February 2011

Short Video: Khalil Habib on Islam and Democracy
By David Kidd on February 01, 2011

Khalil HabibKhalil Habib parses the question, "Can a Western-style democracy survive in an Islamic nation?", and suggests fruitful ways for students to approach the subject.


Managing Editor's (Short) Introduction
By Michael Schwarz on February 03, 2011


As a proud veteran of the 2010 Princeton Summer Institute, I am happy to announce that, effective immediately, I will be serving as Managing Editor of the American Liberal Arts Blog. 

My goal, put simply, is to make the ALA Blog as interesting and valuable to its readers as it possibly can be.  In the coming weeks, through your ideas and contributions, I hope to get a sense of exactly what that entails.

Meanwhile, please feel free to drop me a line, say hello, and let me know if I can be of any assistance to you.

Best wishes,
Michael Schwarz
Assistant Professor of History, Ashland University

Proclaiming Presidents' Month
By Michael Schwarz on February 03, 2011

We Americans do love our presidents--well, some of them anyway; Pennsylvania, oddly enough, does not greet entering motorists with highway signs welcoming them to the "Land of Buchanan."  Other presidents, though--the Pantheon-level ones--we seem to like just fine.  Later this month, in fact, we'll all pause and reflect, while car salesmen, dressed in cheap wigs or tall black hats with fake beards, in one dreadful TV commercial after another, assure us that they "cannot tell a lie--honestly" about the great deals on new and used vehicles going on now through Presidents' Day.       

I know, I know.  I'm now the 476,218th person to bemoan the frivolity that accompanies the annual commemoration of Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays, blended, of course, in a single federal holiday.  Rather than dwell on this, however, I would point out that in a handful of states the two birthday commemorations remain separate.  Nor are these commemorations limited to Washington and Lincoln.  Alabamans, for instance, enjoy a state holiday called "George Washington/Thomas Jefferson Birthdays," which falls this year on February 21, nearly two months before Jefferson's actual birthday.  While I cannot vouch for the civic value of these or any other such occasions, I'm confident nonetheless that many Americans--a good many, in fact--continue to hold in high regard their greatest presidents. 

With this in mind, my first "official" act as Managing Editor is to "officially" proclaim February "Presidents' Month" at the ALA Blog.  Since February is a short month, and since we're already a few days into it, let's extend this proclamation to March 4, the old inauguration day.  In the interim, I'd like to invite ALA Blog contributors to share their thoughts on all things presidents--the past, present and future of the American presidency, if you will.

Now is an appropriate time (though there's never an inappropriate one) to reflect on these men and their legacies.  Here, the ALA Blog, is an appropriate venue for such reflections.  Whatever your discipline, in whatever ways you think about presidents and the presidency, please feel free to join the conversation.  If your thoughts run to pedagogy, as ours invariably must, please share any classroom ideas or experiences you deem worth relating.

Thanks and best wishes to all.       

A Word on Teaching Reagan
By Michael Schwarz on February 07, 2011

President James Monroe insisted on dressing himself in the eighteenth-century fashions of his youth.  A veteran of America’s glorious revolutionary past and inconspicuous in the party struggles of the 1790s, Monroe was uniquely qualified to preside over that brief interlude of national unity and relative political serenity known as the “Era of Good Feelings,” in part because, in the words of the great historian George Dangerfield, Monroe, by his very appearance, reminded his countrymen of “a time sufficiently distant for everyone to be proud of it.”

Read the rest.


Short Video: Gary Gregg on The Greatest President
By David Kidd on February 08, 2011

Gary GreggGary Gregg makes the case that George Washington was the greatest US president.


"Best practices" for research projects?
By Phil Hamilton on February 09, 2011

As I begin a new research project that I hope will eventually be my next book, I thought I’d ask readers of this blog how they manage and organize their own book projects.  I have to confess that I tend to be a bit haphazard in taking/managing my research notes and I don’t use technology nearly as much as I think I should or could.  Therefore, I’m hoping to change some of my unproductive ways and especially to streamline the research stage of my project.  And therefore, I hope some of your all might be willing to share your “best practices” in terms of your approach(es) to research. 

With regard to secondary sources I use, I read widely and typically take verbatim notes.  This prevents me from inadvertently plagiarizing from a monograph and/or journal article when using such sources.  But this process is incredibly time-consuming, both in terms of taking these notes and then rereading and using this information when I get to the writing stage of the project. 

With regard to original primary sources, I also enter needed information verbatim onto my computer and everything is organized in a chronological fashion.  Then, as I approach the writing stage of the book, I print out my notes on 5” X 8” note-cards and reread everything.  As I firm up my project’s chapter organization, I put my cards into different piles.   This process works, but it too is awfully time-consuming.

So, what strategies or methods do you or other scholars you know use in their research that are particularly effective?

