What we see of history ain’t the whole story

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Senator William Mahone was one of the most maligned political leaders in post-Civil War America. He was also one of the most capable. Compared to the Roman traitor Cataline (by Virginia Democrats), to Moses (by African American congressman John Mercer Langston), and to Napoleon (by himself), Mahone organized and led the most successful interracial political alliance in the post-emancipation South.

pub. 08/2017

Where *and when* you can find Confederate symbols in the US

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But two distinct periods saw a significant rise in the dedication of monuments and other symbols.

The first began around 1900, amid the period in which states were enacting Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise the newly freed African Americans and re-segregate society. This spike lasted well into the 1920s, a period that saw a dramatic resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, which had been born in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.

The second spike began in the early 1950s and lasted through the 1960s, as the civil rights movement led to a backlash among segregationists. These two periods also coincided with the 50th and 100th anniversaries of the Civil War.

pub. 04/2016

Lesson plans and suggestions for teachers in this era of overt bigotry and violence

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While such discussions are often seen as politically charged and teachers like to steer clear of politics, these conversations are about fundamental American values, and age-appropriate ways of discussing hatred and tolerance in a diverse and vibrant democracy are as important as anything young people can learn in school. Civics education has taken a back seat to reading and math in recent years in “the era of accountability,” but it is past time for it to take center stage again in America’s schools.

pub. 08/2017

For more tips and resources, see the Resources lists, What to Do and What to Read.

And it all started with Reagan

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In recent decades, by contrast, only very affluent families — those in roughly the top 1/40th of the income distribution — have received such large raises. Yes, the upper-middle class has done better than the middle class or the poor, but the huge gaps are between the super-rich and everyone else.

The basic problem is that most families used to receive something approaching their fair share of economic growth, and they don’t anymore.

pub. 08/2017

Documenting the Trump Administration’s many shocking moves in the hope that they don’t become our new normal

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Since soon after the 2016 election, Amy Siskind has been steadily cataloguing the craziness around us: Trump’s bizarre tweets and directives, the corrupt actions of those around him, and the subtle and not so subtle changes in our country. Her goal is to remind readers weekly that remembering a nation’s descent into authoritarianism is the key to digging out of it. Google her and you’ll find coverage and interviews all over the place including The Washington Post, Daily Kos, and the LGBT-focused Los Angeles Blade, or read her growing list on Medium, linked above.

pub. weekly from 11/2016

Philosopher Peter Singer on global capitalism and revolution

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The French Revolution was both bloody and world-altering enough that it is still inspiring new books today. More recently, the Cuban revolution showed how socialist idealism can devolve into dictatorship. In both cases, many innocent civilians lost their lives in pursuit of a greater cause. Yet a utilitarian like Singer—judging actions by their collective impact on all living things over time—says that even those messy revolutions may be justifiable. “The question is, do they have to go wrong? Is it inevitable? Is it part of human nature that they go wrong?” he asks. “Maybe in spite of all the bloodshed and things that went wrong, the revolution did lead to the spread of greater equality, of civil rights, of the rule of law throughout Europe. And that was undoubtedly a good thing. Chou En Lai was famously asked whether he thought the French revolution was a good thing and he said ‘It’s too early to tell.’ I’d be prepared to hazard a guess and say it was a good thing.”

pub. 10/2016

 

Feeling powerful prevents us from understanding others

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Subjects under the influence of power, [Keltner] found in studies spanning two decades, acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view…

…And when [Obhi] put the heads of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, he found that power, in fact, impairs a specific neural process, “mirroring,” that may be a cornerstone of empathy. Which gives a neurological basis to what Keltner has termed the “power paradox”: Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.

pub. online 06/2017 (in print 07/2017)