Monday, January 31, 2011

Six Impossible Things

"One can't believe impossible things," Alice said.
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen.
"When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day."

"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as
six impossible things before breakfast."

~ Lewis Carroll

Of Note: Western university students are accustomed to taking a variety of courses from those that satisfy the head like the hard sciences to those that quench the longings of the heart like philosophy, human nature and justice. This is not the case in China where only strict academic subjects are offered. Thus, a booming Internet culture has been born that provides students the opportunity to audit courses not available at Chinese educational institutions from such luminaries as Yale, Harvard, and Stanford. Netease, one of China's largest Web portals that calls itself a "Digital Confucius," presents subtitled courses on a wide variety of topics including God and society in western literature, sustainable development, adolescent health and development, the history of jazz and Shakespeare's comedies, to name a few. Amazingly, one course, "Philosophy 176 - Death" taught by Yale's Professor Shelly Kagan, has a following of several hundred thousand Chinese! What's more, the courses have spawned on-line study groups, which are capped at 2,000 participants. Netease's deputy chief editor said: "Parents, the Communist Party, teachers all tell us what to do. But they all speak with the same voice. We are trying to teach people that there are different moral values, different choices." Thus, it might not be some overt political act that carries the energy of freedom to China but the subtle winds of change brought by global higher education via the Internet.

Today's Weather Report: Another gloomy day at 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Over the weekend at the various funeral activities in the Twin Cities, everyone agreed that this winter has lacked in sunshine to the extreme. Chicago is set to get a dump of almost two feet of snow! We wish it would come farther north and blanket the north woods of Wisconsin, but it appears that the storm will stay to the south. The two feet that hit the Minneapolis--St Paul area in December is still quite evident. One road we drove was reduced to a little more than a single lane with tall snow banks on either side. I asked what would happen if another car brother, the driver, did not respond as he tried to get to the end of that road as quickly as he could.

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