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

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March 31, 2014 | 9:35 pm

I’ll be leaving you soon, but don’t get too excited. I’ll be back.

My husband and I are having a baby any day now, and I’ll be taking a few weeks off to recover. Maybe that’s why a lot of stories are catching my eye this week. Who says columnists can’t nest by rushing to opine?

First, there’s an article that’s getting a lot of circulation in academic circles. The piece, “Public Universities In Peril,” published in this month’s Chemical and Engineering News, of all places, shows that Iowa’s 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. That’s 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 — 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 don’t get why it’s got to be so complicated. Give panhandlers a dollar if you want to. If you don’t, don’t. Maybe they should read last Sunday’s 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 they’re pigheaded, if you believe American Enterprise Institute President Arthur C. Brooks’ column (in the same paper) about why conservatives are happier than liberals — and why folks with the strongest convictions on both sides seem to be the happiest of all.

“One possibility is that extremists have the whole world figured out, and sorted into good guys and bad guys,” he wrote. “They have the security of knowing what’s wrong, and whom to fight.”

If that’s true, we might be heading for happy times, indeed. The Secular Coalition of America — a national lobbying group for “atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and other non-theistic Americans” — is organizing an Iowa chapter.

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

Oh, I’m 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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