Weekend Reading

As the blizzard rolls through New England – and my car is marked by a tiny mound in 3 feet of snow – I bring you the weekend reading. Seek shelter, dear readers, in words on the internet:

It’s not quite free, as early MOOC proponents began by promising. It is worth mentioning, too, that Udacity is a venture-funded startup, that classes will be supervised not by tenured profs but by Udacity employees, and that Thrun declined to tell the Times how much public money his company will be raking in for this pilot—or what more may have been promised should the pilot prove “successful.”

Okay, fine, but let’s get this straight: public money has been mercilessly hacked from California’s education budget for decades, so now we are to give public money, taxpayer money, to private, for-profit companies to take up the slack? Because that is exactly what is happening. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just fund education to the levels we had back when it was working?

In Oklahoma, 32 percent of adults are divorced, 10 points higher than the national average. In 2000, the state has diverted 10 percent of its welfare money (a total of $10 million) to finance a statewide marriage initiative. The program’s listed goals would be to reduce the high number of divorces in Oklahoma by one-third, teach citizens about the benefits of marriage, and encourage cohabiting Oklahoma couples to marry. For Governor Frank Keating, who put the initiative into place, the program’s possibilities didn’t stop there. “The marriage initiative,” he wrote, would, “make our state rich. That simple.” To strengthen marriage, he contended, would be to create a stronger and more stable economic base for the family unit, and by extension, for the state itself.

I spent years as a waitress—in high school, then college, then as a struggling freelance writer—in that time I received pats on the ass, scribbled phone numbers in lieu of tips, and many, many personal questions I’d have preferred not to answer. Requiring feigned intimacy on the part of the worker allows the customer to ignore normal boundaries and pretend that a smile is an invitation to cross. Like the Pret workers, one of my bosses hired secret shoppers to make sure that servers went the extra mile; we were downgraded for not thanking our customers by the names we mispronounced off their credit cards. Not only our tips—which were our livelihoods, seeing as we only made $2.13 an hour, the legal minimum for tipped restaurant workers that hasn’t changed in 22 years—but our jobs were at stake if we didn’t smile hard enough.

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