A bit of this, a bit of that and see you soon

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Iíll be leaving you soon, but donít get too excited. Iíll be back.

My husband and I are having a baby any day now, and Iíll be taking a few weeks off to recover. Maybe thatís why a lot of stories are catching my eye this week. Who says columnists canít nest by rushing to opine?

First, thereís an article thatís getting a lot of circulation in academic circles. The piece, ďPublic Universities In Peril,Ē published in this monthís Chemical and Engineering News, of all places, shows that Iowaís commitment to higher education has fallen off a steeper-than-average cliff.

Iowa legislators have cut higher-ed funding by about 25 percent in the past five years, according to the piece. Thatís double the national average. And it seems to be part of a fundamental shift in the way we think about public universities.

When the system was set up 150 years ago, an educated citizenry was seen as a public good. Today, when an advanced degree is almost a necessity, legislators are focusing on the individual benefits ó and shifting the burden of paying for it. That seems backward.

Speaking of bootstraps, Cedar Rapids city leaders are talking again about regulating panhandlers, but I donít get why itís got to be so complicated. Give panhandlers a dollar if you want to. If you donít, donít. Maybe they should read last Sundayís opinion piece by researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton in the New York Times. According to them, people actually are happier when they spend their money on other people.

Or if theyíre pigheaded, if you believe American Enterprise Institute President Arthur C. Brooksí column (in the same paper) about why conservatives are happier than liberals ó and why folks with the strongest convictions on both sides seem to be the happiest of all.

ďOne possibility is that extremists have the whole world figured out, and sorted into good guys and bad guys,Ē he wrote. ďThey have the security of knowing whatís wrong, and whom to fight.Ē

If thatís true, we might be heading for happy times, indeed. The Secular Coalition of America ó a national lobbying group for ďatheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and other non-theistic AmericansĒ ó is organizing an Iowa chapter.

Their agenda is TBD, but the group opposes any legislation that would attempt to insert any groupís religious beliefs into lawmaking ó everything from right-to-life legislation to marriage to opening legislative sessions with a prayer. Thatís going to cause some fireworks.

Oh, Iím going to miss this place. Keep my seat warm until I get back.

Comments: (319) 339-3154; jennifer.hemmingsen@sourcemedia.net

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