HomeAboutProfessionalVolunteerOpinion ArticlesInspirationContact
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.
Archive Newer | Older

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Men, Domestic Violence, and Sexual Assault

Amid news of campus sexual assault and various NFL players’ abuse of women and children, President Obama announced “It’s On Us” – a campaign emphasizing men’s responsibility to address such problems on campus and beyond.

Twenty years after the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) became law in 1994, let’s hope that a belated movement of men to seize this responsibility is finally underway.  There have been stirrings for decades, including undergraduates (mostly women, but some men, too) marching to “Take Back the Night” from sexual violence, and efforts to inspire the majority of men actively to oppose such violence, rather than to be mere bystanders as a small minority of men become serial abusers.

On campus, I recall “Take Back the Night” rallies from 2004 and earlier years.

Regarding abuse by athletes among others, “Domestic Violence No Game” was an October 2008 piece that discussed such organizations as the Joe Torre Safe at Home FoundationMen Can Stop Rape, and Men Stopping Violence.  There and elsewhere – such as in May 2013 (May 4) and August 2014 (August 2) posts – I’ve written of the “Coaching Boys into Men” initiative and “A Call to Men.”

We must insist that violence toward women and children (and men) be recognized as a public issue to be confronted through law and prevention, not viewed as a private matter subject to shame and the whims of discretion.  Confidentiality is often important to victims and should be maintained where possible, to the fullest extent of the law.  But cover-ups and complacency must stop.  It is on us.

6:56 am edt 

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Today marks 200 years since Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner,” tomorrow 51 years since four Birmingham girls were killed in a horrific church fire-bombing.  Constitution Day is approaching September 17.  The latest documentary film series by Ken Burns, on the Roosevelts, begins tonight.

The New York Times Magazine has a front-page article on Bill Gates and his enthusiasm for “Big History” (which evokes a Yale course, taught by geophysicist David Bercovici, on the “Origins of Everything”).

Earlier this month in the Times, James Grossman of the American Historical Association wrote about the importance of historical study, with minimal interference from politics.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences publishes Humanities Indicators.

I wrote a piece on history, civics, and balancing “STEM” with “STEAM.”
9:30 am edt 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Defending the Public Library

After a critic used a single event to question the merits of funding the New Haven Public Library, I wrote a brief response.

8:22 am edt 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Literacy Coalition Board, Blog 8:27 am edt 

Archive Newer | Older