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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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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Teachers Institute Previews 2015 Seminars

The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has announced its 2015 seminars, offered in response to teachers’ requests for curricular and professional development in both the humanities and the sciences.

9:44 am est 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

“Gunned Down” by the NRA

A recent PBS Frontline episode, “Gunned Down,” examines the disturbing political power of the National Rifle Association (NRA) – which has increasingly accommodated its extreme elements in recent decades.  This documentary would have benefited from more attention to problems of urban gun violence in addition to school shootings and such atrocities as the attack on Gabrielle Giffords et al. in Arizona.  Also, it’s disappointing that the film doesn’t more explicitly treat the extent to which the NRA is supported by gun manufacturers, not only by zealous gun owners (though the Frontline website does address this in a separate segment with filmmaker Michael Kirk). 

Still, the program is useful in exposing the scope of the NRA’s clout in defeating even the most modest of safety measures: expanded background checks for gun purchasers.  “Gunned Down” implies what an effective counter to the NRA will demand: a mass mobilization of voters who favor the right not to get shot, over the supposed “right” for virtually anyone to bear highly lethal weapons with the potential to kill many more innocents – through accidents and intent – than they will protect. 

Sadly, just before the new year, a mother in Idaho was accidentally shot to death at a store by her two-year-old son when he unzipped a purse that contained her (legal) concealed handgun.  A Washington Post account quoted a friend of the deceased, whose comments seemed inadvertently to capture a kind of warped sensibility by which guns are so normalized that they are taken for granted – even when there’s no real need for them, and they create more hazards than they cure.

“In Idaho, we don’t have to worry about a lot of crime and things like that…. To see someone with a gun isn’t bizarre. [The victim] wasn’t carrying a gun because she felt unsafe. She was carrying a gun because she was raised around guns. This was just a horrible accident.”

According to a fact sheet from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research,

“Compared to homes without guns, the presence of guns in the home is associated with a 3-fold increased homicide risk within the home. The risk connected to gun ownership increases to 8-fold when the offender is an intimate partner or relative of the victim and is 20 times higher when previous domestic violence exists.” 


February 2014 (February 8) post to this blog mentioned an article in Pediatrics on “Hospitalizations Due to Firearm Injuries in Children and Adolescents,” as well as an American Psychological Association report, “Gun Violence: Prevention, Prediction, and Policy.”

January 2013 op-ed discussed “guns and security” from the perspective of a parent (me) whose own grandfather was an avid hunter who owned many guns and gave him (me) a .22 caliber rifle for his (my) 11th birthday.

On the history of the Second Amendment, there is Saul Cornell’s book A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America.

1:15 pm est 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Mentoring, in January and Year-Round

January is mentoring month, as President Obama has proclaimed.

9:09 am est 

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