I found the question at the press conference by the New York Times reporter to be quite, well, surprising, troubling, enchanting and humbling. That is, it is surprising and troubling that the NYT is asking college entrance exam questions at a televised press conference. Where is Peter Baker, ace reporter for the NYT and formerly of the Washington Post, and even more formerly of the Oberlin Review (and my roommate my first year at Oberlin), when we need him? The question deepened my enchantment with Obama becaues he was able to respond quite well to this bizarre question. I can only imagine that the previous president might have cackled a bit, answered one or two parts inadequately and then moved on. And I am humbled by how smart our new President is. He will not always be right, and I will find much with which to disagree, but as a professor, I probably over-value intelligence, so President Obama impresses my socks off.
Thanks to this question, I have been given a gift--a gag I can run with for days and months when I run short of other ideas. So, here is my STEH take of my first 100 days and 6.5 years or so in Canada:
- Upon moving to Canada, I was most surprised that while one can get a liter of milk in a plastic or cardboard carton or jug, you cannot get the gallon equivalent in anything but a plastic bag.
- I am most troubled that Canadians are often satisfied with comparing themselves and their systems to the U.S. rather than considering other, better alternatives. The most glaring example is that Canadians tend to be critical of their health care system, but do not imagine significant changes because they assert that their system is better than the U.S. Instead, I would suggest that they ought to compare their public health care system to the most functional public health care systems in Europe and elsewhere.
- I am enchanted by the passionate curiosity Canadians have about the world around them, despite the aforementioned acceptance of the US as the comparison category. In my classes, on the streets, and everywhere else, people here want to know more about the entire world. In West Texas, the media always had to ask--what does this mean for the folks here? In Montreal and in Canada, they don't have to do that.
- I am humbled by the ability of most of the Montrealers with whom I interact to converse in two or more languages with such a facility that conversations move back and forth among the various languages from sentence to sentence.