Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

The material I post on this blog represents my views and mine alone. The material you post on this blog represents your views and yours alone.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Daily Dose of Depression -- Plum Trees and Food Stamps

It’s easy to look around and see the yawning gaps between the rich and the poor.  From the prices on menus at upscale restaurants to the electronic boards featuring “Value Meals” at Mickey Ds, where and what we eat dramatizes these gaps. Schools, of course, also scream out differences in opportunities.  From the green, park like physical settings of private prep schools to the still true 1950s cliche of the asphalt jungles of the inner city, schools can welcome or resist students in search of an education.  The social ladder to success in this country is far from being equal in length and sturdiness.

It’s foolish to resent the golden platter opportunities of an Josh Isackson (see the Jenny Anderson story).  Good for him that he has reached the age of eighteen and has the curiosity to explore the ancient culture of China.  And good for his parents or the trust fund that will pay for this experience.

Juxtapose Mr. Isackson’s good luck and well used opportunity with Charles Blow’s account of  “The Decade of Lost Children.”  America is filled with such contrasts.  We feature the outstanding individual’s luck; we bury the too common in a statistical fog.

Some will say that’s just the way it is .    

August 5, 2011
For a Standout College Essay, Applicants Fill Their Summers

Josh Isackson, an 18-year-old graduate of Tenafly High School in New Jersey, spent the summer after his sophomore year studying Mandarin in Nanjing, China. The next year he was an intern at a market research firm in Shanghai. When it came time to write a personal statement for his college applications, those summers offered a lot of inspiration.

“When I was thinking about the essay, I realized that taking Chinese was a big part of me,” he said.

So Mr. Isackson wrote about exploring the ancient tombs of the Ming dynasty in the Purple Mountain region of Nanjing, “trading jokes with long-dead Ming Emperors, stringing my string hammock between two plum trees and calmly sipping fresh green tea while watching the sun set on the horizon.”. . . 

Full article here

August 5, 2011
The Decade of Lost Children

One of the greatest casualties of the great recession may well be a decade of lost children.

According to “The State of America’s Children 2011,” a report issued last month by the Children’s Defense Fund, the impact of the recession on children’s well-being has been catastrophic.

Here is just a handful of the findings:

• The number of children living in poverty has increased by four million since 2000, and the number of children who fell into poverty between 2008 and 2009 was the largest single-year increase ever recorded.

• The number of homeless children in public schools increased 41 percent between the 2006-7 and 2008-9 school years.

• In 2009, an average of 15.6 million children received food stamps monthly, a 65 percent increase over 10 years.
. . .

Full article here

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Daily Dose of Depression -- Who Notices?

“Who notices?” 

This is the season when minimum wage working and out of work families start to look at their kids and then look at the calendar and then feel an ache in the stomach and a sour taste in their mouths.  The school year is coming on fast.  There will be a list of school classroom items to buy. There will be clothes and shoes the kids will expect but not get.  There will be agonizing decisions about book rentals and school lunches.

It all puts a gray damper on the excitement of the coming school year. 

“Who notices?”

You know the economy is in bad shape when customers can't afford to shop at dollar stores anymore.
By Annie LowreyPosted Wednesday, Slate  Aug. 3, 2011, at 5:15 PM ET

Even dollar stores are struggling. . . . Customers flock to the chains, which sell thousands of products for a buck or $2 or $10, when times get tough. When the economy improves, they shop at nicer outlets, like Target. But there are some worrisome signs that the prolonged economic malaise has changed even this retail paradigm. Middle-class households remain reluctant to spend. And cash-strapped consumers are finding even dollar stores a bit too expensive.

Goods Fly Off Shelves – Even Marked Up, Luxury

Nordstrom has a waiting list for a Chanel sequined tweed coat with a $9,010 price. Neiman Marcus has sold out in almost every size of Christian Louboutin “Bianca” platform pumps, at $775 a pair. Mercedes-Benz said it sold more cars last month in the United States than it had in any July in five years. . . .

. . .  Luxury goods stores, which fared much worse than other retailers in the recession, are more than recovering — they are zooming. Many high-end businesses are even able to mark up, rather than discount, items to attract customers who equate quality with price.

“If a designer shoe goes up from $800 to $860, who notices?” said Arnold Aronson, managing director of retail strategies at the consulting firm Kurt Salmon, and the former chairman and chief executive of Saks.