The Public Humanist

Our blog publishes the voices of many contributors who use the humanities to explore our world. Reader commentary is encouraged. Consider contributing – complete form. Editor David Morgan.

Teaching about Race

Mervan Osborne’s recent post made agreat deal of sense to me. As a formerhigh school history and humanities teacher (independent and public schools) and a member of the Education Department at Tufts, I found that race was a topic that, in some way, shape, manner, or form I had to address with my students everyday. The term, as we all know, is loaded. It carries with it a great deal of baggage. Our students have generally learned that it is a subject to avoid in public, because it can suddenly turn explosive.

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Addressing Race in School: Thoughts on the Evolution of the Black and White Discussion in the American Classroom

In June of 1990, five hundred recent college graduates convened at the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles to participate in Teach For America’s inaugural Summer Teaching Institute. Over the next ten weeks, these idealistic and energetic young people participated in education classes and workshops taught by an all-star roster of instructors from around the country and worked as teacher’s assistants in some of the most challenging schools throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

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The History of Moving Images

Lisa Simmons’ assertion that Hollywood films by and largecontinue to feature damaging stereotypes of African Americans strikes me astrue. But Ms. Simmons’ urging that independent thinkers create images which challenge these stereotypes makes me wonder about the origin and nature of moving images and just what it is that makes them so influential. The history of moving images is remarkably short compared to that of writing, painting and music making.

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Mammy, Jezebel, and the Neighborhood Drug Dealer

In Search of the Common Good by fellow Public Humanist David Tebaldi talks about America suffering from two anxieties, one of them economic and the other moral. I found this conversation very interesting in light of the work I do as an independent film and theater producer and the president of a nonprofit the Color of Film Collaborative, Inc., a nonprofit that supports independent filmmakers creating more diverse images of people of color in the media and performing arts.

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The Law of Unintended Consequences: A Tale of Two Afghanistans

One never knows what to expect when flying into Kabul International Airport and making one’s way into the bustling capital of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. On my first trip to Afghanistan in 2003 I found the city streets filled with bandolier swathed Northern Alliance fighters, the lamp posts decorated with the ribbons of cassette and video tapes that had been symbolically ‘executed’ by the Taliban moral police, and more burqas than a Taliban ‘Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice’ policeman could shake an iron rod at.

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Countering the Orchestra of Orthodoxies: A UMass Amherst Fulbright Scholar Returns from Qatar

How has the US-led overthrow of Iraq’s former government and ongoing military presence changed American and Middle Eastern societies?Several broad answers are obvious. The 2003 war led Iraqis to more personal andpolitical freedoms. Yet this came alongside widespread death, violence, and insecurity, bringing back the relevance of philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, who prioritize the need for political order over rights and democracy. I

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Educating Us and Them: Breaking Stereotypes and Moving Towards a More Effective Correctional System

I wholeheartedly agree with my colleague, Kristen Bumiller, who argues that increasing access to higher education for people caught up in the criminal justice system could make a world of difference for individuals, their families, and the communities they reside in. Multiple studies have concluded that education is instrumental in reducing recidivism rates by increasing earning potential, and improving self-esteem and decision-making skills.

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Education, Prisons, and Battling Misperceptions

In Massachusetts and across the nation the formerly incarcerated are faced with often-insurmountable obstacles in finding jobs, rebuilding relationships and rejoining communities. The surest way to improve their chances for success is indisputably providing opportunities to pursue a college degree. A college education provides not only skills and credentials, but more importantly, it helps to repair the psychic damage caused by social exclusion.

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A Philosopher’s Calling Card

Every profession gets a standard response. You know, the response you get when you mention your work. Lawyers get the eye-roll. Doctors get the question aboutsore elbows and the like. Teachers get the nod of approval, then expressions of regret at how they’re not valued. I’m a philosophy professor. The response to me? "What do you DO with philosophy, anyway?" I’ve heard it so many times.

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The Limits of Reflection

In the wake of half chagrined confessions that I am a philosophy professor, not infrequently — and positively reliably on cramped airplanes — I’m asked what my personal philosophy is. It’s not an entirely unreasonable question. Philosophers are expected to have developed, or at least be on the way to developing, an articulate view of the world, of right conduct, and of the good life.

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