Thursday, August 22, 2019

Summer Readers: Promoting Multiculturalism: Let the Conversation Heat Up

Hello AVID SUMMER READERS:  We still have 30 days left to the summer of 2019 with its warm, balmy, humid days and precious nights (for reading of course), so its high time  to discuss, briefly my choice for the first of three reading lists. 

     My overriding concern is not to bore you with detail but spread out a broad philosophical canopy of ideas that begin about 2500 years ago.

     The underlying theme is to start locally, to urge every citizen of our country, every El-Hi student--not just University attendees--  to understand, relate to and appreciate other cultures besides our very own In so doing we become more tolerant of the 'other;'   We learn to collaborate with other groups, religions, sects, genders, people of otherskin colors, political beliefs, languages,  etc.

 There's no end to this butterfly effect. 

   In short, I am promoting multiculturalism and urging that we expand what we now call the Core Curriculum, traditionally limited to greco-roman and Judaeo-Christian include Arabic and Islamic, Near and Far East Asian, African and Native American cultures 

     And as we meander, I present texts, along with ideas, songs, movies and works of art  to support,  when appropriate, my thesis.  

. We begin in my next post by examining  the Founding and underlying  political and philosophical principles, discussed argued and debated by our early country's leaders who helped draft our constitution. 

So, shall we meander to...... first,.The Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis--  chosen because the book demonstrates  how our country's early political leaders were successful at burying their hatchets and learned the art of collaboration in order to cement the union of 13 fragmented colonies.  

We begin with our own American Culture because we are now a veritable amalgam of so many diverse peoples (Jackson Heights in Queens, NY has over 70 different languages spoken);  then I segue into the native American peoples who inhabited our land for centuries before the white man's arrival.  Then,  let's learn  how our long-established democratic way of life is  threatened and  corrupted through dark money.  

We then journey back millennia to discuss time-honored sino- inspired formulae for national leadership, peace, order and stability outlined in Nobility and Civility and The Great Civilized  Conversation written by  Professor Ted DeBary,  who, before his recent passing, was the nation's foremost living scholar of Far Eastern Cultures.

 He  taught at Columbia University for nearly 60 years.

The author meeting with Professor Ted DeBary (1919-2017)

This photo was taken at 502 Kent Hall in 2014, fifty three years after I took his Asian Humanities and Civilizations course co taught with Professor Ainslie Embree  (1921-2017). He autographed his last book The Great Civilized Conversation which he presented to me

So let Ted's Great Conversation --the one on the values and benefits of a multicultural core curriculum-- begin and continue to be an inspiration to our generation as we continue his odyssey.

   Finally, we will take a summer detour, with novelist Daniel Silva, and experience fast-paced global terrorism in the The New Girl. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Douglas Brinkley Presidential historian speaks at Ferguson Library on Civility in American History

Douglas Brinkley, Presidential Historian

Douglas Brinkley who currently teaches at Rice University in Houston electrified his audience last Monday night.

He began by introducing us to Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress first appointed in 1774. After Washington became our first president, Thomson remained a fierce supporter of allegiance to our country's leader.

Thomson gathered many papers with a view of writing a history of his time.  Toward the end of his life , he destroyed nearly all his papers. Brinkley suggests that one of the reasons may have been his desire to leave no record of the contentious and fiercely fought election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Polarization of political parties, vehement rhetoric and gridlock have been a part of American politics from its inception.

The highlight of the evening was his discussion of his latest book "American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race."  Though the Russians were first at orbiting a man in space in April 1961, President  Kennedy announced in May, 1961 his intention to land a manned spacecraft on the moon by the end of the decade.

This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing which unfortunately Kennedy did not witness. But what is significant, says Brinkley, is that this project ushered in a time when both parties laid aside their enmities and joined in a camaraderie to help fund the project to land a manned spacecraft on the moon.

Civility had commandeered a Camelot 'moment' in American politics.

When asked what he would do to ameliorate the current atmosphere of incivility which plagues our national government, Brinkley suggested that answer lies in the education of our youth  We must reintroduce civics and geography in the classroom curriculum.

It is only through understanding how our government functions can there exist an atmosphere of respect and tolerance for the opinions of others.

Again, thanks to the Dilenschneider group for their support of Civility in America series as it enters its eighth year.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Celebration of the Life of Columbia University Professor Edward W. Tayler

Professor Ted Tayler
Photo Credit Eileen Barroso 

On Friday, March 15, over one hundred plus students, colleagues, friends (and family) gathered at Columbia University's Low Rotunda to pay tribute to the inspirational life of 16th and 17th Century English Professor Emeritus, Edward W. Tayler. 

Ted passed away on April 23, 2018.

(Professor Tayler  is remembered as being both a Shakespeare and Milton scholar and April 23rd happens to be the very date on which William Shakespeare was both born and died.)

The program was introduced by Michael Rosenthal, Professor Emeritus;  he was followed by reminiscences by ten of  his students. They included three authors, a playwright (Tony Kushner), a journalist, a lawyer (Abbe David Lowell) and four Professors.

Here are just a few remembrances of Ted:

" Dark and light...God set up opposites, Ted said, which is something we all do--all the time in life. Moral do you escape the binary bind? There are people you touch and people you don't touch. Every choice becomes an exclusion.  His injunction all year was think double. When you think you understand something, try to penetrate its opposite and see if they have a relationship to each other....The voice was remarkable...baritone...steady, quiet, very penetrating with little traces of mockery and wit...." (David Denby, CC'65, author)

"....short, self possessed, still young, standing directly before us with a burning cigarette as his only prop-- delivering sentences in a clipped, dry, dead pan voice---occasionally pausing to mumble a caustic witty aside....Ted had a most military bearing in class. The general had a plan a step by step strategy to guide us through a series of small epiphanies toward greater and greater clarity about Milton's work."  (Paul Auster, CC'69, author)

Ted, I  miss you, too. I am privileged to be numbered among the many students who were lit up, inspired and enriched by your exemplary teaching. Here is my tribute penned nearly 10 years ago.

The event is now available for viewing on you tube 


Monday, March 11, 2019

My Old Grey Lady Goes Digital: Saying Goodbye to the Print Edition of the New York Times

The Old Grey Lady

It was a bold decision when made.

I have never thought I would make the move---

About two weeks ago I traded my daily subscription to the print edition of the New York Times for the digital one.

Why have I done so at this time?

First I am on overload with daily print news media. Besides the New York Times, I have read and still read the Wall Street Journal and also our hometown daily, the Stamford Advocate---all cover to cover. This routine is  overwhelming as I am constantly playing catch-up and nearly always feel behind the eight ball.

Why the overload?

I have always felt it necessary to stay on top of the news---growing up in a family that always had the Times delivered daily and where we all were expected to be up on the latest news. And just recently I led a biweekly discussion of current events for seniors in our community--making it necessary for me to up on international, national and local news.

In addition, I have always been a 'print'  man who has always enjoyed the tangible hard copy book or daily rag in my hand --spanning my careers as English major, college and high school English and science teacher, print advertising/space sales, then publisher of Brooklyn Community Magazine.

Of course, there are other online news sources such as Huffingtonpost, Politico, Drudgereport, the Daily Mail, The Hill, etc. besides my New York Times online subscription.

I will miss the display ads and the daily and Sunday crossword puzzles in the print edition.

Stay tuned as I further assess my decision.