Commentary Series

I wrapped up the fall semester at the Community College of Vermont by asking my students to react to “Imagining Vermont,” a report from the Vermont Council on Rural Development. It was a Vermont History Course and since it was online, it drew students from across the state, who concluded their study with thoughts about both their own future and that of the state.

As a candidate for Michigan Attorney General, Detroit lawyer Dana Nessel made the case that given there could be an all female democratic ticket next year for several big races in Michigan, being a woman should not be a disadvantage.

So it’s official: I’m not crazy. My iPhone has indeed lost its zip. It really is slow, sluggish, low energy. It’s unable to learn new things because its brain has reached its maximum storage capacity, resembling mine.

About this time, I start fretting about filing my yearly tax return. I try to make sure that enough is withheld from my middle-class paycheck, but sometimes I get a nasty surprise in April, and have to send the feds more money.

For me, 2017 was “The Year of Anxiety.”

Although our collective individual commitments to improving our communities and environment are important in offsetting the negatives of over-consumption and pollution, scientists warn us that by themselves, personal efforts like recycling, heating with renewables, and reducing consumption are not enough to move the dial on planetary survival.

Lange: Keeping Warm

Jan 2, 2018

The wind that blew away the last snowstorm died during the afternoon. And as the sun sank into the hemlocks, the dog and I walked through the woods in the deepening cold.

For the past two decades, one of the highlights for kindergarten through third grade kids at the Plainfield, New Hampshire elementary school – and one of the biggest banes of some parents – is a research assignment called Project Sleuth.

For kindergartners it starts out relatively simple and easy: they research themselves, reporting on their heights, weights, favorite foods, and past-times.

I saw a car parked on School Street in Montpelier not far from the library. It had a bumper sticker that said, “I [heart] Bacon.” I smiled. Imagine a person putting that bumper sticker on his car because he’s so enamored with Francis Bacon!

In the ‘80s, after footloose travel and a stint living in Greece, I decided to get a career and enrolled in a masters program in library science. In my final semester I took a class that introduced us to the latest trend in libraries - computers! When the guy sitting next to me said hello, I felt I’d seen him before.

They say truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. But this doesn’t mean certain truths aren’t verifiable. Much depends on the granularity and scope of a statement.

Troubled times lead to grand schemes.

Recently, pundits like David Brooks of The New York Times have called for a new national history to be taught in schools as a way preserving American unity.

Here we are, one day before Christmas, four days past Hanukkah, and three days into winter, with about a week to go before the start of the New Year. It’s a time of transitions, passages, and renewal.

Adrian: Stability

Dec 20, 2017

In addition to their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Benedictine Monks apparently take a fourth vow, the so-called Vow of Stability. I’m no expert in the intricacies of Catholic Monastic Orders, far from it, but the Internet tells me that when a brother takes a Vow of Stability, he promises to remain in the original monastic community he has entered for the rest of his life. In other words, he promises to build the community that he has, rather than move on at some to point to seek new, potentially more promising opportunities.

The so-called tax reform law reminds me of a nightmarish revision of Robin Hood, with the Sheriff of Nottingham skillfully manipulating the good citizens of Sherwood into believing his rapacious policies will actually benefit them.

Vogel: Jerusalem

Dec 19, 2017

I’ve traveled to Israel since 1970 and taught in business programs in both Tel Aviv and Palestine. During the last four decades, many of us have seen dreams of peace soar and then plummet. So I’m with those who’d welcome a new and different approach. But President Trump’s notion of a bold new solution is like a fire chief deciding that since water's been ineffective in fighting this forest fire, let’s try gasoline.

Education may be essential to growing healthy minds and satisfying lives, but when it comes to changing behavior it falls far short.

In physics, centripetal forces propel objects toward the center and centrifugal forces drive them away. And today, our societies and communities are engaged in an epic battle between these two opposing forces.

Mares: Critical Thinking

Dec 15, 2017

For 20 years, my license plate read THINK as an injunction to both my students and the general public.

Every year the people of Iceland enjoy a phenomenon called the Christmas Book Flood. And while I appreciate the image of books flowing through Icelandic fjords, I hasten to add that this isn’t a natural phenomenon. It’s the publishing industry’s response to the Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve, so that people may stay up late into the night reading… usually with chocolate.