A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors



Jonathan Chait: "The Facts Are In and Paul Ryan Is Wrong":

Changes in the way we think about the world are not news in the classic sense they occur gradually, without discrete events to signal them. But they matter. Two such developments have come together recently, both reported in the New York Times. The first is the collapse of intellectual support for the notion that immediate austerity can boost economic growth. The second is a growing consensus that health-care-cost inflation is slowing for deep structural reasons, rather than having undergone a mere temporary dip from the recession. These trends have something in common: They blow to smithereens the intellectual foundations of the Obama-era Republican policy agenda.

Peter J. Leithart: "What's Wrong with 'Family Values'":

The most penetrating conservative analysts of family life have always recognized the cultural contradictions of capitalism and of technological society. They have always recognized the costs (as well as the gains) of separating work and home; of geographic, vocational, and social mobility; of the indisputable wealth-generating power of capitalism. On the ground, though, conservatives look the other way when told that our economic system or our technological progress might inhibit the formation of what [Wendell] Berry describes as an economy that exists for the protection of gifts, beginning with the giving in marriage.

The editors of n+1: "Cultural Revolution":

Local symptoms of the unfolding global crisis arent just the further destitution of the American poor, the culling of the middle class, and the somehow uninterrupted concentration of wealth among parasitic financiers. Inside the general disaster, a crisis in the principal institutions of intellectual lifeacademia and publishinghas been deepening. One tenure-track opening exists for every four new PhDs; the figure is worse for the social sciences, and still worse for humanities. Hundreds of applicants vie for jobs at third-tier colleges paying barely middle-class salaries; the losers end up as adjuncts or course managers, tossed two or three grand per semester-long class. Many a promising young person goes to graduate school in flight from a brutal labor marketonly to encounter the same beast, grown more ferocious during the interval, a few years down the line. Now youre well qualified to teach Insecure: The Cultural Politics of Neoliberalism (a course offered by the CUNY English Department in the spring of 2011), if only they would let you. Tenure-track professors meanwhile fear that cost-free MOOCs massive open online courseswill before long administer the coup de grace to the professoriate that a thousand right-wing screeds against tenured radicals could never quite accomplish.


About the Author

Matthew Boudway is an associate editor of Commonweal.



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"cost-free MOOCs '??? vs. Catholic colleges located in cities, with $40k tuition +$20k living in a garret, eating frozen pizza, leaves you with a quarter million in loans that an indentured servant in 17th century America would think of as a bad bad bad deal. If someone mentions scholarships I'll come and get ya.

Ed:Contemporary civilization is increasingly technical, have you noticed? If there are not enough positions to accommodate all the people with doctorates in philosophy, medieval literature, sociology, theology, whatever, then maybe young people should concentrate their efforts on doctorates in, say, electrical engineering, physics, software engineering,...mathematics, etc.One must live in the present and let God do the rest.

P.S. And the salaries for technical doctorates are a lot higher.

Bob, what a depressing world you are willing to live in.

Ed - check out this book review. "For the graduating class of 2013, I fear this book has come too late. You can read it in your parents basement while you are looking to find a job with that degree in anthropology."

A friend was telling me enthusiastically how lucky we were to be able to earn a living doing what we love to do. What a privilege! He encouraged his children to pursue their interests wherever those led them: now one is a poet, the other a painter. Bob: say you study in the field where you hope tomorrow's jobs will be. Say you predicted correctly, even in the long term. Say that for forty years you manage to have a job with a high salary. Then what? That's not life: that's survival.Between that and being, say, the homeless man one block down from my office, who is always listening to classical music or news on the radio or reading a book when I walk by in the evening, who has the better life? I'm not sure.

