Cory Leonard

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Fruits of American Populism

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2017 at 2:10 am

In an intriguing piece today Damon Linker sees America’s flavor of Republican populism as a strain of “anti-statist liberalism” that, unlike in Europe, could lead to an entirely different resolution, we revolution. 

He compares France’s election as the equivalent of Michael Bloomberg (independent) versus Trump. 

And yet, for a complicated set of reasons, America’s populist energies managed to gain political power in 2016 not by challenging the country’s two-party establishment from the outside or by taking over the Democratic Party but rather by rising up through the institutional structure of the Republican Party. If this had been a genuine political coup, overthrowing the GOP’s libertarian convictions from the inside of the party and replacing them with a commitment to helping the voters who elected Donald Trump to the presidency, the result might have been a coherent populism. But what we got instead was a blatant, self-destructive contradiction: Populist anger propelled Republicans to victory at all levels of government, but once in office they immediately began enacting a libertarian agenda that is bound to stoke even greater anger, and provoke an even greater populist revolt in the not-too-distant future.

Via The Week


A Linguistic Analysis of Political Populist-Speak

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2016 at 4:04 pm

Trump uses language differently than other candidates.(He’s on a 4th Grade level.) Here’s how he sells, according to Nerdwriter, an outstanding YouTube series:

A Republican Party Future?

In politics, Uncategorized on July 20, 2016 at 4:40 am


Let’s start with the Republicans for now, in honor of their dispiriting convention. This is the problem: Their demographics are changing and yet the party lacks a compelling plan for the real problems the country faces.

In a worthy read by Clare Malone at Five Thirty Eight, the party’s demise is skillfully documented. Ben Sasse is noted as a thought leader capable of leading the party to a more effective future.

“We have before us the task of trying to create a society of lifelong learners because people’s jobs are going to expire every three years forevermore at a pace that’s going to continue to accelerate. And so what’s the Republican’s Party solution to that? What’s the Democratic Party’s solution to that?” Sasse said. “The Democrats have a really crappy product — they’re trying to sell more central planning and more monopolistic rule of experts in the age of Uber — and Republicans, no one knows what we stand for.”

via Five Thirty Eight

Interesting to see them cite Mike Lee as a possible leader in a new vision for R’s. But for now, both parties are focusing on the negatives of the other side—rather than what they can do to build in a way that matters.
Is there a way forward for the Grand Old Party? Not likely in this election cycle. Another thought leader, Yuval Levin, offers prescriptions in his book, The Fractured Republic:
Nostalgia for the way things used to be — heavy industry, vibrant social safety net institutions — “is why younger Americans so often find themselves re-enacting memories they do not actually possess, and why our nation increasingly behaves like a retiree,” he writes.

Are Liberal Arts Indefensible in the Face of Middle Class Malaise?

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2015 at 6:23 pm

We see two main arguments in support of the liberal arts in contemporary society:

Some insist that the skills students develop while earning degrees in philosophy and history are, by a happy coincidence, perfect for a life of corporate middle management, or still better, some variety of “knowledge work.” Humanities majors emerge from college exceptionally good at talking, writing, and thinking. What company wouldn’t want to be populated with those sorts of people?

Another set of defenders try to repudiate precisely this market logic. A college education ought to be more than job preparation, they argue. The humanities should be appreciated on their own terms rather than as crude and ineffective instruments for making money. The humanities aim to create well-rounded people, better citizens and colleagues, not more productive employees. To subordinate the humanities to the demands of the marketplace is to corrupt and destroy them.What if humanities education no longer has a significant role to play in American life?

Different though these lines of argument appear, they both assume that the crisis of the humanities is largely a problem of persuasion.

Source: The Humanities at the End of the World – The Chronicle of Higher Education

But, as Alexander I. Jacobs writes in the Chronicle, we are asking the wrong question? What if the” humanities are a luxury”?

Arthur Brooks on failure, Emerson, and the peril of being a “city doll”

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2014 at 3:20 am

Good advice to graduates (’tis the season):

In his magnificent 1841 essay “Self-Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson scorned elite college graduates — he called them “city dolls” — who wallowed in self-pity if they didn’t immediately land the prestigious job to which they felt entitled. Emerson contrasted them with the “sturdy lads” who hailed from remote civilizations — such as New Hampshire.
As Emerson wrote, “A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always like a cat falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls.”

Failures, false starts and midcourse corrections are part and parcel of a life well lived. Early setbacks may even prove to be a lucrative investment: A growing business literature shows that failures offer invaluable chances to learn and improve. Steven Rogers of Harvard University has written that the average entrepreneur fails almost four times before succeeding.
The Roman philosopher Seneca wrote that “difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” Don’t meet obstacles with victimhood and self-pity. Welcome them, especially early in life, as opportunities to grow in resilience and virtue.

Straight TED Talk by Benjamin Bratton

In Uncategorized on January 11, 2014 at 11:14 pm

What’s wrong with TED? “Too much faith in technology,” lacking in economics, viewing design as an end rather than a means, and more:

TED of course stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and Ill talk a bit about all three. I Think TED actually stands for: middlebrow megachurch infotainment.The key rhetorical device for TED talks is a combination of epiphany and personal testimony an “epiphimony” if you like through which the speaker shares a personal journey of insight and realisation, its triumphs and tribulations.

