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You would have to know that an article entitled, The Decline of the American Book Lover, would catch my interest. Written by Jordan Weissman for The Atlantic (January 21, 2014), this article describes the erosion of book reading habits as delineated by a recent Pew Research Center Study. But Weissman also makes a case that this decline may be over. Quite frankly, these data were too depressing to me to be too hopeful from his analysis.

The study provides an interesting picture of how e-reading and the use of devices has increased. The study was conducted in early January, 2014 through telephone interviews with 1005 adults living in the continental United States. The report was released on January 16, 2014, and can be found on the Pew website (http://pewinternet.org). But here are the results that got my attention.

Twenty-three percent of all Americans did not read a single book (in any format) last year. That percentage of non-readers has climbed over the past two decades and has tripled since 1978. Even more, those who read seem to be reading less. In 1978, 42% of adults had read 11 books or more in a year (about one book a month). Today, only 28% report that level of reading.

The profile of readers generated from this report is also interesting:

-       More women than men have read at least one book;

-       Blacks are more likely to have read a book than whites or Hispanics;

-       Younger adults (age 18-29) were more likely to have read a book than any other age group;

-       There is little difference in readership among urban, suburban and rural populations.

Weissmans somewhat optimistic prognosis is based on the fact that readership seems to correlate with education level. The more education a person has, the more s/he seems to read. If one believes that the level of education in this country is growing, one can hope that reading levels will increase.

What finally compelled me to address this issue in this weeks blog was an article by Charles Blow in the NY Times entitled, Reading Books is Fundamental. Reacting to this research, Blow shares a poignant story about the first significant purchase he ever made by himself with his own money it was a book, not a toy. It was the story of Job from the Bible.

I recall a similar experience. The first book I bought for myself was a world history with an atlas. This book allowed me to explore the world, to learn about geography, to become familiar with countries and cities and regions of the world unknown to most of us. It allowed me to escape into the mind of the author.

Blow writes more eloquently than I could ever state, Reading texts is not the same as reading a text. There is no intellectual equivalent to allowing oneself the time and space to get lost in another persons mind, because in doing so we find ourselves.

My wife, who is an accomplished librarian, argues that all reading is good when I bemoan the fact that children are not reading the classics. I think she is right. And whether on a Kindle, a Nook, on the computer, on an audiobook, or my personal favorite, a hardbound copy from the library, I hope that this generation will play video games less, talk and text less, share less on social media and read a good book!

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

Posted by on in President's Blog

Two weeks ago I wrote about my views on the legalization of marijuana. I am against it for many reasons, but focused my comments on the research related to marijuana use and the lack of academic success and dangerous behaviors.

While I am never really sure how many people read my blog, I typically receive a good number of comments through emails and phone calls each week. But my blog on legalization of marijuana resulted in an exponential increase in responses. A majority of responders agreed with my position, some even providing additional data, research and anecdotal information supporting my view. But a good number disagreed and thought my view was unrealistic, archaic and a few words I can’t include in this blog.

In the week after my blog appeared, I received the results of the most recent survey conducted by Gallup regarding the “most important problem facing the U.S.”  As I read these results, it struck me that my priorities related to societal concerns are significantly different than most Americans. And this has been true for some time.

Gallup conducts this poll monthly. They use very credible research techniques … random sample, sufficient number of respondents, respondents from every state, unbiased questions. And for the past several years, the results have been consistent. While the rank order has changed slightly, the most important problems cited by Americans are:

-       “dissatisfaction with government/Congress/politicians/poor leadership/corruption/abuse of power”

-       “the economy in general”

-       “unemployment/jobs”

-       “poor healthcare/hospitals/high cost of healthcare”

-       “Federal budget deficit/Federal debt”

But in all of these studies, amongst the least important problems cited are:

-       “lack of respect for each other”

-       “poverty/hunger/homelessness”

-       “education/poor education/access to education”

-       “ethics/moral/religious/family decline”

-       “dishonesty”

While I understand the concern for economic issues, I believe that there are fundamental problems in culture and society that are eroding our sense of ethics, morality, civility, community, respect and the concern for the Common Good. In his Apostolic Exhortation entitled “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis writes, “The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges” (No. 218).

I agree with Pope Francis. But apparently, according to Gallup, more Americans do not. What do you think?

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

Posted by on in President's Blog

Today the nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In past years, I have shared some of my own views about this great American and extraordinary peacemaker. His life and his teachings have greatly influenced my beliefs, my values and my career. I thought it was worth sharing some of these ideas again.

With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela and the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, it seems like an appropriate time to not only reflect upon Dr. King’s life and contributions, but to embrace his vision and his values. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day … celebrate it through an act of service to the community!

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For most of our traditional-age students, the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has been a part of their entire lives. Sadly, it took fifteen years from the year of King’s assassination to establish this federal holiday.

The original legislation to commemorate Dr. King was introduced by Congressman John Conyers from Michigan just four days after the assassination. When the original bill was not passed, petitions were signed by six million people endorsing the holiday. The bill finally passed and was signed into law by President Reagan in 1983.

The original proposal was to celebrate the holiday on January 15th, the date of Dr. King’s birth. Because of a concern about the proximity to Christmas and New Year’s, the date of the holiday was set for the third Monday of January. This year we will celebrate this special day on January 20th .

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and teachings have had a significant influence on the beliefs, values and philosophy of leadership of many people. Some who hold Dr. King in high esteem are chagrined that in the over 40 years since his death, we continue to confront serious issues of racism, poverty, injustice and violence.

