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Monday, 26 June 2017

Homosexuality wasn’t ‘unnatural’ in the Ramayana and Mahabharata

Would you believe me if I told you that the labelling of certain lifestyles as ‘taboo’ is a product of the modern society?

India has always been an all-embracing culture. The richness of our culture thrives upon its pluralism. One important aspect of inclusivity is to include a broad spectrum of gender identities. Gender and sexuality were never rigid categories, and tales from the Hindu mythology confirm that. Our gods have time and again transformed into male and female shapes/avatars to carry out different purposes. We are all familiar with the androgynous Shiva-Shakti avatar. So when did homosexuality become ‘problematic‘? Or cross-dressing for that matter?

The video illustrates several ‘gender-bender’ stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, to appreciate how all entities and imaginations had an important role to play in the larger scheme of things, and live in harmony with each other and flourish.

Meta narratives, actively challenging and subverting the dominant worldview have always existed in our culture. Watch this video to debunk all your myths about a unilateral vision of history.

(Source: YKA)

The most forward-thinking, future-proof college in America teaches every student the exact same stuff

College is supposed to help young people prepare for the future. But as headlines warn that automation and technology may change—or end—work as we know it, parents, students, and universities are grappling with a new question: How do you educate a new generation for a world we can’t even imagine?

A recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,408 technology and education professionals suggested that the most valuable skills in the future will be those that machines can’t yet easily replicate, like creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, adaptability and collaboration. In short, people need to learn how to learn, because the only hedge against a fast-changing world is the ability to think, adapt and collaborate well.

But many American college students may not be learning them at all. In the 2011 book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Richard Arum and Jarip Roksa chronicled how few American students really improved cognitively–and learned to learn–during their undergraduate education. Few bachelor’s programs require sufficient amounts of the reading, writing, and discourse needed to develop critical thinking skills. In fact, forty percent of American undergraduates now major in business and management-related subjects, reading mainly textbooks and short articles, and rarely writing a paper longer than three pages. Further, the social bonds and skills formed in college today often center on extracurriculars that have little connection to cognitive development and collaborative problem-solving.

But perhaps instead of reinventing higher education, we can give students what they need for the future by returning to the roots of liberal arts. Consider St. John’s College, America’s third-oldest institution of higher education, founded in 1696. With fewer than 700 students between two campuses in Annapolis and Santa Fe, St. John’s is a bit under the radar. But it’s emerged as one of the most distinctive colleges in the country by maintaining a strict focus on the classics of the Western canon.
The Program
Many fine schools in the US organize classes and curriculum around Western classics, and St. John’s two campuses look much like hundreds of small colleges across America. So what makes St. John’s unique? First, as David Brooks of the New York Times recently wrote, the college has the “courage to be distinct” amid a marketplace of more than 5,000 colleges and universities in the US. A big part of that distinction is due to a strict adherence to its own curated curriculum and teaching methods, know simply as “the Program” implemented back in 1937.

In contrast to some liberal arts stalwarts like Brown or Wesleyan that allow students to choose from a vast array of classes with few restrictions, St. John’s offers only the Program; it’s prix fixe is a higher education world of a la carte. Four years of literature, language, philosophy, political science and economy, and math. Three years of laboratory science, and two of music. That’s it. No contemporary social studies. No accounting. No computer classes. No distinct majors or minors.

The Great Books, or “texts” as they are referred to at St. John’s, flow largely in chronological order. Starting with the Greeks and working through the 20th century including some “recent” science readings from the 1950s and 1960s, the curriculum is rarely altered. The college adds only what it believes are seminal works, and often it takes decades to reach consensus on what may be worthy of inclusion. Juniors and seniors have “electives” and can suggest texts for a class or two. The sequencing of classes is very important to the St. John’s method, with knowledge building over the semesters and years.

Another unique feature of St. John’s is a resistance to placing texts in a political, social or historic context for discussion. Context is viewed as ideology, something that St. John’s believes distorts true education and the ability to form one’s own opinion. This is crucial to the school’s philosophy; by freeing texts from context, St. John’s claims it frees students’ minds to ponder the multiple possibilities and meanings that are actually in the text. Those possibilities are then discussed and debated, and discarded when weak or specious, leaving better interpretations space to surface. St. John’s is not a cloister, and of course students and faculty are well aware of the history and social settings of their studies. But an attempt is made to focus on the texts themselves, and understand their content, meaning and merit deeply through debate. This is what creates independent thinking.

