Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wall of Separation or Good Neighbor Fence?

Whilst looking for the perfect illustration, I found this at

What do you think about the concept of the wall of separation between church and state? It seems to be a particularly hot button topic these days, but it usually comes up pretty regularly at this time of year because of Christmas displays in public places and celebrations in schools.

We'll take a look at what the Supreme Court has said about these types of issues. Have they built a tall wall of separation or a good neighbor fence?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Religion and Race in Revolutionary America

Thanks to from whom I borrowed this fab image.

Did I mention that I was also teaching a second class after the one on Separation of Church and State?

Religion and Race in Revolutionary America

Religion and race during the Revolutionary period created contradictions and tensions that determined how the nation saw its soul. Learn how the Founding Fathers tried to let experience guide them as they defined the values of the new nation. Team taught w/Elliot Trommauld.

2/14-3/21 M 1:30-3:20 pm
No class 2/21.

The Wall of Separation Between Church and State

Announcing my Clark College class for next quarter:
The Wall of Separation Between Church & State

Exercise your right to speak your mind in this discussion-based class, as we examine some of the principles and practices arising from the First Amendment. We’ll begin with a review of the historical basis of the Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause, then dive into some recent examples in our community and Supreme Court decisions. Team taught w/ Elliott Trommald. 1/3-2/7 M 1:30-3:20 pm No class 1/17.

I can't wait! I'm really excited about this topic, because I think we'll have some great discussions. I'm busy gathering material to share, so if you have any ideas, lay them on me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Right To Offend: The First Amendment Protects Some Liars

I found a great article called Truth in Advertising? Not in Political Ads.

Read it and post your comments.

Tools to Fact Check

With the explosion of information that's occurred thanks to the internet, and the rapid dissemination of all kinds of material via emails, it's helpful to have reliable tools to research facts.

Here are a couple of sites I've discovered and recommend:

What sites do you use to verify information?

Even Supreme Court Justices Deal with Their Speech Taken Out of Context

Back in 2001, when she was an Associate Court Judge, Sonia Sotomayor spoke at Berkeley Law School. Her words would come back to haunt her when she was before the Senate for confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice. She had said:

Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Here's a clip from the confirmation hearing:

Here is more from the speech Sotomayor gave in 2001:

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

You can read the full text here.

What do you think? Did context matter in this case?

Out of Context Redux

Here are some additional cases of words used out of context. As you may well imagine, campaign season provides plenty of examples.

The Case of the Sheriff and the Billboard

Here's an article that discusses the case:

What do you think? Was the billboard misleading? Should the speech be protected? Was the sheriff wrong to publicize the artist's phone number?

The Right to Offend: Out of Context

I was talking to my children the other day about how to show the idea of something taken out of context, where a person manipulates another's words to make it seem like they are saying something they're not. My kids directed me to this:

Consider the case of Shirley Sherrod, a federal employee (USDA Director of Rural Development in Georgia) who was fired in response to a conservative blogger's post about her. Andrew Breitbart alleged that Sherrod, a black woman, was racist against white people. He posted a video clip of her speaking to the NAACP to support his claim.

But to paraphrase Paul Harvey, Breitbart didn't show "the rest of the story." Take a look at this.

Do you know of examples where someone was harmed because their words were excerpted or taken out of context?

You can read more about the case here:

The Right to Offend: President Andrew Shepherd on Free Speech

One of my blogging friends suggested this clip to illustrate the concept of free speech. I think it's pretty nifty too.

What do you think?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Westboro comes to Vancouver

Here in Vancouver, at the close of May 2010, Heritage High students were picketed by Westboro Baptist Church. You can read about it here:

Rallies at Heritage High draw hundreds: Locals preaching tolerance vastly outnumber radical Kansas group

We'll be joined today by a former Heritage student, Meagan Ames, who led a counterprotest against the hatred of WBC.

