Category Archives: Articles of Note

M. Robinson

Terrific essay here. Too long to try and use in class (reading time is already spoken for) but might use these paragraphs:

“It is often said that America is an idea, stated definitively in early documents left to us by a coterie of men seemingly too compromised to have come up with such glorious language — as we would be, too, if we should happen to achieve anything comparable. Human beings are sacred, therefore equal. We are asked to see one another in the light of a singular inalienable worth that would make a family of us if we let it.”

“This country was, from the outset, a tremendous leap of faith. We tend not to ponder the brutality of the European world at the time our colonies formed and then fledged, so we have little or no idea of the radicalism not only of stating that “men,” as creatures of God, were equal, but of giving the idea profound political consequences by asserting for them unalienable rights, which were defined and elaborated in the Constitution. Our history to the present day is proof that people find justice hard to reach and to sustain. It is also proof that where justice is defined as equality, a thing never to be assumed, justice enlarges its own definition, pushing its margins in light of a better understanding of what equality should mean.”

Love this paragraph, but probably wouldn’t use it:

“If we learn anything from this sad passage in our history it should be that rage and contempt are a sort of neutron bomb in the marketplace of ideas, obviating actual competition. This country would do itself a world of good by restoring a sense of the dignity, even the beauty, of individual ethicalism, of self-restraint, of courtesy. These things might help us to like one another, even trust one another, both necessary to a functioning democracy.”

Marilynne Robinson, “Opinion | Don’t Give Up on America,” The New York Times, October 9, 2020, sec. Opinion,

Elena ferrante Interview

Great interview...will read the new book soon. This response, though, I’ll use in my class sooner rather than later.

To what extent can a person reinvent herself far from her origins? 

I would begin by emphasising that leaving is not betraying one’s origins. Rather, we have to leave in order to assign origins and establish them as the foundation of our growth. Wandering, we transform our bodies into crowded warehouses. New materials weigh on the original ones, modifying them by merging with them, blending with them. We ourselves seesaw between various ways of being, sometimes enriching our identity, sometimes impoverishing it by subtraction. But our birthplace endures. It’s the ground upon which our primary experiences stand, where we first exercise our gaze, first imagine, first express ourselves. And the more solid we find that ground to be, the more varied is our experience of elsewhere…

Screen time

Great piece in The Guardian:

This paragraph…

Admit it: many of you skimmed the last dense sentence, or perhaps everything so far. You sought the information quickly without expending extra time on reflecting further. If so, you missed two opportunities: to examine the basis for the statements, and to propel your own thoughts. That’s because you skimmed, browsed or word-spotted – with no consciousness that in so doing your brain has already begun changing, just as your child’s more malleable brain will.

Harper’s letter

Teaching Materials

The original letter and signatures.
“A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” Harper’s Magazine, July 7, 2020,

A More specific letter on justice and open debate (07/10/2020?)
The Objective, “A More Specific Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” accessed July 18, 2020,

Daily Beast Response (07/07/2020)
Laura Bradley, “J.K. Rowling and Other Assorted Rich Fools Want to Cancel ‘Cancel Culture,’” The Daily Beast, July 7, 2020, sec. entertainment,

Times coverage (07/10/2020)
Jennifer Schuessler, “An Open Letter on Free Expression Draws a Counterblast,” The New York Times, July 10, 2020, sec. Arts,

Slate Coverage (07/10/2020)
Tom Scocca, “The Harper’s Letter Is What Happens When the Discourse Takes Precedence Over Reality,” Slate Magazine, July 10, 2020,

The Guardian Coverage (07/12/2020)
“Harper’s Free Speech Letter Has ‘Moved the Needle’, Says Organiser,” the Guardian, July 12, 2020,

The Atlantic (07/13/2020)
Hannah Giorgis, “A Deeply Provincial View of Free Speech,” The Atlantic, July 13, 2020,

Michelle Goldberg Editorial (07/17/2020)
“Opinion | Do Progressives Have a Free Speech Problem? – The New York Times,” accessed July 18, 2020,


Osita Nwanevu et al., “The Willful Blindness of Reactionary Liberalism,” The New Republic, July 6, 2020,

Great Piece on G Whitmer

The whole article/interview is excellent. I particularly appreciated these paragraphs near the end of the piece:

How did America arrive at this moment? Ronald Reagan famously cracked that the nine scariest words in the English language were: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” What started as a joke about federal overreach metastasized across the decades; government was not only inefficient, but unnecessary, suspect and even dangerous. This antigovernment posture was embraced by many in government itself. Bill Clinton’s 1996 declaration that “the era of big government is over” became self-fulfilling: The less trust Americans had in the ability of government to take care of them, the less government was in fact able to do so. Failure bred cynicism, which bred disengagement. Big government became all government. By the time the pandemic hit, America had elected a president who was himself openly contemptuous of the very notion of good government.

The next paragraph begins with this sentence:

It did not take long to see that the challenge presented by the virus could only be met by strong federal leadership.


It did not take long to see that the challenge presented by racial inequality could only be met by strong federal leadership.

It did not take long to see that the challenge presented by educational inequality could only be met by strong federal leadership.

It did not take long to see that the challenge presented economic inequality could only be met by strong federal leadership.

It has taken so long.

Two other pieces address this notion from a historical perspective. Why, with so many issues, does it apparently take a long, long time?

One, Nikole Hannah-Jones on reparations.

Two, Jill Lepore on commissions formed after civil disorder.