Sure, compared to the telephone book size course catalogs most colleges and universities offer in the 21st century, St. John’s curriculum may seem limited. But “Johnnies,” as St. John’s students call themselves, and faculty would argue just the opposite. This curriculum is carefully designed not only to build knowledge, but also to understand how knowledge is ultimately created; it is teaching students how to learn. In this respect, St. John’s students de facto major in epistemology. And for those of us who never studied Ancient Greek (a St. John’s requirement for two years), epistemology is the philosophy of knowledge, or the investigation of what distinguishes substantiated and supportable belief from mere opinion. Now that sounds like it could come in handy these days.

We live in an age when 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day, with much being intentionally misleading, “fake” or just plain wrong. What could be more valuable than developing an intellectual filter, cultivating the capacity to know what is important to know, distilling enormous amounts of information to form a rational position, or knowing how to listen and respond to—or perhaps integrate—someone else’s point of view? In this vein, St. John’s uses traditional texts taught in ancient methods to impart skills that have never been more crucial.

The Program’s philosophy and practice
You will not find 100-person lectures, teaching assistants or multiple-choice tests at St. John’s. Instead classes are led by “Tutors” who guide students through Socratic inquiry (and yes, students do read about the Socratic practice during freshman year in Plato’s Theaetetus). Despite its reputation as a sadistic exercise in student humiliation, the Socratic method is actually an interactive form of intellectual sandpapering that smooths out hypotheses and eliminates weak ideas through group discourse. Tutors lead St. John’s discussions but rarely dominate; they are more like conversation facilitators, believing that everyone in class is a teacher, everyone a learner. And you won’t find Johnnies texting or surfing social media while in class; there is no place to hide in classrooms that range from small (seminars, 20 students led by two tutors) to smaller (tutorials, 10 to 15 students, one tutor) to smallest (preceptorials, 3 to 8 students, one tutor).

There is a formality in a St. John’s classroom—an un-ironic seriousness—that feels out of another era. Students and Tutors address each other by “Mr.” or “Ms.” (or the gender-inclusive honorific of choice). Classrooms have a retro feel, with rectangular seminar tables and blackboards on surrounding walls, and science labs filled with analog instruments, wood and glass cabinets, old school beakers and test tubes.

You have to observe a few St. John’s classes to get a sense of what’s happening between and among the students and Tutors. Discussions are often free-flowing, with students thinking out loud and talking to the ceiling; you can almost hear the gears turning in their brains. There are many “a-ha” moments in a St. John’s classroom, sometimes coaxed out by Tutors in Socratic fashion. But often they are triggered by students theorizing and responding among themselves.

In one class I attended, students were covering Ptolemy, the second century mathematician. Ptolemy believed that all the celestial bodies and sun revolved around the earth in a circle, and based all his mathematical calculations on this perspective. Students were buzzing at the blackboard, working with a geometry sphere around the table, talking about diameters, meridians and equators, tilts, and horizons. Keep in mind this is all prep for what will be studied in a few months, when these Johnnies will learn that it would be another 1400 years before Copernicus proved Ptolemy’s calculations correct but his conclusion wrong: the earth and planets actually revolve around the sun. These same students will eventually feel the excitement learning of Kepler’s conclusion 150 years later, that Copernicus was also right and wrong: yes, the earth and planets revolved around the sun—but in an elliptical, not circular, orbit. This curricular layering is central to the St. John’s Program. Later texts respond to and build upon previous texts. In essence, students intellectually follow modern thought as it has been built over the last 2000+ years instead of just memorizing the end results.

