What Are the Most Federalist Songs?

Something Will said this Summer boomeranged and smacked me into thinking about Federalist songs.

What would make a song distinctively Federalist?  I began to brainstorm characteristics which I thought Federalist in nature: SCIENCE, FUTURE, HOPE, FREE, WORLDLY, REGENERATING, OPEN-MINDED, and so forth.  Many songs are upbeat, and do convey multiple aspects of Federalist thinking.  In fact, I think that when some people think about the spirit of ROCK, they do so with a very Federalist ideal: think Jack Black in School of Rock or Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny.

I’m going to withhold my favorites in hopes that we get some traffic going here at the site.  PLEASE (you know you love it when I beg) respond and leave your ideas for the most Federalist songs.  Additionally, feel free to add comments on the nature of Federalism in music, as I tend to focus on lyrics.  (Yeah, I’m tone deaf.)

There can also be submissions for songs that are ANTI-Antifederalist, as I believe “Signs” to be.  You remember that one: “Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign…”, right?

If I can find a way to post music, as I think I might be able to at MySpace, I can do some of that, too.


Duty Bound to Civic Education

With a NY Times op-ed titled “The War as We Saw It,” a group of infantrymen and non-commissioned officers from the 82nd Airborne Division answered a different call to duty last week. As Washington gears up for a series of progress reports on Iraq, this group of servicemen offer their own voice of experience…

Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day.

Any of us who made it through Hobbes’s first book can’t miss the mechanism of beginning with definitions. We recognize the tone of skepticism and the vehicle of making your case to the public too. This particular expression of skepticism makes way for a much more comprehensive discussion of the politics and people of Iraq and provides a vehicle for us to consider who we are or want to be as well.

There’s power in this act of civic duty that we shouldn’t let the debate over Iraq overshadow.

Much of our civic education curriculum emphasizes a responsibility to speak out and points to colorful protests in important places. It can be difficult for students to imagine themselves in such a situation. They often respond to this suggested responsibility with an argument that speaking out hardly matters when no one is listening. I know many adults who have accepted that conclusion as fact too…maybe even a few of us.

These servicemen, however, chose to make their case to the American public through the newspaper. They must have believed someone would hear them and somewhere it would make a difference. In doing so, they utilize arguments on themes you’ll recognize from our discussions at the National Academy…

What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes.

We know any sense of society is fragile with so many people “outside the box.” I don’t know how you’d describe the presumed relationship between American forces and the Iraqi people but consider applying what we know about contract-making to statements like these found throughout the article…

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Deep Light

On the way home from the store tonight, I listened for the first time to Van Morrison’s rendition (with the Chieftains) of the 19th century folk song Shenandoah.Like many other things the past three weeks, it reminded me of the Academy.

From a purely cognitive standpoint, the Academy was immensely satisfying, and I will transfer a great deal of its content into my 12 sections (seriously!) of U.S. Government this year.

But it is my heart that has changed more than anything. It would be hard to describe what I mean by this, so I won’t (at least not with my own words).

Midway through the Academy, a poem by William Stafford seemed to get stuck in my head, and I’m not sure why or what it means. When I stand in its text, it doesn’t tell me anything definitive, but I feel something, and I wonder if you have had similar experiences with music, poems, personal encounters as a result of the Academy. Here is the poem by Stafford, a western (U.S.) poet, who won just about every major award a poet could win prior to his death in 1993:

Deep Light

From far a light, maybe a hill ranch

remote and unvisited, beams on the horizon

when we pass; then it is gone.

For the rest of our lives that far place

waits; it’s an increment, one more

hollow that slips by out there, almost

a gift, an acquaintance taken away.

Still, beyond all ranches the deep

night waits, breathing when we breathe,

always ready to offer new light,

over and over, so long as we search

for something so faint most people

won’t know, even when it is found.

From “Even in Quiet Places” by W. Stafford

–Larry Mutter–

How I Realized I Was a Federalist (or Christmas in July)

Once upon a time, there was a beast. He chose to live on the outskirts of society; he chose to let his anger fester. He watched and he boiled as the people lived their lives, free and happy. One day, however, the people’s joy stabbed him so fiercely that he decided to strike back. He terrorized the people: he invaded their sanctity and tried to destroy their world.

What does the paragraph describe..? Osama bin Laden? A gangbanger? A bullied student who phones in a threat?

Each fits.

What’s crucial, though, is what happened next…

The people, realizing that they’d been violated, did not call for revenge. They didn’t arm the rocket-launchers, strap on the bandoliers, or place daggers between their teeth. They came together, and they sang.

Although told in a much plainer style, you may recognize the plot from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, a book which holds a new place for me since the National Academy.

Rewind a few weeks. Drowning in Hobbes, yet still asphyxiated by Aristotle, the notion of Seuss crept into my swirling consciousness. Compelled (and newly-determined to be accurate to the text), I made my way to the Barnes & Noble in Marina Del Rey. It was a few days before the madness of Harry Potter 7. And July. As I slid the decidedly yule tale across the counter, I half-expected a smart-assed comment; but, instead, the bookseller urged me to look into Horton Hears a Who: her own personal fave. I assured her I would, but for now this was what I needed. Like oxygen.

