Category Archives: From the Moderator

“What Is It About Mormons?”

THE MORMON PEOPLE by Matthew Bowman

The New York Times is hosting an interesting conversation in its “Room for Debate” section entitled “What Is It About Mormons?”  At the center of the debate is the notion that while Mormons typically embody traditional American ideals, such as: cherishing family, demonstrating a dedication to hard work and thrift, and showing devotion to a higher power, many Americans remain uncomfortable with Mormonism and, by extension, the possibility of a Mormon president.

A timely new book published just last week, Matthew Bowman’s The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith, tells the history considered in the debate.  Richard Lyman Bushman, author of the definitive biography Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, praised the book as “…[A] quick, lively, and informative trip into the heart of Mormonism. All who are concerned or just curious will learn a lot about the making of modern Mormons from this book.”    

With his new book, Bowman offers us a singular, concise and accessible history of a people and a faith that will help provide much-needed background as voters and students alike consider this American faith.

Consider adding your voice to the discussion by posting a comment below.  The first five posters will receive a free copy of the new book The Mormon People.


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“Why I’m Not Preparing My Students to Compete in the Global Marketplace”


by McKay Jenkins, author of What’s Gotten into Us?: Staying Healthy in a Toxic World (Random House, 2011)

In a controversial and thought-provoking Op-Ed published last week in The Chronicle Review entitled “Why I’m Not Preparing My Students to Compete in the Global Marketplace” (1/15/12) , author McKay Jenkins challenged himself and his colleagues to reconsider the prevailing notion–perhaps mantra–that educators must equip and orient all of their students to compete globally.   

While Jenkins agreed that a strong knowledge and awareness of other peoples and places in this inter-connected world is indeed important, he wonders if our focus has gone out of wack, and if one of the core puposes of a good education–that of bettering of one’s self and one’s environment–is becoming lost, unfortuntely most of all on today’s students.  He writes: “For all the talk of “globalization” as the very engine of their generation’s future prospects, my students seemed far more concerned about disappearing jobs at home, rising global temperatures, and a general anxiety about what it all meant.” 

In response to their concerns, Jenkins employed classroom exercises to get students thinking about more “local” issues.  These exercises, which he describes Continue reading

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“Legacy of Bias”


In “Legacy of Bias”, published today on Inside Higher Ed, writer Scott Jaschik  discusses a new book released from the Century Foundation and published by the Brookings Institution Press entitled Affirmative Action for the Rich.  The book concludes that legacy admissions have not only expanded considerably in just the last 20 years but also disproportionality manifest a racial and class component.

The article also discusses the quite prescient book which was the result of a Pulitzer-Prize winning series in the Wall Street Journal: The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges–and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates (Three Rivers Press, 2007).  Written by then Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Golden (now with Bloomberg News), the book analyzes the data and details the many ways in which legacy admissions are detrimental to the overall health of our educational system and, by extension, our society.

Read an excerpt from The Price of Admission by clicking here.

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Free Book Offer

We are happy to send a free copy of one of the books featured on this blog.

Post a comment to any essay and then email us indicating your book request (must be one of the books featured on this blog).  Please be sure to include your full school mailing address.

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“Should This Be the Last Generation?”


In a recent online essay on The New York Times Opinionator Blog, Peter Singer, author of The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty,  posits a simple yet profound question: should this be the last generation?

Citing the work of philosophers Schopenhauer and Benatar, Singer considers human existence and follows these philosophers’ logic to the conclusion that “continued reproduction will harm some children severely, and benefit none”.  And so he makes a modest proposal for “universal sterilization” that will end the cycle of suffering, and the feelings of guilt that come with wrecking an environment for future generations.  “If there were to be no future generations, there would be much less for us to fell guilty about.”  However, Singer’s optimistic side eventually prevails and he comes to value a universe filled with sentient beings over one without. 

What do you think?  What kind of moral obligation do we have to create future generations?  On the other hand, what kind of responsibility do we bear for the suffering they will endure as a result of our bringing them into existence?  Would future generations paradoxically benefit from having never been brought into such a troubled existence?  Would the universe be better off without us?

