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In praise of cultural omnivores

An interesting piece and a different way to look at the culture war. In Praise Of Cultural Omnivores : Monkey See : NPR
. . . Within the hostility toward television, you often find a fiercely protective attitude toward books. Within the hostility toward genre fiction, you find a fiercely protective attitude toward literary fiction. And within the hostility toward e-books, you often find a fiercely protective attitude toward paper books. Nobody really cares that you watch American Idol; they care that it's on instead of M*A*S*H and that it makes kids listen to twelve different covers of the same Alicia Keys song in the time they could spend learning what Mozart sounds like. It's hostility, but it comes (like lots of hostility) from a cocktail of passion and worry. They're not upset about the existence; they're upset about the displacement. And while most people who go to the ballet or to the orchestra believe that it possesses both elements of pleasure and elements of profundity, the pleasure part can be gotten in a lot of places. Mere entertainment really can come from Dancing With The Stars. What is missing from a cultural diet composed entirely of pure entertainment is the beauty part, the enriching part, the part where you are driven to think. The same could be said of film — it's not that people who disdain blockbuster movies hate fun or romance or wisecracking. It's that they fear that we will lose the films that contain more than fun and romance and wisecracking. Thus, the message in support of traditional high culture focuses on the part of it that feels imperiled, so it often comes in the form of what feels like an endless series of scoldings: What you like is not educational, what you like is not enriching, what you like is not serious, what you like is not thoughtful. . . .

On the Getty's secret, free, exclusive preschool hidden in San Francisco

In Gettys’ Exclusive Preschool, It’s Tough to Fly from Gilded Cage - NYTimes.com
For the past 14 years, Ann and Gordon Getty have run an invitation-only, free preschool for the offspring of some of San Francisco’s most powerful families, including their own grandchildren. Families cannot apply for admission. They are chosen, in sort of a toddler’s version of being tapped for Skull and Bones at Yale. The Playgroup, as it is known to those in the know, typically has had about two dozen pupils — including the grandchildren of Peter Magowan, the former managing general partner of the Giants, and other scions of inherited fortunes — who learn and play in the Gettys’ Pacific Heights residential complex. It has no Web site or sign over the door. And although it has been operating since 1997, it has no license and had never been inspected by the San Francisco Fire Department until last week. While the school’s director said it was exempt in the past from the state’s stringent licensing requirements for preschools or child-care programs, current regulations indicate otherwise. A lawyer for the Getty family said in an e-mail on Thursday that it was a “private recreation group,” not a school. He acknowledged that the Playgroup did not currently qualify for an exemption from licensing, and said that his clients were working with the state to remedy the situation.

March 14, 2011

David Foster Wallace's interview outtakes

Checking in on Detroit schools after two years of reforms

For Detroit Schools, Hope for the Hopeless - NYTimes.com
. . . Political leaders had to do something, so they rounded up the usual whipping boys: Wasteful bureaucrats. In 2009, the governor appointed an emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb, a former president of the Washington school board, to run the Detroit district. Mr. Bobb is known nationally for his work in school finance, and recruiting him took a big salary, $425,000 a year. He has spent millions more on financial consultants to clean up the fiscal mess left by previous superintendents. Greedy unions. Though Detroit teachers make considerably less than nearby suburban teachers (a $73,700 maximum versus $97,700 in Troy), Mr. Bobb pressed for concessions. He got teachers to defer $5,000 a year in pay and contribute more for their health insurance. Last week, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved a bill to give emergency managers power to void public workers’ contracts. If signed by the governor, Mr. Bobb could terminate the Detroit teachers’ union contract. Traditional public schools full of incompetent veteran teachers. Michigan was one of the first states to embrace charter schools, 15 years ago. Currently there are as many Detroit children in charters — 71,000 — as in district schools. Now there is talk of converting the entire Detroit district (which is 95 percent African-American) to charters. Supporters say this could generate significant savings, since charters are typically nonunion and can hire young teachers, pay them less and give them no pensions. So now, two years later, how are the so-called reforms coming along? Not great. . . .