July/August Tip Sheet: Culture & Living

Tip sheets highlight timely news and events at Washington University in St. Louis. For more information on any of the stories below or for assistance in arranging interviews, please see the contact information listed with each story.

Selective listening
40 years later, most Americans focus on MLK’s ‘dream,’ not the reality

Forty years ago this month, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Most Americans are familiar with the “I have a dream” passage of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous public address. But most have forgotten his admonishments, his criticism of America and the pressures he brought to bear through his message delivered on that sweltering August day 40 years ago, says a civil rights historian at Washington University in St. Louis. “Too often, that part of his speech is ignored, subsumed to the tranquil tones of ‘I have a dream …,'” says Leslie Brown, Ph.D., assistant professor of history and of African and Afro-American studies, both in Arts & Sciences. For that reason, Brown says, four decades after the March on Washington and King’s renowned “I Have a Dream” speech, that dream is still not realized.

Balance, lighten the load
Preventing kids’ injuries from heavy backpacks

Carrying backpacks the right way
Carrying backpacks the right way

As parents and kids make their lists for the August back-to-school sales, one item to consider should be a backpack — on wheels, says Nancy J. Bloom, Ph.D., a physical therapy instructor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Kids backs are primarily bearing the weight of their schoolbooks. Bloom says that because young bones are growing all the way through high school, heavy backpacks need to be a major concern. She notes that there are a few important things that kids can do to avoid injury, including carrying their backpacks over both shoulders to balance the load.

Beyond Potter and the Rings:
More mainstream than ever, children’s literature remains hard to define, poorly understood and frequently underestimated

Illustration from a Hans Christian Andersen story.
Illustration from a Hans Christian Andersen story.

What is “children’s literature?” As we pause between the perfect, all-ages storms of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and the upcoming Lord of the Rings: Return of the King film adaptation, the answer seems less clear than ever. In the current issue of Belle Lettres, a bi-monthly publication of Washington University’s International Writers Center in Arts & Sciences, a culture critic and a director of teacher education explain that the genre, always hard to define, remains poorly understood and frequently underestimated.

‘Can’t afford to waste this valuable resource’
Older Americans in the workforce essential to economic future

Older workers enrolled in a computer training class.

Older workers enrolled in a computer training class.Some economists predict that by 2030, the United States could experience a labor shortage of 35 million workers. Many businesses, including retail giants such as Wal-Mart and McDonalds, have responded to a looming labor shortage by encouraging older workers to remain in the workforce. But a recent study issued by the U.S. General Accounting Office finds that many of the government’s existing employment assistance programs are not providing computer training and other high-tech skills to workers over the age of 55, a demographic that may soon constitute roughly one-third of the entire American workforce. Nancy Morrow-Howell, Ph.D., a professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis and a leader in the emerging field of productive aging research, contends that America’s economic future may well hinge on our ability to help older adults continue making contributions to society.