I opened the text, and here we were: humans drawn as beasts. And there wasn’t much to separate the Grinch from the Whos other than the frown: he was clearly one of us. Here was Hobbes; here was the reality of what we could become. For, the Grinch has become a What. He’s lost his identity, his place of belonging amongst the Whos. He’s a creature without a country.

Now, I’m the first person to call for justice. I want to see wrong-doers put in their rightful place. And I get damn pissed off when Cindy-Lou Who gets her Seusscycle ripped off. However, I also realize that punishing someone doesn’t solve any problems: the Grinches of our people remain outside.

Those who commit serious offenses need to be brought to trial. But what of those who can be helped? What about the everyday decisions that I make: what are their consequences, their causes?

Surely, there’s a lesson in Seuss’s story. When disaster strikes, the people come together. They sing. And what, do you imagine, is in that song?

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Federalist Thinking: Karl Iagnemma

As I returned to my too real world, I clicked through my Tivo playlist over breakfast this morning and found Karl Iagnemma on an episode of NOVA Science Now. One of the country’s top scientific inventors and an award winning author, Karl is presented as a man at work in two very different worlds.

Picture a fiction writer and you’re likely to imagine a creative and erratic spirit. Picture a scientist and you see a methodical and analytical thinker. What does it look like when these two worlds work together in the life of Karl Iagnemma and what does this have to do with federalist thinking?

It’s all about the similarities of these not so separate worlds. That imagination fuels the writing process is no surprise. We don’t often think of science, however, as a creative endeavor.

In the 10-minute clip, Karl reveals he approaches each exercise in writing and/or inventing as structured creativity. While leading the team creating robots to explore the surface of Mars, he fills his blank page with proven algorithms and laws of physics. The team’s job is to combine what they know to provide for a reality on the surface of Mars they can only imagine. With so many answers at their fingertips, Karl’s team can never be sure they know what happens next.

In responding to a question about his interest in scientific failures, Karl weaves together creativity, science, conflict and crisis:

I think the heart of all fiction, or almost all fiction, is conflict. As fiction writers, we look for things that aren’t going quite right. It’s Tolstoy’s line about happy families, you know? You can apply that to research. Failed research is what’s interesting.

When you fail at something it often forces you to question your own beliefs, what you thought to be true, and in extreme cases, to question who you think you are. And that makes for interesting fiction. An idea about a scientist in crisis is often the spark for me, and that spark tends to illuminate the story or the novel.

Add this analysis of conflict in fiction to Thoma’s Kuhn’s understanding of crisis in science and you’ll see a Federalist perspective at work. Through structured creativity, Karl Iagnemma is filling the blank pages of his next story and inventing the tools we’ll use to see further into the universe…without ever knowing how the story ends.


A Day at the Beach

It was the first weekend of the National Academy. In a daze, Keith made his way to Venice Beach and found he was surrounded…


Cicero at Venice Beach







And perhaps worst of all, he knew he was trapped in a covenant he could never leave…


–posted by Shellee with many thanks to Keith for the pictures

National Academy 2007: A Whole Lot of Thanks

The mystery of the last box has been revealed. Twenty-four teachers from all over the United States and one civic leader from Mexico City have found their way home…perhaps even unpacked their boxes of books from L.A.

The 2007 National Academy is now a thing of the past but continues to loom large in expressions of gratitude.

Kerryn from Houston wrote from her room at LMU that last night…

Well the party downstairs just wound down to a close and I wanted to say thank you for a great three weeks. Down in Texas it is easy to forget that there are still people out there that are passionate and commited to a lot of the same things that I am. This has been a reaffirming and wonderful experience for me to know that you are out there as well. I will carry each of you in my heart for the rest of my days and I look forward to the opportunity to see y’all (had to do it) again.

Thank you so much for your passion and commitment. It has been an honor to be a part of this wonderful community.

Gerry had to add the suggestion that we read his note of appreciation with a Brooklyn accent and sprinkle his remarks with a certain word for emphasis…

I want to express my gratitude for a fantastic three weeks of engaging thought and discussion, genuinely collegial interaction, and just plain old fun. The National Academy will be a pearl in my memory for the rest of my life and I thank you all for making it so.
Now that we have descended from the mountain top, our new work will begin. We learned a great deal and now we have the opportunity to pass it forward with our students.

After some hard earned “vegging out,” Elka reported she didn’t have words to describe how valuable the Academy was to her. This sense of speechlessness is something we all know after watching a newly invented Madison share his dream that last Friday!

Keith added his words of thanks with a note about a dream he had…

I must lift my fingers to concur that the National Academy was an AMAZING experience: much due to the collective wisdom of the most intelligent community of people I’ve ever been around.

As I stated in the beginning, I’d long dreamed of such a pursuit. And, thanks to Professor Harris, the preceptors, and you all, that moment came true.

While the Academy and all our hard work seems to be light years away, the next powerful educational moment is as close as the next school year. Be sure to tune in here and let us know how the National Academy is working in your classroom.

–posted by Shellee with much gratitude for everyone’s expressions of thanks