Private Life With Public Purpose

A New University Logo: NO TESTS

Originally featured in The Stetson Reporter, and can be read in its original format here!

Professors have lots of papers and tests to grade. For most, it’s the least-fun part of the job. When weighed down with a big stack of student work, this professor at Stetson University saw his university in a new light.  

Maybe it was all the grading that made me see things backward…. Maybe it was just mid-semester fatigue…. Or maybe it was a mental symptom of the novel coronavirus….

Staring up from the papers and books, the Stetson University logo caught my eye. We’ve all seen it: those familiar seven big green letters on the university seal, or with the word “University” holding them up and braced by a big elegant dot on each side, or next to one big S with a swoosh in the middle. I saw the word, “STETSON,” as I had seen it many times, but now, as if with a Rorschach test in reverse, I saw it with new eyes….

The green shapes floated and bobbed before my eyes. The letters in reverse seemed to grope toward a message, as if with words that were waiting to be spoken: NOSTETS. I rubbed my eyes…. No, what?

It didn’t make sense; maybe it was nothing. Back to grading…. But the letters kept calling out…. They danced around each other, and then it hit me like a ton of blue books: NO TESTS!

Was it wish fulfillment? What could be a greater wish when swamped in grading than to wish for … no tests—no essays to grade—no more answers to scrutinize—no more grading! And then I realized: The was no simple wish or idle dream. It was an inspiration that needed to be broadcast from the height of The Rock and beyond.

How can a mid-sized liberal arts college with a former denominational affiliation distinguish itself in a crowded educational marketplace? What can we do here that will so catch the eyes of prospective students that they will crave their studies here? What do students really want? These have been the questions of countless questionnaires and administrative meetings. The answer was simplicity itself: NO TESTS.

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Sampling Popular Culture at MegaHalloween

Halloween 2019

Children’s Culture at Halloween: Be More Than You Can Be

Published in the Society for US Intellectual History Blog, November 30, 2019, https://s-usih.org/2019/11/childrens-culture-at-halloween-be-more-than-you-can-be/

In case you are wondering where kids get their ideas for Halloween costumes, I have a modest proposal.  Consider the large sample in the small town of DeLand, Florida.  With over two thousand children dressed up on Halloween night in my neighborhood, I invite friends and students to join in the fun with a purpose: where do kids get their ideas for being Themselves 2.0 for a night of Trick-or-Treating?

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Private Life With Public Purpose

How to set New Year’s resolutions that maximize happiness

Originally published on December 31, 2018 in the Washington Post, which can be found here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/12/31/how-set-new-years-resolutions-that-maximize-happiness/ 

 

Millions of Americans will make New Year’s resolutions. Some will vow to make more money or new friends. Others will focus on exercising more or eating less. Each resolution represents the hope that changing one’s behavior or priorities will bring increased happiness.

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Sampling Popular Culture at MegaHalloween

Halloween 2018

Choosing the Halloween Outfit: The Second Most Important Election of the Season

Published as “Time for Some ‘Funner’ Voting,” DeLand Beacon, November 9-25, 2018

Elections are important.  But they also wear us out.  All the ads and flyers and promises—and we can only hope that the winners actually do the stuff they promise.

Time for a funner election—that’s a fun word my children taught me.  For this election, can you guess the most popular outfit of the year at MegaHalloween on West Minnesota Avenue in DeLand?

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Private Life With Public Purpose, Uncategorized

Feeling Overwhelmed by What’s Happening?

Originally published on September 23, 2018 in the History News Network; full article can also be read here: https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/169822

 

As a young man, William James studied a range of fields, from chemistry to literature. He focused especially on physiology, psychology, and philosophy. In the 1860s and 1870s, the future psychologist and philosopher was sorting out his own philosophy of life and sampling career paths. Each offered plausible insights, but none was decisive or beyond some criticism, especially as amplified by his temperamental indecisiveness. The swirl of choices, and the dramatically different ways of understanding the world, made him feel downright “dead and buried.” With these burdens, compounded by severe depression and poor physical health, he even vowed never to marry lest his problems descend to another generation. By his late twenties, he felt “rather precipitately old.”

