Well I guess that’s nice for Atlantic Philanthropies, but having a relationship with charities is hardly an invention of the Obama administration. Actually, the Bush government, in its eagerness to privatize everything, was highly receptive to charitable involvement, too. It’s just that Bush liked different charities. While the author presents some statistical evidence to back it up the virtually evergreen “it’s a new day in Washington” argument, proof of Obama’s love for charities seems somewhat weak. Charitable organizations, especially those that receive federal funds, are always eager to express how well they can work with an administration. That’s what the heads of charities do, almost by definition: solicit money and try to gain influence with powerful people.
The article features a picture of Geoffrey Canada touring a Harlem Children’s Zone building alongside the governor of New York and Prince Charles, whose wife is identified as “Duchess Camilla,” an unconventional style that would surely confuse Her Royal Highness. Skip It
Elsewhere in do-goodery, another article examines female circumcision in an attempt to address whether or not local traditions ought to ever trump human rights concerns. Unsurprisingly, the author urges women activists to respect and value local traditions. The article features a sort of mini-profile about a woman who did just that in her own village, saying that the woman “offers a model for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton as they try to expand women’s rights around the globe.” This is questionable; the woman’s experience consisted of gaining access to a village in Kenya and then educating individual people. This offers a somewhat limited lesson for American foreign policy. Skip It
This feminist-activists-oughta-love-and-respect-traditional-culture argument is, however, challenged by a compelling piece that appears in the back pages, in which feminist blogger Jessica Valenti praises Laura Kipnis’s Against Love:
Kipnis’ framing of adultery as a radical act—”the sit-down strike of the love-takes-work-ethic”—really stuck with me. Not because I was down on monogamy (though the book certainly makes you rethink how much you want a pick-up-the-kids, take-out-the-trash kind of relationship) but because it made me think of feminism as the adultery of social norms.Duly noted, though I’d argue that, with attitudes like that, preventing female circumcision ought not to be your next project. A front-of-book piece about the free speech arguments made by the lobbyists for the U.S. porn industry might also be read somewhat uncomfortably in the Masai villages of southern Kenya. (Admittedly this scenario is fairly unlikely.) Read It
The issue also runs a short, captivating review of Richard Nisbett’s new book on the IQ wars, Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count, which explains how intelligence isn’t really hereditary, but because children’s intelligence looks like it’s closely connected to that of their parents, we often make the mistake of thinking that it is. “Biological geneticists have found that genes trigger environmental influence,” the reviewer explains, “what’s more, environmental differences determine gene expression.” Read It
In the column-length dialogue section in the front pages of the issue deputy editor Ann Friedman and writing fellow Adam Serwer (disclosure: I know Serwer) discuss the business and science of bananas. Friedman: “… If I had to pick one industrially farmed food to go extinct, it would be the banana. They smell gross. They taste gross. They have a gross texture.” Skip It
On page four, the magazine excerpts a Campaign Desk piece of mine criticizing Prospect staffer Dana Goldstein’s April 2009 article on teacher’s unions and education reform. Goldstein responds to me and Andrew “Eduwonk” Rotherham. Naturally, you should Read It.