Claire, I agree with you. If poets earned high salaries, it wouldn't help me as I have no talent for versifying. If we are called to a vocation, we should pursue it.I think the reality for the US in the 21st century is that the vocations we pursue won't pay as well as they did in the 20th century. Other parts of the world will be relatively more prosperous and probably we will be relatively less prosperous.Then there are the people who don't have a vocation - don't feel a strong passion to do a particular thing. My memories of undergraduate life is that there are a lot of people like that - either they don't have a direction and drift through college, or they come into college with a plan but learn within a couple of years that they're not actually very well-suited to be a nurse or a lawyer or whatever.

There may be too many with doctorates in the Humanities. But there are not enough required Humanities courses. If there were then there would be more jobs for Humanities Ph.D.s. Unless a people is truly educated, democracy cannot work. It is simply false that the Humanities are irrelevant. Literature teaches you what people are like in different sorts of situations -- I'd make Shakespeare a required course. (It is in England.) If you cannot communicate well (which is what you learn how to do in English classes) you will be at great disadvantage in every way. And remember the old saw: "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it". Then there are the arts to help make life worth living, etc., etc., etc.If this country can't afford basic educations for the people -- and not just the well-to-do -- then it isn't nearly as rich and smaret and successful as it claims to be.etc. I say everyoneneeds a basice education, with the Humanities majors learning the basics of the current science.

I graduated from university with not the foggiest idea of what I wanted to do. Eight years later after Air Force seasoning, I joined the civilian job world. 33 years later, after a lot of hits and misses, I ended a reasonably successful working career, but that required making course corrections and taking advantage of opportunities ... and (admittedly) connections ... that allowed me to change directions and do better financially.I suspect that there have always been a lot of people such as I who, after they were forced to grow up, learned how to navigate the employment world. The degree one has/had is only a door opener. After that it's all a matter of opportunity, skills aquired, contacts you make, and luck and luck and luck.

Oops -- I left out one of the most important things that a general education gives you -- knowing how to think critically. You need that no matter what your major is, and there is nothing better than an English class for teaching you to criticize your own thinking. And, of course, logic should be required of everyone, with an emphasis being given to fallacies.

Sure, culture is useful for democracy, but it's not primarily utilitarian, I think. I walk on the streets, read the little historical plaques on the buildings, ad I can think about the great events that took place hundreds of years ago on the pavement where I am walking. The figures of history keep me company. I hear a few words from a conversation between people passing by, it brings back to mind some book I have read, and I imagine the story of their life. I hear some music, and my friend who loves music talks about responses and echoes between the separate lines of music that she hears clearly but that I cannot even make out in the pretty sound. I see the small young green leaves of the trees moving in the breeze, and impressionist paintings come to mind. Teenagers are kissing, and I may recall, or wish I could recall, verses of some half-forgotten poem. That's what culture is for: it gives some thickness to life. I at least know enough to know what I'm missing by not knowing more than what I know!

Culture gives some thickness to life.I like that turn of phrase, Claire. Much better than the admonition that one should be well-rounded, what with its physical connotation, too. ;) Im a great believer in Joseph Campbells advice to follow your bliss, though I think the primary value of a liberal arts education is that it helps one to see the connectionsnot always logically apparent--among seemingly disparate things. A good poem or play is usually about much more than the words on the page, for example.This, however, from a parent whose children all obtained STEM-related degrees and who are pursuing careers in those fields. One of my children teaches STEM-intensive courses to students specifically chosen and grouped for their science/math abilities. Dont forget that they also need the classics, I tell her, to which she replies with a smile, Dont worry, Dad, Im assigning them plenty of science fictionAsimov, Clarke, Bradbury, all the greats!

