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Practically Idealistic blog
The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist” in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson, in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism.  We learn first to play with it academically. . . .  Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.  Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true.  It now shows itself ethical and practical.”  John Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant.  Al Gore invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.
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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Paul Turner, who chairs the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at Yale, is among the authors of a recent study of the adaptability of a virus subjected to temperature changes.

He was quoted in a subsequent article: “Our study shows, that in the time allowed, (the viruses) weren't able to cope…. They could not rely enough on the mutations that were being generated in that population for anything to emerge and dominate that could deal with this highly unpredictable environmental change.”

Paul Turner led a 2009 Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute seminar on “Evolutionary Medicine” and will be leading a 2013 seminar on “Asking Questions in Biology: Discovery versus Knowledge.”

The Institute’s 2013 seminars begin next month.

9:50 am est 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

“Ten Commandments . . . as a Teacher”

Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings site includes an excerpt from Bertrand Russell, originally published in the New York Times Magazine in December 1951.  Russell argued for “a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it.”  The “Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, [Russell] . . . wish[ed] to promulgate” are here.

10:00 am est 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Presidential Inaugural Poets at Yale

Richard Blanco and Elizabeth Alexander spoke together at Yale recently, the occasion a tea for the two poets who (in 2013 and 2009, respectively) read their poems at President Barack Obama’s inaugurations.

Hosting the campus event was Stephen Pitti, who (like Elizabeth Alexander) is a Yale faculty member.

Steve Pitti has led New Haven and national seminars – in which public school teachers have participated as Fellows – on “Latino Cultures and Communities.”

5:12 pm est 

Saturday, February 9, 2013


The snow on the ground this morning appears to rival or even surpass levels from the Blizzard of 1978, when the school in my hometown closed for the entire week.  My family and I expect to spend much of our day shoveling!

8:14 am est 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Black History Month and Beyond

February is designated as Black History Month.

A 2012 national seminar addressed “Narratives of Citizenship and Race since Emancipation.” 

Jonathan Holloway – Professor of History, African American Studies, and American Studies at Yale – led that seminar.

Public school teachers participated as National Fellows and prepared related curriculum units.

Waltrina Kirkland-Mullins of New Haven's Davis Street School developed one of the units, on “Diverse Journeys -- Americans All!

8:05 am est 

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