The Public Humanist

The Public Humanist contributor: David Tebaldi

David TebaldiDavid Tebaldi has been the Executive Director of Mass Humanities since 1985. A native of Springfield, David graduated from Clark University and went on to receive his MA and Ph.D. degrees, both in philosophy, at Rutgers University. After teaching philosophy and applied ethics at Cook College and the University of Wyoming, he became Assistant Director of the Wyoming Council for the Humanities. David has written a number of scholarly articles and professional articles and reviews and is editor of an anthology, Reflecting on Values: The Unity and Diversity of the Humanities. David has been Visiting Associate Professor of Philosophy at Mount Holyoke College, where he has taught occasional courses and lectured in environmental philosophy. He has also been a Visiting Lecturer in English at Amherst College.

Nature, Culture, and the Art of Breathing Underwater

Still from The Newsroom: Humans can't breathe underwater

It may be too late to prevent the worst effects of climate change, but even that won’t stop humans from being hopeful and resourceful.

Read More...

Key Documents for Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict

This collection of annotated primary sources prepared by David Tebaldi was originally posted here on The Public Humanist on August 3, 2009. He also prepared this annotated list of novels and memoirs selected to further illuminate the conflict.

Read More...

The Tragedy of Climate Change

In the latest in a series of reports released this spring, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned again that governments are not doing enough to avert the profound risks associated with rising levels of carbon in our atmosphere. The national assessment of climate report released soon thereafter in Washington states that these risks are no longer merely theoretical or far in the future. We are already experiencing higher temperatures, greater precipitation and more frequent and intense winter storms.

Read More...

E Pluribus Paralysis

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens.

Read More...

What Happened to Civility?

American political discourse seems to be on a path to paralysis. Extremist rhetoric and demagoguery, half-truths and outright lies, and the politics of personal destruction permeate every level of public debate, from Congress to traditional media to the Internet. This lack of civility appears to threaten central features of our democracy and is a cause of increasing alarm among the general public. According to one recent poll, two-out-of-three Americans consider a general lack of civility to be a major problem for the nation.

Read More...

Civility Charter

The following is the current iteration of a “Civility Charter,” distilled from a public conversation at the newly formed Center for Civil Discourse at UMass Boston held on February 17: “Civility and American Democracy: A National Forum. The charter will define the relevance and role of civil discourse in our world today and serve as a guiding document for the ongoing work of the Center for Civil Discourse.

Read More...

Book Review: God’s Jury

With GOD’S JURY, Vanity Fair Editor at Large and former Mass Humanities board member Cullen Murphy has written a worthy successor to his widely praised ARE WE ROME? Like the earlier book, GOD’S JURY provides a learned yet accessible angle on the past while illuminating its connections to the present. Those who enjoy Murphy’s erudition, his intriguing asides and dry wit will not be disappointed with this latest effort.

Read More...

The Information Sage: An Interview with Virginia Heffernan

This year, Internet guru Virginia Heffernan headlines the Mass Humanities benefit dinner at Boston College on November 19. Find out more about attending the dinner. Earlier this fall, Mass Humanities Executive Director David Tebaldi talked to our annual symposium panelist and Internet writer Virginia Heffernan on just where the rabbit hole of the Web is taking us.

Read More...

What Teaching American History Can Teach Us

We’ve gotten sadly used to reports about Americans’ woeful lack of knowledge about their own history. Still, the recent announcement from federal education officials that U.S. students are less proficient in their nation’s history than in any other subject and that, overall, only 20 percent of fourth-graders, 17 percent of eighth-graders, and 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrated proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress is dismaying if not surprising.

Read More...

Is America in Decline?

In a lengthy and widely cited cover story for the January/February 2010 issue of The Atlantic magazine that serves as the conceptual framework for Mass Humanities’ seventh annual fall symposium and is paradoxically entitled “How America Can Rise Again” (I say paradoxically because his conclusion is that we probably cannot rise again – but that’s okay because we really haven’t fallen behind in any important respects), national correspondent James Fallows makes a number of interesting and provocative arguments.

Read More...

Reading List for Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict

About a year ago I began developing a proposal for the third in our series of library reading and discussion programs that began in 2003 with Understanding Islam and was followed in 2006 by Understanding the Modern Middle East. The new program would focus specifically on the political conflict that lies at the heart of the troubled Middle East and seek to provide a broad and balanced understanding of both the history and the present state of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Read More...

Rights in Conflict: Israel’s Right to Exist and the Palestinians’ Right of Return

In an extended interview reported on earlier this week in the New York Times, Hamas leader Kaled Meshal announced that rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza have ceased and promised the Obama administration and the international community that Hamas will be “part of the solution, period” in the Middle East.

Read More...

Calling the Tune or Tuning the Call?

I am loathe to disagree with Larry Hott for whom I have enormous respect as a filmmaker, a grant seeker, and all-around mensch, but all three of these topics, including even the anti-bike path backlash, are appropriate subjects for a humanities documentary. NEH and state humanities council funding influences not so much the subject matter of a documentary, as the approach that is used in telling the story.

Read More...

Do You Have a License to Carry that Child?

I’m wondering why we need a license to get married, but we don’t need a license to have kids – especially considering the fact that a bad marriage is easily undone and does no irreparable harm, whereas bad parenting can create a legacy of misery that affects large numbers of innocents and often gets passed on from progeny to progeny. The English poet Philip Larkin made this point memorably in his poem, This Be The Verse: They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

Read More...

Guns Don’t Kill People . . . People with Guns Kill People

I agreed to write a commentary on Dan Gordon’s March 10post about specialization versus general education (which strikes me as cogentand wise), but I can’t get the image of Eve Marie Carson out of my head or thehorror of her violent death out of my heart. Eve Marie Carson was the 23-year old University of North Carolina senior and student body president shot and killed execution-style last weekend, apparently for her car and credit cards, by a sociopath with a handgun.

Read More...

The Ethics of Civic Discourse

After nearly 30 years of organizing conferences, symposia,colloquia, reading and discussion programs, and panel discussions examining avast array of public issues, you’d think I’d be an expert at handlingcontroversy. I’m not.The conventional wisdom among people in the public humanities business is that bringing the perspectives of the humanities to bear on controversial issues replaces the heat of passion with the light of reason.

Read More...

Global warming IS a moral issue

In March 2007, leaders of several conservative Christian groups sent a letter to the National Association of Evangelicals complaining that the organization’s focus on global warming is diverting attention from “the great moral issues of our time,”namely abortion and sexual morality.

Read More...

In Search of the Common Good

American society today suffers from two fundamental anxieties. One is economic and has many sources, including the accelerating pace of technological change, the impact ofour economy and ways of life on the environment, the globalization of bothlabor and capital, and worrisome demographic trends. Our other anxiety is moral.

Read More...