Ann, I agree with your points about effective communication and critical thinking. Although it's worth thinking about the fact that, if my parents' and grandparents' recollections are to be trusted, our democracy functioned as well or better than it does now in the days when college was not the norm and a high school diploma was sufficient to get a job that would support a family (and quite possibly, high schools taught reading, writing and arithmetic better than they do now).Also, to be blunt, I believe that one of the chief benefits of college is that it is a finishing school for young adults. In my view, there is a pretty clear class distinction in the US between those who attain an undergraduate degree during that period of one's life, and those who never attempt college. (The huge cohorts of those who start but don't finish college at that age, and those who don't start college until later in life, whether they complete a degree or not, for the most part float somewhere between the two classes). I want my children to be comfortable navigating in the social class of college graduates, and so I'm sending them to college at that age, and putting pressure on them to finish up their undergraduate studies somewhere in the neighborhood of four years. If they meet someone in college whom they want to marry, and thus solidify their membership in that social class - well, that's one of the benefits of finishing school.The finishing-school aspect of college is why I really don't have much patience with distance learning models. I use them now in my own continuing education, but I'm at a different stage of life. Those TV ads showing curvaceous co-eds in clingy sleepware hawking the advantages of going to college over the Internet in one's pajamas are doing our children a great disservice, in my opinion.

I've just finished reading (and enjoying) Barbara Kingsolver's "Flight Behavior," at the center of which is the monarch butterfly whose navigational systems is upset by climate change. One of the book's protagonists, a scientist examining the phenomenon, says that it's not the business of science to tell people what to do, but simply to point out to them what is (global warming, for instance).Kingsolver is a biologist by training, and perhaps she really believes this about "science," but I doubt whether most people would agree, since scientists seem to be perpetually preaching to us about how we should change our ways (global warming is only one such example). But even if we accept the truth of the statement for the sake of argument, surely the humanities (history, literature, philosophy, etc. etc.) a

sorry pushed the wrong buttonsurely the humanities are going to be more important than ever in helping to guide our behavior and our reasoning. Suppose, for instance, we know nothing about the baleful effects of the eugenics movement, so popular from about 1910-1935, are we going to make all the same mistakes over again?

Jim,Thank you for your candor. It is rare for someone to acknowledge that a college education is largely a class marker without lamenting this fact. But I hope you will not be very disappointed if one of your children decides to marry someone who cannot solidify your child's class membership.

The Western secular society with its liberalism, individualism, relativism and consumerism is what it is. It may change but until it does we must live in it, survive and conquer it. The ills of society influence us and the best way to overcome bad influence or the difficulties of being happy in our contemporary culture is to understand how to navigate it and put ourselves into a position where we have a chance of achieving our life's goals. This is not easy.I have many friends who went to great schools, got great jobs only to find that they were not happy. He decided to open up a wine shop in a prosperous neighborhood. He was very successful and happy. Money was not the answer for him but he was very successful and was able to raise a family and be happy. When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to be a research scientist focused on finding a cure for diseases. Things changed as circumstances and more knowledge was acquired. I found myself studying aerospace engineering, then working for NASA in Houston on the Apollo project in 1968. Fast forward 4 years, and I got an MBA in Finance and worked in the health insurance industry, became a senior partner in a worldwide consulting firm and finished my career as a senior executive of a major healthcare company. Hence, I made changes in my life as the opportunities arose or because I found my self at a cross road where I had to make a serious life changing decision. My education helped me to be a critical thinker (as Ann mentioned) and make those decisions. However, you also need luck, determination, perseverance, talent and confidence in yourself about taking risks. Some of us have these things and some of us don't. However, we can be happy and content with something like a wine shop, a contracting business, being a plumber or any number of other occupations where our skills and interests will help us achieve our goals.In the end, if we survive this world and achieve our life's goals, we also realize that we owe our less fortunate neighbor as much of our time and money as we can give them. As the saying goes, For for the love of God go I. If we are blessed, we need to pass it on and thank God every day for it. If we are in difficult life situations, we should be thankful that things could be worse. I have no answers to the difficulties of this world but it is important that we do not, to the best of our abilities, permit this world to control our destiny.To summarize, if education is a key to our future happiness, then we must get some and pray that we all will find all the other requirements we need for a happy life. The best place to start is working each day on building a good relationship with Christ.