The cognitive rigor, immersion, and passion so present at St. John’s are rare on American campuses these days. Johnnies read roughly 100-150 books during their four years and write 25 to 30 papers that are more than 10 pages long. Seniors choose a writer or single text and do a deep dive thesis that typically runs 40-50 pages. Here are a few of the senior capstone topics for the class of 2017: 19th century English scientist Michael Faraday’s heuristic description of electromagnetic phenomena; 17th-century mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s treatment of curvature in what’s called the “chain line” problem; the use of Aristotelian terminology by 20th century physicist Werner Heisenberg in describing quantum mechanics; and the possible revision of “space” from Immanuel Kant’s The Critique of Pure Reason into a plurality of “spaces.” Few college-educated outsiders may have a clue what any of these papers are about, but they are not atypical of what’s being studied, discussed, and written about at St. John’s.


After class
Many mainstream college students downshift when the classroom bell rings and don’t revisit course material until they cram for finals. Not at St. John’s. Hallways and dorms are brimming with chatter about Dante, Schubert, Freud, and Watson and Crick. Since everyone takes the same courses, freshman immediately can strike up a cafeteria conversation with a sophomore or senior who’s already taken the class. The Program is what binds the St. John’s community, and what also binds alumni: everybody has studied the same texts, whether they graduated in 1962 or 2015.

Johnnies like to have fun, too, but in a quaint, quirky Big Bang Theory kind of way. Dancing is favorite pastime at St. John’s, but as the college website warns: “Monthly waltz and swing parties are serious business at St. John’s. The year begins with the Convocation Waltz, where students decorate the quad with lights and dance all night. Fortunately, the Waltz Committee offers emergency dance lessons for the heretofore unexperienced.” Many of the students wear fancy dresses or suits. It’s not exactly Undergrads Gone Wild.

Sports are important at St. John’s too—if you consider croquet a sport. Yes, croquet. It’s one of only four NCAA teams St. John’s fields (including sailing, fencing and rowing). About 35 years ago, St. John’s and the Naval Academy organized the Annapolis Cup, the first NCAA croquet match, which has grown into one of the sport’s great events. The Johnnies have beaten the crosstown rival Midshipmen 28 out of 35 times (this year narrowly 3-2 in the rain). The Cup routinely brings 8000 people to St. John’s classic campus, with Midshipmen wearing traditional croquet whites while the Johnnies don some creative costumes. Johnny spectators often wear Gatsby-era clothes and a good time, as they say, is had by all.

The Santa Fe campus is purportedly more laid back than Annapolis and offers outdoorsy-types 250-acres in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Students there hike, bike, and tend to get off campus more than their Maryland counterparts. Walking on either campus, you hardly see any Johnnies glued to their phones; this is so unusual compared with most campuses, you may wonder if cell and WiFi signals have been blocked (they haven’t). Solitary reflection is encouraged and indulged at St. John’s. You’ll often see students sitting alone under a tree, on a bench, lying on the grass. They may be thinking big thoughts or just relaxing; either way it evidences a culture of contemplation rarely witnessed among today’s college students.

Warning label
Clearly St. John’s is not for everyone. First, you need to be a voracious reader to cover the Program texts at a brisk pace. You also need the capacity for and love of writing because St. John’s requires a lot of it. It helps to feel comfortable speaking in public, since so much of St. John’s learning occurs out loud around a table with your classmates and tutors.

Geek. Nerd. Dork. These words come to mind when thinking about what kind of high schooler would choose St. John’s from among the myriad colleges available. But not only straight-A achievers choose the Program (though there are plenty of them at St. John’s). Many Johnnies were outsiders who didn’t necessarily fit into traditional high school cultures, nor did particularly well academically by typical high school metrics. There are a decent number of legacy students with parents or grandparents who’ve attended. Regardless of how they got there, successful Johnnies all share a sincere love of learning and a willingness to think really hard.

Most graduating students told me they had found their lost tribe at St. John’s, but a not-insignificant number of students (about 15%) wind up leaving after the freshman year. Some find the curriculum too rigid and want to explore different things. Some complain of cabin fever after a year or two; there’s only 80 to 125 students per graduating class in Santa Fe and Annapolis, and you get to know everyone–students, faculty, staff–pretty quickly. Because of the staged coursework, students from each campus can escape for a semester or two on the other campus without interrupting the Program. But that same curriculum makes things like study abroad very difficult without taking off a full year from St. John’s—adding time and expense to an already costly bachelor’s degree. There are no fraternities (though plenty of parties); no rah-rah football games (unless you walk to the nearby Naval Academy in Annapolis or drive to Albuquerque from Santa Fe); no food courts or swanky dorms. But the Johnnies who stay express heartfelt pleasure and pride in the idiosyncrasies of St. John’s.

