants established it would be much easier to look at issues such as operation and investment,” Moriarty said.The response said the Irish government should play no role in operating the URSS outside of regulation, noting the importance of establishing a trusted system, and contrasting this with the government’s 0.6% pensions levy and the use of the National Pensions Reserve Fund to support struggling banks during the financial crisis.“That said, there may be a need for a provider of last resort that would be able to take on low contributions on an uncommercial basis,” the consultation said, in a likely reference to the UK’s launch of the National Employment Savings Trust.The consultation also suggested the reform could see the launch of CDC funds, as these could be more appropriate than individual accounts. “If a collective DC arrangement was established it could provide more equity across generations and therefore more certainty of achieving the desired goals.”The IAPF alos said any investment strategy would need to take an appropriate amount of risk to meet agreed objectives, in an absence of a pre-determined replacement ratio for the URSS.It also argued that there should only be limited investment choice, with a default fund a necessity.Asked about the timeline for its introduction, the IAPF said it preferred a “big bang” approach, allowing for the system to establish scale “sooner, rather than over generations”.The URSG has previously said that it would look to table its proposals by the end of the year, but minister for social protection Joan Burton has not given any indication of when the system would be in place, insisting there would be a “very gradual” rollout once economic factors allowed for the launch.
By Scott OwenSHAWANO, Wis. (June 26) – Jeff Larson was the first car to hit the track for hot laps Saturday at Shawano Speedway and it paid dividends for the Illinois racer.Larson won the third leg of the Xtreme Motor Sports IMCA Modified Cheesehead Triple Crown and left the track with $5,000, a huge trophy thanks to the Kim Parsons Memorial Trophy Tour and a spot on the ballot for the Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational.Larson and Jerry Wilinski raced wheel-to-wheel following the initial green with Wilinski holding the slightest of leads.Wilinski continued to lead as Larson ran right near the wall trying to gain an advantage. What would be the final caution of the 30-lap feature flew after lap five. As the race went back to green, Larson again tiptoed along the wall and took the lead from Wilinski.Larson then put on a clinic on how to race inches away from the wall as Wilinski battled Kelly Shryock for second and Konnor Wilinski, Jerry’s son, battled with Jay Noteboom for fourth.Shryock and Jerry Wilinski swapped second place three times over the course of laps 19-21. Through the late stages of the race, Larson continued to tour the track inches from the outside wall and extend his lead.Noteboom caught Jerry Wilinski on lap 26 for third and battled past Shryock on lap 28 to move into second.In the end, though, it was all Larson with Noteboom taking second, Shryock third, Jerry Wilinski fourth and R.C. Whitwell fifth. Dylan Smith finished sixth after starting 19th.Travis Van Straten took the lead on the opening lap of the IMCA Sunoco Stock Car feature and led all 20 laps of the race for the win, his third straight in four outings during the Cheesehead Triple Crown.Wyatt Block had the lead when the 15th lap was scored and motored to the Karl Chevrolet Northern SportMod checkers.Feature results – 1. Jeff Larson; 2. Jay Noteboom; 3. Kelly Shryock; 4. Jerry Wilinski; 5. R.C. Whitwell; 6. Dylan Smith; 7. Marcus Yarie; 8. Mike Mullen; 9. Konnor Wilinski; 10. Kyle Strickler; 11. Jason Grimes; 12. Justin O’Brien; 13. Joel Rust; 14. Mitch Stankowski; 15. Shane DeMey; 16. Jason Zdroik; 17. Jerry Muenster; 18. Chris Engels; 19. Johnny Whitman; 20. Jon Snyder; 21. Jeremy Christians; 22. Brad Lautenbach; 23. Benji LaCrosse; 24. R.M. VanPay.