November 14 2015

Talk of Iowa

Here is my interview with Talk of Iowa. I take on how Marco Rubio pits welders against philosophers. Wasn't this country built by farmers who read Cicero? The America I believe in involves welders learning philosophy and philosophers learning welding.

November 06 2015

Interview with The Dallas Morning News

Here is my latest interview with The Dallas Morning News.  A taste:

We are changing from a market economy to a market society, and I find that a little worrisome. I am big believer in free markets and having a capitalist economy — within some limits. That’s good. The danger is we can start to see our whole society and most of the good of human life as market-based goods. We start to put everything up for sale. That is a real danger.

So there is this mindset to reduce education to training for economic and technological power. I wish it went without saying that the point of education was preparation for the whole adventure of being human and not preparation for one small part of it, no matter how important the economic part is. The fact that we think about education in reductive terms leads us into some real dangers.



October 27 2015

War and the Kiss

I just came across the Syrian artist Tammam Azzam's photoshopped image of Klimt's "The Kiss" on the face of a bombed-out building in his homeland.

It is the perfect illustration of the first poem by the great Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert, written when he was sixteen in the midst of World War II. 

The forests were on fire -
they however
wreathed their necks with their hands
like bouquets of roses

People ran to the shelters -
he said his wife had hair
in whose depths one could hide

Covered by one blanket
they whispered shameless words
the litany of those who love

When it got very bad
they leapt into each other's eyes
and shut them firmly

So firmly they did not feel the flames
when they came up to the eyelashes

To the end they were brave
To the end they were faithful
To the end they were similar
like two drops
struck at the edge of a face

October 17 2015

Stoicism and the Detroit Lions

Here is a little piece I wrote for the Chicago Tribune about how being a Detroit Lions fan (currently 0-5) is good practice for Stoicism.  (You might have to register to read the piece, but the registration is free.) It appears in print on Sunday, October 18th.  

October 17 2015

PBK Interview

Here is a recent interview with me in Phi Beta Kappa's Key Reporter.  Thanks to Theodore Nollert for the good questions.  An excerpt:

The Deepest Human Life is written in a more popular style than a scholarly monograph. Do you think that the American academy can do more to develop students who are lifelong learners and readers of less accessible texts?

I’ve always liked that aphorism of Lichtenberg’s, “It requires no especially great talent to write in such a way that another will be hard put to understand what you have written.” I hope that my book encourages people to read what you’re calling “less accessible texts.” But I don’t think of books primarily in terms of accessibility. I want people to read really good books, some of which stretch our reading abilities but some of which happen to be pretty accessible. For instance, I’ve found that many of Plato’s dialogues are more accessible to my students than most New Yorker articles.

I’m very concerned about the fate of reading. From kindergarten on, students are given the impression that reading is primarily about the extraction of information, which is only one very small part of the imaginative, critical, challenging, enjoyable engagement that is reading.

My advice, for what it’s worth, is that teachers should assign fewer textbooks, which are generally boring and give a bad impression of what reading is all about, and more really good books, especially classics. Then we should teach those books in ways that shows why we love them so much.

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