Society

New Assessment: Climate Change is Here and Now

Gary YoheOn May 6, the Obama Administration released its most comprehensive analysis to date about the impact of the human activity on the climate in the National Climate Assessment, of which Huffington Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Gary Yohe is vice chair of the Development and Advisory Committee. The report concludes with more certainty than ever that climate change is affecting the daily lives of Americans right now through increases in extreme weather, sea level rise, heat, heavy downpours, drought and other adverse conditions.

PBS Newshour covered the release of the report. Speaking at a press conference at the White House, Yohe said, “What keeps me up at night is a persistence across the population not to recognize that the old normal climate is broken, and we don’t know what the new normal climate is going to be. That lack of recognition and the inability of this community and decision-makers to communicate those risks to individuals unnecessarily puts economic assets at risk, unnecessarily puts human lives at risk, unnecessarily puts ecosystems at risk.”

Yohe also spoke to The Associated Press about the assessment, explaining that this final report is a re-written and shortened version of the draft that was released in January 2013, with more scientific references, reviews by experts and the public, and a thorough review by the National Academy of Sciences. There is even stronger evidence now of climate change than there was in 2013, he said.

And Yohe told NBC News that at a personal level, “…everybody can look out their window and see something about their climate that has changed over the last 5, 10 or 15 years.”

In addition, Mother Jones quotes Yohe as saying: “One major take-home message is that just about every place in the country has observed that the climate has changed…It is here and happening, and we are not cherry-picking or fear-mongering.”

Yohe was also interviewed by Voice of Russia UK radio.

Watch the full White House press conference on C-SPAN.

 

 

President Roth Charts the Development of Pragmatic Liberal Education in His New Book

Wesleyan President Michael Roth is the author of a new book published in May 2014.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth is the author of a new book published in May 2014.

The broad contextual education that Wesleyan and peer institutions offer is frequently critiqued, sometimes excoriated, by those who accuse it of not preparing graduates for success in today’s world. But that accusation, says President Michael S. Roth in his sixth and latest book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters (Yale University Press, 2014), is as old as liberal education itself – and never less convincing than now.

A historian whose previous scholarship has focused on making sense of the past, Roth charts the development of pragmatic liberal education through a succession of important American thinkers. Liberal education has deep roots in American culture and society, he says, as does the tension between liberal education and vocational education.

“The commitment to liberal learning that Jefferson described has been attacked for its potential elitism and irrelevance for more than two hundred years,” he writes. Jefferson saw education as both a key preparation for citizenship, essential for the health of the republic, and a means for fighting abuses of wealth and privilege. As the founder of the University of Virginia, he stressed that students would have the freedom there to pursue study that they found meaningful, not prescribed coursework.

“In the last few years,” Roth continues, “commentators (who usually themselves have had a liberal education) have again questioned whether we should encourage so many people to have the opportunity to make this discovery.

“If higher education is conceived only as a job-placement program for positions with which we are already familiar, then liberal learning does not make much sense. But if higher education is to be an intellectual and experiential adventure and not a bureaucratic assignment of skill capacity, if it is to prize free inquiry rather than training for ‘the specific vocations to which [students] are destined,’ then we must resist the call to limit access to it or to diminish its scope.”

Wesleyan Media Project’s Research Cited in Senate Committee Hearing

The Wesleyan Media Project’s research was cited by U.S. Senator Angus King of Maine during a hearing April 30 of the Senate Committee on Rules & Administration. The subject of the hearing was “Dollars and Sense: How Undisclosed Money and Post-McCutcheon Campaign Finance Will Affect 2014 and Beyond.” Watch a recording of the webcast here.

The Wesleyan Media Project, directed by Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler and collaborators at Bowdoin College and Washington State University, works to increase transparency about political advertising. It tracks political ad airings on television and reports in real time about ad sponsors, spending, tone and content. The project’s co-directors submitted written testimony to the Senate committee about growing interest group involvement in elections and how disclosure matters.

Knight Foundation Supports Wesleyan Media Project

The Wesleyan Media Project has received a grant of $74,800 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to track and analyze campaign ad spending in the 2014 midterm election cycle. The project is directed by Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, along with Michael Franz of Bowdoin College and Travis Ridout of Washington State University. A resource for journalists, policymakers, scholars and voters, the project has worked to increase transparency in federal elections since it was established in 2010 with support from Knight Foundation.

Read more about the grant and the Wesleyan Media Project’s work here.

Chakravarti Authors Sing the Rage: Listening to Anger after Mass Violence

New book by Sonali Chakravarti

New book by Sonali Chakravarti.

Sonali Chakravarti, assistant professor of government, is the author of Sing the Rage: Listening to Anger after Mass Violence, published by University Of Chicago Press on April 23.

In Sing the Rage, Sonali Chakravarti examines the relationship between anger and justice through a careful look at the emotionally charged South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Between 1996 and 1998, the commission saw, day after day, individuals taking the stand to speak—to cry, scream, and wail—about the atrocities of apartheid. Uncomfortable and surprising, these public emotional displays, she argues, proved to be of immense value, vital to the success of transitional justice and future political possibilities.

