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Practically Idealistic blog
 
The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist” in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson, in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism.  We learn first to play with it academically. . . .  Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.  Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true.  It now shows itself ethical and practical.”  John Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant.  Al Gore invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

“Summer Learning Day” and Beyond

 

On the occasion of “Summer Learning Day” I wrote a related piece, with versions published in Connecticut Viewpoints and the New Haven Register, as well as via Medium.

11:50 am edt 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day, Reading about “The Minutemen and Their World”

 

This blog has included Independence Day posts (e.g., July 2017) from time to time.  This year, I’ve been reading the 1976 book The Minutemen and Their World by Robert A. Gross, in anticipation of learning more from him during a walk around Concord’s Minute Man National Historical Park later this month.

 

The book concludes with these observations by the author:

 

“The impact of that revolution in government was profound. It stood as an inspirational model of men’s power to alter their own lives, to think new thoughts, to act on the best ideas of mankind, to liberate themselves from the dead weight of the past…. The Revolution did not so much create the upsurge of confidence in human betterment as certify and encourage it and stimulate those dynamic, progressive forces that had been checked and submerged in colonial society.”  A few decades after the events of 1775 and 1776, “The age of progress had begun.  And it was fitting that the town of Concord, where the Revolution had its start, would eventually produce in Ralph Waldo Emerson nineteenth-century America’s greatest philosopher of that progress and in Henry David Thoreau its greatest critic.”

12:19 pm edt 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

"The Big Read": Claudia Rankine's "Citizen"

 

The International Festival of Arts and Ideas, with the New Haven Public Library among other partners including the National Endowment for the Arts, is featuring Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric for the “Big Read” series of events.

 

This moved me to read Citizen and to attend a June 7 event at the library, with several high-school Festival Fellows leading a discussion of the book’s themes.

 

Claudia Rankine, drawing inspiration from figures including Frederick Douglass and James Baldwin (e.g., “The purpose of art … is to lay bare the questions hidden by the answers”), herself writes the following poetic, poignant lines (among others):

 

“because white men can’t

police their imagination

black men are dying”

8:28 am edt 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

"Equity and Digital Literacies"

The New Haven Independent and Medium have an account of a recent Literacy Forum on “Equity and Digital Literacies,” with Amira Dhalla of Mozilla.

10:28 am edt 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

"Self-Evident Truths" on New Books Network, in Journal of American History

 

Previous posts, for example in November 2017, mentioned the book Self-Evident Truths: Contesting Equal Rights from the Revolution to the Civil War.

 

Recently the book was the subject of a (February 2018) podcast on the New Books Network, among those collected here, and also reviewed in the Journal of American History.

 

(Disclosure, again: My father, Richard D. Brown, is the author.)

12:44 pm edt 

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