The Case of the Funderal Protesters: Westboro Baptist Church

The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in the case of Snyder v. Phelps. Just in case you've been living under a rock for the past year or two, here's a clip about the case:

Here's Al Snyder, father of the slain soldier, discussing his view of the case:

Here is the view of the Phelps family, who lead the Westboro Baptist Church:

Here's a look at what Dorian de Wind, retired US Air Force Major, has to say about the case. He wrote a piece called
Snyder v. Phelps: Does Hate Speech Trump the Right to Mourn with Dignity?

What do you think?

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Right to Offend: Defending Free Speech on the Internet

Let's hear from Australian media commentator Cassandra Wilkinson on the dangers to children related to the internet:

Who is this woman, anyway? Pluto Press lists her author biography this way:
Cassandra Wilkinson is a public-access media advocate, a winning short play writer and co-founder and president of Australia's only all Australian music radio station, FBi FM Sydney.

Cassandra has been a senior political advisor to the NSW Treasurer and other Labor Ministers, and the devoted mother of Holiday, parliamentary wife and one time guitarist with obscure '90s fuzz-pop band Raymond Luxury Yacht.

She has half a degree in fine arts and theatre, half a degree in economics and one whole degree in politics. Cassandra lives in Bundeena with her family and visiting deer.

Interestingly, The Australian newspaper notes her law enforcement background: Cassandra Wilkinson is a director in the NSW public service and was a senior adviser to two former police ministers.

What do you think of her contentions related to the balancing the dangers of the internet and the right of free speech?

The Right to Offend: Controversial Tweets

The New York Times reported on tweet cases:
In some cases, the payback is extreme: Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association, was fined $25,000 for criticizing a referee in a tweet after a game.

Blogs, of course, have long been rife with the discontented heaping abuse on foes. But academics and researchers who study online attitudes say that same behavior has been less common on Twitter, in part, because many people use their real names. Now it is migrating to the service, attracting lawsuits and leaving users to haggle among themselves about what will be tolerated.

Complicating matters, there are few prescribed social norms on Twitter like those in more closed communities like Facebook. The service has attained mass popularity without much time to develop an organic users’ culture. On top of that, with tweets limited to 140 characters, users come right to the point without context or nuance.

“It’s the same reason why schoolyard fights don’t start out with, ‘I have a real problem with the way you said something so let’s discuss it,’ ” said Josh Bernoff, a researcher and an author of “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies.” “You get right to the punch in the nose. Twitter doesn’t allow room for reflection. It gets people to the barest emotion.”


Bryan Freedman is the lawyer in Los Angeles who is representing Dawn Simorangkir, a designer who markets clothes under the Boudoir Queen label, and who sued Ms. Love for libel in March. The lawsuit contends that Ms. Love “became infatuated” with the designer, asking her to create costumes using vintage material the singer owned.

When Ms. Simorangkir asked to be paid, Ms. Love balked at the price. Ms. Simorangkir, in return, refused to return Ms. Love’s vintage material, according to legal documents filed by Ms. Love’s lawyers. The singer accused the designer of being a liar and thief (among other things) in a number of rambling, misspelled tweets.

“You will end up in a circle of corched eaeth hunted til your dead,” read one tweet from Ms. Love in March.

I don't know about you, but having to read all her typos might prompt me to file a lawsuit for emotional distress.

Read more here:

The Right to Offend: Terrorist Tweet

I've always cautioned my children not to make any jokes about bombs when we go to the airport because security people do not have a big sense of humour. Check out what happened to one British man when he used a social networking site to make such a joke.

A recent article in the UK paper The Guardian noted

...he tweeted to his 690 followers: "Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"
His lawyer argued the case in court, noting

"This [message] is obviously facetious," he said. "There are at least three exclamation marks. The first to add to the slightly naughty word 'crap'. The last two to the parody of 'to blow the airport sky high'."
The paper concludes:

In a case with echoes of Chambers' trial, US standup comedian Joe Lipari also landed in court on terrorism charges following an outburst on Facebook over the state of his iPhone.

