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.

Continue reading
Standard
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.

Continue reading

Standard
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.”

Continue reading

Standard
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.

Continue reading

Standard
Private Life With Public Purpose

Dear Adulthood, An Open Letter from Childhood: Inspired by my son, turning 18 today

To: Adulthood

From: Childhood

Date: Timeless

Re: Growing Up

I’ve heard you are coming, and that you are going to stay. No fair! Why??—you don’t have to—besides, I never even asked you to come anyway….

I like it the way it is!!…. I like being cared for; I like playing around; I like just chillin’ with friends. I want to imagine things that are more real (and true and beautiful) and more fun than that “real”

stuff, all that serious stuff, you have to offer.

I’m afraid of what I’ll have to do and where you will take me …. Routines, responsibilities, commitments, hurts—bigger hurts—when things go wrong, and work, so much work….

But you know, I am kind of curious about all the things that you can do…. You, like, achieve things and get real close with people, and I guess you understand stuff, like how things work and all. That sounds pretty cool….

So, will you take me with you? I won’t take all your

time, I promise, and maybe I can help, if you’ll let me. Can we go … together?

Standard
Private Life With Public Purpose

Obscenity exposes foolish practices

March 2004

I spent part of my spring break in Las Vegas. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it—that is, serve as an advisor to The Reporter staff attending the National Collegiate Newspaper Convention. Besides, as a certified United States culture watcher, it was… well… sort of my duty to do some genuine culture watching in this remarkable town.

The Reporter remains the oldest collegiate student publication in the state of Florida–read on for more about their 2004 spring convention!

Standard
Private Life With Public Purpose

On Job Interviewing: Thinking from both sides of the table

Originally published December 1, 1999 by the American Historical Association, and can be accessed here: https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/december-1999/on-job-interviewing-thinking-from-both-sides-of-the-table

A long weekend at the AHA meeting can go very quickly with all the intellectual, professional, and collegial work to do. Plus it’s just nice to take a break and see the town surrounding the hothouse atmosphere of the conference. So I found it difficult to imagine adding anything extra to the schedule. That was how I first conceived of the session “Interviewing in the Job Market of the 1990s: A Workshop,” organized by Carla Rahn Phillips. But the description intrigued me, since I was not very far in time from sitting for interviews myself. The uncertainties of being evaluated for one of the biggest steps in my professional career still loomed large in my memory. I folded down the corner of the page in the program book to mark the session for future reference.

Continue reading

Standard
Private Life With Public Purpose

The invisible man: how culture has forced fathers into the background

November 1997

My son, Peter, was ready for the SAK theater performance on October 24. Remembering their spray of Tootsie Rolls into the audience to sweeten up the crowd, he had a bag full of candy ready to toss back to them. The show started, and the Tootsies flew—and sure enough Peter threw some of his candy onto the stage. Maybe that was the only bribe they needed, since they chose him when they asked for volunteers for one of their first skits.

Peter’s five minutes of fame catapulted him onto the front page of the Reporter, in a nice photograph that captured his ambivalence about being on stage. His only disappointment was that the caption didn’t mention his name. What could I say, but “Come to think of it, the caption says you are ‘Ann Jerome Croce’s son’ but not mine.” I looked at him with a smirk, and said, “Do you think it’s anti-boyism?” In his seven-year-old wisdom, he didn’t know what to make of that, but he still didn’t like not being mentioned.

I’m not very bothered by not being mentioned but the caption has gotten me thinking about the perceptions of men in childcare and about the role of men in contemporary society.

Are fathers becoming invisible? Read the rest of this essay here. 

Standard