The week@work – Why everyone should take a geography class, Angela Merkel’s humanity, and the legacy of Oliver Sachs

The week@work was one of stories that urge us to open our minds and hearts to what we may not at first understand.

If you don’t understand geography you won’t comprehend the on-going global political struggles. If you live in Europe, you are overwhelmed imagining the impact of the vast number of immigrants arriving daily. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken on the role of champion for the dignity of common humanity and is guiding the discussion of the consequences if Europe fails on the question of refugees. Closer to home, Dr. Oliver Sachs has left us a legacy of writings and research that helps us understand ourselves, our brains, and appreciate the interconnectedness of life.

Joshua Keating writing for Slate, asks ‘Where In The World?’ While enrollment in university geography classes is increasing, many departments have been eliminated and courses are no longer available. Digital literacy without geographical literacy is not a good thing.

“Geographical literacy remains vital—particularly for those of us who live in (for the time being at least) the world’s preeminent military and economic superpower. Geography is necessary for understanding why the overthrow of a government in Libya contributed to an unprecedented surge of migrants into Europe, why Ukraine has been split between East and West amid its conflict with Russia, and why China’s neighbors are alarmed at the new islands under construction in the South China Sea. And as we learned during last year’s Ebola panic, an understanding of African geography could have helped explain why an outbreak in West Africa should not lead to the quarantining of people from Kenya or Tanzania. In the years to come, as the effects of climate change on everything from sea level rise to deforestation to drought quite literally reshape the world we live in, an understanding of geography will be necessary for mitigating and adapting to the consequences.”

If you have been wondering when the U.S. media would begin leading the news with the story of the immigrant crisis in Europe, this was the week and the focus was on the Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary. As the route of immigrants shift toward the Balkans anti-immigrant sentiment is growing. Germany expects to receive 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers this year.

In an editorial on Tuesday, ‘The Guardian view on Europe’s refugee crisis: a little leadership, at last’, the staff praised the courage of the German Chancellor.

“There can be no tolerance of those who question the dignity of other people,” she said, standing in front of placards accusing her of being the people’s traitor. “There is no tolerance of those who are not ready to help, where, for legal and humanitarian reasons, help is due.”

Confronted by forces that would overwhelm British leaders, the woman the Greek left (and many on the British left who should know better) mistakenly accuse of being the leading advocate of conservative neoliberalism has stood up to be counted. Being the country to which so many want to migrate should be a source of pride, she says. She wants to keep Germany and Europe open, to welcome legitimate asylum seekers in common humanity, while doing her very best to stop abuse and keep the movement to manageable proportions. Which demands a European-wide response. So far, her electorate and her press back her.”

Dr. Oliver Sachs died this week. There have been countless obituaries and remembrances, but my favorite is from The New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani, the Pulitzer Prize winning book critic.

“It’s no coincidence that so many of the qualities that made Oliver Sacks such a brilliant writer are the same qualities that made him an ideal doctor: keen powers of observation and a devotion to detail, deep reservoirs of sympathy, and an intuitive understanding of the fathomless mysteries of the human brain and the intricate connections between the body and the mind.

Dr. Sacks, who died on Sunday at 82, was a polymath and an ardent humanist, and whether he was writing about his patients, or his love of chemistry or the power of music, he leapfrogged among disciplines, shedding light on the strange and wonderful interconnectedness of life — the connections between science and art, physiology and psychology, the beauty and economy of the natural world and the magic of the human imagination.”

Other articles of interest this week@work offered advice on choice of college major, how to eliminate interruptions in the office and quitting your job before you have another.

‘Major Choice Shouldn’t Define a Career’ Jordan Holman – Sage advice from a senior writing in the student newspaper of the University of Southern California. “In this job economy it matters more about how you can apply the skills you acquired from the classes taken and lessons learned than just the titles on your resumé. It’s about taking that difficult class that you’re frightened of, but which could also serve as the perfect anecdote during an interview.”

‘5 Strategies to Eliminate Constant Interruptions’ Lisa Evans – “Did you know that the average manager gets interrupted approximately once every eight minutes? That’s about seven interruptions each hour. What’s worse, after every interruption, it takes an average of 25 minutes to fully regain cognitive focus. No wonder at the end of an eight-hour day, you still feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.”

Should You Quit Your Job Before You Have Another One? –  Stephanie Vozza – Multiple news outlets covered the release of ‘Leap: Leaving a Job With No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want’ by former Public Radio Marketplace reporter Tess Vigeland“When I left, one of the biggest questions I got was, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ and there are plenty of times I miss it,” she admits. “I miss being in a newsroom. I miss the microphone and the audience. Those are the times when I beat myself about the head, but they’re becoming rarer and rarer. You have to go through the process. I feel it was absolutely the right thing to do. I used to spend a chunk of day miserable. If it’s Sunday and you never look forward to Monday, you need to make a change. Life is too short to live for Friday afternoon.”

And one more time, The New York Times reported on the continuing trend of wage and salary lag as corporate profits continue to surge.

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