September 6th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Back to School

By now, most kids have gone back to school. And that means, many parents have also returned to campus as room parents, school volunteers, or PTA members. But is that a good thing? In Slate, Amanda Ripley wonders whether Americans spend too much time at their kids’ schools. It turns out that parents spend less time in schools in countries where kids are doing better academically. Here’s one mother from Finland (ranked number one in science, number two in reading): “My daughters’ school does not ask me or anyone else to do anything … No money donations — never!” I’m not sure whether I spend too much time at my son’s elementary school. But I definitely plan to be his roommate when he goes to college.

+ Today, parents don’t need to be on campus to keep tabs on their kids. We can now use online tools provided by the schools to monitor attendance, homework assignments, academic performance, etc. But should we? The Atlantic’s Jessica Lahey: I will not check my son’s grades online five times a day.

+ From The New Yorker: Are sports ruining America’s schools? I’ll answer that after this weekend’s season-opening soccer game.

+ Peter Gray in Salon: School is a prison — and is damaging our kids. Welcome back, everyone!


Shake, Rattle, and Then Roll?

“Given the Security Council paralysis on this issue, if we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required.” President Obama is simultaneously working to convince foreign leaders and members of Congress to back his call for a strike against Syria. Next week, he will try to convince the American people.

+ The Daily Beast on a video of Syrian rebels that made editors sick and challenged the White House. This is yet another example of how social media (especially the sharing of visual imagery) can affect political discourse.

+ WaPo’s Ezra Klein: 10 things that could go very wrong if we attack Syria.

+ Don’t know much about (Syrian) history? Here’s a very simple overview — with lots of pictures — from the explainers at The Morning News.

+ The debate over Syria is just the latest rift between Obama and Putin. That helps explain why this was the world’s most awkward handshake. Video not enough? Here’s an image by image look at the handshake.


Weekend Reads

For more than a year, Julian Assange hasn’t left Ecuador’s London Embassy. But that hasn’t limited his political reach or his social life as much as you’d imagine. From Vanity Fair’s Sarah Ellison: The Man Who Came to Dinner.

+ “All these players have issues that represent the issues of the nation. Can you imagine that happening to a Little League team in the U.S.? A team with 18 players and two of them die?” On Little League and hope in Haiti: This is Our House.

+ This man moved to a desert island to disappear. Here’s what happened.


Gut Reaction

Go with your gut. There are trillions of bacteria that live down there and they do a lot of stuff. According to a recent study, they may even help determine whether you are thin or fat. Now you just have to figure out which of the trillions of microbes to talk to first.

+ MIT Tech Review: Understanding our gut microbes could lead to new medicines.


Awesome is Always in Style

“My wife also gets a load of emails from people asking where our son’s father is, as though I couldn’t possibly be around and still allow a male son to display female behavior. To those people I say, I’m right here fathering my son. I want to love him, not change him.” An inspring essay from Matt Duron: My Son Wears Dresses; Get Over it.


IRS Busts The Big Party

There might be something missing from your next big party at a restaurant: The gratuity added for groups of six or more. Why? Because the IRS is changing the way it classifies these automatic gratuities.

+ So you got some great service and you left a big tip. That dough is going directly into the pocket of the waitperson you wanted to reward, right? Not exactly. Here’s how tipping actually works.

+ Tipping sucks. Several restaurants have thankfully done away with the practice. But Americans are still probably going to be stuck with it.

+ So now you don’t know where your tip goes or where your food comes from. NPR on why your next chicken nugget may be made in China.


Heroes in Training

Phil Zimbardo was the professor behind the famous Stanford Experiment in which we learned how quickly people could become evil under the right circumstances. These days, Zimbardo is examining another side of human behavior. The question: Can we train humans to be heroes? (I’d avoid the class on stopping a speeding bullet with your chest.)


Pulling Out of Pill Popping

New York Magazine’s Ann Friedman makes the case that more women are dropping the pill in favor of the “pull out” method of birth control. A recent survey “found that almost a third of women between the ages of 15 and 24 have relied on coitus interruptus as a birth-control method.” I definitely prefer the pull out method to the stay out method.


Nature’s Lack of Diversity

For the last several decades, I have responded to requests to go camping with the same refrain: Jews don’t camp. Well, maybe we’re not alone. Here’s The New Republic’s Ryan Kearney with a take on the subject: White People Love Hiking. Minorities Don’t. Here’s Why. (He leaves out the possibility that maybe minorities are sick of hanging out with white people and just want to enjoy it when they’re gone. You know, like the Bay Area during Burning Man.)

+ OK, let me make it up to all you Burners. Did you know that the first Google Doodle
was a Burning Man stick figure


The Bottom of the News

It’s monotonous. It’s repetitive. It’s a bit boring. And it’s very relaxing. Those are just some of the reasons why our best ideas often come to us in the shower.

+ Guinness has some new record holders. Examples: Betty White now has the longest TV career of any female entertainer. And Rihanna has 75 million likes on Facebook.

+ Ever wonder how much tennis is actually played during a match?

+ Parents who want to warn their kids of the dangers of twerking now have some really good evidence to support their argument.

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