Comments on January 10, 2017 issue

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  • Steve Buck January 16, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    God

    First, thank you George for writing such an interesting and insightful article.

    Religion is complicated for me because I have a lot of preachers in my blood, on my mother’s side the Reverand Zechariah Symmes, who arrived in Boston in 1634 and according to a geneology I found on the web “was one of the most important clergymen in the early Massachusetts Bay Colony, his virtues and those of his wife being lengthily extolled by Cotton Mather in his Magnalia.” On my dad’s side the first Buck to arrive in the U.S. was the Reverend David Buck, A Methodist Circuit rider who preached from his horse in the 1790’s in New Jersey.

    I say all this, because how I have strayed! I was baptized in the Unitarian Church. The Unitarians’ heresy is to deny the Trinity. And now I am a Unitarian Universalists, the Universalist’s heresy having been to deny Original Sin (all those Guilt trips).

    Many Unitarians are atheists, some agnostics. I like to sum it by an old one liner “To whom to Unitarians Pray? Answer “To Whom it May Concern.”

    Part of me would love to be a believer, repeating beliefs, as still happens in many churches. I would love to be in a cathedral with lots of music, “smells and bells.” I just can’t handle all that one must buy into. And, having lived over 20 years in Muslim countries and seeing the goodness in main-line Muslims piety, I cannot believe that one religion has the answer and therefore, by definition, other religions are somehow wrong.

    So I wind up believing that the incredible order in the universe means something, as does the goodness and caring that I see residing in most human beings. I have no idea what will happen to me after I appear in the obituary column, so I don’t dwell on that but on what I can do in this short life to make things a bit better or at least not worse.

    Enough.

    Bless you all

  • Burr Robinson January 13, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    God gave Man two gifts: His word, The Bible, and Jesus Christ, His Son. In one we can find the other. Thomas said to Him, “Lord we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you have known Him and have seen Him.” (John 14: 5-7) My encouragement is to take up His Bible and read asking God to shed His light on your understanding. A good place to start is the Gospel of John.

  • Jim Russ January 13, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    I am interested in a question which arises from George’s comments – what is the relationship between faith and knowledge? Maybe one of the functions of faith is to keep understanding from overreaching. Maybe the suggestion that faith needs to measure up to the standards and parameters of understanding is just another example of humans putting ourselves at the center of everything. Some of the most valuable things that I know, I don’t understand and never will. To discard them from the class of things I know just because I don’t understand them, seems a little insulting to knowledge.

  • Henry Clay Childs January 12, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    It is refreshing to note that while a majority of us are still on “this side of the divide”, there has arisen a voice that questions the validity of the pronouncements of faith that most of us heard when young. My years in Japan followed many years already spent in the hallowed woods of Litchfield County, Connecticut, where I learned to listen to the voices of Nature that surrounded me at all times, sometimes silent, but always present. The essential appreciation of the Japanese people for what they deem spirits of stone, woods and other natural objects made consummate sense to me, even if at the consternation of my parents. And life ever since has borne out for me the validity of what might be construed as a coda of Carl Sagan, that all things on this little blue dot have a relationship that is severed at the peril of the observer. The old man in the sky serves his purpose for many, but Mother Nature is, and has always been, my supreme source of comfort and understanding.

  • Fred Appell January 12, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    God

    I start with the name, God, which to me is not a noun but a verb, and which when in the past in the western tradition we said, it cannot be spoken, we meant it is incomprehensible. However I do believe there is a force, it is built into consciousness, and it exists.

    What I do know about is my consciousness and my need to act, live somehow, with or without direction. My practice is to learn what others can report of the force of God in their lives ( and the record of those interactions is written in the holy books) and by faithful mindfulness to train my own being in ways consistent with my beliefs.

    I answered the question, “Why do you go to church?”, with the answer ,”To paint a white line in the middle of the road. So that some dark night when I need it I’ll have an idea of where the road is.”

    And once being asked why I believe in God I replied,” I’ve been very fortunate in my life, and I can’t imagine not being able to say, thank you.”

  • George Grumbach January 11, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    I read “Cutting Age” by Fred Appell and my reaction was “Huh?” I don’t get it. People speculate that the “patron” or “old man” is haunting them by keeping the knives sharp, which is why the kitchen staff are cutting themselves. But it turns out to be the shoeshine boy who was honing the knives. So? And, although facts are apparently irrelevant, it is my experience that people cut themselves less with sharp knives than dull ones, because they have more control over a sharp blade. But, if this is a fable, I don’t get the moral, unless maybe it is “Be careful of red herrings.” Happy new year!

  • Bill Stott January 11, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Sorry to be Bill Stott clogging up the airways again. But . . .

    I’ve always loved and frequently sing the “Big Blue Marble in Space” song, only the first and last verses, which are:

    The earth’s a Big Blue Marble
    When you see it from out there
    The sun and moon declare
    Our beauty’s very rare

    Our differences, our problems
    From out there there’s not much trace
    OUR FRIENDSHIPS THEY CAN PLACE
    While looking at the face
    Of the Big Blue Marble in space

    I would change “earth” in the first line to “world” and “not much trace” to “not a trace.” But the big problem is, plainly, the line I’ve put in CAPS. And until I was writing this note, I couldn’t–I mean over years!–figure out how to improve it, as I’m sure the original ITT lyric writers couldn’t.

    But how about this?

    Our differences and problems,
    Our religion, sex, and race–
    From there, there’s not a trace,
    Looking at the face
    Of the Big Blue Marble in space.