When I teach a course on leadership, the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. is always part of the curriculum. My students always read Letter From A Birmingham Jail and often watch a video of the “I Have A Dream” speech. I am always amazed that for many students, this is the first time they have seen this speech or read any of Dr. King’s writings. He was an extraordinary speaker, but an equally powerful writer. While the videotapes of his speeches lack the technological qualities of today, his writings will still inspire any reader.

Today is a day to reflect on the life and the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At the end of this blog entry, I have listed some of my favorite quotes from Dr. King’s writings and speeches that I have used repeatedly over the years. I would urge you to read some of Dr. King’s speeches and books. Take the time to read (or reread) Letter From A Birmingham Jail, and find the “I Have A Dream Speech” on the Internet and just listen. Hopefully, the quotes that follow will also help capture the core of his message.

But even more important, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a good time to reflect upon our own lives… to think about our values, our commitment to service and the Common Good, our willingness to speak out and act for justice. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is more than a holiday, it is a call to action. The best way to celebrate Dr. King’s life and contributions is to turn his teachings into action. I encourage you to read and reflect upon the words of Dr. King. I encourage you to work for justice and equality.

And sadly, we still face overwhelming challenges and threats to peace and equality in this country and throughout the world. How you act for justice and equality is a personal decision … but you must act. Helping at a social service agency, donating to support food and energy programs, tutoring, getting involved in political action, etc. … all are consistent with Dr. King’s vision.

But speaking out is as important and sometimes harder. When we are silent to injustice we indirectly condone this behavior and these actions. Our voices are powerful weapons of peace and justice. Keep Dr. King’s dream alive today and every day!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotations

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something he will die for, he isn't fit to live.

If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.”

A lie cannot live.”

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

“Life's most urgent question is: what are you doing for others?”

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

During the first few days of the new year, the news reports were replete with articles and stories about Colorado becoming the most recent state to legalize the sale of marijuana. Washington legalized the sale of marijuana several months ago. It appears that Alaska, Oregon and California may be next.

I now understand that my view is in the minority. Gallup reported in the Fall that a majority of Americans (58%) support legalizing marijuana. A decade ago, only 32% were in favor; in 1969 (Gallup’s first poll on this question), only 12% supported legalization.

I am against this trend. I am also against legalizing gambling. And I wish the laws about alcohol and tobacco sales were stiffened or at least enforced. But lest you think this blog is simply about morality and ethics, my reasoning is fundamentally educational.

A recent op ed piece by Ruth Marcus from the Washington Post alerted me to recent studies published by the American Medical Association (AMA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Academy of Sciences. The results are alarming.

According to the research of the AMA, “heavy cannabis use in adolescence causes persistent impairments of neurocognitive performance and IQ, and use is associated with increased rates of anxiety, mood, and psychotic thought disorder.” College students exhibit these behaviors more and more and they always impact their ability to be successful academically.

The AMA report also provides data revealing that marijuana is the most common drug associated with drugged driving, especially with drivers under 21. Further, use of cannabis “is related to later substance abuse disorders.”

One of the reports I read in early January emphasized that the new Colorado law (and the Washington law) restricts the sale of marijuana to those over 21. But the research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse details what those of us on college campuses already know. According to their studies, nearly half of all children have tried marijuana before graduating from high school. In fact, 16.5% of eighth graders have tried marijuana. Even more concerning, only 40% of 12th graders believe that there is a risk in regular use of marijuana (that percentage was 58% only two years ago).

The study published by the National Academy of Sciences is more detailed. The study was completed in 2012 and involved the study of over 1,000 New Zealanders from birth to age 38. The most salient findings are as follows:

-       “Persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning, even after controlling for years of education.”

-       “Long term cannabis users saw an average decline of eight IQ points."

-       “The decrease in IQ was linked only to those with adolescent marijuana use, not those who started in adulthood.”

We can have the debate about the impact of alcohol, gambling and drugs on social behavior. We can have the debate about the rights of people to use these substances. But there is no debate that the use of marijuana (and alcohol and gambling) impact student academic success.

We try to educate students about these risks. Legalization just makes it more difficult. I vote “no.”

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

Posted by on in Matt's Corner

As a senior at Anna Maria College with one semester left, you can imagine there is a lot on my mind concerning the immediate future. One might say that this time in a senior’s college career can be very stressful, but I’m glad to report that a lot of the stress has been taken away because of how AMC prepares its students for the future.   Since I was a freshman, my growth at AMC continued each year as I met new challenges that forced me to find new solutions. I went from being a general member of the activities board to eventually becoming a member of the student government association executive board. I learned a lot in and out of the classroom that I know I couldn’t have learned anywhere else and I am glad to be leaving this institution with the knowledge I obtained.

For about a year and a half now I have been determined to find a career in higher education, as well as receive a master’s in higher education administration; I am ready to do both. My final semester will include a lot of applying and waiting, applying and waiting, but at the same time it will be exciting beyond belief! It’s hard to imagine how four years of your life can go by so quickly, the friends you make, the people you meet, the people you lose, and the things you learn.

While being a student at AMC I have had the pleasure of working with many professors and staff in order to get the most out of my education. A number have had an instrumental impact on me that has helped me to become who I am today. When freshman come to Anna Maria College they are told how helpful the small community life style can be but they don’t really know how beneficial it is until they have actually experienced it. I have experienced it over and over again, and while I am sad to leave, I am excited to use what I have gathered at AMC and apply it to the rest of my life in whatever direction it may bring me.