He bought the phone a year ago and, after it repeatedly crashed, took it back to the Apple Store in Manhattan. They tweaked it, it crashed again, and the next day he went back to get a replacement. After waiting hours he stormed home with no replacement and, while watching Fight Club, updated his Facebook status in parody of a cherished line from the film: "Joe Lipari might walk into an Apple store on Fifth Avenue with an Armalite AR-10 gas powered semi-automatic weapon and pump round after round into one of those smug, fruity little concierges."

In no time at all plain clothes police armed with MP5 machine guns were knocking on his door. It didn't help that he had been smoking dope and found the whole scene hilarious, amusement that continued into court, where he was charged with making terrorist threats.

His case is currently adjourned and expected to be dropped.

What do you think about this? Is some speech too explosive, even if it's said or written in jest? Is this what Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes meant when he talked about falsely shouting fire in a crowded theatre? Or do authorities need to lighten up?

The Right to Offend: The Case of the Callous College Football Player

Check this out and tell me what you think.

The Right to Offend: Defending Democracy Doninger Daughter's' "Dbags" Dis

Kids these days!

Read this and tell me what you think.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Right to Offend: Schwarzenegger vs. Violent Video Games

When you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's hard to forget his action hero (and some anti-hero) roles in violent films like Conan the Barbarian, True Lies and The Terminator. Now that he is Governor of California, he plays a slightly different role. The Washington Post reports that the upcoming Supreme Court docket includes this:

Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association

Nov. 2: California is the latest state attempting to prevent the sale of "violent" video games to minors. An appeals court said, similar to decisions of courts elsewhere, that the law violates First Amendment free-speech rights.

The Wall Street Journal described the conflict:

California argued in its petition to the Supreme Court that lawmakers should be able to ban sales of violent videogames to those younger than 18 just as they can restrict the sale of sexual material to minors.

The state said violent videogames are "a new, modern threat to children" that cause psychological harm and make minors more likely to exhibit violent or aggressive behavior.

Two trade associations challenged the law before it went into effect, arguing that videogames are a modern form of artistic expression entitled to First Amendment protection.

Read more:

For a look at how the video games industry reports the story, check this clip:

What do you think?

Now look at this and tell me what you think.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Right to Offend: Civic Courage

I like to call this one The Case of the Bashful Petition Signers. In Doe vs. Reed, the US Supreme Court examined the rights of those who signed a petition to place on the ballot a measure which would

NY Law School Professor Arthur S. Leonard describes the case in his blog:

The case arose out of Washington State’s 2009 enactment of a law expanding the state’s existing domestic partnership bill. Senate Bill 5688, referred to as the "everything but marriage bill," built upon the state’s existing domestic partnership law to provide that registered domestic partners would have virtually all the state-law rights of married couples. This proved to be a step too far for some committed opponents of same-sex marriage, who promptly began circulating petitions seeking a referendum to repeal the law. Under Washington procedures, if the petitioners acquired sufficient signatures the law would be stopped from going into effect pending the referendum vote. They got the signatures, and the measure went on the 2009 general election ballot as Referendum 71.

The Referendum passed - 53% of Washington voters approved the expansion of rights to all domestic partners. Confused? Here's a look at the wording and arguments:

The Supreme Court decided 8-1 that free speech and open access trumps privacy of the signatories.

Here is some background:

Lyle Denniston writes at the SCOTUS blog:

Justice Antonin Scalia, using history, sarcasm and political taunts, laid down a barrage of objections Wednesday to a plea that the Supreme Court create a new constitutional right of anonymity for individuals who sign petitions to get policy measures onto election ballots.


Declaring that the rough-and-tumble of democracy is not for the faint-hearted, what Scalia referred to as the “touchy, feely” sensitivity of some political activists, the Justice said “you can’t run a democracy” with political activity behind a First Amendment shroud. “You are asking us to enter into a whole new field,” Scalia told James Bopp Jr., the lawyer for Washington State signers of an anti-gay rights petition. Politics, the Justice went on, “takes a certain amount of civic courage. The First Amendment does not protect you from civic discourse — or even from nasty phone calls.”