Consider these questions and the ones posed in Singer’s piece and post a thoughtful comment here.  Then email us for your free copy (this offer is open only to educators at accredited institutions.  Please be sure to include your full school mailing address).  To read an excerpt from Singer’s book, which will be out in paperback this September, please click here.

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“It’s Not About How Smart You Are”

MINDSET by Carol Dweck

In this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education, staff reporter David Glenn has written an interesting piece considering the pioneering work—and controversial viewpoints—of psychologist, professor and author Carol Dweck.  

Dweck, currently a professor at Stanford University, is a leading expert on motivation and personality psychology.  Having done more than twenty years of research on mindset, she has come to form what many consider to be a contratian view: by fostering the belief that intelligence is a fixed trait, and praising students for simply “being smart”, educators do a disservice not only to students but to society-at-large.

The article has sparked varied reactions among Chronicle readers.  In exchange for a free copy of Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, we’d like to get your point of view as well.  Simply read the Chronicle article and/or the book excerpt and post a thoughtful comment here.  Then email us for your free copy (please be sure to include your full school mailing address).


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Kristof’s NYT piece, “Divorced Before Puberty”


This week, in New York Times Op-Ed piece, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Nicholas D. Kristof, who is also co-author of Half of the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Knopf, 2009), talks about an amazing new book, I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced (Three Rivers Press, 2010).

In the book, the now 12-year old Nujood from Yemen recounts her life story, which involved being married off at the age of 10 to a man in his 30’s, and then courageously seeking to escaping this marriage by getting a divorce.

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced is already a bestseller in several countries, and is now available in the States in a paperback format. 

To have a free copy of this book sent to you, simply read the NYT article and book excerpt , then add your reactions and comments to this post to this and email us with your request.  Please be sure to include your full school mailing address.


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Why do YOU read Jane Austen?

A Truth Universally Acknowledged

A Truth Universally Acknowledged

For so many of us a Jane Austen novel is much more than the epitome of a great read. It is a delight and a solace, a challenge and a reward, and perhaps even an obsession. For two centuries Austen has enthralled readers. Few other authors can claim as many fans or as much devotion. So why are we so fascinated with her novels? What is it about her prose that has made Jane Austen so universally beloved?

Send an e-mail to and explain (in 500-1000 words) the significance Jane Austen has had on the literary world and in your own life, and you will be entered for the chance to win a signed copy of A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen, along with The Complete Novels of Jane Austen, volume 1 and The Complete Novels of Jane Austen, volume 2.

Read the official rules here.


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Do We Live in a Borderless World?

The Second World by Parag Khanna

The Second World by Parag Khanna

Parag Khanna, author of The Second World: How Emerging Powers Are Redefining Global Competition in the Twenty-first Century, delivered a fascinating talk at this past summer’s TED Conference. 

At the crux of his speech, and the book, is a rejection of the notion of a borderless world ruled only by First World powers, and a re-examination of other growing hot spots and spheres of influence that we ignore at our peril.

Do we live in a borderless world?  If not, is creating a borderless world a noble goal, for that matter, even attainable?

You may view the video by clicking here, and then share your thoughts with us by posting a comment. 

To the visit the author’s website, click here.  You may also follow Parag via Twitter @paragkhanna.

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Is Empathy Hardwired?

The Age of Empathy by Dr. Frans De Waal

The Age of Empathy by Dr. Frans De Waal

World-renown primatologist Dr. Frans De Waal’s new book, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, draws upon decades of research and study, considering such fundamental questions as: Do we have an instinct for compassion?  Or is everything we do motivated simply by innate self-interest?

The book has received a lot of interest; most recently, the Wall Street Journal published an interesting review accompanied by compelling video and images, and the Los Angeles Times pondered the book’s central argument in light of all of the recent negative events (i.e. the War on Terror, the financial meltdown, the ongoing unrest in the Middle East) triggered by humans at the dawn of this still very new century.

You can read an excerpt here, and visit the author’s website for more information.

So what do you think of this newest chapter in the nature versus nurture debate?  Is empathy really hardwired?  If so, what does that mean for us?


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