I was nine when Kent State happened. I was a very current events-minded kid and read about it in the paper and saw the news. But I didn’t really understand it all. So I absorbed the narrative around me: buncha … Continue reading Kent State and 75 Minutes That Changed My Life
The Amy Wax/UPenn problem isn’t about academic freedom, it’s about unexamined privilege. And firing her won’t solve the problem. Continue reading “Privilege, thy name is Amy Wax”
Is the right to protest itself a function of privilege?
These kids raise good questions. Would there be massive high school walkouts across the country today if Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS was a predominately black inner-city school in Philly? In a neighborhood where there’s nothing special at all about gun violence? Continue reading “Would there be high school walkouts today if Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a black High School?”
Donald Trump isn’t an anomaly. He isn’t an outlier. He isn’t a blip on the radar of history. He’s the very embodiment of the black, ignorant American soul.
[Apologies in advance. These issues may seem unrelated to some of you, but the dots connect perfectly in my head. I’ll let you know when the big leap is about to happen.]
Jim and I have been chatting offline. I hope you’ve been reading his recent work, especially the McDonaldization series and his outstanding tribute to Tom Petty, which goes way past Petty’s career and into some deeper questions about the genre we know as “Rock.” He concluded a recent email with this: Continue reading “Overthinking: rock music, pop culture, Donald Trump and America’s desperate race to the bottom”
Grammar nazis may not like it, but many of our language rules are artifacts of ancient languages that no longer serve a meaningful purpose. I’ve been a writer since the ’70s. I’ve written poetry, fiction, academic, business, political and entertainment … Continue reading Its time to rid the English language of it’s outdated grammar and punctuation rules
America is a great idea, but it’s hard to love these days.
At some point tonight millions and millions of us will find ourselves sitting in a stadium or a park or maybe on a city rooftop or a grassy hill in the country, staring at the sky, celebrating our country’s anniversary by watching the annual fireworks show. I won’t lie – I love fireworks. They’re spectacular to watch, but beyond that I’m fascinated by how they work. How do you get one to look like a flower? How do you get multiple colors in one burst? I assume I could learn these things if I spent the time, but regardless, it’s a pretty cool exercise in artistry.
But I don’t love everything about fireworks shows. If you’re at an official civic event you’ll certainly get to hear Lee Greenwood belting out his famous “God Bless the USA.” This is a massively famous and popular song, having reached #7 on the Billboard Country charts. It’s sold over a million copies and there’s no telling how much it has earned Greenwood in royalties.
It’s also perhaps the greatest lie ever set to music. Bear with me.
America is a wonderful idea. Continue reading “Happy 4th of July: what does “freedom” mean to you?”
It’s about tribalism. You cannot work with Trumpists. Period. You must defeat them and then fix the problems that handed them control.
It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into. – Jonathan Swift
Since the moment of Campaign 2016 when it became clear that Donald Trump actually had a chance, a lot of people have done a lot of thinking and pontificating and punditofying and writing and hand-wringing about the reasons for his viability. On one end of the spectrum: Donald gave the drooling, racist, misogynist, xenophobic, ignorant, anti-intellectual, hillbillies a cynical, smirking, dog-whistling charlatan they could line up behind. On the other, we’ve had all manner of thoughtful, complex analyses about how economic anxiety (and utter despair) fueled the rise of a non-partisan populist backlash against a political establishment that has spent decades betraying those it represents.
Both versions are compelling because each was built on a measure of observable truth. Continue reading “The only way to defeat Trump and his supporters”
We need a new American consensus driven by a commitment to knowledge, reason and good faith engagement with those whose views differ from our own.
For decades I have toyed with the idea that we could use a civic forum for popular debate, an organization that would make it possible for communities to discuss the issues of the day in ways that would spark thought and reflection, perhaps enabling better decision-making come Election Day. This idea has grown stronger over the past 20 years, as the combined corrosive mechanisms of partisan tribalism, cable media and, worst of all, the Internet and social media seemed to find new and better ways of tearing society apart, making us dumber and more hateful in the process.
