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"Is Veganism for Everyone?" A New York Times debate!
You guys, the NYT is all over veganism lately. We’ve made it! Or is this a rehash of every other “fad diet debate” the media have ever had? Let’s decide together.
Today, Room for Debate asked some people* to discuss veganism and YOU. (Not “you,” of course, everyone else who isn’t vegan.) Repping for the vegans are Rip Esselstyn, hot-stuff author of The Engine 2 Diet; and Brian Patton, author of The Sexy Vegan Cookbook. Other debaters include scare-mongering vegan-parent-hater Nina Planck; scare-mongering author of The Happiness Diet Drew Ramsey; ex-vegan and known jerkbag Rhys Southan; and author of A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss blog Erika Nicole Kendall.
What are their conclusions? Esselstyn is proud to have helped convert Lance Armstrong to a part-time vegan diet, and Patton notes that transitioning to vegan eating can pose more cultural than dietary challenges. Ramsey warns that “vegans are often vitamin-deficient!” (which, what are the stats on omnivores and vitamin deficiency, buddy?) and Planck begs vegan parents to THINK OF THE CHILDREN before forcing their poor helpless offspring to eat vegan food. Kendall points out that meat and dairy are vectors for disease, and Southan is very concerned about the guilt that vegan diets can induce. Fully half of the debaters focus on weight loss aspects, which is fine, I guess, considering they’re discussing a vegan diet, rather than a vegan lifestyle.
Look, we welcome all vegans! Even deliberately eating vegan part-time is better than doing it never. Still, it’d be nice if the national coverage of veganism included any of the other aspects of veganism besides “quick and easy weight loss” and “not being such fat fatties.” It’s not just a way of eating. We don’t change what we put on our bodies or how we stock our bathrooms out of concern for our cholesterol levels. It’s great that eating vegan makes us healthier, but there’s more to it than what we eat, and I worry that focusing so hard on the “vegan diet = perfect body” argument trivializes the work we all do to live a cruelty-free life. Besides, it’s not true!
This Room for Debate really should’ve been called “Is a Vegan Diet for Everyone?” which would’ve allowed all the participants to make the same arguments without glossing over all the non-food issues a vegan lifestyle addresses. What do you guys think?
*Our feelings are a little bruised that we weren’t asked to participate, but seeing as how your Vegansaurus is staunchly anti-diet, we understand why.
[photo by Charles Roffey via Flickr]
“At one level, as a longtime and strong proponent of making voting easier for all Americans who are eligible, I would love to make Election Day a holiday. Far too many working people are hamstrung on Tuesday; they can vote only before or after work, when the lines are especially long and when people whose livelihoods depend on getting to work on time and getting the hourly pay cannot afford to wait for an hour or more. But adding an Election Day holiday is simply too costly... That is why I helped to found Why Tuesday, an organization focused on informing Americans that the tradition of Tuesday Election Days is not writ in stone or in the Constitution, but was chosen to suit a 19th-century agrarian economy. We believe it makes far more sense to move elections to the weekend.”—
Want to join our movement? Sign our petition to the President and Congress to move Election Day to the weekend so everyone can vote.
on names and language games.
Something I wrote quite a few years ago for a NYT Room for Debate forum (where they call you and say, “Could you hold forth on this subject like an expert and get back to us in an hour?”) on the subject of“The Chinese Language, Ever Evolving”. I think it was on the occasion of some policy debates in China and in Taiwan on whether to mandate the teaching of both ‘traditional’ and ‘simplified’ characters. Was reminded of it because I received an email this morning (from someone who had obviously stumbled across it googling this or that) with a boatload of questions about the history of Chinese linguistics—none of which I could answer! But I did direct them to the proper authorities : )
Plus I had a lovely reunion over dinner with Eugene Wang and his wife last night. So I thought I’d just excavate the version I had originally submitted to the NYT before they shortened it for publication (and cut out all the playful bits), and throw it up here for good measure.
In a 2007 commercial aired by FedEx in Asia, a hapless delivery man shows up at a Shanghai factory to deliver a package for a “Mr. Zhang”—and flees in terror when he is confronted by a entire factory-floor of Mr. Zhangs rushing towards him. A different delivery man—a FedEx man, of course—is shown at the end successfully delivering the package to a “Mr. Zhang Wei.” The commercial was a hit, chiefly for its comical take on an intractable bureaucratic dilemma (a screen title informs us that “in China, over 88 million people have the surname Zhang”), but perhaps also for its unintended irony: odds are, the second delivery man would still have encountered more than a few “Zhang Weis” at any given work unit in China.
