That Was The Week That Was

It was a reruns week here at The Pietist Schoolman while I wrapped up the semester’s grading. But here’s some of what was being written and reported elsewhere:

Dennis Hastert as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Hastert (R-IL) served as speaker of the House from 1999 to 2007 – Wikimedia

• Accused of paying millions of dollars to cover up earlier sexual misconduct, former House speaker Dennis Hastert resigned from the board advising the Wheaton College center that bears his name. (Hastert graduated from Wheaton in 1964.)

• One interesting feature of the Nebraska legislature’s decision to repeal the state’s death penalty is that it was backed publicly by a diverse array of Christian leaders — mainline, evangelical, and Catholic.

• Less inspiring, the governor whose veto was overturned insists he’ll still proceed with the execution of ten prisoners.

• Memorial Day served as an occasion for one historian to call on peers to embrace patriotism and stand “on ‘the right side in human history,’ sensing who was the villain in the matter of holocausts, who stood for a new life in our struggle to utilize a Declaration of Independence, and who thought Four Freedoms an improvement worth extolling.”

• While the same holiday prompted another historian to ask “How do we write and teach US history in ways that are not complicit in the American nationalist program?”

• Whether Grantland survives Bill Simmons’ departure from ESPN, I hope that writers the caliber of Charles Pierce continue to find wide audiences. Here’s part of his response to news of the U.S. Department of Defense having funneled millions of dollars to NFL teams: “This strikes me as a particularly egregious waste. In its game presentations, the NFL is so thoroughly militarized that it is surprising any team would need to be greased in order to perform these ceremonials. The Super Bowl now is preceded by a pageant that looks like something Ayn Rand would have concocted had she been working in the next office over from Don Draper. Flyovers. Heroic narrations. The national anthem and ‘God Bless America.’ An American flag the size of Rhode Island. By the time the actual game starts, you can feel as though you’ve been dragged through the back alleys of the mind of Frank Capra.”

• The Pew Religious Landscape study continued to produce insightful commentary, like this post reflecting on the nearly 7% of respondents who said that religion was important in their lives — even though they had no particular religious commitments.

1826 sketch of the University of Virginia
The University of Virginia in 1826, the year its founder died – National Parks Service

• Thomas Jefferson is the patron saint of American higher education, according to Tracy McKenzie… And to his mind, that’s not entirely a good thing: “If the modern secular university is not a product of Jefferson’s influence in a strictly causal sense, several aspects of his worldview are integral to its function and identity. Some have undoubtedly been positive in their effect, but two, at least, have been crippling: Today’s secular university (1) exalts reason but lacks a logical foundation for its dogmatic morals, and (2) exalts democracy but is averse to genuine pluralism. Both are classically Jeffersonian features.”

• The Chronicle of Higher Education took readers deep inside the admissions process at one Midwestern university.

• A new report suggests that American colleges and universities have expelled as many as 8,000 students from China in the last three years

• Interesting to read of a debate within the University of Oklahoma’s history department: one senior member of that faculty has partnered with the History Channel to develop a kind of TV-like version of a U.S. history survey course, sparking a variety of critiques from some of his colleagues.

• I’m still coming to terms with the notion that a historian like me might serve as a kind of public intellectual. But comedians?

• One of the most interesting classes I took in college surveyed the variety of American vernacular music. It’s where I first encountered zydeco, one of whose culture-blending founders died mysteriously in 1942.

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