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2021 Reset

This past year ruined my old writing habits. How? Allow me to enumerate the ways:

  1. (of 5) Anxious Scrolling: I spent a great deal of time in a state of hyper-attentiveness for news about the pandemic and the presidential election. I watched for updates, and scanned or read most every pandemic-related story. Concern for a nation’s leadership began, in 2020, by awaiting news of the impeachment hearings. I knew the Senate would not uphold the House verdict, but I could not ignore that historic event.
  2. Racism: As was the case with many, I’m sure, this began with George Floyd and the protests that ensued. But for me, it continued through the late spring, summer, and early fall courtesy of a giant (and welcome) anti-racism effort at work. That effort manifest in a large steering committee but also subcommittee work. I happily was invited, and joined, those endeavors—working with students, faculty and staff on a number of public and private tasks. Because my office deals with mistreatment concerns, this impacted my daily and weekly routine in numerous ways.
  3. Inability to Escape from Distractions: With the pandemic I switched to remote work in mid-March. I felt privileged to be in a position to accomplish that switch. It enabled both gainful employment and relative safety from the kinds of interactions that could increase viral load to the point of infection. But there was a cost. I could not focus in the same ways that one can in an office. I love my children, but a home office seemed to imply a privilege, for them, of interruption. It used to be the case that I would escape their understandable need for attention by writing in coffee shops. That habit was, of course, destroyed. It has taken me months to compensate for the loss of that environment. I only came on a solution in the past two weeks.
  4. Teaching Adjustments: I was teaching two courses part-time in the spring term. Both (a 3-hour and 1-hour) had to be switched to remote learning. The one-hour course was an easy transition, because it was easy in the first place. But the three-hour involved a larger switch from paper assignments and hard-copy submission, to an all-virtual submission and assessment format.
  5. Using Social Media as Therapy: I realized, only a few weeks ago, that I was using social media not just to scan for news and headlines (I subscribe to many news outlets via Facebook and Twitter), but also for therapeutic conversation. I spent a great deal of writing energy and keyboard time in the comments of various posts. I didn’t realize how much time until I put myself on a social media “diet” last week. I have limited myself to 30-45 minutes of social media time per day, and only after 9 pm—when my main energies are spent. Since putting myself on this diet I now realize I was frittering away hours per day on social media. I also just feel better, mentally and emotionally, after cutting down. My fingers are crossed that this diet restores some, or all, of my old writing habits and abilities in 2021.

That’s it for me. What made 2020 especially awful for you? What are planning, or doing already, to make 2021 better? – TL

The Zombie Cold War

Thesis: The Cold War is not over, and we now live in a zombie, or ricochet, Cold War period. We are experiencing the long tail of that historical narrative. Read more…

Supererogation

Word for the day: Supererogation.

Merriam-Webster defines it as “the act of performing more than is required by duty, obligation, or need.” The Latin roots are ‘super’ (over and above) and ‘erogare’ (to expend public funds after asking the consent of the people).

The political relevance for today seems clear: duty to the common good, doing better than merely what’s required, and ethical representation. But the roots are in church matters. I encountered the term in Aquinas’ *Summa Theologica*, in relation to the expectations of bishops.

I don’t need my president, senator, governors, mayor, or alderperson to act like a medieval bishop, but I’m not surprised to find ideas about the ethics of public offices rooted in questions about Church bureaucracy and administration.

The COVID-19 Fallacy

The COVID-19 Fallacy: Falsely attributing errors, wrongs, dispositions, failings, and bad ideologies to the COVID-19 pandemic when they, in fact, existed *long* before.

It’s a new problem that’s actually an old problem.

For those of you at home tracking the taxonomy of fallacies in the philosophy of history, this is a special form of presentism. David Hackett Fischer (of course!) also identified it as the legal *nunc pro tunc* fallacy (“now for then,” or the next). You can find a Merriam-Webster definition at this link.

Citation: D.H. Fischer, Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought (New York: Harper, 1970) pp. 135-140]. See also: the “Whig interpretation of history” and/or many of the works of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

Our Evening of Fear: On COVID-19, American Ideals, and the Common Good

Building on Pope Francis’s reflections, I would argue we are lost and afraid because we are only now, courtesy of an effective quarantine, realizing just how much we need a robust *society*. We have lost track of the broad human basis of our nation. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the hollowness of our current set of market-dependent ideals. Isolation has forced a reckoning with our weak and thin democracy. There is nothing worse than being imprisoned with one’s bad ideas. Read more…

On The Rise of Skywalker

I’ve now screened *Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker* twice. I have opinions and questions (10 total)—some lighter and others deeper (some spoilers ahead): Read more…

On Underestimating Teachers

For my entire life mainstream Liberals, the Right, and even some Leftists have bagged on schools and colleges of education.

Smart liberals and conservatives have talked about what a waste they are—how only poor students gravitate to the field of education.<This trashing was a regular feature in my home state of Missouri, and persisted well past my undergraduate education. I heard it in graduate school in Illinois. I might have been foolish enough, at certain points, to believe the rhetoric. It was normal in the 1980s and 1990s, and even into the early years of this century.

What the bipartisan smart set didn't see was that the desire to be an educator was about a different value set, not any capitalist perception of social or individual worth. Those "poor" education students were looking for an area to work, to labor, and to give service that valued others, even while the objects of an educator's profession were difficult to evaluate against social norms. They were resisting those perceived norms. Read more…

Fighting Foreclosure

Many who follow my blog may be interested in this piece on an important theme in academic advising. This applies to undergraduates but also those in medical education.

vocation matters

When I advised pre-health undergraduates, my office regularly warned students about the problem of “foreclosure.” For you readers with mortgages: no, not that kind. Advisors are not normally in the business of repossessing property when mortgagors got behind on their payments! Rather, because pre-health students are particularly driven and focused, often from an early age, they do not dedicate mature time and energy to exploring other possibilities. They are in a sense “foreclosed” regarding other vocational options because they are committed to one—the field of medicine, for instance.

This issue is prominent enough that advisors designate the problematic group as a type: “foreclosure students.” In a 2011 article often cited by student advisors, Shaffer and Zalewski posit that such students “have prematurely committed themselves to academic majors and future careers, but present themselves to academic advisors as very decided.” They are “confident and committed” to their future plans.

Why might…

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A Pilgrimage

1919-Commemoration-Plaque

The only existing marker of the event, as of today.

On a warm, sunny day like today, in 1919, a young black boy named Eugene Williams drifted, while swimming or on a raft, over an invisible, watery line of white supremacy just north of Chicago’s 31st street beach. For that transgression—likely enabled by waves similar to those I’m watching today—he was stoned to death by a white vigilante. His name was added to the list of black boys punished for being black, turned into an example and spectacle to remind residents who was in power. Read more…

Telling our Students’ Stories

Of interest.

vocation matters

One of my favorite moments in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton (An American Musical) comes in Act I when General George Washington and friends reflect on the momentousness and frailty of leading people at war, in a song titled “History Has Its Eyes on You.” Sing along if you know the tune:

Let me tell you what I wish I’d known / When I was young and dreamed of glory. / You have no control: / Who lives, who dies, Who tells your story?

I know that greatness lies in you / But remember from here on in / History has its / Eyes on you.

Then at the end of Act 2 in the production’s finale, various members (Aaron Burr, Eliza Hamilton, etc.) sing a song titled “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” Therein Washington’s refrain enters…

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