Congratulations! You’ve made it through another challenging nine weeks at MSMS! Be proud. What you’re doing will prepare you for all kinds of success moving forward. Getting through the first nine weeks also means that you’re closer to one of my favorite seasons.
Not winter. (I really don’t like cold weather.)
Not Christmas. (Christmas can be fun, though!)
The legislative season. Mississippi’s regular legislative session convenes January 4. Look into your crystal balls and tell me what bills will receive the most attention. Feel free to tell me as well which topics should receive the most attention.
As you know, I sponsor the Film Club and teach the school’s film class. Give me some ideas–tell me your two favorite films in each of the categories below. Feel free to explain any of your choices.
Favorite Classic Films
Worst Films You’ve Ever Had to Watch
Texas Senate Bill 8 not only criminalizes abortions performed after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, but also allows anyone to sue parties associated with the procedure, from the drivers who take women to clinics to the medical professionals who perform it, for up to $10,000. As one physician put it, the mere threat of having to litigate every abortion would make the potential cost of operating a clinic untenable.
The bill accomplished its goal. Clinics have essentially been put out of business. Moreover, because private citizens would file suit against the clinic instead of the government, the law, according to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, turns anti-abortion activists into vigilantes.
The federal Justice Department has sought relief on behalf of women in Texas who want to have abortions. I have no idea what will happen next. My primary concern lies with why abortion has become such a crucial cultural and political litmus test over the last two decades. What is it about this issue that polarizes people so completely? What additional cultural undercurrents are in play? Is there room for compromise on the issue?
In “Two Concepts of Liberty,” British philosopher Isaiah Berlin defines positive freedom as “the ability to be one’s own master,” and negative freedom as the realm within which a person can “act unobstructed by others.” The former involves doing as you please; the latter, the state of not having to deal with the actions of people around you.
When you are home alone, you have the positive freedom to listen to Katy Perry sing “Firework” as loud as your speakers will go. When you are in a dormitory surrounded by people whose musical taste (whew!) has gotten past “plastic bags / drifting in the wind,” you must respect their negative freedom from having to listen to your music.
Public debates in America often hinge on how we align the axis between freedom to and freedom from. What contemporary issues can be evaluated on this axis? How might introducing the concepts of positive and negative freedom allow for more rational and productive discussions of these topics?
The FDA’s formal approval of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine will facilitate making the vaccine a requirement to participate in public life. Some schools in other parts of the country have already decided to mandate that faculty get the vaccine; some now require students to do so. Businesses will have more leverage to require it as well.
Although all Mississippians have been eligible for vaccination since March 16, fewer than half are fully vaccinated. Such foot dragging has allowed the Delta variant to run rampant through Mississippi and other states with similarly low vaccination rates. Accordingly, health care workers have been unable to offer adequate care for every person infected with Covid-19–not to mention people with injuries, or heart attacks, or strokes.
When hospitals experience shortages, whether those involve staffing or space, how should they prioritize care? Should they admit patients on a first come, first served basis? Allocate a certain percentage of their resources to pandemic patients? If so, what should those percentages look like, and will there be subcategories within that portion? At what point should they send patients to other facilities?
Find a sentence from a piece of literature where a single, simple word makes all the difference in the world. A lovely example, as noted by Paul Crenshaw, comes from a Robert Hayden poem:
“Sundays too my father got father got up early”
The word that tells a huge chunk of the story is “too,” which reveals that the father performs miracles of domesticity every day of the week, and saturates the poem with the speaker’s belated appreciation for his father’s love.
Orientation ended with MSMS’ induction ceremony, The Ceremony of Lights. School officials designed everything leading up to that moment to emphasize the responsibilities, opportunities, and advantages (and fun!) involved with being at MSMS. This year’s orientation marks the first time since 2020 that two full graduating classes have been on campus at the same time; it’s possible that we are rusty when it comes to getting so many students and staff on the same page at the same time.
For the sake of the MSMS Class of 2024, let me know what portions of orientation merit reconsideration. What did you think proved really helpful? What would you change if you were in charge?
Mississippi has run out of Intensive Care Unit beds. Arkansas had only 8 available. Neighboring states are no better off. Incredulity has replaced the optimism I felt after C19 vaccines became available. Why must we continue to deal with this scourge?
COVID-19 vaccines are free.
COVID-19 vaccines pose no statistically significant health risks to healthy people.
Yet barely a third of all Mississippians are fully vaccinated. Help me understand why people have been hesitant to get these shots, and how public policymakers should address the issue.
By the way, if you haven’t participated in the blog before, note that you’ll need to register as you post for the first time. I also expect you to disagree with each other (and me!), but to do so civilly.
One of the cornerstones of Pres. Biden’s infrastructure plan involves massive expansions of the availability of charging stations for electric vehicles. I understand why: our automobile emissions account for approximately 25% of our greenhouse gases. Reducing those will have a quick, beneficial, and verifiable impact on the environment.
Unfortunately, mining the lithium needed to make batteries for our new electric vehicles has terrible impacts, too: ground water close to mines could be contaminated for more than 300 years. There are responsible ways to mine lithium, but they can’t keep up with the needs that we have for the material if we’re going to quadruple the number of electric vehicles on American roads in ten years.
So: what should we do?