Pardon our absence! Consider it a brief sabbatical, in which we all expanded our knowledge bases thanks to the labyrinth that is the Internet. Please welcome us to 2014, and here are some great reads that will inspire your week.
- “A Path To Sustainable Energy By 2030” by Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi in Scientific American. This article is more than four years old, yet it’s still just as relevant and powerful today. The authors, who are sustainability gurus at Stanford and University of California, Davis, respectively, eloquently lay out how our entire planet can be powered by solar, wind, and water technologies. Amidst the recent, crazy weather patterns and rising dangers of climate change, the article seems extra pertinent.
- “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut. The previous article is four years old. Well, “Harrison Bergeron” is 53 years old. Until recently, I had read neither. Vonnegut is a master of the dystopian short story, and this piece is beautifully crafted to both inspire dark humor and question society’s current viewpoint of what “equality” really is. Given the troubles of Indiana’s recent education censorship issues, “Harrison Bergeron” continues to be relevant.
- “What Are The Odds?” by Ali Binazir at Visual.ly. If you are having a bad day, or are desperately in need of a reality check, look no further than this infographic. Binazir explains, with such clarity and brevity, the fact that we exist right now, at this moment in time, is nothing short of a miracle. Life, in a way, is seemingly improbable. Don’t waste yours, or the lives of others. Embrace it.
- “Midnight In Manarola” by Dominic Kamp. This photograph, which could double as a painting, captures the small village in northern Italy at a perfect nighttime standstill. It’s easy to get lost in it.
- “Navigating Stuckness” by Jonathan Harris at Transom. Honestly, we saved the best for last. Some may tear up after reading Harris’ piece; others may shrug it off; almost all of us can relate to it. We all have different chapters of our lives, yet we rarely organize them in the way Harris does here. The article is rift with potent quotes (one example of many: “I never imagined that such a simple project — just a photo and some of my thoughts — could touch so many people so deeply. It made me realize that the most powerful things are often the simplest, as long as they’re made honestly and with a lot of heart.”). Part of the reason The Liberal Artist exists stems from this concept of “stuckness.” Leaving undergrad armed with a valuable education, great experiences and close relationships, the “real world” fell far short of what we thought it’d be when we were younger. This site, this enterprise, may turn into nothing in the long run, but the joy of reading, sharing, connecting–it’s worth it. As Harris put it: “If you’re doing something you love, you won’t care what the world thinks, because you’ll love the process anyway. This is one of those truths that we know, but which we can’t seem to stop forgetting.”
June has come and gone (summer reading has caught up with us, and we can only hope it has with you, too). But this month, one story in particular has floated to the surface that affects our common state of Indiana as well as higher education and the liberal arts. Yes, we are talking about the Mitch Daniels-Howard Zinn ordeal. Read on for some of the pertinent links.
- “Daniels Looks To Censor Opponents” by Tom LoBianco at The Associated Press. This is the origin, the X and Y axis, the center of it all. The AP was able to obtain Daniels’ emails while he was governor of Indiana, and what they found was horrifying at worst, interesting in the least. Days after Zinn died in 2010, Daniels emailed several people within his administration, including the superintendent of public instruction, to say a “terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away.” Keeping the callousness of that statement aside, Daniels went on to ask and ensure that Zinn and his most famous work, A People’s History of the United States, was not being taught anywhere in Indiana. Among other things, Daniels called Zinn’s writing “propaganda,” “a totally false version of our history,” and “crap.” Daniels stood by his emails, telling the AP that Indiana has “a law requiring state textbook oversight to guard against frauds like Zinn, and it was encouraging to find that no Hoosier school district had inflicted his book on its students.”
- “Daniels Vs. Zinn: Round II” by Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed. It’s amazing to see the light shine on this situation, mostly because Daniels went from the governor of the state to president of Purdue University, one of the largest, most influential research universities in Indiana. Here, as governor, he asserts a mandate to stifle any Zinn teachings, including at Indiana University, yet he purports to support “academic freedom” at Purdue. Here, Scott Jaschik provides a great roundup of reaction and why Zinn is a highly debated figure in the first place. Some of Jaschik’s embedded links, we include here, as well.
- American Historical Association statement. The AHA, which is the general group representing historians in the country, issued a statement on the entire affair, saying: “Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of Howard Zinn’s text, and whatever the criticisms that have been made of it, we believe that the open discussion of controversial books benefits students, historians, and the general public alike. Attempts to single out particular texts for suppression from a school or university curriculum have no place in a democratic society.”
- “Agit-Prof: Howard Zinn’s Influential Mutilations Of American History” by David Greenberg at The New Republic. This is not the first time Zinn has made waves in 2013. David Greenberg, PhD, a professor of media studies and history at Rutgers University, wrote a more than 5,300-word critique of Zinn, “radical” historians, and why he believed Zinn oversimplified history while ignoring “intellectual honesty.”
- “Historians Respond To The New Republic’s Diatribe Against Howard Zinn” at Zinn Education Project. Three university professors threw back literary jabs at Dr. Greenberg’s article, many of whom said his article was flat-out wrong and misleading in several areas. The original article appeared at the History News Network, but I figured it was worth mentioning the Zinn Education Project, a pro-Zinn group who believes his history should be taught more within the American education system.