"But I hope you will not be very disappointed if one of your children decides to marry someone who cannot solidify your childs class membership."No, not very. But if my children are determined to be in the social class of college graduates, I think their chance of being in a good and happy marriage increases if they marry persons from the same milieu. It seems to me that being poor isn't nearly as glamorous as it used to be, especially considering, to judge from the n+1 snippet, it's being overrun by the overeducated underemployed. Who wants to hang out with a bunch of bitter PhD's working as phone jockeys and fry cooks? No wonder nobody at McDonald's smiles anymore.

@ Jim Pauwels,Perhaps you did not mean what you said and if I misinterpreted you comments, I apologize. However, it seems we are distorting reality a little bit.What social scientific study ever concluded that people who married other people with the same educational background (e.g., both are college graduates) have happier marriages compared to those who have different educational backgrounds (e.g., only one spouse has a college degree)? My wife never went to college despite having a 93 point high school average (out of 100) and a high SAT score where she would have easily made Columbia University. She elected for personal reason not to go to college but she is bright, friendly and articulate. She is as comfortable with senior executives as she is with blue collar laborers and her personality, personal charisma and intelligence makes her extremely popular with everyone. If I were to limit the women I dated in my life to those with a college degree, I would likely have missed out on my wonderful and loving 40 year marriage.As for those PhDs that are fry cooks, I remember in the early 1970s the aerospace engineering industry was in a depression and 30% of the engineers (many with PhDs) were out of work for a long time. Many had to take menial positions to survive but they were not bitter, just frustrated and a little depressed. Clearly there is a difference between college graduates and general laborers and many of them run in different social circles. However, most of them do not despise hanging out with each other if work or after work activities call for it. I do admit that most of my friends and their spouses are college graduates but some are not.

Michael, I was mostly tongue in cheek. But are you familiar with the phenomenon of the "divorce divide"? Here is Bradford Wilcox:"A third reason for the stabilization in divorce rates and marital happiness is not so heartening. Put simply, marriage is increasingly the preserve of the highly educated and the middle and upper classes. Fewer working-class and poor Americans are marrying nowadays in part because marriage is seen increasingly as a sort of status symbol: a sign that a couple has arrived both emotionally and financially, or is at least within range of the American Dream. This means that those who do marry today are more likely to start out enjoying the money, education, job security, and social skills that increase the probability of long-term marital success."And this is where the bad news comes in. When it comes to divorce and marriage, America is increasingly divided along class and educational lines. Even as divorce in general has declined since the 1970s, what sociologist Steven Martin calls a "divorce divide" has also been growing between those with college degrees and those without (a distinction that also often translates to differences in income). The figures are quite striking: College-educated Americans have seen their divorce rates drop by about 30% since the early 1980s, whereas Americans without college degrees have seen their divorce rates increase by about 6%. Just under a quarter of college-educated couples who married in the early 1970s divorced in their first ten years of marriage, compared to 34% of their less-educated peers. Twenty years later, only 17% of college-educated couples who married in the early 1990s divorced in their first ten years of marriage; 36% of less-educated couples who married in the early 1990s, however, divorced sometime in their first decade of marriage."This growing divorce divide means that college-educated married couples are now about half as likely to divorce as their less-educated peers. Well-educated spouses who come from intact families, who enjoy annual incomes over $60,000, and who conceive their first child in wedlock as many college-educated couples do have exceedingly low rates of divorce."Similar trends can be observed in measures of marital quality. For instance, if we look at married couples aged 18-60, 72% of spouses who were both college-educated and 65% of spouses who were both less-educated reported that they were "very happy" in their marriages in the 1970s, according to the General Social Survey. In the 2000s, marital happiness remained high among college-educated spouses, as 70% continued to report that they were "very happy" in their marriages. But marital happiness fell among less-educated spouses: Only 56% reported that they were "very happy" in their marriages in the 2000s."These trends are mirrored in American illegitimacy statistics. Although one would never guess as much from the regular New York Times features on successful single women having children, non-marital childbearing is quite rare among college-educated women. According to a 2007 Child Trends study, only 7% of mothers with a college degree had a child outside of marriage, compared to more than 50% of mothers who had not gone to college." any rate, despite tongue being planted in cheek, I really do want my children to enjoy the blessings and the challenges of life that come with a college education.