Read more here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Right to Offend: The Univiting of an Author

Recently, the news was abuzz about a young adult author who'd been invited to attend and speak at a Teen Lit Fest in a suburb of Houston. She was subsequently contacted by the superintendent, who uninvited her because some parents had objected to her inclusion because her subject matter was considered provocative. Her books deal with drug addiction, incest and teen prostitution. Ellen Hopkins blogged about her experience here:
Publishers Weekly blog reported on the situation here:

Several authors pulled out in protest, and Superintendent Sconzo (described as "no Atticus Finch" in one article) cancelled the festival altogether.

What do you think about this?

The Right to Offend: Nationwide Banned Book Events

A simple search of the internet yields many results for events celebrating Banned Book week, September 25-October 2nd. (Some celebrate the entire month of September or October.) Talk about great timing to look at this topic, huh?!

Here's the description of one at North Georgia College and State University, in which people read aloud from banned books:

Can you find some examples of events? Post them in the comments.

The Right to Offend: Sassy Librarians

What would Marian the Librarian think if she went into libraries these days? My son's high school librarian was wearing this little number the other day. She was publicizing Banned Books Month, an effort by the American Library Association to highlight attempts to censor books.

There's a great blog post about this from a teacher at Take a minute and read it now. Then tell me what you think about this in the comments.

Personally, I think Marian would have loved that shirt.

The Right to Offend: National Coalition Against Censorship

There are a variety of organizations devoted to opposing censorship. Let's take a field trip to the website of one of them, The National Coalition Against Censorship. The Coalition oversees a wide variety of projects:

Blogging Censorship: NCAC launches a blog where staff weigh in daily on current censorship issues, underreported censorship incidents, and policy decisions.

You might also want to check out these member organizations:

Participating Organizations

Actors' Equity Association
American Association of School Administrators
American Association of University Professors
American Association of University Women
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
American Civil Liberties Union
American Ethical Union
American Federation of Teachers
American Federation of Television & Radio Artists
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish Congress
American Library Association
American Literary Translators Association
American Orthopsychiatric Association
American Society of Journalists & Authors
Americans United for Separation of Church & State
Association of American Publishers
Authors Guild Foundation
Catholics for Choice
Children's Literature Association
College Art Association
The Creative Coalition
Directors Guild of America
Dramatists Guild of America
Educational Book & Media Association
First Amendment Lawyers Association

International Reading Association
Lambda Legal
Modern Language Association
National Center for Science Education
National Communication Association
National Council for the Social Studies
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of Teachers of English
National Education Association
The Newspaper Guild/CWA
Office of Communication, United Church of Christ
PEN American Center
People for the American Way

Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Screen Actors Guild
Sexuality Information & Education Council of the U.S.
Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators
Student Press Law Center
Union for Reform Judaism

Union of Democratic Intellectual
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Methodist Communications, United Methodist Church
Women's American ORT
Writers Guild of America, East
Writers Guild of America, West

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Right to Offend: Librarians are Scandalous

Chaucer! Balzac! We must protect our youth!

Just a fun bit for you.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Right to Offend: Shut Up! The Case of the Vancouver City Council

This photo was taken at a town hall meeting in April, not the council meeting in question.
It was used by the Columbian to illustrate a story about the September incident.

Vancouver City Council member Jeanne Harris has presented workshops on stress management and mediation to public officials. Two weeks ago, she demonstrated the antithesis of the behaviors she recommends. During a city council meeting, she repeatedly berated a citizen who was addressing the council, demanding that Mayor Tim Leavitt "gavel down" the man. She continued to attempt to shut down his public comment and later, when fellow Council member Jeanne Stewart remonstrated her, she snapped "Shut up."

But don't take my word for it. Check out the video clip for yourself:

Mayor Tim Leavitt went on the Victoria Taft radio show (AM 860/KPAM) to discuss the issue. You can hear the clip at

The Columbian called for a reprimand of Harris' behavior. But their editorial noted that Harris' underlying concern was correct:

Leavitt said the council will decide next week about any action against Harris, but the correct decision is clear. Harris’ belligerence warrants a reprimand, at minimum, by her fellow councilors. Then the mayor and the council should make more clear the policies for council meetings. City Attorney Ted Gathe says the meetings are not public forums. Citizens comments must address current city issues, should be limited to three minutes and must not be political ax grindings.