The Program vs. programming?
While it’s fair to say most liberal arts students live in a “bubble” cut off from reality, St. John’s is unapologetic about, and in fact encourages, a four-year respite from the pressures and distractions of the outside world. The college focuses on the intellectual growth of students while they attend, not necessarily on what comes after graduation. Although there is little vocational discussion and modest career guidance at the school, Johnnies seem to do just fine after graduation. About two-thirds eventually go on for further degrees—including law school (a favorite), master’s and doctoral programs (the school produces more students who go on to earn PhDs per capita than almost any other US college), and some to medical and business schools.

Perhaps because of the independent thinking cultivated by the Program, many Johnnies wind-up with interesting life paths. In my research of St. John’s alumni I discovered an editorial board member at a major New York newspaper; a research psychiatrist investigating the neurochemistry of drug addiction; several celebrated winemakers; and an assistant district attorney in Alaska.

Josh Rogers, Annapolis class of 1998, told me St. John’s boosted his “why not me?” personality trait, and explained how it freed him to believe he could think up novel ideas like those that he read about. And he did. Within a few years of graduating St. John’s, Rogers – with no formal coding or computer training—filed 16 patentable applications embedded in many popular websites. He then founded his own financial services company with more than 150 employees.

A fourth-generation portrait painter, 1992 alumna Anastasia Egeli has built a successful career connecting with clients through talking. “A St. John’s education focuses on the importance of dialogue and ideas…I’ve found myself painting a historian and discussing the Federalist papers. During my sittings with private equity managers, we examined whether serving in a political office was the responsibility of a man who had benefited so much from that society.”

Ted Merz, an alumnus from the late 1980’s, was one of the first fifteen employees at Bloomberg News. Starting there in 1990, Merz went on to oversee news operations in the Americas before moving into the Product division where he works on strategic projects ranging from building news analytics to piping Twitter into Wall Street trading platforms. “Not a day goes by, “Merz told me, “that I don’t rely on the thought processes I developed at St. John’s.”

The creative and critical thinking that develops in the St. John’s bubble may be just what the future will require. While most college students have been rushing to study computer science and other technical skills for better employment outcomes, these fields may be less lucrative over time with machine learning and artificial intelligence.

As the vociferous Shark Tank host and entrepreneur Marc Cuban has recently observed about business careers: “I personally think there’s going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering, because when the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data. [You need] someone who is more of a freer thinker.”
Even further afield, recently, former Google and Microsoft executive Kai-Fu Lee, an expert in AI, told Quartz that, “Given AI is more objective, analytical, data driven, maybe it’s time for some of us to switch to the humanities, liberal arts, and beauty.”


The crossroads
Like other US liberal arts colleges since the Great Recession, St. John’s has been dealing with two common headwinds: rising costs and declining traditional student enrollment. The college has a relatively low endowment per capita, making it tuition dependent like many small schools. While the sticker price of St. John’s seems expensive (about $50,000 per annum just for tuition), the school has been extremely generous with financial aid, bringing the effective cost down more than 50% (Note: An earlier version of this article said the reduction was 30-40%.) Still, some may question whether a St. John’s degree is worth it. To paraphrase Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, why waste $200,000 on an education you could get for $1.50 in late fees at the public library? True. Every text studied at St. John’s can be found at a public library. But that’s missing the point. As one alumni, Columbia Law School professor Shawn Watts, said, “St. John’s is less about the books than the process and the community. It trains your mind and frees it at the same time. This allows you to truly follow your own passions and interest in life without the subconscious impositions and prodding of our wired world.” In the face of a very uncertain future, a St. John’s education may be money very well spent.

