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Comments: Week of May 16, 2011

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1. Of the several examples of extreme décor in Wendy Goodman’s Home Design issue (May 9), the obsessively yarny dwelling of Park Slope resident Agata Oleksiak seemed to tickle the fancy of the most readers: “33-year-old artist Olek just. can’t. stop. crocheting. And we can’t stop looking at her weirdly wonderful (or is that wonderfully weird?) work,” wrote the blog Shelterpop. The New York Post was similarly hooked, wishing only that she’d “knit some kind of flip-down cover” for her living-room TV, just for uniformity’s sake. But one nymag.com commenter had a woolier vision: “All I see is bedbugs and dust mites gathering their forces to take over this apartment and maybe the world under all that yarn. Gross.”


2. Daniel B. Smith’s story on the ­“college bubble” debate over whether a degree is overvalued (The ­University Has No Clothes,” May 9) was given high marks by the National Association of Scholars blog, which called it “a sobering, clear-eyed look” at a discourse that “has so far been mainly restricted to speculative articles read by intellectuals and has not yet reached the kitchen ­tables of American families.” While the National Review Online’s Phi Beta Cons blog’s close reading of the article came to the conclusion that it “starts out sounding doubtful, but by the end seems somewhat persuaded (by Peter Thiel especially) that there may be a college bubble after all,” most bloggers and commenters thought that college is a good thing. Jacob Goldstein at NPR’s Planet Money blog asserted that a degree is a reasonable ­investment: “As the Economist has noted, colleges don’t compete to see who can offer the lowest sticker price. Instead, they compete on famous faculty and fancy facilities. At the same time, colleges offer increasingly large discounts—grants and scholarships—off the full-tuition sticker price.” Discounts aside, Goldstein wrote, “the income gap between people with college degrees and those with only a high-school diploma has exploded in the past 30 years. That means it makes more sense to think of college as an investment, so it’s rational for colleges to charge more.” There are pragmatic reasons for this, as one nymag.com commenter put it: “In the real world, a college education provides you with ­status and access to a network that if used correctly will get you a job … ­Ultra­successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg are the exception not the rule. Few people ‘need’ a bachelor’s degree, but good luck finding a decent employer who will look twice at you without one.” Some commenters argued in favor of the more abstract fruits of higher learning. “The article is interesting, but I’d like to point out that a college degree can raise the bar on different fronts,” noted one who, it seems, actually did the required reading. “Isn’t there joy in having the sky lifted a bit by getting to know great books or ideas? I’m not saying that’s all that’s needed, but it’s still important.”

3. Vanessa Grigoriadis’s probe into the troubles of Madonna’s Kabbalah-­affiliated boarding school in Africa (Our Lady of Malawi,” May 9) was criticized by many nymag.com commenters—­Kabbalah sympathizers prominent among them—for being too hard on the Material Girl’s philanthropic effort. “While alive, the Kabbalists of history were defamed, defiled, and dishonored by both the rabbinical and academic ­Establishments,” wrote one. “This has been the deplorable pattern throughout history. Not because the Kabbalists sought credibility or acclaim. Hardly. On the contrary, the path of Kabbalah is designed to eradicate the ego. So the Kabbalists welcomed the persecution. The problem was that the opponents of Kabbalah prevented the people from acquiring the wisdom and, in turn, the answers and solutions to the questions and problems that have plagued the world for millennia.” Another, who’d given $10,000 to the project, testified: “Is the Kabbalah Centre perfect? No. Is Madonna treated special? You damn right better believe it. But I’m okay with it. Kabbalah saved her life. Am I disappointed as a contributor to Raising Malawi that there is a delay in moving forward in building more secondary schools? Absolutely. But I also know that in order to reveal positivity in the world there needs to be opposition.” Others, like this commenter, were less sympathetic. “If Madge had listened to the teachings of the religion into which she had been born, she would know that one is supposed to give for giving’s sake, not use ‘charity’ and ‘generosity’ as magic spells to get further ahead in this life or beyond.” Or, as the blog Oh No They Didn’t put it: “Madonna, we love you to death, but please wake up! Madonna obviously has not researched what these groups are doing behind the scenes. ­Perhaps she doesn’t want to know!”

Send correspondence to: nymletters@nymag.com


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