- “Howard Zinn’s History Lessons” by Michael Kazin at Dissent. Daniels quoted many historians and academics in his defense of bashing Zinn, including Michael Kazin. Kazin wrote this article at Dissent more than nine years ago, and indeed, it is supremely critical of Zinn and A People’s History, a la Greenberg and The New Republic (though this criticism came far before). However, Kazin has since published a response, saying that Daniels doesn’t understand “about how history is now and has always been written.” Zinn had always been abundantly clear with his book: He wrote it as a counter to traditional history, which is often written from a conservative, elitist point of view. Kazin even mentions this in his Dissent article, yet Daniels fails to realize this and looked to capitalize merely at the chance that a well-known academic shared somewhat similar sentiments.
- “Group Says Mitch Daniels Lifted Passages Wholesale In Attack On Zinn, Experts Have Doubts” by Hayleigh Colombo at The Lafayette Journal & Courier. Hayleigh Colombo, a Butler University grad and former editor-in-chief of The Butler Collegian, is a friend here at The Liberal Artist. She’s been covering the entire Daniels-Zinn hullabaloo at the Journal & Courier, and her coverage is worth reading, especially how Purdue professors responded to Daniels’ actions. (Yes, we admit our bias.)
I can’t forget to include one last link, one of our own, in fact. In March 2012, I spoke with Paul Hanson, PhD, a professor of history at Butler University whose courses I took as an undergraduate. In that interview, I specifically asked him about Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, and what it means to think critically when it comes to history and life in general. Make sure to read Dr. Hanson’s response here. It’s worth your while.
If anything, I think one thing is certain from this situation. I never knew Howard Zinn, but I bet he most likely would have enjoyed the fact this generated a robust discussion in many public circles.
Buckle down, comrades. We’ve got some great reading/listening/viewing for you this week. We’re trying to appeal to all senses this week…except taste. Don’t lick your computer screen.
- “Hot In My Backyard” at This American Life. Three acts of climate change and why it’s so important today? Yeah, Ira Glass and Co. nailed this episode.
- “America’s First Climate Refugees” by Suzanne Goldenberg and Richard Sprenger at The Guardian. Piggybacking off our TAL pick, this feature from The Guardian on Newtok, Alaska, paints a scary reality for residents in isolated, coastal areas. Climate change is forcing us to add the term “climate refugee” to our vocabulary.
- Energy Realities. This submission isn’t an article. It’s an entire website that you probably have never heard of (but fits with our climate change theme a bit for this week). There are amazing infographics–Iceland appears to be decades ahead of the rest of the world for alternative energy sources–and it’s a great resource to educate yourself and loved ones on how our world uses energy. Energy Realities was also a nominee for the Webby Award’s Corporate Social Responsibility category.
- “See You On The Other Side” by Sara Morrison at Columbia Journalism Review. Really, Jessica Lum is a new inspiration of sorts for this website. She didn’t let life-threatening cancer stop her from doing what she loves, and while The Liberal Artist is a far cry from some of her work, like Slab City Stories, Lum epitomized a simple concept: Find your passion, and just do it, damnit. Don’t be your own barrier.
- “CPS Board Votes To Close 50 Schools” by Becky Vevea at WBEZ. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans on closing 50 public schools in the city, the biggest mass school closure in American history. Regardless of view, this is a must-follow story, especially for those who are concerned schools are being treated too much like factories and not enough like community hubs of learning and safety.
- Arches National Park. The Department of the Interior recently tweeted out a photo in honor of International Dark Sky Week, and this was the beauty that was highlighted. It’s the clear skies of Arches National Park, located in southeast Utah. Enjoy.
We haven’t stopped reading, but we have stopped posting. Since last time we were around, the country’s changed.
Here’s a bit of what we’ve appreciated in the last few weeks.
- “A Lesson From The Army On Making Sense Of The News,“ by Lt. Col. Robert Bateman from Esquire. “Never believe the first report” is a lesson the author learned in the army, a lesson to be patient with breaking news. Patience and breaking news do not go well together, but as news consumers, he argues, we’d be best to try and wait out those first reports for the true reports.
- “Stepping on Jesus,” by Stanley Fish, The New York Times Opinionator. How do we teach controversy? The jury is still out.
- “Bassem Youssef is no Jon Stewart,” by Avi Asher-Shapiro in Jacobin. We’re nothing if not fans of Jon Stewart, but this article takes a different perspective on our late-night newsman.
- Pulitzer Prizes. The events of April 15 overshadowed the naming of the Pulitzers, but that doesn’t make the work that earned the prizes any less admirable.
A conundrum we face weekly: So much to read, such limited time in a day. Twenty-five hours in a day would be great, wouldn’t it? Pretend you have that extra hour, and check out these great reads.
- “I Do Not Fear Death” by Roger Ebert at Salon. Roger Ebert defined the parameters of the journalistic review world, and in memory of his recent death, here is one of his finest general reflection pieces. Ebert wrote many of these types of articles as he battled his cancer. A quote to meditate on from this: “I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world.”
- “Some Objective Moral Truths?” by Harry Brighouse at Crooked Timber. Are you ready for a mental exercise? Harry Brighouse, a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, says there are, indeed, certain moral truths that we can all agree on (e.g., “Human suffering is bad”), contrary to a New York Times opinion article. However, are our moral instincts influenced by certain situations, phrasing, etc., that it would lead us to believe that there is no such thing as an absolute moral truth?
- “Jana Winter: Facing Jail Time For Doing Her Job” by Judith Miller at the Los Angeles Times. Jana Winter is a reporter currently faces jail time for not disclosing sources related to last year’s Aurora, Colorado, shooting. There’s a fine line between an independent press, a court gag order and the right to a fair trial, but should Jana Winter be in this position? Keep in mind, however, that the author of this article is a former New York Times reporter who fell far from grace after perpetuating bogus stories about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
- “Mono Crater California” by Keith Skelton. This is real life.