I broached the idea recently with friends and colleagues and their response convinced me that now was the time to give it a try. So I have founded what I’m ambitiously calling the American Civic Debate Union. Our first event will be held next Sunday here in Denver, and it will feature me squaring off with my good friend Dr. Frank Venturo over the question of whether the US ought to do something, once and for all, about the Electoral College. If so, what? Continue reading “Introducing the American Civic Debate Union: first event addresses the Electoral College”
The only thing worse than the willfully ignorant is the legion of apologists enabling them.
Since the election – before, really – we’ve heard a lot of talk about how all those urban liberal elites need to stop being so arrogant and start listening to very real concerns of real Americans in rural flyover values America.
We have more recently begun to see some informed pushback against this
silliness self-serving rhetorical engineering masquerading as good-faith socio-political analysis. Now we’ve hit the daily double, though.
First, our friend Otherwise passed along a righteous rant from a very frustrated Melinda Byerley, CMO of TimeShare. Have a quick look. Continue reading “Rural elites: I've had it with the arrogance of ignorance (and its promoters)”
Journalism RIP: gone and apparently forgotten
Here’s a sampling of the Google News headlines this morning for a search on [tiffany martinez]:
- Professor Leaves Racist Note on Student’s Paper – Yahoo News-22 hours ago
- The broader implications of unfairly accusing a Latina student of plagiarism – Inside Higher Ed-Nov 1, 2016
- Professor accuses Latina student of plagiarism for using the word hence – The Grio-Oct 29, 2016
- Latina accused of plagiarizing after using ‘hence’ in essay – New York Post-Oct 30, 2016
- Latina college student is accused of plagiarism because she used the word ‘hence’ in an essay – Daily Mail-Oct 29, 2016
- Latina College Student Used ‘Hence’ In Paper, Is Accused Of Plagiarism – Highly Cited-Huffington Post-Oct 28, 2016
- A Professor Circled “Hence” On A Latina Student’s Paper And Wrote “This Is Not Your Word” – BuzzFeed News-Oct 28, 2016
- Student accused of plagiarism by professor for using the word ‘Hence’ – Gistmaster (blog)-8 hours ago
The trending case of a Suffolk University student accused of cheating in front of her class raises more questions than her manipulative story answers…
On Thursday, a Suffolk University student named Tiffany Martínez posted a blog in which she described how her professor had attacked her in front of a class for using language that was “not her own.”
This morning, my professor handed me back a paper (a literature review) in front of my entire class and exclaimed “this is not your language.” On the top of the page they wrote in blue ink: “Please go back and indicate where you cut and paste.” The period was included. They assumed that the work I turned in was not my own. My professor did not ask me if it was my language, instead they immediately blamed me in front of peers. On the second page the professor circled the word “hence” and wrote in between the typed lines “This is not your word.” The word “not” was underlined. Twice. My professor assumed someone like me would never use language like that. As I stood in the front of the class while a professor challenged my intelligence I could just imagine them reading my paper in their home thinking could someone like her write something like this?
Martínez is right to be sensitive to the issues of bias she points out. Continue reading “The Tiffany Martínez case: her post is long on emotional appeal and short on details”
Partisan discourse can’t sink much lower. Now is the time to resurrect a format that was made for political debates.
The third and final “debate” between presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is now mercifully in the rearview mirror, but like a direct hit from an aggrieved skunk, it might take weeks for the stink to fully die down. This trifecta of vitriolic spew has held a mirror up before the face of the American system of political discourse, and what we’re seeing is utterly wretched.
And for what? What have we learned? Did the debates make us smarter? Did it leave us more capable of rendering an informed decision? Did it shed light on the election and the best interests of the Republic?
The sad truth is that the truth is pretty sad. These charades, these lowest common denominator spectacles, these premeditated travesties of dishonesty and rhetorical misdirection, we call them debates but they are no such thing. A real debate between candidates would be a wonderful thing, though. Continue reading “Resolved: that future presidential debates ought to use the Lincoln-Douglas format”
It’s World Teachers Day. And I’m a little distressed by how little mention I have seen of it flying around on my Facebook feed. But then, what do I expect?
