Students returning to class this semester at Boston College found a surprise: crucifixes adorning their classrooms. This traditional Catholic image has been a lightning rod in many Catholic colleges and universities over the last few decades, as schools struggled to make all students, no matter what their religious belief (agnostics and atheists included), feel welcome and at the same time strove to maintain the elusive goal of “Catholic identity.” The move stirred dissent among some students and faculty at B.C. “I can hardly imagine a more effective way to denigrate the faculty of an educational institution,” said one faculty member to a campus newspaper. In response, William P. Leahy, S.J., the college’s president, said, “By what logic would someone expect a Catholic college or university to be non-Catholic?”
The presence or absence of crucifixes in the classroom has too often proven a cudgel with which one side beats the other. Without them, so goes the faulty logic, a school is insufficiently Catholic; with them, it is resolutely religious. But this is too facile an understanding of the symbol. For some Jewish students, the crucifix is not simply a benign token of another faith, but a sign of centuries of Christian domination over their culture. On the other hand, for some Catholic students a crucifix is not just another symbol, but a visible reminder of a school’s religious underpinnings. At B.C., the move was the culmination of a project begun in 2000 to incorporate more Christian art on campus. Despite the danger of sending a message of exclusion, Boston College deserves applause for returning a central Catholic symbol to its classrooms, and we hope that naysayers will see that the Catholic world is still truly catholic, welcoming all students of good will.
The Curious Case of Steve Jobs
Even before the advent of the iPhone, the founder and C.E.O. of Apple, Steve Jobs, was treated like a god. Macintosh computer users praised his products for their sleek design and ease of use, while techies lionized him for his pluck in taking on the Microsoft behemoth. Today Jobs is a dot-com icon, a father of the digital revolution who also somehow managed to transform the music industry with the introduction of the iPod. His annual Macworld Conference & Expo is anticipated with an excitement usually reserved for bands from Liverpool or movies that begin with the word Star.
Jobs also appears to be a sick man. Five years ago he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but he quickly returned to work after surgery and treatment. This past June, however, he appeared at an Apple event looking gaunt and pale, prompting widespread speculation that the disease had returned. At first Jobs said the weight loss was due to a hormonal imbalance, but he has since admitted the situation is more complex and has taken a leave of absence. Meanwhile, Apple investors have seen their stock prices rise and fall with each health report, and the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether Apple is guilty of securities fraud for failing to report accurately Jobs’s condition.
It is a strange story, to be sure, a narrative that combines the personal and the professional in a highly unusual manner. What impresses most is not Mr. Jobs’s accomplishments, remarkable as they are, but the vulnerability of his company in the face of personal frailty—a stark reminder of the ephemeral nature of all of our creations.Blessed Are the Pure of Breed
The 133rd annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at New York’s Madison Square Garden, held this year on Feb. 9 and 10, once again captivated huge and avid crowds. It is the second-oldest continuously running sports event in the United States (after the Kentucky Derby). More than 2,500 dogs representing over 150 breeds were brought from around the world to compete. The 2009 winner is a 10-year-old Sussex spaniel named Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee (aka Stump). He meets one of the many stiff standards put forth by the W.K.C.—no more than seven parts are allowed in the dog’s name. Without question, there is great prestige attached to membership in this club; but it has set the bar so high that winning breeds quickly become the dogs of choice. This leads to over-breeding (including inbreeding), at puppy mills as well as among “backyard breeders,” to meet demand.
The Pedigree Foundation is to be commended for its sponsorship of the event; their ads on the W.K.C. Web site promote awareness of homeless dogs—25 to 30 percent of which, according to the Humane Society of the United States, are purebreds. Still, seven million adoptable pets in shelters across the country are euthanized each year because of overpopulation. Unfortunately, overemphasis by the W.K.C. on the physical appearance of breeds has in some instances over time had a negative impact on the natural, innate abilities of certain breeds—hunting skills, for example—and posed health problems too. The perfect dog is not necessarily the pampered purebred. You can find him or her at your local animal shelter.