Five at 8 – 12/22/09: Caution and the morality of giving

1) A Harvard professor says we’ve lost our sense of morality when it comes to giving. Over to you, NPR.

Experts call it “selfish giving” — when givers are looking to get back more than just the joy of giving. But where do you draw the line? When givers are giving in order to sell more lattes or enhance their resumes, is it a win-win — or is something else lost?

“I do feel like, as a country, we have lost a sense of morality for its own sake,” says Harvard professor and psychologist Richard Weissbourd, who teaches about moral development. “You should just be generous to be generous. You should do what’s right because it’s right, not because of what you get back.”

More deep thinking from academia: Are we too cautious?

(h/t: Open Culture)

2) They — and you know who “they” are … teachers — have been trying to bury the American student for generations. A teacher at Babson College throws a few more shovelfuls into the grave with a commentary in a Boston newspaper, “My Lazy American Students.”

Chinese undergraduates have consistently impressed me with their work ethic, though I have seen similar habits in students from India, Thailand, Brazil, and Venezuela. Often, they’ve done little English-language writing in their home countries, and they frequently struggle to understand my lectures. But their respect for professors – and for knowledge itself – is palpable. The students listen intently to everything I say, whether in class or during office hours, and try to engage in the conversation.

Too many 18-year-old Americans, meanwhile, text one another under their desks (certain they are sly enough to go unnoticed), check e-mail, decline to take notes, and appear tired and disengaged.

Earlier this year, a study of Chinese and American students found Chinese students know more science facts than Americans, but neither group is particularly adroit at reasoning.

3) The sun will come out tomorrow. But will you be around? New research: Being grumpy is good for you.

So, yeah, it’s going to snow. Let’s take our emotional temperature on that one.

Have the weatherpeople done their jobs? How scared are you?(survey)

It’s all a matter of perspective. Here’s NASA’s view of last weekend’s East Coast storm.


In Duluth, the roving gangs of people who kick ice chunks off tire wells will, no doubt, be out.

4) Sometimes, you should shoplift. That’s what a priest in the UK said during his Sunday sermon:

“My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift.

“I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither.

“I would ask that they do not steal from small, family businesses, but from national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices.”

5) MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki begins a short series today analyzing the effects of the proposed health care reform on small business. Warning: Facts, not hysteria, ahead. Later this morning, I’ll paste up a small application here on News Cut that helps small businesses determine how health care reform affects them.

Health care (Pregnant woman version) – Two EMTs have been suspended in New York for refusing to help a pregnant woman who collapsed in a coffee shop. She died. They were on their coffee break.

Health care (A better-sense-of-decency version): The Fisher House cares for families while their soldier-loved ones are being treated for their injuries.


Weather reports are suggesting a major storm may hit our area just in time to interfere with holiday travel plans. What’s your most memorable holiday travel experience?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: In his book “Out of Poverty,” Paul Polak argues that innovative design solutions can do more to help the world’s poor than most mainstream poverty eradication programs. He is part of a growing movement focusing on designing and manufacturing low-cost products that can save lives, and help people earn a living, in the developing world.

Second hour: Arts organizations and arts education programs have been hit hard by the recession, but David O’Fallon says the arts community has a chance to emerge stronger if it learns to engage an audience that more than ever wants to be a part of the artistic process.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: As Americans prepare to travel this holiday season, travel expert Rudy Maxa joins Midday to answer listener questions.

Second hour: Public broadcasting journalist Ray Suarez discusses how America’s demographics are changing, and what our schools need to do to keep up.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Iran has always maintained that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only, but it test fired an upgraded missile last week, and now a puzzling document may offer proof Iran is working toward a nuclear weapon.

Second hour: After Bill Curtis was laid off from his job in the furniture business, he went back to school to study information technology. But after three years of retraining, jobs are still scarce.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The couple behind a famously huge holiday lights display moved the show from their Cloquet home to Duluth’s Canal Park. An architecture firm decided to spend $600 to buy carbon credits to offset the greenhouse gasses emitted powering “Bentleyville.” Some 200,000 people are expected to view the “carbon neutral” display, MPR’s Bob Kelleher reports.

National Public Radio will consider why African American women tend not to favor breastfeeding their infants.


    The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it.

    ~Mother Teresa

    There is never a debt in a real act of love.

  • anotherbob

    RE: #3 — As a grumpy person myself, it’s nice to see some research confirming the value of being grumpy. This research also gives support to the aphorism that a pessimist is merely an optimist who possesses the facts.