You can

The story also was covered at

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Right to Offend: City of Vancouver Special Events Ordinance: A Study of Right to Assemble

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra from

In June 2010, Vancouver City Council confronted a dilemma: how to manage large crowds of people while upholding the right to assemble.

It's one thing when you're dealing with a group of music lovers, seated quietly, as in the photo above at Esther Short Park. It's another thing entirely when there's a
protest rally and matters get out of hand, as it did at the WTO Rally in Seattle in 1999.

Here's a look at the local issue and the players:

Vancouver council opts against rules for free speech gatherings


■ Previously: The ­Vancouver City Council has been debating whether “expressive activities” — political rallies or other First Amendment-protected speech, for example — in groups of larger than 100 should require a permit and insurance. Monday was the fourth time the group has debated the topic as part of a special events ordinance.

■ What’s new: The council voted 4-3 Monday night against requiring permits, instead instructing staff to create recommendations for notifying the city and for insurance.

■ What’s next: New language will be drafted by the city’s staff and attorneys; the revamped ordinance and recommendations will go before the council again.

The best rule for political and other First Amendment protected speech in Vancouver is to have no rules at all, a narrow margin of the city council decided Monday night.

The seemingly unsexy topic of crafting a comprehensive special events ordinance in time for the city’s concert, fireworks and festival season has sparked a feisty debate over free speech between council members and concerned citizens — particularly members of the Tea Party movement.

You can read the rest of the piece at

Then there is an article about the final decision at

What do you think? We'll hear from Mayor Tim Leavitt, City Attorney Ted Gathe and Special Events Manager Cara Cantonwine today.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Right to Offend: Michael Moore's take on Patriot Act

Michael Moore has long been a critic of the government. Many criticize him for his moviemaking techniques which take bits and pieces of things to make his points. They argue that his films such as Fahrenheit 911 employ excerpts out of context and don't really contribute to a thoughtful analysis of issues.

Nevertheless, he has his fans. He represents viewpoints shared by many in the US about a variety of topics. In this clip, he looks at the US Patriot Act which followed as a response to the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001.

Think about how this contrasts with the presentation of the Alien and Sedition Acts issue in the film John Adams.

Rt to Offend: Herblock on Nixon

Let's take a field trip to a great site about the power of the political cartoonist as exemplified by Herbert Block. We're off to Washington, DC to the Library of Congress' Swann Gallery!

The Right to Offend: Nixon's Take

President Richard Nixon was not an enthusiastic supporter of free speech, particularly when it came to speech by those who sought to undermine his objectives. In this clip from June 29, 1971
on the White House Telephone system, he talks with legal adviser Charles Colson about the leaked secret government documents about the Vietnam War, the Pentagon Papers. They discuss the leaker, Daniel Ellsberg, and Nixon hopes that Ellsberg can be tied in with subversives. The president complains about "intellectual types who have no loyalty" and who weren't elected who think they are the ones to determine what's best for the country.

Nixon refers to Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers in his Speech to Former POWs, May 24, 1973

From Oct. 26, 1973 Press Conference, six days after the Saturday Night Massacre. The Saturday Night Massacre was the term given by political commentators to President Richard Nixon's executive dismissal of independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus on October 20, 1973 during the Watergate scandal.

Free Speech: McCarthyism

Reporter/newscaster Edward R. Murrow warns of the dangers of McCarthyism on his show "See it Now" on March 9, 1954:

The same comments were used by actor David Strathairn (pronounced struh-THAIRN) when he depicted Murrow in the 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck.

Free Speech: John Adams' Changing Viewpoints

As an American Revolutionary leader, when speaking as Delegate from Massachusetts, John Adams declared that "Liberty will reign!"

As President, Adams endorsed the Alien and Sedition Acts to maintain order.

The Right to Offend: Name this Woman

Look in comments for a link to the answer.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Right to Offend: Freedom of Speech in America

From the clever people at

I'm really excited about my upcoming course at Clark College. Do you remember the Fred Friendly series about the Constitution? I used to love those shows. Yes, I am a politics/history geek and proud of it. He kicked around a lot of interesting questions with various people who sat in a big circle.

