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March 4, 2024

Teen Suicide and the Limits of Sociology

“No one, it appears, was free to just parent as they wanted to parent—free of the web of social ties that both gave their lives meaning and set firm constraints around expected behaviors.” This observation from a new book about the town of Poplar Grove—the fictional name for a real, wealthy community where there have…

August 14, 2023

What ‘Earth Mama’ Doesn’t Tell Us About Foster Care

There are plenty of movies that start in the middle of the story. But typically the director will eventually go back and tell you what happened at the beginning. This is not true of “Earth Mama,” a recently released film by first-time director Savanah Leaf. The story is about a pregnant woman, Gia, whose two…

August 14, 2023

The Narcissism of Small Diffidences

Catherine, a mother living in the New York City suburbs, has a son who flunked out of college. Her story is one of the cautionary tales offered up in Jennifer Breheny Wallace’s Never Enough: When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic—And What We Can Do About It. Catherine left the workforce to raise her two children. The…

August 13, 2023

‘The Death of Public School’ Review: Find a Place to Learn

What is a public school? Is it an institution that is paid for by the public? One staffed by government employees? One that teaches a publicly approved curriculum? One that educates a broad swath of the public’s children? In the view of Cara Fitzpatrick, the author of “The Death of Public School,” it possesses all…

August 3, 2023

Philanthropists Discover the Value of “Sunsetting”

This year, the William E. Simon Foundation is closing its doors, or “sunsetting,” in the parlance of modern philanthropy. Since it was founded in 1967 by former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon and his wife Carol, the foundation has given away almost $300 million to the causes that mattered to them—faith, family and education. It…

August 1, 2023

Can AI Make People Want to Have Children?

Self-help gurus love to tell people to visualize their goals. Tony Robbins says, “Starting your day without visualizing your goal is like starting your day without breakfast.” In this space, it’s not just about figuring out where you’re going, but actually picturing your future self — how that person will feel, what that person might…

July 25, 2023

What Relationship Outsourcing Says About Our Culture

How many of our relationships can we outsource? Apparently, there’s no end. A recent article in The New York Times describes a new kind of professional, a “surrogate partner,” who helps people become more comfortable with intimate relationships.  As the article notes, “Unlike in more traditional forms of therapy, in which practitioners are usually careful…

May 1, 2023

Closing Young Minds

Roger Brooks describes himself as a “loyal supporter” of Durham Academy. A member of the class of 1980, he has donated money every year to support the 1,200-student North Carolina private school. His father was chairman of the board of trustees in the 1970s. When he left New York to move back to his hometown…