And St. John’s is on the move, preparing for the next 300 years. In the last 18 months the college hired new presidents at each campus. With fresh leadership in place, the school is gearing-up for a major $250 million capital campaign. St. John’s is strengthening its enrollment pipeline, too. New admission director Ben Baum and his team have boosted applications to more than 1100 this year (up 35% from post-recession lows), with some 250 freshman expected to enroll in Annapolis and Sante Fe this fall. A seasoned admissions professional, Baum was drawn to the school in 2015 because of its unique educational offering. “Most colleges and universities struggle for a special identity in the crowded higher education marketplace,” he says, “That’s not an issue with St. John’s.”

The college offers a summer program for high school juniors that has been a good source of recruits, as has the international marketplace. The growing demand around the world for liberal arts education, as I’ve recently chronicled, has boosted overseas applications to St. John’s unique program. In recent years, between 20-25% of classes have been filled by international students (often paying full tuition), adding a nice mix of cultural and racial diversity to the student body.

A plaque on St John's Campus which reads "Have you yet recognized that you are and always have been your own teacher? Amidst all the noise and furor about education in this country at present, I have yet to hear this question raised. But it is basic. Liberal education has as its end the free mind, and the free mind must be its own teacher. Intellectual freedom begins when one says with Socrates that he knows that he knows nothing and then goes on to add: I know what I don't know. My question thus is: Do you know what you don't know and therefore what you should know? If your answer is affirmative and humble, then you are your own teacher, you are making your own assignment and you will be your own best critic." Scott Buchanan, 1958

Then there is the issue of rankings. For years, St. John’s resisted even filling out survey data requested by US News and World Reports. Culturally, some faculty and staff were (and still are) incensed by the rankings fetish that has gripped most of higher education. But determined to continue its mission into the future without sacrificing the curriculum and culture that makes it unique, St. John’s realized it needed to boost its profile and applications. Ranking surveys were filled. The number of admission application essays was reduced. US News now ranks St. John’s as the 53rd best national liberal arts college. In recent years, Forbes ranked the Santa Fe campus as the “Most Rigorous” in the US (with Annapolis ranked eighth, odd given the same Program), way ahead of the big Ivies like Harvard (17th), Princeton (20th), Yale (23rd), and Stanford (25th). The school’s tutors are often cited as among the best teachers in the country. Application numbers are rising and acceptance rates falling, all of which contribute to positive ratings momentum.

The future
Life in the 21st century is remarkably different than the late 20th century; it has been “disrupted,” to borrow an overused word from Silicon Valley, on many levels in the blink of an eye. A college degree is an indisputable asset in today’s world, but the uncertain and rapidly changing job market raises questions about whether college is really worth the investment of four years and a lot of money. But perhaps that question is too broad. Maybe we should be asking not whether college will adequately educate tomorrow’s citizens, but what kind of college will prepare them for an unimagined and even unimaginable future. St. John’s is facing the unknown by holding steady with the same approach to intellectual development, discourse, collaboration and rigor it has pursued for over 80 years. Maybe the “old school” way will produce the kind of innovative thinkers we will need in the brave new world.

(Source: Quartz)

Is it cute to romanticise the marriage of a 9-year-old boy to an 18-year-old woman?

I don’t remember the last time I was quite so gobsmacked after watching a trailer.

The trailer for Sindoor/Pehredaar Piya Ki begins with Diya, an 18-year-old woman, dressing up in a palace. She packs a gun into her purse and then calls out to her husband, Ratan Singh, whom Sony describes as “charming”.

Except Ratan Singh is nine years old.

She bends down and applies a teekha on his forehead, he runs away and returns with a stool and applies a teekha on her forehead, and then tells her she looks perfect, causing her to get romantically teary-eyed. A voice-over announces, “Sony lekar aa raha hain ek anokhi kahaani”. But why? Why is Sony romanticising the marriage of a nine-year-old boy to an 18-year-old woman, and bringing this romantic tale to anyone? Why would anyone in their right mind want to follow the video’s caption and “Come step into a world of unparalleled romance in an aristocratic setup when a charming 9 year old boy, Afaan aka Ratan Singh, of a royal household gets married to a beautiful and lively 18 year old girl, Tejaswi aka Diya”?