I decided to offer a similar experience to local mature learners. This first set of classes will focus on the First Amendment freedoms of speech and of the press; in the winter, I will offer an examination of the freedom of religion (some say "from religion") found in the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses.

I am psyched!!

Here's the official course description. Let me know what you think I should include. I have some ideas, of course, but I am always open to your thoughts, interwebs!

Exercise your right to speak your mind in this discussion-based class, as we examine some of the principles and practices arising from the First Amendment. Class will begin with a review of the historical basis of the right to free speech, and then dive into some recent examples in our community and in Supreme Court decisions. This is the first of a series examining the Bill of Rights. Mature Learning classes are for people age 55 and older only.

Register here for a good time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Musicians in Art

The intersection between music and art is our topic for today.

Our first artist is Marc Chagall.

Marc Chagall was born on July 7, 1887 in Vitebsk, Russia. In 1932 he moved to France. He lived in the United States from 1941 to 1948, and then returned to France. He died in France on March 28. 1985. His painting styles are Expressionism and Cubism. In his paintings, he often painted violinists because he played the violin and also in memory of his uncle, who also played. He was also famous for his paintings of Russian-Jewish villages.
Here is a video of some of his work set to music by Jerry Bock. The music is from a score of "Fiddler on the Roof" and the violin solo is by Isaac Stern.Photo taken by David Michael Kennedy in 1982

Stern was a Ukranian-born violin virtuoso who moved to the US with his family as a baby in 1920. He died just 10 years ago. He was famous for his wonderful musical ability.

Fiddler on the Roof by Marc Chagall animated by Raz Shelach

Three Takes on Pablo Picasso's The Three Musicians :43 and 2:17 and :38

Now it's time for a mini-field trip. We're off to Seattle to see EMP - Experience Music Project!

The building is really unusual. It was designed by architect Frank Gehry. Some people say it is shaped like a giant guitar that was smashed.

Inside are many interesting exhibits about music, with interactive displays so you can make your own music. Here, an artist used many guitars to create a multi-story sculpture.

If you're interested in visiting EMP, you can take advantage of the Free Smithsonian Day offered in September. Visit this link for more details. Admission to EMP includes entry to the very interesting Science Fiction Museum.

Now let's zip down to New Orleans and meet artist George Rodrigue.

His work often features musicians, especially jazz band musicians. He's going to talk to us about one of his iconic figures, the Blue Dog.

Finally, I have a fun image to share with you - a poster of a band painted as though they were from centuries ago.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

American Dreaming: Learning to Live Without

Here's an interesting article about how people are changing their lives and expectations. Does any of this sound like something you've done, or that others you know have done?

American Dreaming: The New American Dream

I found an interesting website for an organization called The New American Dream, which emphasizes a more sustainable lifestyle. Check it out here. Tell me what you think about it in the comments.

American Dreaming: 1931 article about James Truslow Adams

The Milwaukee Journal covered the publication of James Truslow Adams' book which coined the term The American Dream. You can read the article from 1931 here.

American Dreaming: Frank Capra

Here's a review of the Capra film we watched.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

American Dreaming: Library of Congress Resources

The Library of Congress has some interesting online resources about The American Dream. Go over and take a look!

America Dreams Through The Decades

American Dreaming: German students look at the topic

As part of my research to present this course, I encountered a number of websites created by students. Here's one put together by some in the Westphalia region of Germany. Take a look and see what you think.

The American Dream

Monday, March 1, 2010

American Dreaming: Hungry Planet

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11
© Peter Menzel from the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

I've also seen another exhibit of Menzel's photographs relating to a comparison of international standards of living. It's entitled Hungry Planet. Here's how his website describes it:

30 Families, 24 Countries, 600 Meals
One Extraordinary Book
In Hungry Planet, Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio present a photographic study of families from around the world, revealing what people eat during the course of one week. Each family's profile includes a detailed description of their weekly food purchases; photographs of the family at home, at market, and in their community; and a portrait of the entire family surrounded by a week's worth of groceries.