I just had a plumber come in ... $110 per hour, minimum 3 hours. He seems happy as a clam and I have used him more than once.Yes, I said $110 per hour ... and he has all the business he can handle. And he enjoys himself. And he chooses when and where to work.

JIm P. ==In most of the old American days a huge proportion of the people couldn't vote because they couldn't afford the poll taxes. It was a system that disenfranchised those without education. But just extending the right to vote to the ignorant and poor didn't solve the problem of people's ignorance and often their gullibility or inability to think critically about what the politicians were telling them. No doubt that is still true of many of the uneducated. And the lower our educational standards get, the less well the population can act wisely.I agree totally with Claire about the intrinsic value of a truly general education, one including both the Humanities and the sciences. But I think that Americans without such an education often do not realize how enriching such an education is. So, because Americans are too often "anti-intellectual", they need pragmatic reasons for paying for very good educational systems.

Jim P. = =More comments -- The high schools of my grandmother's generation were, I'd say, equivalent to to a couple of years in mediocre American colleges, except for the science. I have some notebooks of my grandmother (around 1895), and it is striking to me what they were expected to master. She even has a geometrical proof several pages long in one of them. Do kids typically do that sort of thing in high school now? Of course, the history was deficient in her day in some respects, but it wasn't for lack of trying to understand the world beyond her own neighborhood.You mention your kids possibly marrying someone met in college. If you look at the current statistics, marriage is becoming typical only of the educated class. Why is that? I daresay it's largely because educated people can afford kids. But I don't doubt that college can contribute to the stability of a marriage by making the spouses understand human nature better (thanks to psych) and by learning from other people's mistakes (thanks to reading great literature). Of course, some of that can be learned on a high school level, but not as well as in college (and with the maturity of college kids as compared to high school kids).The internet can help with some subjects which are cut and dried, like math, and the net can be used as a help in other subjects. But people don't learn most subjects well unless they talk about them, both in class and out of class. And they don't develop enthusiasms for a subject unless they have someone to share the enthusiasms with.Complexity, complexity. So we need a variety of schools. But that's another thread.

"If you look at the current statistics, marriage is becoming typical only of the educated class. Why is that? I daresay its largely because educated people can afford kids."Yes, I agree, economics are tied up in it in some way. Having a stable marriage and family may be an effect of economic stability - and may also be a cause of economic stability. I suspect the interrelationship is complicated.

I was once a musician, wanting to live the jazz life al a Bix Beiderbeck. Then I noticed that I was surrounded by stoners, derelicts, occult dreamers, and moochers who loved to talk about philosophy, religion, and politics.So I walked away from that life, joined the Air Force, and trained as a radar technician, received an honorable discharge four years later, got married, worked full time while attending college at night (and argued with the philosophy & sociology professors), earned a BS in electrical engineering while raising six kids, all of whom received college degrees (two lawyers, an engineer, a high school English teacher, a TV assistant producer, and an internet businessman). My wife and I have had a rich, sometimes harrowing, and always exciting life together. My life has been, frankly, incredible. Why someone would think such a life depressing escapes me. And it is our relationship with God that determines our happiness.Sorry for being a long-winded bore, but honestly, sometimes the commonweal bloggers just don't make sense. But hey, that's just me...

Bob: anyone who has raised 6 children has to have had an interesting life. I can't argue with that. Congratulations!