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Private Life With Public Purpose

The Scripture in the Stone:Preparing for adulthood in the new old-fashioned way

Originally published on July 19, 2018 through Public Seminar; original can be found here: http://www.publicseminar.org/2018/07/the-sculpture-in-the-stone/

William James’s Hard-Won Development Between Childhood and Fame

How do we come of age? The Pew Research Center reports a steady increase over the last five decades in the number of young adults, aged 25 to 35, living with their parents. The percentage of young people “nesting” at home has almost doubled since 1964, up to 15 percent of this age group in 2016. Economic factors have encouraged these living arrangements, including the difficulties of breaking into the labor market, the high cost of independent living in many areas, and soaring debt obligations.

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Sampling Popular Culture at MegaHalloween

Halloween 2017

MegaHalloween, DeLand, USA: Trying on Identities

This essay also appeared in the Stetson University student newspaper, Hatternetwork, November 18, 2017, http://www.hatternetwork.com/arts_culture/megahalloween-deland-usa-trying-on-identities/article_7bb073fa-cc73-11e7-bd79-cbcaad1ce9a1.html,

And, with the title “A Time to Try on New Identities,” in the West Volusia Beacon, November 20-26, 2017, page 7A.

Halloween was as big as ever on Minnesota Avenue, with about 2,000 creepy and cute outfits adorning people from far and wide and from many social backgrounds.  This year, students from my Modern US History class joined me on my front lawn to talk with our animated visitors about how they think up their ideas.  Continue reading

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Sampling Popular Culture at MegaHalloween

Halloween 2016

Halloween Night: Window to Fantasy

Fantasy ruled the night.

I’m not referring to election night, but to MegaHalloween on Minnesota Avenue in DeLand.  I met about 1000 festive and creepy characters, and there must have been at least that many more on the street, making it a carnival.  From my random sampling, as the social scientists say, I got a hint of the taste for fantasy among the outfits with people who graced my front yard.  And fantasy-fueled imagination also meant a lot of characters crossing over into all kinds of combinations.

People dress in outfits from the world around them, like the 4 Doctors including 1 Dr. Decay (how does this one stay in practice?), 1 Tacky Tourist, 6 Football Players and 5 Cheerleaders (including 1 Gothic Cheerleader), 5 Police Officers (one was “Buff”) but only 4 Robbers (1 had his “gun ready” and another was also a Nun!), and 1 Overweight Gen Xer.  They tap long spans of history such as with Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, a Renaissance Woman, Bob Marley, 4 Native American Indians, including 1 Pocahontas, and 2 Flappers; and the natural world with 4 Butterflies, 3 Foxes, including 1 with a sword and 1 downright “Foxy Fox,” 2 Cheetahs, 1 Bunny, and of course 2 Spiders. Continue reading

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Sampling Popular Culture at MegaHalloween

Halloween 2015

Small Change Agents at MegaHalloween

…with two essays–a teacher-student pair…. Introducing Stetson Math Major and popular culture enthusiast, Chris Finkle

On Halloween night, everyone got their play on. It’s a time for looking at the world with a twist. And in DeLand, FL, costumed creatures of every stripe converged—well over 2,000 from many towns and many social backgrounds—straining the sidewalks and front lawns, and creating a pop culture peak into the contemporary imagination.

Consider the three sharks swimming up the sidewalks; Continue reading

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Sampling Popular Culture at MegaHalloween

Halloween 2014

Feed the Fear a Big Helping of Fun

Halloween on West Minnesota Avenue in DeLand was as big as ever. Joining with some friends, the students and I in an Environmental History class at Stetson University got ready for the MegaEvent by reading a history of chocolate. Learning about the evolution from the decidedly bitter cacao plant into the favorite treat of the modern world was a rather cheerful entrée for meeting well over two thousand children and kids of all ages in outfits of all sorts. However, not all the messages of the season were sweet. Continue reading

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