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Archive for July, 2014

Touch Screen Generation

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

In the Atlantic Hannah Rosin offers a unique insight into kids and technology.

WWI and America’s Rise as a Superpower

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

America’s rise to superpower status began with its 1917 entry into World War I. President Woodrow Wilson had grand visions for the peace that followed, but failed. The battle he started in the US between idealists and realists continues to this day.

Der Spiegel explores WWI and America’s Rise as a Superpower

Was World War I the outcome of elite machinations?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

What caused Europe to immolate itself? World War I, after all, was neither an avalanche nor a tempest but a ghastly man-made disaster. The question of responsibility has preoccupied Europe, and its historians, since the war began, and the identification of culprits has also varied over time, running the gamut from German militarism to reckless diplomacy, the faceless forces of imperialism and nationalism, and ideologies like social Darwinism. The debate has never been purely academic…

Not surprisingly, the approaching centenary of the fateful summer of 1914 has elicited new reflections on the war’s causes. While the current crop of books on the outbreak of the war offer a range of perspectives, they tend, on balance, to find blood primarily on the hands of Europe’s “Great Men,” a small cabal of diplomats, kings, military leaders and their advisers. In her highly readable The War That Ended Peace, Margaret MacMillan concludes that “the decisions that took Europe into that war—or failed to prevent it—were made by a surprisingly small number, and those men—few women played a role—came largely but not entirely from the upper classes, whether the landed aristocracy or the urban plutocracy.” 

The significance of the Gettysburg Address

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

IN THE AFTERMATH of the Battle of Gettysburg, both sides, leaving fifty thousand dead or wounded or missing behind them, had reason to maintain a large pattern of pretense—Lee pretending that he was not taking back to the South a broken cause, Meade that he would not let the broken pieces fall through his fingers. It would have been hard to predict that Gettysburg, out of all this muddle, these missed chances, all the senseless deaths, would become a symbol of national purpose, pride, and ideals. Abraham Lincoln transformed the ugly reality into something rich and strange—and he did it with 272 words. The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration.

Historian Garry Wills explores The significance of the Gettysburg Address

The Great Society at 50

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Karen Tumulty at WaPo offers this four part critical reflection on the Great Society

Part 1: The Great Society at 50

Part 2: The legacy — and limits — of the Great Society in Prince George’s County, Md.

Part 3: Job Corps is very popular. But does it work?

Part 4: Lyndon Johnson’s lasting impact on the arts

The first world war: Look back with angst

Friday, July 25th, 2014

A century on, there are uncomfortable parallels with the era that led to the outbreak of the first world war…

Yet the parallels remain troubling. The United States is Britain, the superpower on the wane,
unable to guarantee global security. Its main trading partner, China, plays the part of Germany, a new economic power bristling with nationalist indignation and building up its armed forces rapidly. Modern Japan is France, an ally of the retreating hegemon and a declining regional power. The parallels are not exact—China lacks the Kaiser’s territorial ambitions and America’s defence budget is far more impressive than imperial Britain’s—but they are close enough for the world to be on its guard. Which, by and large, it is not.

The Economist draws the parallel on the even of the centenary


The FBI files on being and nothingness

Friday, July 25th, 2014

The irony that emerges from the FBI files on Camus and Sartre, spanning several decades is that the G-men, initially so anti-philosophical, find themselves reluctantly philosophizing. They become (in GK Chesterton’s phrase) philosophical policemen.

Hoover needed to know if Existentialism and Absurdism were some kind of front for Communism. To him, everything was potentially a coded re-write of the Communist Manifesto. That was the thing about the Manifesto—it was not manifest: more often it was, as Freud would say, latent. Thus FBI agents were forced to become psychoanalysts and hermeneuts…Thus we find intelligence agents studying scholarly works and attending lectures.

But the FBI were “philosophical policemen” in a second sense: in tracking Camus and Sartre (surveillance, eavesdropping, wiretapping, theft) they give expression to their own brand of philosophical investigations. In particular, the FBI philosophy files reveal how the agency became so dogmatically anti-conspiratorial.

The Disturbing Relevance of WWI

Friday, July 25th, 2014

It has now been 100 years since the outbreak of World War I, but the European catastrophe remains relevant today. As the Continent looks back this year, old wounds could once again be rubbed raw.

Reading Response Questions

The Case Against High-School Sports

Friday, July 25th, 2014

“In these communities, the dominant argument is usually that sports lure students into school and keep them out of trouble—the same argument American educators have made for more than a century. And it remains relevant, without a doubt, for some small portion of students.

But at this moment in history, now that more than 20 countries are pulling off better high-school-graduation rates than we are, with mostly nominal athletic offerings, using sports to tempt kids into getting an education feels dangerously old-fashioned. America has not found a way to dramatically improve its children’s academic performance over the past 50 years, but other countries have—and they are starting to reap the economic benefits…

Imagine, for a moment, if Americans transferred our obsessive intensity about high-school sports—the rankings, the trophies, the ceremonies, the pride—to high-school academics.”

Amanda Ripley makes a compelling case against the American obsession in Slate.

Stop Multitasking: You’re not good at it

Friday, July 25th, 2014

“Evidence from psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience suggests that when students multitask while doing schoolwork, their learning is far spottier and shallower than if the work had their full attention. They understand and remember less, and they have greater difficulty transferring their learning to new contexts.”

“I don’t care if a kid wants to tweet while she’s watching American Idol, or have music on while he plays a video game. But when students are doing serious work with their minds, they have to have focus.”

“Under most conditions, the brain simply cannot do two complex tasks at the same time. It can happen only when the two tasks are both very simple and when they don’t compete with each other for the same mental resources. An example would be folding laundry and listening to the weather report on the radio. That’s fine. But listening to a lecture while texting, or doing homework and being on Facebook—each of these tasks is very demanding, and each of them uses the same area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.”

Read the evidence from the Slate. AND STOP IT!