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 John Sieracki.

Cooperative Models of Foreign Policy

I recently heard from an alumnuswho was being sent back to Iraq for his second tour of duty there. This newselicited all sorts of emotions, sadness and anger in particular.The sadness stems from concernsabout the fundamental wrongheadedness of unilateral US foreign policy. (I knowabout the coalition forces, but don’t be fooled by that. This policy was conceived and initiated by one nation.)

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Evaluating the Ephemeral

Cultural organizations in general and state humanitiescouncils in particular have long struggled withthe question of how to evaluate what they do. Is a good head-count at an eventsufficient? Is a high level of engagement during a post-performance talk-backadequate proof that there’s thinking going on? How can certain program conceptsbe packaged for funders so that they will be perceived as compelling andimportant?

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Humanities and the Pleasure Principle

Sometimes Ifeel like a hedonist. No doubt mywife — cosigner of our mortgage, mother to my two young children, and thewoman who gave me my most prized possession (a push mower) — is curious to know when these times are. Well, they happen when talking about the Humanities. For a number of years I have been working in the Clemente Course, a program to bring a free college level humanities course to an under privileged neighborhood in Boston, and every year each of the five teachers gives a spiel about their part of the class and how important the humanities are to each student’s development.

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Class in the Classroom: An Indicator for Teachers about Academic Needs?

In today’s drive to measure and assess all facets of education, magazines rank schools (on the national and local level) by test scores, money spent per student, and other superficial factors. As the school year begins and teachers race to learn lists of students’ names, figure out who needs to sit in the front, and who will need that extra bit of attention, how are these calculations made?

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When a bedskirt is more than just a bedskirt: Thoughts on class, marital discord, and the fear of falling

For the last six months or so my wife and I have been having a low-level argument about whether or not we should put a bedskirt on the bed in our guest room (pictured above). My wife’s argument can be summarized thusly: The metal bed frame is cheap, and the box spring is pretty tattered looking, and if you don’t mask the cheapness and tattered-ness of the frame and box spring with a skirt, then we look cheap and tattered. My argument can be summarized as follows: Bedskirts look cheesy.

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The Rest of the World

A couple of weeks ago, when I was in Ireland, one of the foreign ambassadors posted there (who I suspect would prefer to be left unnamed) told a story at a dinner party. It went like this. The United Nations recently sponsored an international survey, asking the populations of 90 different nations to “offer their personal opinions on the relationship between prosperity and want in the rest of the world.” The results were predictably disappointing.

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Comparative Reflections on Affirmative Action

When I agreed to write about affirmative action for The Public Humanist, I realized quickly that the big challenge was to present this hot issue in a humanistic way. What does it mean to write about a political controversy as a humanist? Karl Marx said that the point is not to interpret the world but to change it (Theses on Feuerbach, no. 11). I don’t agree with that. The important thing is to better one’s understanding.

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The Uses of Second Wave Feminism: Lessons from the Takeover at 888 Memorial Drive

A recent post by Marisa Parham about students’ hesitation touse the “f” word (feminism) struck a chord with me. I have heard this for adecade from students as well as from my peer group (folks in their mid30s). Since this disavowal of“feminism” seems so severe and pervasive I’ve tried to sort out its genesis.

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Two cheers for liberalism

So what is American liberalism, and how (if at all) has itchanged since the 60’s? Is it truly as irrelevant to our times as the "re-branding" of Senator Clinton and others would seem to indicate? In its broadest meaning, the classical political liberalism that emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries – based upon constitutional government and individual rights – is an intellectual heritage shared by liberals and conservatives alike.

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Change Comes From the Bottom Up

During the July 23 CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton was asked if she would describe herself as a liberal. A serious enough question you might say, but the audience laughed.Why? Mainly, I think, because“liberal” has long been such an effective political pejorative we can hardlyimagine a major presidential contender embracing the label. The laughter anticipated an almost certainevasion. How will she wiggle out of this one?

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