Cory Leonard

Archive for March, 2014|Monthly archive page

Richard Hofstadter and America’s New Wave of Anti-Intellectualism – The Daily Beast

In ideas, politics on March 14, 2014 at 4:26 am

So the financial crisis, government disfunction, and two major wars have taken a toll–lending to the rise of “the mystique of practicality” as aptly described by Richard Hofstadter in 1963.

Writing in The Daily Beast, David Masciotra connects analyses on an earlier period in America–and showing their relevance to today, from the Tea Party to change in higher ed.

The liberal arts are in need of a new name. The intellectual agility and mobility, and the comfort with abstract thought that is attainable and improvable through vigorous engagement with the humanities, fine arts, and social sciences leads to creativity, individuality, and most of all, liberty. The liberty arts are, in significant ways, superior to the servile arts sold by dominant culture across college campuses, where the best outcome is the qualification to serve an employer with the perfect obedience.

Richard Hofstadter wrote that “The preference for vocationalism is linked to a preference for character—or personality—over mind, and for conformity and manipulative facility over individuality and talen

via Richard Hofstadter and America’s New Wave of Anti-Intellectualism – The Daily Beast.



On Family Breakdown

In politics on March 4, 2014 at 6:02 am

What do we know about family breakdown?   The scholar-statesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan explored the crisis of breakdown within the black community and in 1984 delivered the Godkin Lectures at Harvard where he explained that 40% of the poor are children:

He has been worried about the effects of family breakdown for decades. In 1965, as Assistant Secretary of Labor, he was the principal author of ”The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” That controversial report warned that the social disorganization of the ghetto, reflected in the increasing rate of illegitimacy and number of female-headed families, would be self-fueling and would undercut the goals of the then powerful civil rights movement. The report was attacked as racist (it had pictured the matriarchal black family as deviant and characterized its problems as a ”tangle of pathology”), and the issues Mr. Moynihan tried to raise were buried for years. He dwells on this episode in his lectures, noting that single-parent families are still much more common in the black than the white community and quoting at length black scholars who are now openly dismayed at black family disintegration. But he is careful not to repeat his misadventure. He believes that family disorganization is now so pervasive among whites as well as blacks that the prob-lem is no longer primarily racial.

”Poverty is now inextricably associated with family structure,” he says. But his repeated claims about ”correlation” and ”association” between poverty and family breakdown avoid harder questions about the character and direction of causal relations between these two phenomena, and the degree to which Government policy can affect either. No doubt single parenthood exacerbates poverty; most women cannot earn as much as men. But has it been a significant contributor? Mr. Moynihan cites a Congressional Budget Office study showing that the increase in child poverty since 1979 is also related to recession, high inflation and reductions in income-maintenance programs. And research he does not mention argues that poverty has recently been growing faster among two-parent than single-parent families.

via 40% of the Poor Are Children.

Moynihan’s original report was excoriated but over time it became clear that his analysis began to apply to white families as well.  At a conference four decades later major scholars reassessed his findings. James Q. Wilson explained succinctly why marriage was “the core of culture”:

“Marriage was invented to control men. Men like sex, but they don’t like taking care of children, unless they’re born in their own family. Getting men to take responsibility for women and the children they father is one of the most difficult tasks society faces.” via Scholars Re-Examine Moynihan Report – Harvard Gazette

These larger questions still resonate.  What is the social benefit derived from an institution of marriage (regardless of how you define it, at least for the sake of argument.) Is the redefinition of marriage a boon for equality as well as marriage stability as David Blankenhorn seems to have repositioned the argument? Will the “terms of surrender” for cultural conservatives be absolute and punitive?


Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. |

In career on March 4, 2014 at 5:10 am

An argument for systems over goals:

If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.

If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.

If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.

If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.

Now for the really interesting question:

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?

via Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. |


You Are What You Read

In ideas on March 2, 2014 at 11:51 pm

tin-house-53-cover 2eb09863-733b-4e52-8d36-083134c36d31_photo McSweeneys9 n1

Its the premise for a Nick Hornsby novel: our playlists, favorites, bookmarks, and subscriptions create our identity. And now it appears that your literary tote bag and your journal subscription may also give you away.

N + 1 is self-consciously pugnacious and intellectual, in the style of the old Partisan Review. McSweeney’s and The Believer are offbeat — reading them is like browsing in a word-drunk Etsy — and uncommonly appealing to look at. Tin House somehow resembles your beautiful ex-girlfriend who lucked her way into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is doing surprisingly well there.

via ‘MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction’ –