What is it that the TED audience hopes to get from this? A vicarious insight, a fleeting moment of wonder, an inkling that maybe its all going to work out after all? A spiritual buzz?

Im sorry but this fails to meet the challenges that we are supposedly here to confront. These are complicated and difficult and are not given to tidy just-so solutions. They don’t care about anyones experience of optimism. Given the stakes, making our best and brightest waste their time – and the audiences time – dancing like infomercial hosts is too high a price. It is cynical.

Also, it just doesn’t work.

via We need to talk about TED | Benjamin Bratton | Comment is free |

Why so glum about this fantastic enterprise? Isn’t TED a lot of fun? Well, yes, it is–and I readily admit to enjoying many talks as much as the next person.

But if you want to do the hard work (and thinking) that is required for major steps forward–rather than inspirational infotainment– we need to understand more complexity, not less… as Bratton, apparently part of the loyal opposition, says, to “slog through the hard stuff (history, economics, philosophy, art, ambiguities, contradictions).”

In response, TED founder Chris Anderson makes the case that the forum aims to “help improve the quality of public discourse” in the Guardian. Definitely worth further discussion.


Touring for Pleasure, Traveling for Knowledge

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Literary Excursions -

The writer Chris Wallace reviews a pile of travel books to discern the difference between mere sightseeing and a transformational trip:

In other words, I was touring, to use Paul Bowles’s classic distinction, rather than traveling — seeking enjoyment rather than experience. I had failed to abide Camus’s dictum that the trip ought to be the highest form of asceticism. “There is no pleasure in traveling,” he wrote in his notebooks. “I look upon it more as an occasion for spiritual testing. If we understand by culture the exercise of our most intimate sense — that of eternity — then we travel for culture.” One imagines he is using the Bowlesian distinction here, meaning capital-T Traveling — to find communion with the universal and, ultimately, with the deepest, “most intimate sense” of oneself. Camus goes on to say: “Pleasure takes us away from ourselves in the same way as distraction, in Pascal’s use of the word, takes us away from God. Travel, which is like a greater and a graver science, brings us back to ourselves.”

via Literary Excursions –


Losing Is Good for You –

In Uncategorized on September 27, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Too much praise (think fake diplomas and graduate ceremonies) = bad for kids.

Po Bronson and I have spent years reporting on the effects of praise and rewards on kids. The science is clear. Awards can be powerful motivators, but nonstop recognition does not inspire children to succeed. Instead, it can cause them to underachieve.

Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, found that kids respond positively to praise; they enjoy hearing that they’re talented, smart and so on. But after such praise of their innate abilities, they collapse at the first experience of difficulty. Demoralized by their failure, they say they’d rather cheat than risk failing again.

The suggested strategy for giving awards? Take a look at this:

If I were a baseball coach, I would announce at the first meeting that there would be only three awards: Best Overall, Most Improved and Best Sportsmanship. Then I’d hand the kids a list of things they’d have to do to earn one of those trophies. They would know from the get-go that excellence, improvement, character and persistence were valued.

via Losing Is Good for You –


What College Professors Can Expect

In Uncategorized on September 7, 2013 at 10:47 pm

How prepared are students that are the products of No Child Left Behind for university life?

Even during those times when I could assign work that required proper writing, I was limited in how much work I could do on their writing. I had too many students. In my final year, with four sections of Advanced Placement, I had 129 AP students (as well as an additional forty-six students in my other two classes). A teacher cannot possibly give that many students the individualized attention they need to improve their writing. Do the math. Imagine that I assign all my students a written exercise. Let’s assume that 160 actually turn it in. Let’s further assume that I am a fast reader, and I can read and correct papers at a rate of one every three minutes. That’s eight hours—for one assignment. If it takes a more realistic five minutes per paper, the total is more than thirteen hours.

Further, the AP course required that a huge amount of content be covered, meaning that too much effort is spent on learning information and perhaps insufficient time on wrestling with the material at a deeper level. I learned to balance these seemingly contradictory requirements. For much of the content I would give students summary information, sufficient to answer multiple-choice questions and to get some of the points on rubrics for the free response questions. That allowed me more time for class discussions and for relating events in the news to what we learned in class, making the class more engaging for the students and resulting in deeper learning because the discussions were relevant to their lives.

From what I saw from the free response questions I read, too many students in AP courses were not getting depth in their learning and lacked both the content knowledge and the ability to use what content knowledge they had.

via A warning to college profs from a high school teacher.

via A warning to college profs from a high school teacher.

Grading Schools Isn’t the Answer. It’s the Problem. –

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Teacher evaluations are hot.  But what if they are not measuring the right things?

And yet now, policy makers in both parties propose ratcheting it up further — this time, by “grading” teachers as well.

It’s a mistake. In the year I spent reporting on John H. Reagan High School in Austin, I came to understand the dangers of judging teachers primarily on standardized test scores. Raw numbers don’t begin to capture what happens in the classroom. And when we reward and punish teachers based on such artificial measures, there is too often an unintended consequence for our kids.

via Grading Schools Isn’t the Answer. It’s the Problem. –