  • neal freeman January 11, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Thanks to all and especially to Lee for his well-informed take. My friend quibbles with Lee’s numbers — as a refined son of Harvard he is loath to use the word “cheating” — but whatever the actual numbers, the general point survives: Yale recruits fewer athletes than her Ivy League rivals. Here’s what we know:
    1. The Ivy League has taken a collective decision to de-emphasize athletics.
    2. Yale has taken a unilateral decision to de-emphasize athletics even further than the other Ivy schools.
    3. Smoothing out the aberrational statistics, Yale teams — men’s and women’s, in every sport, in every season — thus enter each Ivy contest at a competitive disadvantage to their opponent.
    My question is this: If Yale is still at least formally committed to the goal of excellence, why would she pursue such a policy? What lesson is to be taught? To whom? And why?

  • Lee Bolman January 10, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Al Chambers makes good points (as he usually does), and I’ll try to build of them.

    The world, America, and Yale have all changed since we arrived in New Haven. Some of the changes for Yale admissions:

    1. Thanks to the new colleges, Yale is now targeting a class of 1350 freshman, about a third more than when we applied.
    2. Yale was taking more than a quarter of applicants when we applied; this year Yale accepted 6.8% of the almost 29,000 applicants. (That means that admission is less predictable and more of a coin flip because there are so many very similar, super-talented applicants.)
    3. Using a roughly constant yardstick, SAT scores for entering freshman were around 670 Verbal, 640 Math back in 1958; more recently it’s around 750/750. But the big change in test scores came in the Kingman Brewster era, when Yale changed its admissions criteria toward more meritocracy and less aristocracy. Since 1970, entering SAT scores haven’t moved much.
    4. The admitted students are much more diverse: the biggest change is that half are women, and there are more international students and domestic students of color.
    5. Women, diversity and lower admit rate mean that many of us would been turned down if we had the misfortune to apply in this century.
    6. Ivy League rules allow each school to admit up to 230 recruited athletes. Several years ago, Rick Levin chose to reduce Yale’s quota to 180. So far, Peter Salovey has not changed that decision. Apparently most Ivy schools don’t always fill their 230 quota, but Yale may have about 50 fewer recruited athletes per class than Harvard.
    7. Ivy schools can’t accept a student with an “academic index” score lower than 176, roughly a B average and 1140 on the first two parts of SAT exam; most will be higher than that. The recruited athletes as a group can’t be more than one standard deviation below the overall student body.
    8. Recruited athletes are in a separate admissions category, so they don’t have to compete directly against non-athletes.

    In a very competitive admissions environment, one more athlete means one less of something else. So it comes down to competing values and where we think sports should rank in the hierarchy of things that Yale cares about.

    Much as I dislike losing the H-Y game as often as we have in recent years, I’m comfortable with Levin’s decision to prioritize academics. But I understand that alumni opinion is divided.

    Yale has options. It could quit the Ivy League to be like Stanford, which doesn’t adhere to the Ivy League limits on recruitment, and is able to compete at a high level in Division I sports, just as the Ivy Schools once did. At the other extreme, it could eliminate the quota for athletes, and treat talent in sports as one among the many criteria considered in each admissions decision. Or, it could raise the quota back to 230. If we gain a quarterback but lose a biologist or a violinist, will we make Yale a better place?

  • Al Chambers January 10, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Very interesting Neal. Thanks. A sign of how times, communications and journalism all have changed, I think, was your own questioning of the “provenance” of the rumor and the data. This seems to be part of the new reality not only for the media that you and I both follow closely but also organizations of all sizes including our alma mater. A great deal can be murky and/or maneuvered.

    But I went along. I shared your piece with an active Yale alumni friend (not a classmate) here in Michigan and asked for comment. He said he, too, had heard similar reports and I quote, “President Salovey has come under some pressure for allowing fewer recruits for mens FB I’ve heard — maybe some others too. Thus, enshrining the decline of Yale FB supposedly. I can’t say I’ve followed it closely however.”

    This all may even be true. If so, my guess is that Eli stakeholders would split quite evenly in support or opposition, just as is the case on other probably more important issues at Yale, and even more so in the nation. “Back in the Day,” as they say, there were no athletic scholarships at Yale and in fact a comparatively small percentage of total scholarships. The latter number has increased enormously, and that is good. Yale still offers no athletic scholarships but “grants bonus admission points” and also to some degree recruits athletes in its marketing.

    I again –in fact this week– am doing Alumni interviews with a few of this year’s applicants. I may include this athletics issue as a question. Last year, I included political correctness and got sophisticated and “politically correct” responses.

    The quality of the applicants and the level of competition for admission are both astonishing. Several years ago, when I was the ’62 AYA rep, there was an excellent program on admissions policy. At that time, Yale Admissions reported that more than 90% of the applicants in fact were qualified and would have been likely to succeed at Yale. The admissions acceptance rate is around 6%.

  • Hank Truslow January 10, 2017 at 11:15 am

    I have grown into a cantankerous old man and Yale has developed into a social experiment! No longer does tradition or continuity with the past matter. Yale has turned her back on her history and has embraced a view of a world that exists only in the comfort of the campus. Jan hit it out of the park (a sports phrase). The song is correct…we are poor little lambs who have lost our way ! Happy New Year to all!!!

  • Jan Greer January 10, 2017 at 8:22 am

    Neal, coild it be Yale’s determined push for inclusivity is not all-inclusive?