Once upon a time we celebrated teachers for their wisdom and commitment to making their communities better places. Now, in addition, we celebrate them for their superhuman perseverance in the face of utterly overwhelming odds. Some of the stories I’ve heard from teachers border on the harrowing. And I’m just talking about what they’re expected to do in the classroom. Never mind what those who work in de facto war zones face.
It is hard to be truly dedicated to something that your society is at best indifferent, and at worst is actively hostile toward. Continue reading “It's World Teachers Day: who changed your life?”
It’s now clear that democracy, as practiced in an anti-intellectual society like ours, doesn’t work. Let’s give elitism (properly understood) a try.
Many of you probably read Andrew Sullivan’s New York Magazine piece back in April. If not, you should do so as soon as possible – it’s among the most important and insightful political essays we have seen in a generation and will reward your time. I won’t even try to summarize his message, because no paraphrase I could provide would do it justice. Short version: the US is in trouble, and democracy is perhaps the reason.
Sullivan got me to thinking, in some depth, about where I am politically and how I got here. More importantly, where do I go now? Continue reading “Democracy in America: a bad idea”
April 20, 1999. I remember exactly where I was, exactly what I was doing. My co-worker at US West, Joe Lopez, turned to me and said “hey Sammy, there’s been a shooting at a school down in Littleton.” “Find out everything you can,” I said. I’ll go tell Marti. Marti was Marti Smith, our VP, and thus began some of the hardest days those of us in Colorado have ever had to confront. It was also the moment when I realized that North Carolina, the state I grew up in, was no longer home. This piece – “Columbine and the … Continue reading Columbine: 17 years ago today
- Critical thinking is something you make yourself do.
- Critical thinking is something you do automatically.
- Critical thinking is something you can’t stop doing.
- Critical thinking is who you are.
Hopefully you’re on the spectrum somewhere, preferably at four or working your way to it.
I noted this because I’ve been thinking about Facebook memes. Continue reading “Critical thinking 101: how to read a meme (think – it ain't illegal yet)”
Imagine the following scenario.
After last year’s Super Bowl win the New England Patriots enter the 2015-16 season as strong contenders to repeat. However, for reasons that aren’t immediately clear, they come out of the gate slowly, losing a series of games they’d be expected to win. As the middle of the season approaches, things have grown dire. The Pats are 1-6, rumors swirl that Bill Belichick has lost the locker room, and nobody except the weakside linebacker is playing worth a damn. Linemen can’t block, all-pro receivers have forgotten how to catch and Tom Brady has thrown 20 interceptions against zero touchdown passes.
Bob Kraft finally throws in the towel and fires Belichick. In the next game, with the secondary coach acting as interim head coach, the Patriots look like their old selves as they roll Cleveland 35-3.
Insane, huh? But that’s more or less exactly what has happened with English Premier League Champions Chelsea FC this season. Continue reading “Je suis Mourinho”
I’ve been wrestling a bit with my career situation lately. Like a lot of folks, I feel like I’m not being compensated very well, and that suspicion is validated by some basic salary research – and also by the CEO, who admits that the company needs to normalize a lot of salaries with the broader market.
Of course, the people I work with love me and get the importance of what I do. But they aren’t making the call on salary. Not long ago, in prepping for a conversation on the subject with the person I report to, and trying to decide how best to represent my position, and trying to anticipate what he might say, it hit me.
The company appreciates me, but it doesn’t value me. Continue reading “America appreciates teachers, but we don't value them”
I appreciate the fact that we live in an age where finally – finally – we have grown more sensitive on issues like race, gender, sexual orientation and privilege. (I wish I could add class to that list, but so far I can’t.) I’m sincere about this. The language we use can do more harm (or good) than I think 99% of us imagine, and we are a better society for our growing awareness of how important words can be.
We can also take this sensitivity too far. It can become a weapon for cudgeling intellectual discussion (if you’ve been watching the news lately you know which elite northeastern campus I’m referring to) and, as we’re seeing in a story this morning, a smoke machine that completely obscures any attempt at basic communication. Continue reading “Andrea Quenette controversy: what happened at the U of Kansas and why won't the AP tell us?”
US culture is like a zombie apocalypse.
MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report) – Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports. Continue reading “Zombie America: a metaphor”