Upfront Home
In This Issue
News and Trends
 • 
 • 
Features
Times Past
The Ethicist
Debate
Teen Voices
Upfront Topics
Contact
Magazine Info
News and Trends
November 19, 2007


Homework For Parents
Will Women Take the Wheel?
Misfortune Cookies
A Bite of Buffalo
Cleaning Up for The Team
Washington Shed Here

Homework For Parents
Some ninth-graders at Montclair High School in New Jersey may find themselves asking their parents, "Have you done your homework?" Damion Frye, an English teacher at Montclair, asks parents to read and comment on the same literary works their kids are studying in class. If they don't comply, Frye tells them, their child's grade may suffer (a threat he has made good on only once). The point is to keep parents involved in their teens' education. "Parents complain about never getting to see their kids' work," says Frye. "Now they have to." Students do their assignments during class; parents write theirs on a blog that Frye started. Some parents have enjoyed revisiting their high school years and discussing assignments with their kids. But others, just like some high school students, are more resistant. One parent wrote: "I really don't need this today, I have stuff to do." But in three years, Frye says, he has had only one outright refusal. Tony Lopez, a corporate lawyer whose son Max is in Frye's class, is glad to do the homework assignments and posts lengthy responses. He says, "I take it as giving back to the teacher what he is apparently giving to our kids—a lot of attention and a lot of requirements."

Back to Top


Will Women Take the Wheel?
Saudi women may now travel abroad without a male companion (though male permission is still required), seek a divorce, and own their own companies, but they're still forbidden to drive. A group of women has petitioned King Abdullah to repeal the ban. The Saudi government, which was hostile toward the last such petition in 1990, now seems mildly receptive. "You get the feeling they are preparing the population for this issue," says an organizer of the women's group. But few expect any change to come soon. Many Muslim clerics maintain that allowing women to drive would open Saudi society to corruption. A woman alone in a car, they say, would be more vulnerable to abuse, to going wayward, or to getting into trouble if she were in an accident or stopped by the police.

Back to Top


Misfortune Cookies
Diners expecting the usual upbeat messages in their fortune cookies have been taken aback recently by warnings like "Today is a disastrous day" or "Your problem just got bigger." The cookies came from Wonton Food in Queens, N.Y., the nation's largest producer of fortune cookies. "We wanted our fortune cookies to be a little bit more value-added," says Bernard Chow, the company's marketing director. Most people who receive the downbeat fortunes don't take them too seriously. Others have searched for more meaningful explanations. But the "disastrous day" message brought some complaints, and Wonton has already pulled it from its catalogue of more than 10,000 fortunes.

Back to Top


A Bite of Buffalo
Nobody knows exactly what's in some of the energy bars out there today, but only one is made from buffalo meat and cranberries. Tanka Bars and smaller Tanka Bites were created on the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Lakota tribe in South Dakota. "Tanka" means "larger than life" in Lakota. The bars are a modern version of wasna, a meat-and-berry mixture that the Plains Indians carried on long journeys. The Native American Food Company in Kyle, South Dakota, which makes the bars, hopes to establish a presence in convenience stores nationwide. But first, the company wants most of the 1.5 million bars in the initial run to go to Native Americans. Karlene Hunter, C.E.O. of the company and a member of the Lakota tribe, says, "We want to show them that this is our original fast food."

Back to Top


Cleaning Up for The Team
Last year, Penn State's coed varsity fencing team won its 10th national title. But as they do every year, the team will spend hours this fall scraping nacho cheese, peanut shells, and other gunk off the floor of the university's 107,000-seat football stadium. Like many Division I athletes who compete in sports other than the big moneymakers—football and basketball, with their multimillion-dollar TV deals—Penn State's fencers must work to raise money for their team. At other schools, softball players clean basketball arenas and swimmers work at stadiums during football games. Megan Luteran, a captain of Penn State's fencing team, says cleaning up after 107,000 football fans is "one of the grossest things I'll ever have to do—hopefully—in my life."

Back to Top


Washington Shed Here
What could be stranger than finding a picture of George Washington in a pack of baseball cards? How about finding a strand of Washington's hair on the card? The Topps Company recently inserted three George Washington "relic" cards—each with a strand of hair from the first President—into packs of baseball cards. Topps bought the strands from John Reznikoff, a collector of historical hair, who estimates each Washington hair to be worth several hundred dollars. One of the cards has already turned up on eBay, where it sold for $7,500. Collectors have become familiar with cards that include bits of bats or jerseys used in games. But a card with historic D.N.A. is new. Ken Simonis, the Phoenix-based dealer who sold the Washington card on eBay, says that reactions to it were mixed. Some people thought it was "pretty gross." Then there were those who e-mailed: "I'm going to clone George Washington with this."

Back to Top