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Bleg: Suggestions Wanted For Anti-Intellectualism Research

I request your suggestions in answering a question related to my research. I’m looking for new lines of thought. The inquiry:

In your estimation, what are the signal events and figures in anti-intellectualism, broadly conceived, by decade in U.S. history?

I realize this involves a certain amount of perception and judgment in terms of politics and culture, hence this request. On those perceptions, for example, one could cite the following from the 20th century:

– McCarthyism in the 1950s
– Countercultural antics in the 1960s
– Various popular culture fads in the 1970s and 1980s (i.e. TV shows and films)
– Certain popular televangelists from the 1970s to the present
– Climate change denial in the 1990s
– The antivaccination movement in the 2000s
– The elevation of simplicity and the common man in politics (e.g. Bush 43)
– The notion of “low-information voters” in the 2000s

Please do feel free to make suggestions regarding the 1800s and 1700s. – TL

Robert P. Sevy: His Life, Service, and Politics

Today, on Veterans’ Day 2016, I want to take a moment to remember, thank, and honor my deceased maternal grandfather, Robert P. Sevy (1931-1994), for his service in the U.S. Army during The Korean War.

Who was Robert Sevy? To begin with the basics, by occupation he was a machinist. For a large chunk of his working life he was employed by the Bendix Corporation (later known as Allied Signal and Honeywell). He was a union man who hated the union, which he believed to be both corrupt and inept. Of course he benefited from its positive ability to negotiate a middle-class wage and benefits—both of which he never mentioned. When the union came up, his primary mood was one of complaint.

Bob was also a faithful member, all his life, of what was then known as the “Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”—now called Community of Christ. Read more…

[x-post] Lovable Losers No More: History and the Chicago Cubs, from a Fan’s Perspective

[This is a cross-post from the S-USIH Blog. – TL]

As the blog’s resident rabid Cubs fan, I feel obligated, on this glorious day, to offer some reflection on the meaning of last night’s World Series win. Given the nature of this blog, and the interests of its readers and writers, I’ll do my best to stay on the preferred topic, generally speaking.

To be a Cubs fan is to be steeped in history and tradition. As its fans know, whether they are long-time followers or recent pick-ups courtesy of this year’s World Series run, the past is no foreign country for a team (formerly) known as “The Lovable Losers.” Some idea of the past is always present to Cubs fans. The capitalization in that moniker is important, as is the singularity of the article. That “losers” has, until today, symbolized—depending on your commitments—a kind of invisible cross or a trail of baggage. The Cubs have been a team for people who understand, and even embraced, the notion of historical burdens. Read more…

Reflections on Derek Black’s Intellectual Conversion

I finished reading the excellent Washington Post story on the reeducation and conversion of former white nationalist Derek Black. I loved it. It’s a first-hand tour in how one comes into a movement, and how one might outgrow them. Kudos to Derek Black for his intellectual and emotional bravery.

A few observations:

1. This story is why I believe in the power of a humanist education. This is why I believe that some reform to K-16 education is needed to confront what we’re now calling “Trumpism” (i.e. authoritarianism, white supremacy, and crypto/neo/pseudo-fascism). Read more…

Democracy in America: Eclectic Overall Impressions


No, I did not read DIA in French.🙂

Over the weekend I finished reading both volumes of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. It took me about nine months, between distractions, work, writing, and other reading commitments, to complete both. It got to be a slog in the last half of volume two.

I haven’t read every review, critique, and study of the work, but my biggest take-away is this: You learn as much or more about France and Europe’s problems, circa the 1830s, reading DIA than you do about the United States. Long stretches are comparative, and many passages feel like psychological projection, given the aphoristic and unscientific nature of de Tocqueville’s observations.

Also, the first volume feels more useful than the second. The first contains more connections to particulars, giving it the air, at least, of a case study. Read more…

Historical Thinking, Historical Imagination, and Imagined History

I love the distinction underscored in this HNN piece, by Yoav Tenembaum, between reality-directed and fantasy-directed imagination. I have always believed that imagination is an important historical thinking skill. I subsumed it under “storytelling” in my own teaching document (i.e. The 12 Cs).

I appreciate Tenembaum’s reflection, it could include a third category: history-directed fantasy. This is what JRR Tolkien constructed with his Lord of the Rings works. He favored “history real or imagined.” He funneled his imagination into an historical construction.

In sum, imagination is most definitely a crucial theme of historical thinking. And “imagined history,” or history-directed fantasy, might be another outlet to teach and learn good historical thinking, even though it’s not reality-directed. – TL

Democracy in the Trenches of Chicago

You know what democracy is? Spending nearly 7 hours in meetings—on top of your day job and away from your family— with teachers, school administrators, parents, and concerned community members trying to account for a $355,341 hole in your neighborhood school’s $4,337,414 budget (a 6% cut).* The main topic was how to fill personnel needs in relation to two teaching positions and four necessary staff positions—none of which are dispensable in our highly diverse 650-student school with roughly 30 teachers. The discussions were intense. I’m exhausted this morning, and limping toward the weekend. Read more…