Thursday, January 06, 2011

On-line videos depict Quakers and their values

As a Quaker, I'm concerned that Quakers are generally misunderstood. Occasionally we are terribly stereotyped. (Birkenstocks, anyone?)

As a result, I've been looking for ways to tell "The Quaker story."

It's not easy, partly because Quakers have many stories — as many as there are Quakers.

Nevertheless, for more 350 years, Friends have sought to portray themselves — with varying degrees of success.

Now a small Quaker meeting near London has taken a compelling approach to the storytelling. Watford Friends have used very short, tightly produced on-line videos to portray their community and what its members believe. Not surprisingly, they don't believe all the same things, and that, they say, is one of their greatest assets.

So what unifies them? Where do they find their great strength?

I'll let them tell their individual stories and share the bedrock Quaker stories (and values) that are the foundation of their gentle, spiritually vibrant community.

If you are interested in Quakers, these short topical vignettes are an involving, heartening and insightful introduction.

Put yourself in a quiet place, center down (as Friends say) and dip into the Watford Friends' videos. Go to:

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Translating football fame into academic excellence

On the front page of today’s Oregonian, we learn the University of Oregon is reaping huge rewards from the massive media hype about the Ducks’ playing for the national collegiate football championship.

To quote the lead, the Ducks’ football superiority is “burnishing the UO brand and boosting revenue, recruitment and status.”

All of which triggers one of my favorite questions: Is there intelligent life on Earth?

What, pray tell, is the link between a school’s football success and its academic excellence and educational status?

The story quotes University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere as saying that applications to the university have risen sharply because of the media attention given the Ducks’ team.

Out-of-state applications are up 30 percent. In-state applications have grown 20 percent.

No fool he, Lariviere also tells the reporter that the high-profile team “gives us an opportunity to showcase what is really important to us, which is the educational mission. We are working very hard to translate this attention into awareness of what we do here.”

I don’t know about you, but my raw-boned interest in the Duck’s team has zero connection to numbers of Nobel Laureates, US News rankings, tuition costs, tenured faculty, student-faculty ratios, and graduation rates.

Yet presumably those are the very qualities Lariviere would like the “translation” to lead to. (If you do manage to make the translation, alas, UO doesn’t translate all that well in academics. But that’s another subject.)

I suggest the president consider exactly whom he is asking to make the translation.

In short, who are these applicants who suddenly want to attend UO because of the football frenzy in Eugene?

Could they be someone like Potential Future Duck over there. He’s in medialand, submerged up to his belt line on the sofa, beer or sugary beverage in hand, nachos within reach. He’s deep into Duckmania. The game and the Ducks glow on the screen.

“Wow, did you see that sack (or catch or run or touchdown)? Check out those cheerleaders!! I'm applying to the University of Oregon!”

I don’t know what kind of “translation” Potential Future Duck is doing, but I don’t think it is the one Lariviere has in mind.

I hope there’s a question on UO’s application form that asks: “Are you applying to the university because of the success of the Ducks’ football team?”

The forms of applicants answering “Yes! Go Ducks!” (or words to that effect) go to the bottom of the pile.

Now THAT could translate into academic excellence.

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Monday, January 03, 2011


A recent Red Electric post has drawn comment from an anonymous writer who takes strong exception to my comments about CEOs who are paid many, many times what their workers are.

You can read his (and my) remarks yourself.

I screen all comments to the Red Electric — not that there are that many to screen, alas. I set a very low bar for letting comment through to this page. If you have a point to make and can make it relatively respectfully and articulately, you’re posted.

But I do pause at anonymous submissions, regardless of quality and comity. Unless there is some obvious reason for a comment to remain anonymous (like you might lose your job or cause someone’s demise, including your own), I can see no reason for anonymity.

I believe that ideas should be traceable to their source. Knowing the authors' identities gives added weight to content because named sources publicly take responsibility for their words and their consequences.

As I read “anonymous’” call for the freedom to make as much money as one wants, apparently without regard to consequences born by others, I thought of the signers of the Declaration of Independence who also wrote of freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

Talk about consequences!

When they signed their names to the Declaration, they immediately made themselves criminals in the eyes of the King. They knew that they had, in essence, placed bounties on their heads.

Yet had no names been affixed to the Declaration of Independence it would have had little or no effect. Imagine “We hold these truths to be self-evident” without knowing who “we” were.

It’s relatively easy to put words on page or screen. If you claim those words as your own, you imply a commitment to live by them and a responsibility for their veracity and consequence. Only in exceptional instances should writers be permitted to shirk either.

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