To assemble this remarkable comparison, Menzel and D'Aluisio traveled to twenty-four countries and visited thirty families from Bhutan and Bosnia to Mexico and Mongolia. Accompanied by an insightful foreword by Marion Nestle, and provocative essays from Alfred W. Crosby, Francine R. Kaufman, Corby Kummer, Charles C. Mann, Michael Pollan, and Carl Safina, the result of this journey is a 30-course documentary feast: captivating, infuriating, and altogether fascinating.

Michelle Norris of NPR's All Things Considered reports on it here.

Time Magazine offers a slideshow of some of the images. Part 1 is here; 2 is here.

American Dreaming: Material World Photo Exhibit

Economist Scott Bailey mentioned an interesting exhibit of photographs taken of families around the world surrounded by all their earthly possessions. I'd seen it on display a while ago, and was intrigued by the concept.

It's called Material World: A Global Family Portrait.

There is a book available which has reproductions of all the photographs. One review describes it:

In honor of the United Nations-sponsored International Year of the Family in 1994, award-winning photojournalist Peter Menzel brought together 16 of the world's leading photographers to create a visual portrait of life in 30 nations. Material World tackles its wide subject by zooming in, allowing one household to represent an entire nation. Photographers spent one week living with a "statistically average" family in each country, learning about their work, their attitudes toward their possessions, and their hopes for the future. Then a "big picture" shot of the family was taken outside the dwelling, surrounded by all their (many or few) material goods.

The book provides sidebars offering statistics and a brief history for each country, as well as personal notes from the photographers about their experiences. But it is the "big pictures" that tell most of the story. In one, a British family pauses before a meal of tea and crumpets under a cloudy sky. In another, wary Bosnians sit beside mattresses used as sniper barricades. A Malian family composed of a husband, his two wives, and their children rests before a few cooking and washing implements in golden afternoon light. Material World is a lesson in economics and geography, reminding us of the world's inequities, but also of humanity's common threads. An engrossing, enlightening book. --Maria Dolan

American Dreaming: The Honeymooners vs. Father Knows Best

The Vanity Fair article notes that television "reinforced the seductive pull of the new, suburbanized American Dream" and cites the difference between the "grubby, schlubby shows" like The Honeymooners and

I thought it would be fun to look at the difference between the two:


Musical Interpretations of the American Dream: Family Life

Here are a pair songs that relate to our theme. Can you think of others?

American Dreams by Casting Crown (2003) focuses on a man who pursues his career at the cost of spending time with his family.

That reminded me of this song by Harry Chapin, Cat's in the Cradle (1974). Here's a live version preceded by a short interview with his widow, Sandy (who wrote the lyrics) and his son, Josh, reflecting on the impact it made in people's lives.

In fact, Chapin's life reflected his attitude about the American Dream. In the mid-1970s, Chapin focused on his social activism, including raising money to combat hunger in the United States. His daughter Jen said: "He saw hunger and poverty as an insult to America." He co-founded the organization World Hunger Year. Many of Chapin's concerts were benefit performances, and sales of his concert merchandise were used to support World Hunger Year.

American Dreaming: Economics

I was inspired by student George Young to share a few quotes from humorist Will Rogers on this subject:
"The worst thing that happens to you may be the best thing for you if you don't let it get the best of you."

"The nation is prosperous on the whole, but how much prosperity is there in a hole?"

"An economist's guess is liable to be as good as anybody else's."

We'll be joined by Washington State Regional Labor Economist Scott Bailey today. I'd say his guess is much better than anyone else's about how our area has fared over the years and where it's likely to go in the future. Here's a link to some of the lively articles he's written over the years at Workforce Explorer.

Monday, February 22, 2010

American Dreaming: Community Housing Resource Center

In our first class, we're fortunate to have Teri Duffy, Executive Director of Community Housing Resource Center join us. She'll share her experiences regarding a critical element of the American Dream concept: home ownership.

You can learn more about her work here.