Chakravarti takes up the issue from Adam Smith and Hannah Arendt, who famously understood both the dangers of anger in politics and the costs of its exclusion. Building on their perspectives, she argues that the expression and reception of anger reveal truths otherwise unavailable to us about the emerging political order, the obstacles to full civic participation, and indeed the limits—the frontiers—of political life altogether. Most important, anger and the development of skills needed to truly listen to it foster trust among citizens and recognition of shared dignity and worth. An urgent work of political philosophy in an era of continued revolution, Sing the Rage offers a clear understanding of one of our most volatile—and important—political responses.

Government Class Visits Local Court, Speaks with Clerk, Judges

An upper-level political theory seminar, "Citizens, Judges, Juries: Who Decides in Democracy," taught by Sonali Chakravarti, assistant professor of government, visited the Middlesex County Courthouse on April 22 to see proceedings and speak with the clerk and two judges. Students had the opportunity to talk about the relationship between the law and racial injustice, discretion in sentencing, jury nullification, and the current populist movement to change the way family law courts adjudicate custody cases. This is the first semester that this course is offered and the first time Professor Chakravarti took students to the courthouse. Pictured in the photo are (from left to right) Sam Furnival ’15, Ben Romero ’16, Ruby Lang ’17, Yiyang Wang ’15, Hannah Goodman ’16, Aiden King ’14, Deputy Chief Clerk Jonathan Field, Ari Ebstein ’16, and Hadas Werman ’14 with Professor Chakravarti to the far right.

An upper-level political theory seminar, “Citizens, Judges, Juries: Who Decides in Democracy,” taught by Sonali Chakravarti, assistant professor of government, visited the Middlesex County Courthouse on April 22 to see proceedings and speak with the clerk and two judges. Students had the opportunity to talk about the relationship between the law and racial injustice, discretion in sentencing, jury nullification, and the current populist movement to change the way family law courts adjudicate custody cases. This is the first semester that this course is offered and the first time Professor Chakravarti took students to the courthouse. Pictured in the photo are, from left, Sam Furnival ’15, Ben Romero ’16, Ruby Lang ’17, Yiyang Wang ’15, Hannah Goodman ’16, Aiden King ’14, Deputy Chief Clerk Jonathan Field, Ari Ebstein ’16, and Hadas Werman ’14 with Professor Chakravarti to the far right.

Roth Authors Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters

Wesleyan President Michael Roth is the author of a new book published in May 2014.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth is the author of a new book published in May 2014.

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth is the author of the book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, published by Yale University Press in May 2014.

From Yale University University Press:

“Contentious debates over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education are as old as America itself. From Benjamin Franklin to the Internet pundits, critics of higher education have attacked its irrelevance and elitism—often calling for more vocational instruction. Thomas Jefferson, by contrast, believed that nurturing a student’s capacity for lifelong learning was useful for science and commerce while also being essential for democracy. In this provocative contribution to the disputes, Roth focuses on important moments and seminal thinkers in America’s long-running argument over vocational vs. liberal education.

Conflicting streams of thought flow through American intellectual history: W. E. B. DuBois’s humanistic principles of pedagogy for newly emancipated slaves developed in opposition to Booker T. Washington’s educational utilitarianism, for example. Jane Addams’s emphasis on the cultivation of empathy and John Dewey’s calls for education as civic engagement were rejected as impractical by those who aimed to train students for particular economic tasks. Roth explores these arguments (and more), considers the state of higher education today, and concludes with a stirring plea for the kind of education that has, since the founding of the nation, cultivated individual freedom, promulgated civic virtue, and instilled hope for the future.”

Read more about Beyond the University in this Wesleyan Connection article.

Garrett Offers First Literary-Historical Analysis of the Episode in New Book

Matthew Garrett

New book by Matthew Garrett.

Matthew Garrett, assistant professor of English, is the author of Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form after the Constitution, published by Oxford University Press in April 2014.

In Episodic Poetics, Garrett merges narrative theory with social and political history to explain the early American fascination with the episodic, piecemeal plot.

Since Aristotle’s Poetics, the episode has been a vexed category of literary analysis, troubling any easy view of the subsumption of unwieldy narrative parts into well-plotted wholes. Episodic Poeticsproposes a new method of reading and a new way of conceiving of literary history. The book combines theoretical reflection and historical rigor with careful readings of texts from the early American canon such as The Federalist, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and the novels of Charles Brockden Brown, along with hitherto understudied texts and ephemera such as Washington Irving’s Salmagundi, Susanna Rowson’s Trials of the Human Heart and the memoirs of the metalworker and failed entrepreneur John Fitch. Garrett recounts literary history not as the easy victory of grand nationalist ambitions, but rather as a series of social struggles expressed through writers’ recurring engagement with incompletely integrated forms.

Read more about Garrett in this past Wesleyan Connection article.

Kansas, the KKK and Hate Without End

Though the recent shootings outside Jewish community centers in Kansas, which killed three people, may seem “at first glance like a disparaged past flaring briefly into the present,” they are in fact part of an American legacy of religious intolerance as old as the nation itself, writes Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk in The Los Angeles TimesIn fact, he writes, the KKK–and religiously motivated violence, in general–remains alive and well in this country, and Jews are the group most likely to report being the victim of hate crimes. Gottschalk walks readers through a brief history of religious intolerance in America, including the various forms the KKK has taken.