The utopian impulses behind standardization and simplification of a living language are always understandable. Increased literacy, administrative efficiency, and ease of communication are laudable goals. But if standardization merely decreases the problem by one order of magnitude from a factory full of “Zhangs” to a roomful of “Zhang Weis,” then perhaps the only response is an allowance for a certain degree of flexibility and creativity. Similarly, the debate over whether China should continue with simplified characters or revert to traditional characters is setting up the two as diametrically opposed, autonomous language systems rather than seeing that “traditional” and “simplified” characters have always existed on a continuum: many simplified characters are adaptations from common usage in Chinese cursive script; on the other hand, the inability to read traditional characters is to close oneself off to a significant part of the Chinese cultural legacy—calligraphy, arts, history—before 1949.
Since I grew up in Taiwan, where reading and writing in traditional characters is the norm, simplified characters were a novelty and a bit of a challenge, and perhaps, something to be sniffed at. But when my first job after college led me to Beijing to work as a literary translator, I spent the first week furtively consulting a little cheat-sheet manual of “Simplified/Traditional Character Conversion” before I became fully comfortable with the new system, including learning to write my name in a way that was comprehensible to desk clerks. The experience taught me the follies of being a cultural purist. Given the increasing flow of published and online materials among the Mainland, Taiwan, and the overseas Chinese diaspora, a literate reader must have the ability to code-switch. Thus, the answer is not either/or, but—annoyingly for policy makers—both.
Ang Lee’s 1993 film “The Wedding Banquet,” about a closeted Chinese man, his gay lover, and his in-name-only bride, was a huge hit in Asia (as well as in the U.S.), a surprise given that it was the first mainstream film from Taiwan to deal with gay themes. One of the reasons for its success could certainly be attributed to the way in which it framed its transgressive subject matter within a more familiar narrative of tradition and Chinese “family values.” Significantly, the sly visual wit of its Chinese title signalled that to its audience before they saw the film, and perhaps contributed to their comfort level. It is customary to literally “double the happiness” when using the character “xi” to talk about a wedding: 喜 “xi” becomes depicted as 囍“xi” (graphically, “xi+xi”). But on the film’s Asian poster viewers were presented with a novel “three happinesses”—the “xi” character stacked in a pyramid, a neologism (or the resurrection of a particularly obscure variant of this character) that was instantly and delightfully recognizable and immediately spelled out both the novelty and the familiarity of the film’s themes.
And that kind of play with language, along with the work of Chinese artists like Xu Bing’s “A Book from The Sky,” with invented Chinese characters that taunt with their near-legibility yet complete indecipherability, is the particular kind of ‘language game’ that keeps Chinese a living language and lived language—a language for use and art and play.
“I’ll read “The Hunger Games” when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults. Let’s have the decency to let tween girls have their own little world of vampires and child wizards and games you play when hungry. Let’s not pump Justin Bieber in our Saabs and get engaged at Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland. Because it’s embarrassing. You can’t take an adult seriously when he’s debating you over why Twilight vampires are O.K. with sunlight. If my parents had read “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” at the same time as I did, I would have looked into boarding school.”—
You know what’s really embarrassing? Losing all credibility by both being and featuring a columnist who tries to argue against something he obviously doesn’t know anything about. I could care less if an adult likes or respects YA fiction, but let me put some Adult Logic down on you here - you cannot intelligently criticize something you have first chosen to be willfully ignorant about. “…games you play when hungry?” Let’s have the decency to leave the informed opinions to those who actually have something intelligent and constructive to say, instead of those who are playing pretend at it.
The Economics of #Immigration via @roomfordebate #ImmigrationReform #cir #citizenship
For American workers the data suggest that immigrants tend to work alongside and in support of American workers, creating more and better job opportunities.
Unions are Striking Back, at Last
My contribution to the NY Times section, “Room for Debate” is now online!
Don’t miss Pauline Lipman’s piece as well:
Lipman sums up education “reform”:
“These are not education policies, but rather business policies applied to schools with business goals: promoting top-down management, weakening unions, shifting the purpose of education to labor force preparation, and opening up the $2 trillion dollar global education sector to the market.”
And I also recommend the contribution from Carol Burris:
“Although I may not always agree with the positions that teacher unions take, I do believe that unions are important and needed. They stand up for issues like class size and safe schools. They allow teachers to speak up, without fear, about conditions that affect students, educators and parents. By doing so, they provide an important balance in educational debates.”
