Category Archives: Articles of Note

Can’t run, walk.

Knee still in two pieces. Trying to take a “worthy” walk each day, which offers the chance to listen.

This week:
Monday: Start the Week How the world thinks
Tuesday: Richard White talking about his latest book
Wednesday: Bookworm with Tommy Orange.`
Friday: Bookworm, Joshua Cohen and BBC: In our Time: Hope

One thing I’ve noticed: about ten years ago a bunch of universities put these awesome courses on-line. For example, David Blight’s Yale course on the Civil War and Reconstruction, with a series of awesome lectures, is still there. But this practice seems to have stopped. Why?

One other thing I’ve noticed: It’s really hard to search the back content of podcasts. I’m having much better luck searching youtube for book talks, presentations, and speeches.

Anxiety: selling ourselves

Apart from this blog — 12 unique hits! This month! — I don’t do that much of this. Whippman’s points are solid, though, in a world where not everyone has the luxury of being an inner-city school teacher, a job with reasonable benefits and union protection from the worst vagaries of the market. She writes:

Kudos to whichever neoliberal masterminds came up with this system. They sell this infinitely seductive torture to us as “flexible working” or “being the C.E.O. of You!” and we jump at it, salivating, because on its best days, the freelance life really can be all of that.

But as long as we are happy to be paid for our labor in psychological rather than financial rewards, those at the top are delighted to comply. While we grub and scrabble and claw at one another chasing these tiny pellets of self-esteem, the bug-brooch barons still pocket the actual cash.

And I’d like to read this study and look at this “Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale.”

J. Haidt

I heard Jonathan Haidt on Start the Week and liked what he had to say.

Here’s a review of his most recent book, which I gather is based on a story in the Atlantic.

Here are the three points:

The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.

The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.

The Untruth of Us vs. Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

I tend to feel the first two while teaching university. The second is something I’ve spent my entire high-school teaching career railing against; kids and peers are undoubtedly sick of me saying “emotions aren’t evidence” alongside of “what’s your evidence for that claim.”

Muhammad Ali quote

There’s a great article by Tom Verducci in SI. Two quotes stuck out for me:

“I never thought of losing, but now that it’s happened, the only thing to do is do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.”

Muhammad Ali

Verducci also quotes Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“But who shall dare to measure loss and gain in this wise? Defeat may be victory in disguise; The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.”

What happens in any organization — a team, a school or classroom, a business — that allows them to work through a difficult time?

Always a danger…

To read a story, share a song, work through a novel that you love with kids. They’re not going to love it the same way.

I re-read the story we’re taking on today on the trolley this morning. This line left me with tears in my eyes:

No more maybe, in other words. Because that is just what happens. One day it is maybe, and then you just know.

Reminded me of a song I heard for the first time in junior high:

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?

Live version here, 1980, 00:04:26-00:04:34.

Note to self: Get it together, man.

First song from our wedding


  • See the Billy Preston quote at the end of this profile.
  • Longreads collected many of the recent articles here.
  • Today’s appreciation from the Wesley Morris/NYT, with this paragraph:

    Because lots of major pop stars now have great, big voices, maybe it’s easy to forget that most Americans had never heard anything quite as dependably great and shockingly big as Ms. Franklin’s. The reason we have watched “Showtime at the Apollo” or “American Idol” or “The Voice” is out of some desperate hope that somebody walks out there and sounds like Aretha. She established a standard for artistic vocal excellence, and it will outlast us all.

TJ and SH

One of the great parts of getting ready to open a year is getting read lots of Annette Gordon-Reed’s work. Along with the books, there’s this piece about Charottesville that concludes with this paragraph:

American ideals have always clashed with harsh American realities. We saw that clash on the grounds of UVA. But how do we continue in the face of depressing realities to allow ourselves to hold fast to the importance of having aspirations, and recognize that the pursuit of high ideals—even if carried out imperfectly—offers the only real chance of bringing forth good in the world? In many ways, grappling with that question is what being a scholar of Jefferson is all about. Perhaps coming fully to grips with the paradoxes that Jefferson’s life presents is what being an American is about.

NYT: How to help a teenager

Short, thoughtful article on what it means for a teenager to be college ready.

This is a great paragraph:

If your college-bound junior or senior still requires external accountability for school work, your child may be telling you he’s not ready for academic independence. Many parents focus too intently on grades themselves, rather than the process by which those grades are attained. If you still feel like the homework police at the end of 11th grade, it’s time to retire. A C-student who can manage his own academic life has a better chance of succeeding in college than an A- or B-student who depends on parental oversight.

It made me think about how I want to communicate with parents this year. Would a regular newsletter be in range? Some sort of document that outlines the work and offers ways to help, i.e., here are the helpful questions you might ask your kid this month.

New Yorker article with lots to chew on

Read this yesterday. Thought I might use it later in the year as a way of helping kids think about how a writer identifies a key question — are things getting better — and then brings a series of close readings to bear upon it. Different disciplinary lenses — psychological, historical, sociological — provide the author with the glue to hold his essay together, although its his skillful writing that provides the connections.

Several quotes to consider:

Was the past good or bad? Are we on the right track or the wrong one? Is life getting better or worse? These questions are easy to ask—pollsters and politicians love asking them—but surprisingly hard to answer. Most historical and statistical evidence shows that life used to be shorter, sicker, poorer, more dangerous, and less free. Yet many people, like Milanovi?, have fond memories of bygone years, and wonder if reports of their awfulness have been exaggerated. Others concede that life used to be worse in some ways, but wonder if it wasn’t also better in others—simpler, more predictable, more spiritual.

The power of bad news is magnified, Pinker writes, by a mental habit that psychologists call the “availability heuristic”: because people tend to estimate the probability of an event by means of “the ease with which instances come to mind,” they get the impression that mass shootings are more common than medical breakthroughs. We’re also guilty of “the sin of ingratitude.” We like to complain, and we don’t know much about the heroic problem-solvers of the past. “How much thought have you given lately to Karl Landsteiner?” Pinker asks. “Karl who? He only saved a billion lives by his discovery of blood groups.”

Later in the year, when we get to writing/reviewing books, I hope I can use this piece as a model.

Rothman, Joshua. “Are Things Getting Better or Worse?” The New Yorker, July 16, 2018.