They’ve also released a similarly alarming Karwachauth promo that features more bending to see eye-to-eye.

The promo’s disclaimer says “This show doesn’t endorse child marriage in any way”, but displaying the marriage of a nine-year-old to an 18-year-old accompanied by warm, romantic music and happy smiles all around does feel like a bit of an endorsement, no?

(Source: The Ladies Finger)

Stop bouncing rice balls and wasting all that good food

Bouncing rice balls have really got food safety officials in different parts of the country into a tizzy. Because every time a consumer bounces a rice ball and cries ‘plastic rice’, the officials are forced to take samples to check them for that elusive plastic!

Last week, for example, consumers at a bus depot in Chennai started throwing large rice balls at passing buses, alleging that the government canteen there was serving plastic rice, compelling food safety officials to collect nine samples of rice from the canteen for testing. In Delhi too, food safety officials have had to take a close look at bouncing balls in restaurants. In fact while at an eating joint, if you suddenly see someone getting up and bouncing a big ball of rice against a wall, don’t get shocked. Most likely, the person is trying to check whether the rice being served is real or plastic.

Rumours of ‘plastic rice’ making the rounds on social media have created such a panic among rice eaters that in the last few weeks the state food safety officials are being flooded with complaints of plastic rice being sold by retailers or being served at restaurants. In Chennai, the officials said they inspected 74 outlets across the city and tested 14 samples and they all turned out to be ‘real rice’. The food safety department in Coimbatore inspected 200 shops across the district and tested 19 samples and the only non-rice particles that they found were stones.


In Delhi too, the food safety department said following consumer complaints, they lifted 20 samples of raw rice from different markets and seven samples of cooked rice from hotels and restaurants. Tests found no plastic content in any sample. In Bengaluru, elaborate tests by the University of Agricultural Sciences too found no trace of plastic in any of the samples complained about. In Andhra Pradesh, Civil Supplies minister Prathipati Pulla Rao held a press conference to rubbish the fears of ‘plastic rice’ as totally ‘unfounded’ and even announced a prize of Rs 50,000 to anyone who gave a lead to finding such a rice.

At the root of this fear of ‘plastic rice’ lie online videos (which have gone viral) of rice balls bouncing like rubber balls. Now experts say that it is not a peculiar phenomenon, given the composition of rice. Dr Nagappa G Malleshi, former head of Grains, Science and Technology, Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, explains that rice is 80% starch, which contains amylose and amylo pectin. When you cook rice, these swell and leach out and make the rice sticky. And when you mash and make them into a ball, they stick together, but they also entrap air and therefore bounce. How bouncy the ball is depends on the amylose content of the rice. Higher the amylose content, greater the bounce, he says, explaining why some bounce more than others. He also points out that the whole idea of plastic rice grains is ridiculous because if you try to cook it, obviously the plastic cannot absorb water nor can it ‘cook’. It will only melt and burn.

Dr VP Singh, former head, Division of genetics, Indian Agricultural Research Institute-IARI, also de-mystifies the ball bouncing phenomenon on YouTube. Rice, he says, has got adhesive and cohesive properties because of the high percentage (80%) of starch in it. So the ball formation is on account of this adhesiveness. And when you throw this ball, it is bound to bounce on account of its volume expansion and air entrapment, he says, dismissing fears of the ‘plastic content’ in the rice causing the bouncing effect.

So hopefully, we will stop bouncing rice balls and wasting all that good rice.

(Source: HT)

I almost let my journalism job destroy my marriage. Don’t make the same mistake.

As a journo, we hardly have time or space for our personal lives. We are 24/7 journos. We try to dig news in each and everything. In the attempt to getting and making news, we forget our personal space and if the spouse is not understanding, it can ruin the very foundation of marriage. Here's a beautiful article on Poynter, which sheds light on what we all go through as journalists:

Let me ask you: When did you decide that your commitment to work was the most important commitment in your life?

Chew on that for a minute.

The headline interrupted my morning coffee in mid-swallow:

“Walmart is asking employees
to deliver packages
on their way home from work.”

