Communitarian Update #56


The Communitarian Update

Number 56

August 22, 2003

Tell us what you think!

A recent article in the New York Times on the blackout of 2003 discussed the vulnerability of the

“the grid” in great detail–in such specific detail that some readers claimed the article was like a

textbook for terrorists. The newspaper might well respond that the article is meant to spur public

debate about the future of the grid, and that vigorous public debate will help get the problems

fixed. However, could journalists achieve the purpose of fueling public debate without disclosing

all those details? Can one be more sensitive to the common good–and still have a free press?

Please respond briefly and tell us how to identify you. We do not run anonymous responses

because we hold that true identities make for better dialogues. Please also provide some details,

if not your affiliation, at least your town and nation, to help us understand your perspective. The

article mentioned above is available at

Featuring Charles Taylor

The next issue of The Responsive Community will feature an article by renowned communitarian

philosopher Charles Taylor on the topic “No Community–No Democracy.” Reserve your copy

now! E-mail or call either 800-245-7460 or 202-994-4355. Ordering

information is also available online at

Upcoming Events

“The Next Four Years: A Social Agenda”

A roundtable discussion at the 99th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science

Association, Thursday, August 28, ‘03, 10:00 a.m.

Governor James McGreevey of New Jersey will speak on the issues and challenges faced by the

nation as we approach the next presidential election. The following persons will comment:

Lawrence R. Jacobs (University of Minnesota), Ronald W. Waters (University of Maryland),

Rodolfo O. de la Garza (Columbia University), Lawrence W. Mead (New York University), and

H.W. Jerome Maddox (University of Pennsylvania). Amitai Etzioni of The George Washington

University, who organized the session, will serve as a chair. This is the first session organized by

the Communitarian Network as an allied organization of the American Political Science

Association. The meeting will be held at the Philadelphia Marriott, in Philadelphia,

Pennsylvania. For more information please visit the APSA website at

News of Interest

Study: Social Norms Marketing Doesn’t Reduce Teen Drinking

Advertising campaigns that encourage teenagers to drink in moderation–rather than discouraging

or prohibiting alcohol use in general–don’t work. Such campaigns, or “social norms marketing,”

use posters, brochures, t-shirts, and other promotional materials to try to convince high school

and college students that most of their peers drink relatively little–that drinking in moderation is

cool. But students who were exposed to such marketing campaigns between 1997 and 2001 did

not exhibit a statistically significant decrease in alcohol consumption, according to a recent

Harvard School of Public Health study. The study also found that students at schools with social

norms marketing engaged in binge drinking at least as frequently as students at schools without

the campaigns. In 1997, before the beginning of the study, 45.9% of students at the schools with

social norms marketing reported binge drinking vs. 40.4% of students at schools without the

campaigns. In 2001, 48.6% of students exposed to social norms marketing reported binge

drinking, as did 41% of the students who had not been exposed to the campaigns. The

researchers surveyed students at 37 schools with social norms marketing campaigns and 61

schools without (Journal of Studies on Alcohol, July ‘03). Read the study at

Day Care’s Negative Effects on Childhood Development

Time spent in day care during a child’s early years correlates with higher levels of aggression,

disobedience, and conflict with adults later in life, according to a recent study by the National

Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The study found that the more time

children spent in day care before they were 4 1/2 years old, the more negative effects were

manifested at this age and in kindergarten. However, the study authors also noted that one of the

most important predictors of how well a child will behave is maternal sensitivity–the mother’s

awareness of and responsiveness to a child’s wants and needs. The study was published in

July/August issue of Child Development. Read more at (Wall Street Journal, 7/16/03; NICHD

news release, 7/16/03).

Poll: Americans favor a diplomatic approach with Iran

Despite acknowledgment that Iran presents some threat to the United States, 69% of Americans

believe the U.S. should not go to war to overthrow the government of Iran, according to a recent

poll. 74% of respondents said the U.S. should deal with the government of Iran diplomatically,

by “trying to build better relations.” Only 21% favored “pressuring [the Iranian government] with

implied threats that the U.S. may use military force against it.” Americans also favor a

multilateral approach. 62% said that the UN should take the lead in “trying to make sure that Iran

does not make nuclear weapons and does not support Palestinian groups that use terrorism.” 32%

favored a U.S.-led effort. Most people–66%–believe that Iran is a threat, but a containable one.

Only 9% agreed that “Iran is a threat. . . that requires military action now,” and 18% said it

wasn’t a threat at all. View results and analysis at (PIPA/Knowledge Networks

poll, July 11-20, ‘03)

The FCC’s Communitarian Side?

This week, FCC Chairman Michael Powell announced the formation of a new task force to

promote localism in broadcasting. The intense criticism that followed the FCC’s weakening of

media ownership regulations in June seems to have had an effect. “We have heard the public

concern about the media loud and clear,” Powell announced. “Localism is at the core of these

concerns, and we are going to tackle it head on.” The localism task force’s first meeting will be

held in September (Associated Press, 8/20/03). For further discussion see

Publications of Interest

My Baby’s Father: Unmarried Parents and Paternal Responsibility by Maureen R. Waller

(Cornell University Press, ‘02)

Draws on interviews with unmarried parents whose children receive welfare to examine several

issues, including: methods used by low-income parents to define a father’s obligation to his

children and explain paternal irresponsibility; negotiation of private arrangements of paternal

acknowledgment and support; and the interaction of these informal practices with mandatory

welfare and child-support regulations. To purchase the book, visit

The State of Our Unions 2003: The Social Health of Marriage in America (The National

Marriage Project, June ‘03)

Surveys trends in social indicators of marital health and well-being over the last four decades.

Issues examined include marriage, divorce, unmarried children, loss of child centeredness, fragile

families with children, and teen attitudes about marriage and family. Project co-directed by

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe. Available at

The Encyclopedia of Community: From the Village to the Virtual World by David Levinson, ed.

Karen Christensen (Sage Publications, June ‘03)

Four-volume set surveys communities past and present, from 19th century utopian projects to

21st century cyber communities. Also offers information on successful community institutions,

such as public libraries, and explains related academic terms. The encyclopedia is meant to serve

as a resource for both the general public and students in disciplines such as history, sociology,

psychology, anthropology, economics, and public administration. Ordering information at

Articles of Interest

“Personal Responsibility: Does It Require Personal Sacrifice?” by Cheyney Ryan, Current, June


Explores the question of why Americans so often support wars but are not willing to make the

sacrifices wars require. Article originally appeared in Winter ’02/’03 issue of The Responsive

Community. Read article at

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