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From “The Encyclopedia of Insanity: A psychiatric handbook lists a madness for everyone,” by L. J. Davis in the February 1997 Harper’s Magazine
Has there ever been a task more futile than the attempt to encompass,
in the work of a single lifetime, let alone in a single work, the
whole of human experience? For roughly five thousand years, poets,
playwrights, philosophers, and cranks have incinerated untold
quantities of olive oil, beeswax, and fossil fuel in pursuit of this
maddeningly elusive goal; all have failed, sometimes heroically. Not
even Shakespeare could manage it; closer to our own times, Dickens, a
sentimental Englishman, the son of a clerk, perhaps came closest,
though he believed in spontaneous human combustion and managed to miss
the entirety of the twentieth century. Despite the best efforts of
minds great, small, and sometimes insane, the riddle of the human
condition has remained utterly impervious to solution. Until
now. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders, Fourth Edition (popularly known as the DSM-IV), human
life is a form of mental illness.
Published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1994, the
DSM-IV is some 886 pages long and weighs (in paperback) slightly
less than three pounds; if worn over the heart in battle, it would
probably stop a .50-caliber machine-gun bullet at 1,700 yards. Nearly
a decade in the making, it is the product of work groups, task forces,
advisers, and review committees (the acknowledgment of whom requires
twenty-two pages) representing the flower of the profession and the
distillation of its thought. The DSM-IV has no beginning, no
middle, and no end; like a cookbook (which the preface is at pains to
say it is not), the manual is organized by categories, not
chapters. But it does have a plot (everyone is either nuts or going
there), a central and unifying thesis (everyone is treatable), and it
tells its stark tale with implacable simplicity. Here, on a staggering
scale, are gathered together all the known mental disturbances of
humankind, the illnesses of mind and spirit that cry out for the
therapeutic touch of–are you ready for this?–the very people who
wrote the book.
Early adolescence is often marked by changes in school context, family relationships, and developmental processes. In the context of these changes, academic performance often declines, while at the same time
the long-term implications of academic performance increase. In promoting achievement across elementary and secondary school levels, the significant role of families, family–school relations, and parental
involvement in education has been highlighted. Although there is a growing body of literature focusing
on parental involvement in education during middle school, this research has not been systematically
examined to determine which types of involvement have the strongest relation with achievement. The
authors conducted a meta-analysis on the existing research on parental involvement in middle school to
determine whether and which types of parental involvement are related to achievement. Across 50
studies, parental involvement was positively associated with achievement, with the exception of parental
help with homework. –“Parental Involvement in Middle School: A Meta-Analytic Assessment of the Strategies That Promote Achievement” (PDF), Nancy E. Hill and Diana F. Tyson, Developmental Psychology
New York City’s tortuous public-education model; kindergartners in Los Angeles and New York study more than they play; goth and punk accessories for kids; “I before e” to go way of the Oxford comma in England
If Ronald Reátegui Levy someday finds that he is the last Jew of Iquitos, it may well be of his own doing. His dream, which he has vigorously pursued, is to persuade the descendants of Sephardic merchants who settled in this remote corner of the Amazon basin more than a century ago to reaffirm their ties to Judaism and emigrate to Israel. “It is getting very lonely here,” said Mr. Reátegui Levy, 52, an inspector at Peru’s national oil company, referring to the more than 400 descendants of Jewish pioneers who have formally converted to Judaism this decade, including about 160 members of his immediate and extended family. Nearly all of them now live in Israel. –“Adopting Forebears’ Faith and Leaving Peru for Israel,” Simon Romero, The New York Times
Lastly I also suspect I feel a little vulnerable because this is ground I have never certainly never covered before– so if you have pearls of wisdom on how we figure all this out please let me know… In the meantime please sleep soundly knowing that despite the best efforts of my head my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips, the touch of your finger tips and an even deeper connection to your soul. –South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, writing to his girlfriend, in “Exclusive: Read e-mails between Sanford, woman,” The State
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”