Why PubClassroom?

Why Pub Classroom?

Dreaming in Translation

Academics harbor a lot of learning. But all that knowledge and insight often remains unused in the public. In an odd parallel with the old story about Las Vegas, what’s learned in colleges and universities often stays there. Part of the reason for this is that citizens outside academia are too busy with their own work to follow scholarly publications or attend college classes; and many don’t have the time or money for academic training, or even notice why anyone needs this kind of work.

But another reason for this disconnect of “town and gown” is that academics often speak with more intricacy and complexity than most people have patience for—and sometime analyze with more elaboration than is immediately necessary for the understanding how to steer through key issues and problems. Using academic learning for understanding direction would actually be helpful to the average person. True confessions: I live the professor type, ready to elaborate in detail; I thank my children for warning me about too much “complexifying.”

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U.S. roots of U.N. scandal

November 2004

Another scandal? We have heard about so many powerful people abusing their positions to gain still more power that many suffer from scandal fatigue. But we ignore these all-too-frequent events at our peril: they raise our taxes, erode confidence in our institutions, reduce our security—and even cause bloodshed.

Peter Brown’s column “Why does U. N. get free ride in scandal?” last Friday was a welcome assault on that jaded indifference toward scandal. It sheds light on an alleged skimming of billions of dollars by Saddam Hussein and U. N. officials from the organization’s Oil for Food Program during the 12 years before the Iraqi dictator was overthrown in 2003.

If true, this is outrageous. And while we learn about the scandal, we also need to understand its contexts.

To learn a little more about the 2004 scandal, read the rest of this piece here!

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Put Democrats’ money where mouths are

August 1991

A year before the massive machinery of a presidential election clanks into full swing, George Bush looks unbeatable for a second term,. Indeed, only one Democratic challenger has stepped forward.

But even beyond 1992, can Democrats hope to ever again occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.? If the party expects to win the presidency in our lifetime, it will have to do something bold.

Today it almost seems like it is the other way around! To read the rest of this piece, click here.

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Why do we bother voting at all?

October 2003

The average citizen is receiving mixed messages when it comes to voting. One, a civic message, is clear: Voting is a special right in a free society; it is the citizen’s chance to have a voice about decisions made on us. Some even add, with patriotic fervor, that it is a public duty.

A more subtle and perhaps more powerful message is the one that whispers, “Why bother?” This is the message not of the civics textbooks, but of everyday life and of the politics-watching that, for many of us, is the limit of our political involvement.

What is so important about our civic duty? Read on here.  

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Winning–That’s an Obscure Word in the Democratic Party Lexicon

November 2008

Eyes blink, and from the citadel of Democrats’ souls lurks an air of disbelief. “Pinch me,” they seem to say: “Is this real—or just a dream?”

The party faithful have been elated with the victories of Barack Obama and fellow Democrats across the country. But beneath the cheers, there is a hint of surprise. The land of Democrats had heard this odd little word used since Nov. 4. “We are not familiar with it in our land,” I imagine them saying . “This word, so strange, so cheerful—the word ‘w-i-n.’”

Read whole essay here….

 

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Bush achieves goal in spite of criticism

November 2004 

President George W. Bush has received an unprecedented amount of criticism, even from military people, fiscal conservatives and other Republican-leaning constituencies. If the election had been held on the basis of these evaluations, it would not have been even close. Instead, Bush won by a comfortable margin. How’d that happen?

To figure out the answer to that question, click here.

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International politics down the street

May 2003

This is a story of grave international policy questions and clashing worldviews as they played out on a side street in the small town of DeLand where I live.

The story starts with my own skepticism last fall about the policy for invasion of Iraq. While recognizing that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, I suspected war would make matters worse.

My whole family agreed, so we decided to make our small voices heard: We put up a yard sign in January that said “War is Not the Answer.”

For more on the politics right down the street, click here!

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We are all weathermen now

Another act of gruesome violence offers a painful reminder of the seething angers that lurk beneath daily life. The suspected shooter in Arizona (I avoid his name to keep from promoting his dark celebrity) may have no connection to extremist politics himself, but his depraved act is a reminder of the intense political views that have spurred violence of word and deed, as they have for years.

Most people lament the level of polarization that has overtaken our political discourse almost as much as they are horrified by the violence, but the polarization persists and even grows.

Just a few months ago, respected education professor William Ayers approached retirement at the University of Illinois, Chicago, but he was denied his bid for professor emeritus status. His case is a symbol of how we have not escaped our history—or our anger.

Read on here.

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Presidential Affairs

February 1992

Dear Mr. Clinton,

Those of us who live beyond the grave do not, unfortunately, get very full news accounts. I just heard about your tabloid troubles—when I last heard, you and your fellow Democrats were accused of being colorless! The problem as I see it is not that you might have had that scandal with Gennifer Flowers, but that you never decided how to handle it. I should know: A scandal put its shadow on my campaign in 1884. It blew over, and I went on to win the election. So, from my experience, I may have a lesson or two for you.

If you are interested in the rest of this sage political advice, click here!

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VP candidates set the tone;Bush, Gore should listen to Dad and Uncle Joe

October 2000

Watching the vice-presidential debates brought, the embarrassing  suggestion that maybe Richard Cheney and Joseph Lieberman have more presidential timber than the tops of their tickets. Maybe this election has kangaroo pairs, as an old saying goes, with the back legs stronger than the front.

Most observers were surprised when the two men around the table with Bernard Shaw acted so civil and even friendly with each other. They broke the pattern of vice-presidential contenders venting the campaign’s aggressions.

Cheney and Lieberman talked out the issues, framed their disagreements succinctly, and even seemed to enjoy each other. Central casting could not have picked better characters than Cheney as a dad and Lieberman as a kindly uncle.

George W. Bush and Al Gore have displayed very little of these dignities in their campaigning, especially in the first debate.

More on the Vice Presidential candidates can be found here.

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The Uses of History

Two Cheers for Pragmatic Democracy

This essay first appeared in Society for US Intellectual History Blog, March 16, 2018, https://s-usih.org/2018/03/two-cheers-for-pragmatic-democracy-guest-post-by-paul-croce/

With democracy pragmatic style, complete realization of ideals are always out of reach—and it also means, in the words of Frederick Douglass, “agitate, agitate, agitate”

                  Once upon a time, marketplace thought and practice was associated with the work of accountants and the policies of cold-hearted politicians.  In 1978, Irving Kristol wrote Two Cheers for Capitalism to retrieve the reputation of free markets for their intimate role in democratic freedoms.  The rest is history, the history that is of the surge of marketplace conservatism.  From Ronald Reagan’s 1980 call to “get the government off the backs of the people,” to Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America in 1994, to the current president’s eagerness to deregulate business, marketplace thought and practices have moved from margin to mainstream.

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