RED/People

Notes from Our Past: Understanding the Threat of a Demagogue

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There’s no clearer sign about the character of this year’s presidential contest than the renewed interest in asking Google,  “What is a demagogue?” Senator Joseph McCarthy (led the Communist witch hunt) and Governor George C. Wallace (defended segregation) have landed in the news again as everyone grapples with whether or not we’re on the verge of electing a demagogue to the highest office. We all know demagogues are bad and could probably name a couple. What we really want to know is if we have the self-governing skills to recognize a demagogue without the benefit of reading about it in a…

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A Student Steps Up: Creative Impatience and the Willingness to Act

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As a High School Civics teacher, I am often and absolutely embarrassed by my own lack of civic activism. While I am encouraging and requiring and rewarding my students for getting involved in something – ANYTHING! – that they care about to protect or improve their communities, I nearly never practice what I preach. And it’s not simply that as a young, charter school teacher, my time and energy seem to disappear into an unending vortex of planning/grading/updating/bureaucracizing. OR the fact that as a perpetual presenter of the fair and balanced, I am daily forced to equivocate, moderate and pause…

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Echoes: Creativity and Aristotle’s Potluck

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As classic works become more familiar you find those ideas are anything but dead and gone. In fact, they have us surrounded. The ubiquity of ideas you’ve come to associate with Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Federalists or Antifederalists suggests those writers captured something fundamental about how we understand the world and ourselves. Our Echoes series attempts to capture these reverberations through time. Perhaps there is new insight to be seen by presenting the past to the present and vice versa. I recently read Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer in an attempt to keep thinking creatively despite the doldrums of…

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MLK’s Supporting Vocals

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We’ve all heard the sound clip of MLK’s speech from 50 years ago when thousands joined him and other leaders for the March on Washington. The refrain, “I have a dream” might be even be more recognizable to today’s students than pictures of the man himself. Whatever your social media channel, it has been overrun with pictures and memories from the moment on the mall. There is no denying that those are powerful words that have a power today few could have imagined 50 years ago. Much has been made about the genius of King who improvised those famous words…

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Reading List: The Warmth of Other Suns

Reading List: The Warmth of Other Suns

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If you’ve ever taught the Civil Rights Movement or even had a conversation about it, there’s a book you should read. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson reminded me of one of my favorite classroom moments talking about the Movement. It also made me re-think what I taught while I was there. First, that classroom moment… It was Black History month and two of my students asked to interview me about the Civil Rights Movement for the morning’s video announcement program. This was not an easy question for me. I was not a subscriber to these (sometimes) empty…

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Inauguration 2013: The Bridge between Words and Realities

Inauguration 2013: The Bridge between Words and Realities

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This bridge between our words and the “realities of our time” is how Barack Obama described our “never-ending journey” in the United States. There is much to think about in the words the President chose for his 2nd Inaugural speech yesterday and the various snapshots the media has provided us of Americans who either made the trek to the nation’s capital or their local coffee shop to watch the event as a community of people. This post is a glancing blow, a first shot at sharing some of the ideas in the air this week. Many of our alumni are welcoming students…

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Politics on the Inside

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No, we’re not talking about political insiders. Not those hideous creatures that live inside the much maligned Beltway. We’re talking about one man’s perspective on the truth about politics as he understands it through human experience. For rapper El-P, all politics is internal to one’s self or to mankind. In an interview on Sound Opinions, Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot asked the rapper about the subversive or personalized politics they heard embedded in his music. Jim and/or Greg (I’ve been listening for years but can’t tell their voices apart) asserted that El-P’s music had captured something important about the “tenor…

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Detroit’s Hiedelberg Project: Questions of liveliness at the edges & organized complexity

Detroit’s Hiedelberg Project: Questions of liveliness at the edges & organized complexity

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It was like walking through a graveyard. We found ourselves talking in hushed tones or, mostly, not talking at all. Spookiest of all was the hope that still occupied the hollow spaces of the Hiedelberg Project. Horror and hope. Calling out from the empty houses, there was at once a community abandoned and a community committed to persevere. A four minute intro to the space that includes community voice and the artist, Tyree Guyton, who grew up in the neighborhood: Keith (Hobbes21), his family and mine walked through the Hiedelberg Project in Detroit enjoying the whimsy of giant polka dots…

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Politics and Public Art

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There’s something about public art that gets to the heart of Politicolor’s project. When Carlos Collejo offered a tour of L.A. murals to our National Academy group in 2009, he explained the people and the art meet in the streets through these works of art. In the short video, “The Battle for LA’s Murals,” a muralist suggests museums are for dead people. While that might be a bit extreme, the art we saw on the mural tour was electrified with what a community aspired to and accomplished alongside the challenges they faced, the conflicts they still carried on their shoulders…

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A Theory of American Identity: Or the Radical American Exceptionalism: Or Why Baseball is Better than Soccer?

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An abstract submitted for you consideration. Your questions and assistance in refining the ideas presented here would be greatly appreciated. (Submitted by Todd, National Academy alumni, 2001) Over the last year I have been contemplating the notion of American identity, and what that means.  As I contemplated the bounds of this notion, I began formulating a rather extreme form of American exceptionalism.    I see no way to avoid getting there, so I ask that Politicolor readers will help dispel it or create a more construct for this idea. I begin with a basic premise that the American founding experience is…

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