The story in The Washington Post on Walmart’s latest strategy for competing with Amazon said many of the plan’s details were not yet available. It did say employees who made deliveries would be paid, and that the delivery gigs would be voluntary.

Reading that Walmart was asking its employees to work on the way home from work hardly surprised me. It’s Walmart, after all. This is the company that, according to a new report, punishes employees for medical absences. Make deliveries on the way home from work? Who’s surprised?

Just the latest blow to work-life balance.

Then I recalled a conversation I had with a mid-level editor at Poynter a few months back.

We were about to begin a session on how we prioritize our activities each day. To prepare for the session, I had asked the participants to keep a log of their entire work day — everything they did — on one day before coming to Poynter.

“You asked us to write down everything we did from the time we reached the parking lot until we left for home,” the editor said. “But by the time I got to the parking lot, I’d already been working for two hours.

“My day starts when I wake up and check my email.”

He’s right, of course. Employees in news organizations (and, to be sure, many other businesses) frequently start working hours before they leave home. They also work while traveling to and from the office and they work some more after they return home, sometimes for hours.

I realize this is not a new phenomenon. I once had a boss who, as I was leaving work after another 11-hour day, asked me:

“Half-day today?” He was smiling. To this day, I’m not sure whether he was joking.

But today’s situation is worse. Technology makes it too easy for you to work anytime, and all the time. Understaffing complicates matters further, as companies keep cutting and managers are left to stretch a single bed-sized sheet over a king-sized mattress.

Too much work, too few people, too little time.

And here’s the capper. Management has a collaborator in this scheme:

You. (And me. Heck, I’m writing this on a Saturday morning.)

Are we unwilling collaborators? I’d love to say yes, of course we are. But like most complex situations, this one defies easy answers. Think about it.

Do you check email on your day off? Or on vacation? Many employees assume they’re supposed to; others rationalize they want to avoid falling way behind. Just know that every time you do email on your day off, you perpetuate a system that assumes you’re always on the clock. Do you return messages or emails just before climbing into bed? Or in the middle of the night? Did you accept responsibility for a seven-day work product (Sports section, social media report, etc.) without an assistant?

All of those choices contribute to the illusion that your newsroom has a system that, despite the reduced staff, is working.

It’s not working. And don’t kid yourself. The joint failure of bosses and staffers to find an acceptable balance between work and the other commitments in their lives will have an impact. Maybe it already has.

It almost cost me my marriage.

I was a young mid-level editor working in Baltimore, and it was a time of intoxicating change at the paper. New management, new ideas, new opportunities. I routinely worked 10, 11, 12 hours—and convinced myself that I needed to be there for every one of them.

Donna, home with our new son, wasn’t so convinced. She, as usual, was right. I was choosing to be at work.

The weeks passed and we talked less and less. During those few hours when I was home, I was exhausted; I was not much of a father and even less of a husband.

Thank God, Donna finally confronted me. She said she had no interest in being a single parent, and I had to make some choices.

For the first time in my life, I had to answer that question:

What exactly was the most important commitment in my life? Work? Or family?

Looking back on that time, I know that women had routinely answered this question far more consciously and honestly than men. Not that they had much choice; our culture answered the question for them. Women were expected to leave their jobs at some point and “have kids.” And not just bear children; they were expected to raise them. That, of course, effectively brought the careers of many women to an abrupt end.

It’s hard to overstate the hypocrisy of it all. Those women who chose not to have children were labeled careerists (while the men who put job ahead of family were “dedicated providers”). Moreover, women allowed men like me to dodge the question; they honored their own commitment to family and shouldered mine, too. Until, like Donna, they said: Enough.

Maybe you can see that day coming for you. Maybe your partner (man or woman) is asking if you ever put down that iPhone. Maybe you see how unhappy the family is that you need to stop by the office for a few minutes, like you always do, turning their day at the beach into a half-day. Maybe your partner no longer waits to eat until you arrive home.

Maybe your home is quieter than it used to be.

When did your commitment to work become the most important commitment in your life?

No matter what level you occupy in your organization, you have a stake in dealing with this — for yourself and, if you’re a manager, for the people you direct. And you might have an opportunity right now.

