Remodel the kitchen or embrace what you have with gratitude and work for social justice instead? The choice should be easy, but it’s not. I admire this man and his family so much, especially now that I pay two mortgages and consider daily how to remodel this new home in the Northwoods. Maybe I should buy a hammer instead of surf Apartmentherapy. How to use that hammer without succumbing to DIY culture is a whole different question, though.   Give me gratitude or give me debt: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/08/11/give-liberty-give-debt/Read More →

As of today, students pay a larger percentage of their tuition at state schools than the state does. The humanities died in higher education a long time ago. Now, higher education itself is under threat. Until academics realize we lost certain battles, and we move strategically to different grounds, we will continue to lose the war. The fault is ours. We are weak tacticians who suffer from occupational psychoses that prevent us from wisdom on the battlefield. Many ages ago, during my first semester in graduate school, a professor used the metaphor of the Catholic church to explain what was expected of graduate students. HisRead More →

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A new romantic relationship has brought with it a Brady Bunch-style merger of household objects into my life. Since my partner makes more money than me, each new item triggers my underlying class-passing anxiety.  Financial planners are full of advice about how to handle money when couples earn disparate salaries, but they don’t say anything about handling preferences in sheets, candle holders, or coffee makers. I could joyfully give away my battered, low-rent belongings and welcome the bounty of bridal-registry quality treasures in my life, but that tiny cash register noise that totals up the cost of replacing everything when the relationship fizzles is overwhelmingRead More →

In honor of May Day and my approaching semicentennial, here’s a gem of a video, a portion of a documentary about the famous community organizer, Saul Alinsky. Talk about brilliance. This particular excerpt is simply prescient. Alinsky is best known for his book Rules for Radicals, a primer on community organizing. This book earned the right wing’s ire because Obama used it as his textbook for community organizing. Then they snapped to its brilliance and co-opted it, all the while trashing it for its socialist leanings. Indeed, the right’s non-stop Obama Bashing is a page right out of Alinsky’s book. Well played, my friends, wellRead More →

Huey Long is the heart of Louisiana. I think of him when I think of Louisiana, and I understand the anathema of this state. Its collectivism, which derives from its non-Anglo traditions and its agrarian culture, gave easy rise to its populist politics. That populism was intensely complicated by a racism that Huey Long managed to navigate. Long dreamed of a “share the wealth” program encapsulated in his “A chicken in every pot, and every man a king” sound bite. He is an indirect grandparent to Occupy Wall Street.  Long despised big oil and big banks; he drove the expansion of Glass-Steagall in Congress andRead More →

As a nation, we are ontologically insecure, yet we define ourselves as exceptional. We are ontologically homeless in a state of exception. Political theorists and pundits talk about American exceptionalism as a global stance, as a doctrinal extension of our manifest destiny. In the American Monomyth, Jewett and Lawrence elaborate on this bedrock of our national imagination. We conceive ourselves as superheroes rescuing the world. The problem is that at the end of the story, closure is attained when paradise is restored, and the hero fades into the background. American exceptionalism inherently prevents this closure. We believe we are all special snowflakes, and hence weRead More →

Charter schools. They are a bad business model for education. Let’s pretend for a minute that I have no ideological, ethical, or professional investment in keeping education free from the marketplace paradigm. It’s an awfully big suspension of disbelief, true. Let’s pretend that the nation is on the same page about getting our kids an education, and we are deeply honest about looking for solutions to a broken system. In true problem-solving mode, then, everything should go on the table for exploration. That includes evaluating charter schools openly from within its own framework. The argument supporting charter schools depends on the analogy that education isRead More →