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Our Inadequate, Simplistic, and Anachronistic National Philosophy of K-12 Education

This article is correct to identify, and call out, national problems in relation taking care of the mental and emotional health of our students. But these deficiencies have arisen due to a generally inadequate national philosophy of education. Read more…

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Ranking the Post-WWII Presidents: From Truman to Trump

In this article by Rick Shenkman, he questions why President John F. Kennedy continues to rank so highly in the public’s imagination of post-WWII presidents. Shenkman is convinced that Kennedy benefits from superficial images: beautiful photographs of his family and their vacations, staged and candid pictures of the president and his gorgeous wife, etc. Shenkman excludes from his analysis images of Kennedy’s assassination, but I think he discounts the power of sympathy, hurt, and loss that evoke a nostalgia for what might have been. I can see that. And I bet that plays a part in the rankings of Reagan, Clinton, and Obama too.

I’m less interested in why Kennedy is ranked first than I am of the rankings on which Shenkman commented. Read more…

The Problem of Statism

It’s taken me a bit to get around to this brilliant essay by Andrew Hartman. At base it’s a review of Nancy MacLean’s provocative book (*Democracy in Chains*), but Hartman expertly weaves in references to Martin Sklar, S.M. Amadae, Richard Hofstadter, William Clare Roberts, Antonio Gramsci, and, of course, Karl Marx.

I have leveled some harsh criticism about Hofstadter’s philosophy of education and his *Anti-Intellectualism* book (and works built on it). But Hartman demonstrates why James Livingston has both vigorously defended Hofstadter and advocated for him as an exemplar to historians today. Hartman’s counterintuitive conclusion depends, in a way, on an insight gathered from RH’s *The American Political Tradition*–in particular from the essay on John C. Calhoun. Read more…

A Survey of U.S. Christian Thinkers: A Work for All [Book Review]

Schell-Ott-Christian-ThoughtReview of Hannah Schell and Daniel Ott, Christian Thought in America: A Brief History. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015. 340 pages.

Works that specifically survey the total history of Christian thought in the United States, from John Winthrop to late twentieth-century womanist theology, are rare. Historians such as Mark Noll and Kathleen Sprows Cummings offer excellent books that satisfy in terms of covering large swaths of the history of U.S. Christianity. And some authors have written on the entirety of Christian thought. But few have provided accessible but serious introductions to the breadth of American history in this arena.

Into this historiographic breach enters a new, ambitious book by Hannah Schell and Daniel Ott, Christian Thought in America: A Brief History. They take the reader on an A-Z, 500-year journey that starts with Winthrop, Thomas Hooker and Roger Williams and moves up to the twenty-first century, summarizing the thought of figures such as Stanley Hauerwas, Cornel West, Kathryn Tanner, and Miroslav Volf. All of one’s favorites, as well as lesser known theologians and philosophers of religion, are covered in between. Read more…

Three Unpopular Thoughts on Steve Bannon’s Forthcoming Engagement at UChicago

1. The Place: The “University of Chicago” is not a homogeneous, centrally-controlled institution. It is, in effect, a confederacy—with super powerful individual professors and strong, independent faculty. It was designed this way. Continuing the confederacy analogy, when a “state” within (e.g. division, college, department) wants to host a speaker, the president doesn’t get a veto, necessarily. The higher ups have to convince faculty members to change their minds. So “The University of Chicago” did not invite Bannon. It’s not an institution that operates in the same fashion as a small college.

2. The Speaker: I find Steve Bannon repulsive, but he is in a different *category* of speaker than Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos. I concede that all three are different varieties of pseudointellectuals, bound together by their support for Trump. All three, I think, have appeared in the virtual pages of Breitbart. Spencer and Milo, however, are *clear* white supremacists. Bannon has consistently described himself differently, as a conservative and has called white nationalists losers and clowns. He’s a libertarian economic nationalist and a right populist. Yes, he’s supported some bigots and racists in politics (as have many run-of-the-mill conservatives). Bannon considers those aspects of his support for them to be secondary to his economic views. The Anti-Defamation League does not consider Bannon an anti-Semite. Milo and Spencer have never held power positions. Bannon brings some insider knowledge to an event—knowledge that I hope can be drawn out.

3. The Circumstances: Moving from Bannon as essentially different to the circumstances of engagement, Milo and Spencer have often been given speaking engagements where they are effectively unopposed, or only weakly opposed. In some cases, protests of their engagements have been actively blocked. For my part, I do believe they are both neofascists who should be screened out of campus speaking events. Bannon, however, has been invited to a moderated on-campus event. There he will be faced with substantial intellectual opposition. This is not a free-for-all event where he will be able to whip up a crowd into violence, a la Milo and Spencer.

In sum, I find both the speaker and the circumstances to be enough to take a wait-and-see approach, rather than to hold a strict no-platform position. – TL

What Enthusiasm for Oprah is Really About

What enthusiasm for Oprah is really about:

1. Pining for Obama through one of his more prominent fans;
2. The #metoo movement;
3. The state of liberalism;
4. Anxieties about Trump and the policy damage done by his administration and Republican allies (i.e. Trumpism);
5. Celebrity;
6. Per Jeremy Young, Oprah’s charisma; and,
7. Something new to discuss.

Of these, #7, #4, and #2 are in the top three. #1, #5, and #6 are in the air, for sure. For me, #3 should be the top topic.That would move us closer to solutions about this November and 2020.

What enthusiasm for Oprah is not about:

1. Her policies.

Notes on Hofstadter’s Philosophy of Education: Relevant Higher Ed Points

In the course of thinking about Richard Hofstadter’s philosophy of education (broadly), I just reread his 1968 Columbia University commencement address.[1] The primary existential event in relation to his address was the “forcible occupation” of Columbia buildings by war protestors. On that much has been written, none of it flattering to Hofstadter—with regard to his opinions about the protestors.

It is easy to understand how little might be revealed in the commencement about Hofstadter’s *broad* philosophy of education. I was hunting, in particular, for clues (and only clues or hints) about his own view of priorities for K-12. Nothing in particular came up—except the possibility that Hofstadter might view all of education via his experience in higher education.

Otherwise, two things struck me about the address in relation to Hofstadter’s view of higher education in U.S. life: Read more…