U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Tim’s Light Reading (3-1-2012): The Information Age, ISIH, Ron Paul, Religious Freedom, And The Minds Of Children

1 (of 5). The History of the Information Age

One could do worse for primary and secondary intellectual history sources on “the information age” (depending on how defines that age) than those listed in this “FiveBooks Interview” with Nicholas Carr. Three of the books Carr recommends are, in fact, histories of some sort. Standage’s The Victorian Internet is number one on Carr’s list.

2. The Mind of Ron Paul

I noted in the other post that I wasn’t interested in writing any more about Rick Santorum. But I didn’t promise I wouldn’t offer something on history and another contemporary politician. This piece on Ron Paul, for instance, is different. Authored by David Halbfinger for The New York Times, the title signals its historical bent: “Ron Paul’s Flinty Worldview Was Forged in Early Family Life.” Here’s an excerpt from the articles opening passages:

His father and mother worked tirelessly running a small dairy, and young Ron showed the same drive — delivering The Pittsburgh Press, mowing lawns, scooping ice cream as a soda jerk. He also embraced their politics, an instinctive conservatism that viewed Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman as villains and blamed Democrats for getting America into wars.

As a young doctor in training, dissecting cadavers or practicing surgery on dogs, he would tell all who would listen about how the country was headed down the wrong path, about the urgency of a strict gold standard and about the dangers of allowing government too much power over people’s lives.

“Once that got ingrained, that became his religion,” said his brother Jerrold, a minister and a psychotherapist. “He says he preaches the ‘gospel of freedom’ — that’s the money quote. Politics became his crusade.”

And the article’s thesis: Supporters and detractors often marvel at his consistency since entering politics in 1974, citing it as evidence of either levelheadedness or lunacy. It contrasts sharply with some of the rivals he is trailing in the Republican primaries, including Mitt Romney, who is often accused of ideological flip-flopping.

As the article progresses you learn more about the books he read (e.g. Atlas Shrugged, Doctor Zhivago, The Road to Serfdom), the family roots of his ideology, and his relationship with the Birchers.

3. The ISIH Annual Meeting for 2012

Here’s the CFP for the ISIH’s 2012 meeting. Here’s the title: “The Importance of Learning: Liberal Education and Scholarship in Historical Perspective.” Very cool. And the meeting is on U.S. soil!—at Princeton University. Cool. Too bad my travel funds are uncertain for this year because I’d love to go and talk about the great books as liberal learning in a transnational perspective (i.e. jump start my next book project!). Here are the first two sentences from the CFP:

The ideal of liberal education, long a mainstay of Western ideals of higher education, is suddenly under attack the world over. In country after country, the idea that higher education should aim primarily at the cultivation of the intellect and sensibility rather than at preparation for a particular vocation is being swept vigorously aside by more exclusively utilitarian understandings.

4. The Freedoms of Individuals v. The Freedoms of Religious Institutions

Janine Giordano Drake applies historical thinking to the topic at Religion in American History. Here’s the big question: Can Catholic social service agencies have it both ways? Can a private, religious organization both manage social services on behalf of the public and also be immune from the checks and balances of that public which invested them with that worldly power?

And here’s a taste of her conclusion: We’ve been through all this before. A hundred years ago, Catholics were protesting the overreaching power of Protestant schools, hospitals, and insurance companies in the civic realm. Protestants maintained that this was their “public witness,” even though Catholics held that nobody had the right to a public witness which overshadowed the right of others to follow their alternate Christian conscience.

Check it out.

5. The Minds Of Children and the Role Ideology in Children’s Libraries

Writing for The Millions, Alan Levinovitz dissects the issues around the late twentieth-century, and early twenty-first, censorship of certain children’s books. The occasion for the article is tomorrow’s film opening of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. In the course of reading the article I learned that Tim LaHaye published an iteration of his “Left Behind” for children (of which Levinotvitz rightly observes that the book has never been the object of a censorship drive by Left-leaning parents).

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