Cory Leonard

Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

If It Feels Right –

In politics on September 14, 2011 at 1:50 am

Could this be the whirlwind we reap in a narcissistic, rights-driven society?  The dark side of individualism?

When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.

“Not many of them have previously given much or any thought to many of the kinds of questions about morality that we asked,” Smith and his co-authors write. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” is how one interviewee put it.

Brooks continues, summarizing various studies and research that identifies the same moral vacuum in which young people reside today:

Allan Bloom and Gertrude Himmelfarb warned that sturdy virtues are being diluted into shallow values. Alasdair MacIntyre has written about emotivism, the idea that it’s impossible to secure moral agreement in our culture because all judgments are based on how we feel at the moment.


Charles Taylor has argued that morals have become separated from moral sources. People are less likely to feel embedded on a moral landscape that transcends self. James Davison Hunter wrote a book called “The Death of Character.” Smith’s interviewees are living, breathing examples of the trends these writers have described.

In most times and in most places, the group was seen to be the essential moral unit. A shared religion defined rules and practices. Cultures structured people’s imaginations and imposed moral disciplines. But now more people are led to assume that the free-floating individual is the essential moral unit. Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it’s thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart.

via If It Feels Right –


A Few Thoughts on The Dismal Science

In politics on September 11, 2011 at 4:09 am

No offense, but perhaps we should think of economics as more of a ‘social’ and less of a ‘science.”  (Not to mention David Kramer, who performs a little gut check and re-alignment for the discipline.)

Economic genius would seem to be in short supply these days. On the say-so of economists, Congress has spent upwards of $1 trillion to “stimulate” an economy that remains unstimulated. The best economists are formidable intellects, as it goes without saying—Ben Bernanke was the spelling champion of South Carolina—but you begin to wonder if they know what theyre talking about.

via Book Review: Grand Pursuit –

The film “Inside Job” by Charles Ferguson does a formidable job of explaining many of the connections–as well as the progression–of the financial crisis.  He doesn’t go easy on economists, either.  (Simon Johnson of MIT and former IMF economist recommends it, as well.)

“Is College Worth It?”

In career on September 8, 2011 at 5:08 am

When charts showing the relative “value” of undergraduate majors hit WaPo…

Smart business leaders see what Asian leaders see. They do not want employees whose knowledge is restricted to a single field; they recognize that innovation requires employees to engage in continuous learning across new fields of endeavor.

To stay ahead of the curve, employers seek new hires with breadth as well as depth, and a demonstrated capacity for applying their knowledge to new challenges and contexts. Nearly two-thirds of the employers surveyed by Hart Research for the Association of American Colleges and Universities said that the best preparation for long-term professional success was a blend of broad knowledge and skills coupled with field-specific knowledge. Seventy-six percent would recommend this kind of college study to the young people they advise personally.

via ‘Degrees for What Jobs?’ Wrong Question, Wrong Answers – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.


Other reads to give you the sense of how the debate has been running:

  • Room for Debate, New York Times, “Do We Spend Too Much On Education?”
  • Utah State Senator Howard Stephenson’s view of “degrees to nowhere” (SLTribune)
  • “Is College Worth It?” Pew Social Trends
  • More “Is College Worth It” by Economix, NYT blog
  • “Learning by Degrees,” a short comment summarizing the debate in the New Yorker
  • “The Next Tech Boom vs. the College Crisis” in the Atlantic online
  • “In Tough Times the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth” in NYT
And if you’re really feeling ambitious, read this piece in Brainstorm, a Chronicle of Higher Education blog by Scott Sprenger, Associate Dean of humanities at BYU who is becoming one of the more articulate observers on the subject.

The Greatness of Steve Jobs

In tech on September 1, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Nocera sums up Steve Jobs contrasting (and unlikeable) qualities, as well as his achievements.

The businessman I met 25 years ago violated every rule of management. He was not a consensus-builder but a dictator who listened mainly to his own intuition. He was a maniacal micromanager. He had an astonishing aesthetic sense, which businesspeople almost always lack. He could be absolutely brutal in meetings: I watched him eviscerate staff members for their “bozo ideas.”

The Steve Jobs I watched that week was arrogant, sarcastic, thoughtful, learned, paranoid and “insanely” (to use one of his favorite words) charismatic.

The Steve Jobs the rest of the world has gotten to know in the nearly 15 years since he returned to Apple is no different. He never mellowed, never let up on Apple employees, never stopped relying on his singular instincts in making decisions about how Apple products should look and how they should work. Just a few months ago, Fortune published an article about life inside Apple; it opened with an anecdote in which Jobs cut his staff to ribbons for putting out a product that failed to meet his standards. But his instincts have been so unerringly good — and his charisma so powerful — that Apple employees were willing to follow him wherever he led. Apple will miss those instincts.

via What Makes Steve Jobs Great –


To add to the uncharitable views of Jobs, Rebecca Greenfield of the Atlantic makes the case–along with Andrew Ross Sorkin–that he doesn’t appear to believe in charitable giving.  But he still has time, at least I hope so.