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Letters: Philanthropy and academic sabbatical

Marketplace Staff Dec 15, 2010
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Letters: Philanthropy and academic sabbatical

Marketplace Staff Dec 15, 2010
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Kai Ryssdal: It’s Wednesday about mid-show, that means it’s your turn.

We spent some time last week talking about philanthropy. Commentator Jonah Lehrer explained the psychology of charitable giving to us, that we’re more likely to donate money to feed a specific child than donate to the more abstract goal of ending global hunger. His point was that our brains can’t process suffering on that level.

Christopher Stack from Los Angeles disagreed.

Christopher Stack: I don’t think we don’t give or turn off because our emotions can’t comprehend it. I think we all really comprehend that suffering even on a big scale. I think we all really feel for it. I think our brains kick in and realize that this isn’t a problem we can solve.

We looked at something called prize philanthropy too, when a company like Pepsi or American Express runs a contest where non-profits can win money for their cause. Molly Luna of Mountlake Terrace, Wash., is with a group called Refresh Our Playgrounds.

Molly Luna: We and eight other partner groups are just trying to build playgrounds and it’s terribly hard and expensive to do so. Maybe we have to work very hard to get these dollars and we give free advertising to Pepsi. But that’s the world we’re in at the moment.

The academic sabbatical is under fire in Iowa. Lawmakers there are trying to save some money. After hearing our story about it, Michael Harris wrote from Fairbanks, Ala., and his post at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, to challenge the notion of professors getting summers off. Academics are on nine-month contracts, Professor Harris writes. “This is not actually time off, but rather annual uncompensated unemployment with the obligation to return to their faculty positions in the following term.”

Finally, in response to our story Monday setting up President Obama’s meeting with CEOs today, William Grother from Robbinsville, N.J., offered this.

William Grother: Business should be subservient to government, not the other way around. I think the Obama administration would do well to keep business at arm’s length, and do as much as possible to rein in the excesses before the next crisis develops.

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