Throughout the industry, many newsrooms are rethinking workflows. The goal is to abandon processes and schedules that were designed to produce a newspaper and adopt workflows that support both digital and print production.

Why not seize this moment and address the balance question? What if managers and employees re-imagined the work to accomplish two objectives: To better serve the audience and to allow journalists to honor their commitments to work and family.

When Donna confronted me with my need to choose, she didn’t ask me to pick work or family; she asked me to return the “and” to the equation. Work and family.

In practical terms, it meant that if I was to regain credibility in my house, I had to stop working late unless I really needed to be there. And when I wasn’t needed, I had to come home. (Which ironically, I very much wanted to do.)

Did I ever achieve perfect balance? No. But for the next three decades, when I called home and said I had to work late, Donna believed me — and she knew I was also making my time at home the best it could be for all of us.

We’ll be married 42 years in September.

Let me offer you several thoughts about addressing this issue. Let’s start with you, bosses.

With so much to get done every day, can a boss afford to take this on?

Here are three good reasons for tackling this issue: First, the work will improve. People — whether they are married or single, have children or don’t — work better when they have a life outside of work. (They certainly bring a better, more focused self to work when they aren’t dealing with disappointment at home. )

Second, newsrooms have been talking for years about the need to stop doing work that isn’t resonating with the audience. Enough talking. While we’re (finally) refocusing the staff on the most relevant work, why not mindfully determine a reasonable time frame for doing it?

Third, addressing the balance issue will help build a culture in which staff believe their organization values them. Doughnuts only get a boss so far. Managers who help their staffs live a fulfilling life have a real impact on their newsroom culture.

What should a boss do first?

Be clear with your employees what you expect of them. Do you want your emails answered at 11 p.m.? (If not, stop sending them.) Do you expect your local editor — the one who no longer has an assistant — to call in (or come in) on weekends? (If not, work with the local editor to figure out how to get the work done when she’s not there.) Do you want your digital editor to call into the 8 a.m. meeting and be in the office until 8 p.m.? (Or, more likely, do you have a clear idea of the work you want the digital editor to get done? If so, help him devise a workflow that completes that work in a reasonable number of hours.)

How can an employee talk with the boss about this issue?

What a sad question, eh? If you have a boss who has made it clear that he or she isn’t concerned about your life, that’s one thing. (Work on your resume. You deserve better.)

But as much as bosses treasure staffers who routinely go the extra mile, most do not want people to ruin their lives. Talk to your boss. Get clear about her expectations; ask for guidance about prioritizing your responsibilities, and propose how you would like to approach your day. And don’t make this conversation a one-shot deal; keep the conversation going. Balance is a moving target.

How do I avoid sounding like I’m whining?

You’ve probably already crossed that bridge. If you are a whiner, you’ve already made that clear by regularly complaining about your colleagues, your bosses, the quality of the pizza on election night. If, on the other hand, you have a reputation for hard work, your boss is likely to pay close attention when a valued staffer is comes by to say she’s having trouble. Go for it.

Practically speaking, how can I decide when it’s time to stop working and call it a day?

For starters, don’t wait until everything is finished — because it’s never finished. Right? So, deciding when you’re done for the day actually needs to begin much earlier in your shift. Use whatever systems and processes you have to help you. For example, come out of a morning story meeting and make a list of what you need to get done that day.

If it helps you, run the list by your boss. Make sure you leave enough air in the list to deal with the unanticipated — you know things will happen. But if it’s obvious to you that completing your list will require too many hours, you need a Plan B. Who can help me? What doesn’t need to get done? What can wait until tomorrow?

If you get to the end of the day and there’s still work on your desk, it’s not too late to ask the same questions: Ask if it needs to be done today. If not, leave it until tomorrow (or just kill it.) Second, if it needs to be done, ask someone else to do it. Only stay and do it yourself if it absolutely needs to be done and you are the only person who can do it. (And come to work the next day determined to adjust the process so that you turn less frequently to Option 3.)

One thing is clear: Balancing work and life outside work is not just a management issue. It’s a question we all need to own.

If you need inspiration, just think about that question:

Have you, perhaps unconsciously, made your job the most important commitment in your life?

How do you feel about that?