Politics

November 23, 2018

And If I Stay It Will Be Double…

“If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

Like many, I’ve been trying to understand of late exactly what Facebook’s executives did or did not do, what they knew, when they knew it.
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July 4, 2018

Aging Professor Seeks Smart, Fair, Engaging Match (on the 4th of July)

I’m stewing, as usual, as I put together a new syllabus. In the fall, I’ll be teaching 35 undergraduates a history of the United States – the entire history, from the nation’s colonial roots to the present day. This is a difficult task at any time, but it’s especially difficult for me at the moment as the country plunges ever more deeply into a free-for-all over the meaning of who “we” are.

Though I am thoroughly opposed to using textbooks, especially at the university level, I also know it’s helpful to give students something to lay down a narrative. I’ve relied on Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United Statesfor the past eight years in the course on early American history I’ve offered at UMass Boston. A sprinkling of students over the years, usually from liberal, private high schools, has encountered the text before my class. For the rest, the book has mostly been a welcome introduction to early America, the subject of the course. I’m not sure Zinn’s overview will be the right fit for the class I’ll be teaching this fall, which will be at a somewhat selective, private college. I’ve tried to find an alternative, but I’m coming up empty-handed.

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June 22, 2018

“Emotional Logic,” Children and Activism

How were they, who were once part of the fabric of society, the body politic, ripped asunder, extirpated?

Debórah Dwork, Children with a Star: Jewish Youth in Nazi Europe, 1991, xlvi.

There are so many questions to ask about how a people reaches a point allowing its government to separate children from their parents and, for all intents and purposes, incarcerates them. And there is another set of questions to ask about what activates this people to insist that its government change course.

Making people feel, I’ll argue, is perhaps the greatest single factor in that activation process. more >

December 11, 2017

Popular Sovereignty, 2017

Most pundits commenting on the probable election tomorrow of Roy Moore as a U.S. Senator from Alabama are focusing on his “sexual misconduct.” His history of “dating” teenagers when he was in his thirties has provoked outrage and soul searching, with NY Times columnist Gail Collins asking whether Republican voters are willing to vote for “an upstanding family man” who could be relied on to support Democratic agendas or “an awful slimeball who you could count on to support all the things you believe in.” A third option? “No fair answering moving to another state,” she writes. Bah-dah-bum.more >

November 9, 2016

Tyranny of the Majority

Gather, several religious congregations have beckoned, for reconciliation, for healing, for hope. Though I would take comfort from being with others who are similarly dismayed by Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, I will not – cannot – attend. Not because I am otherwise engaged. But because I refuse to be reconciled or to heal.more >

October 10, 2016

“Presidential” Debates: What to Tell Your Children

During PBS’s broadcast last night, political analyst Amy Walter disclosed that she would not be allowing her fourth-grade son to watch the second presidential debate. Like many parents of young children, Walter was uneasy imagining how a young person would process likely references to sexual assault, marital infidelity, and who knows what else might fly out of Donald Trump’s mouth.more >

February 17, 2016

Teaching Writing, Questions

I met with a student yesterday before class who left me feeling at a loss.  I am struggling, yet again, to set realistic expectations when it comes to writing.

The student came to me wanting to make sure he understood what I was asking in an upcoming essay.  After we had worked together to clarify and develop a strategy to complete the assignment, we had a few minutes to talk.  “Who are you?”  I asked.  “I mean, when you’re not at school, what’s your life like?”more >

January 12, 2016

Honor Thy Mother

Perhaps you missed this story.  A 21-year-old Syrian “man” shot his 45-year-old mother in the head with a rifle and killed her.  He was involved with ISIL, the Muslim terrorist organization. She wanted the two of them to leave the Syrian town of Raqqa, fearing for his safety as US-led troops neared the ISIL stronghold.  He told ISIL leaders of his mother’s request.  They insisted he publicly execute her.  He complied.more >

November 12, 2015

Update: The Philosopher and the Welder

Two well-written and reasoned pieces responding to Marco Rubio’s assertion that we need more welders and “less” philosophers:

— one by Scott Timberg in Salon

— one by Farai Chideya in Five Thirty Eight Politics

Both question assertions about pay as well as the false opposition between liberal arts and vocational educations.  My favorite bit: a reference to Matthew B. Crawford’s short, smart book, Shopcraft as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work.  Crawford (who earned a Ph.D. in phiosophy) argues for the importance of skilled, thoughtful manual workers.more >

November 10, 2015

Welders and Philosophers

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio seems to have distilled his education policy during tonight’s debate. “Welders make more money than philosophers,” declared the Florida senator. “We need more welders and less philosophers.”

If Rubio is serious about education, he shouldn’t draw an artificial line between welders and philosophers. This country will not get stronger by assuming that workers who “do” don’t think…and that those who think don’t “do.”more >