@Jim Pauwels,Thanks Jim for the additional information and your tongue in cheek.In the 1970s, the time I got married, the percentage of couple with a college education and those with less were similar, 72% and 65% respectively reported they were happy in their marriage. The percentages in the 1990s were striking and I got your point! I was not reflecting on the "trend" but on every marriage regardless of the decade in which it marriage was consummated. Clearly the percent of female adults that are having children out of wedlock is indicative of the issue of the "less educated" and its correlation with divorce and unhappy marriages. Thanks to your blog, I looked up some statistics. 1. 40% of babies are born to unwed mothers.2. 73% of black babies are born to unwed mothers3. 53% of Latino babies are born to unwed mothers4. 29% of white babies are born to unwed mothers5. 92% of college educated are married when they have children6. 62% of post secondary educated (some college) are married when they have children.7. 43% of high school educated are married when they have children.The less educated, those with only a high school education, tend to be low wage earners and underemployed. interestingly, 90% of abortions are to unwed mothers that had an unintended pregnancy. The inconsistent use and lack of contraception accounted for the overwhelming percentage of women who have abortions in the US. This statistic is lost on the Catholic Church and traditionalist theologians who blame contraception for the increase in abortions, divorce and spousal abuse without substantiation. Somehow the secular world has infected Catholics who practice contraception with some kind of diabolic cancer that prevents them from grasping the truth.

Bob Schwarz --Whoever said your life was depressing? You might be interested the book I've been touting lately -- "The Small Way of Ruthie Leming". It's not just about Ruthie being a saint, it's about how she and her brother didn't see eye to eye about how to live a good life. She thought that his work as a journalist wasn't really work at all. He thought she was just another nice-lady-sixth-grade-school-teacher stuck in a hick town. Both were wrong.

Michael Barberi - We've had the Pill for something like 50 years now, and yet the trend in unwed parenthood has been pretty much a steady increase during that time (see this chart it's noteworthy that other marriage-and-reproduction social ills, like divorce and abortion, haven't followed that trend: divorce seems to have peaked in 1980 and has been in decline or leveling off since then ( Guttmacher Institute news release states that abortion rate in the US peaked in 1990, and has been falling since then. WaPo article attributes part of the modest decline in abortion to the fact that more women are using long-acting contraceptives like IUD which are harder to use incorrectly. I take away from all this is that contraceptives aren't the primary solution to the abortion problem. It seems logical that widespread and effective use of contraception will have some marginal dampening effect on unintended pregnancies. But I don't believe it is the magic bullet.

JIm Pauwels -- The 2011 Guttmacher Report "Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States", accessed from, provides convincing evidence that it is the inconsistent use and lack of contraception that accounts for the overwhelming percentage of women who had unintended pregnancies and abortions. The fact that the abortion rate has peaked in 1990 and has been in falling ever since does not address the causes of abortion.Lastly, there is a huge difference between a correlation and a cause. The increase use of contraception may correlate with the increase in many things, but only when you normalize for all other factors of influence can you determine the degree of correlation and whether something "causes" the observation under consideration. My favorite example is the issue I think I raised about the increase in contraception and the increase in spousal abuse. Both have risen over the past 40 years, yet everyone knows that spousal abuse is caused by: the deep psychological problems of the abuser, drug and alcohol abuse and financial problems and unemployment. No respected scientific organization has concluded that the increase in spousal abuse is caused by contraception. For that matter, no respected social scientific journal has ever reported about a study that concluded that increase in contraceptive use is the cause of the increase in divorce or abortion.If you have and any widely accepted study that demonstrated the increase in contraception caused the increase in abortion and divorce, please share it.As for the solution to abortion, I agree that contraceptives are not the magic bullet solution to the abortion problem. Nevertheless, if all unmarried women would consistently use contraception, abortions in the country, and around the world, would decrease significantly to the point that it becomes a minor but important issue instead of a major issue.We can agree that even one abortion is too much. However, while contraception can dramatically reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions, there are significant obstacles to its consistent usage. Carelessness and negligence, ignorance and a lack of education, apathy and a lack of morality will continue to prevent contraceptives from being an effective method of controlling unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Sorry, for my carelessness. The webpage is:

I'm not sure how we went so quickly from the fresh topic of MOOCs to the tired topic of the family, but on that topic, it may be funny to see from the writings of Constantine what the family was like in the 4th century: right of redemption for boys sold as babies- Outlawing parents from killing their children and appointing funds to care for children- Anyone who murders parent, sibling, or child will be executed by being sewn up alive in a sack with snakes and thrown into the see or a pit.- Sentencing those who abduct brides to execution, brides willingly abducted to execution as well, and complicit parents to deportation- Parents too poor to raise children should not sell them but instead be supported by the state.- Because of their lowly status, barmaids are outside of adultery laws.- Only a close relative can accuse a woman of adultery.- Newborn children can be sold by impoverished parents, but they retain the right to buy the child back for the same price or by substituting a replacement.- Children who do not take care of their parents will have what they have received from them taken and returned to the parents.- Whoever takes in and raises a child who has been put out has the rights to him and is not required to return him to his parents or master.- Officials sons are bound to follow in their fathers profession.- Slaves are not to be separated from their families as masters divide up inheritance.- Denying the validity of wills made by mothers who neglect their sons

"If you have and any widely accepted study that demonstrated the increase in contraception caused the increase in abortion and divorce, please share it."Michael - I don't; and I haven't made the claim that an increase in contraception causes an increase in abortion. I question the notion, seemingly widely held by dotCom commenters (and the Obama Administration), that the way to attack the issues of abortion and out of wedlock pregnancies is to make contraception more widely available.

Claire,That is hilarious. Thanks for it. Below is a little unknown church law from the Council of Elvira in Spain in 313. > A husband who knows of his wife's adultery and who remains with her may not commune even prior to death. If he lived with his wife for a period of time after her adultery and then left her, he may not commune for 10 years.Of course, this changed with Augustine later in the century. Interestingly, having sex while their wives are menstruating or during pregnancy was immoral and a mortal sin. Sex also had only one licit position. However, Augustine believed in the marital debt. So much for today's teaching that the unitive and procreative aspects of every marital act must never be separated for any reason. Contradictory, periodic continence, natural family planning, separates both dimensions of the marital act but the Church ignores this moral dilemma. They read the glass as half empty, not half full. In other words, couples are abstaining from sex during fertile times, not deliberately plotting the measurement of basil temperature and cervical mucus to ensure that the marital act is infertile and non-procreative.

Jim,There is some truth to Obama's notion. However, I have not read the NIH report that he relied on. This study evidently concluded that contraceptives were not widely available to those women that could benefit by using contraceptives. However, it is the inconsistent use and not just the lack of contraception that causes the overwhelming percentage of unintended pregnancies and abortions. That means that contraceptives must not only be widely available, but frequent and appropriate education must accompany the benefits and usage of contraception. Such education must be accepted by women who are most prone to unintened pregnancies and abortions especially those with a limited amount of education, those with only a high school education, those who imprudently minimize the risk of pregnancy due to unprotected sex. I think that making contraceptive widely available and without cost, as ObamaCare does, and is communicated properly and frequently by their employers makes sense. The issue is whether abortions will significantly decrease as expected over the next 3-5 years.

"Im not sure how we went so quickly from the fresh topic of MOOCs to the tired topic of the family"Hi, Claire, MOOCs have barely landed on my radar so far, but I do want to call to your attention this article that analyzes the travails of private institutions of higher learning, another problem to which (the author claims) MOOCs contribute. If private institutions die in large numbers, I'd think it would be disastrous for the job markets for PhDs who want to work in academia.

Regarding the gap between college-educated and those whose education stopped with a high school diploma: this pretty sensible article by Timothy Noah appeared in the NY Times. headline: "The 1% are only half the problem".

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