Whose Capitalism, Which Free Market?
By Michael Schwarz on February 10, 2011

From Rich Brake, Director of ISI's University Stewardship and Culture of Enterprise Initiative.  This looks great. 

Announcing an ISI Regional Economics Conference

Whose Capitalism, Which Free Market: Exploring the Moral Dimensions of the Market Economy

Date: Apr 9 2011
Time: 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM   ET
Location: Taylor University, Upland, IN
Description: What is the vital connection between markets and morality?

Humane economist Wilhelm Ropke observed in the 1930's that the free market cannot long exist in the absence of certain bedrock institutions, including the family, religious faith, business ethics, a predictable legal framework, regulations for monopolies, and a widespread distribution of economic and political power. Fast-forward to today, and it would appear that Ropke's warning has not been heeded, with "too big to fail" now the dominant ethos of the age. This conference will seek remedies to today's crony capitalism by exploring the moral dimensions of a truly free and prosperous market order.

Alejandro Chafuen, President, Atlas Foundation, Washington, DC
"Christian Faith and the Roots of Austrian Economics"

Peter "P.J." Hill, Professor, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL
"The Morality of Markets"

John Medaille, Professor, University of Dallas, Dallas, TX
"Free Markets and the Pursuit of the Common Good"

Lawrence Reed, President, Foundation for Economic Education, Atlanta, GA
"Political Liberty, Money Mischief, and the March toward Centralization"

Link to registration information: http://indiana.isi.org

Link to promotional flyer: http://www.isi.org/programs/conferences/indiana11/indiana11.pdf

Avoiding Intellectual Madness--Conversion as Prereq for College
By RJ Snell on February 10, 2011

In Plato's Republic we're provided with the cave analogy as a delightful image of the presence or want of education in the soul. One of the primary moments in that education is the "turning around"--some translations use "conversion"--of the prisoner towards the light. Such turning is a fundamental shift of attention and intention; where once the prisoner's delighted with images, they now turn their projects towards the intelligible, if only inchoately.

Many students (most?) tend to have a type of naive extroversion about knowledge. They understand the "real" to be somehow like what is "out there" and objectivity in knowledge to be something like "clear perception" of what is out there. Consequently, they tend to view those questions that do not provide "objective" data as merely subjective, perhaps not even knowable. And so we get the distinction between fact and value/opinion (religion, philosophy, political theory).

This distinction is usually a type of madness, for it spells the end of rational discussion and debate. Any teacher of college freshmen can recall a conversation about "value" ending with "well that's just my opinion" as though that meant all debate was to end and the speaker preserved in their temple of subjectivity.

Plato teaches that conversion is necessary. Or at least the conversion understanding that the real is what is intelligibile rather than simply what is experienced. Whatever we can question is intelligible and governed by the normal canons of reason. The domains of "value" are intelligible domains and thus governed by reason, and consequently are no less factual than any other.

The rational is the real, the real is the rational. And one cannot avoid the errors of the fact/value distinction without conversion to this princple.

Just as Plato knew.

The APSA Teaching and Learning Conference
By Lee Trepanier on February 11, 2011

We have arrived in Albuquerque for this year's American Political Science Conference on Teaching and Learning. Unlike the other APSA Conference, this one is designed to focus on improving the teaching of faculty and the learning of students. It is also designed differently than traditional academic conferences. You are assigned a "track" with a dozen scholars for 2 1/2 days to present your research and discuss how to implement your ideas into the classroom. At the end of the conference, the moderator is to write a report that will be published in PS: Political Science & Politics.

The track we are assigned to is "Internationalizing the Curriculum: In-Class and Discipline-Wide Strategies." Gerson Moreno-Riano, Phil Hamilton, Kelly Hanlon, and myself will be presenting on Statesmanship and Democracy in a Global and Comparative Context. We also will have presentations on using mass media to teach globalization, the development of global civic skills, service-learning, and developing a multicultural curriculum. Needless to say, we are looking forward tomorrow to present a voice that is rarely heard in these conversations.

APSA Teaching and Learning Conference: Day One
By Lee Trepanier on February 11, 2011

We presented our paper today, "Statesmanship and Democracy in a Global and Comparative Context." In our paper we argue the difficulty of defining terms like "statesman," "democracy," and "globalization." We also point out the need to study statesmanship and how to implement such studies in the classroom. We concluded about the need for the "local" and the "national" when we internationalize the curriculum. The paper was received with some misunderstanding by a few, but we did receive some excellent feedback from some of our other colleagues.

The other presentation was about an assignment in class where the professor has the students design their own study abroad program. In addition to learning something about the other country, the student also learns certain administrative skills, such as how to process reimbursement bills and use Excel. Perhaps the most interesting issue that emerged from our conversation about this paper was how the world outside the U.S. and Western Europe is portrayed by the mass media, our government, and our textbooks as one of conflict rather than cooperation. Given this depiction of the world, why would a student want to travel abroad?

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