My piece is here: (and pasted below)
The so-called education reform movement decided long ago that change could come only through confrontation. Teachers figured that out when the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, called Hurricane Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans”; seven years later the teachers union is washed away and the public schools are mostly charter-ized. They figured that out when the White House celebrated the firing of the entire teaching staff in Central Falls, R.I., because of students’ low test scores. And it became clearer to them when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York published teachers’ names alongside standardized test results of their students.
Now, finally, a unionized group of teachers has decided to meet this confrontation head-on.
Teachers have come to realize that the ‘reform movement’ is about confronting them, not working with them.
If evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores is a bad idea for teaching and learning, then the Chicago Teachers Union strike is good for teachers and students. If small class sizes are good for teaching and learning, then the strike is good for teachers and students. For that matter, if air-conditioning is good for teaching and learning, then the strike is good for teachers and students.
Tying teacher pay, tenure and even employment status to standardized test scores corrupts the teacher-student relationship and inspires no one. This carrot-and-stick routine won’t retain great teachers, and may turn our best teachers into test prep tutors. Any experienced classroom teacher will tell you that punishments and rewards at best encourage obedience, but will not promote creativity, intelligence or initiative.
I taught in three different public schools in New York City. Where I was able to be my best depended as much on the class sizes, the conditions, the financing, the materials available to me, the support staff for teachers, the support for students and the climate created by administration, as it did on my own efforts and abilities.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “reforms” in Chicago will not improve any of those very important factors, and are deleterious to all of them. By confronting the mayor and standing up for things teachers and students desperately need to actually improve our schools, the union is likely to do more to retain the best teachers, and to help more teachers to do their best, than any merit pay scheme ever could.
I’m not sure if it would be painfully impossible or necessarily gratifying for me to write an analytical paragraph about this this article. Or set of articles, I suppose.
Anyways, read it. It’s a fun one. Jeeeesus, it’ll make you sick. I’m not sure if I can say anything specific about it without swearing, and unfortunately I’m gonna have to turn in whatever I say about it to my teacher, so that won’t do.
Ah. Well. It’s absolutely ridiculous.
“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” or “The Hunger Games”: Classic Novels or Modern Young Adult Fiction: An Ongoing Debate
Brittany D. Foley
Rowe - Pre AP English II
“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” or “The Hunger Games”: Classic Novels or Modern Young Adult Fiction: An Ongoing Debate
Today’s teenagers are ambitious, demanding and headstrong. Like previous generations we are forced to be in school for about seven hours obligated to learn arithmetic and to read tedious books like Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With The Wind” and Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. So to millions of teens and young adults worldwide has made young adult fiction a complete phenomenon because with adult fiction you are free to read things you love and ultimately live in your fantasy world for a while.
Teenage books are so popular in todays day and age because you can explore yourself. With the books written today you are not limited on who and what you can be. Teens and even adults love the books because for some of them they’re dreams are broken and they are limited on who they can be. So they use literature to go into world and fantasies in which they are accepted and to be free. It’ll be a complete lie if you’d say that society didn’t judge people on what they like and do. So teenage fictions gives us the right to say, “I’m free. Finally free of being in chains.”
Most teens love the new young adult fiction because they actually enjoy reading it. For most of the kids in Taylor High School “Lord of the Flies”, “Hamlet”, and “Julius Caesar” doesn’t really appeal to our liking. Yes indeed they’re classic books but if we were to read books that entertain us we might actually read them. Changing the book criteria a bit with adding in good, modern books will make us want to learn! For a example, I know when we read “Red Badge of Courage” in the eighth grade Pre - AP ELA three - fourths of our class fell asleep while reading the novel. And when it came time to test, most of my class failed the final test. That speaks for it’s self, when you read a non-appealing book, the interest level drops and so does grades.
Why should adults even expect us to like classic books? I’m not saying that all teen dislike classic novels but more than 50% of us would prefer a good modern book over lets say, “The Great Gatsby”. Today’s teenagers and even adults want a profusion of books to read. Adults and teens should read anything that will open up their mind and will most definitely appeal to them. Forcing teens to read classic would only lead to an even more negative response and hundreds of annoyed and mouthy teens than there already is!
So in conclusion, young adult fiction is so appealing to people worldwide because it’s heavily addictive and enjoyable and when you read these books like “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” you are free to be anyone you want to be. You don’t have to worry about anyone not accepting you for who you really are. In the end, when it’s all said and done a wise woman once told me that literature is about liberation and your wildest dreams.