Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

This is an excellent interview with historian Jill Lepore, who has just released These Truths, a sweeping history of the United States from Columbus to Trump "asking whether the course of events over more than five centuries has proven the nation’s truths, or belied them" (of course one truth would have been to start a few centuries earlier, but I digress).

The interview mostly talks about the work itself, rather than the argument it contains, but in the (very short) segment signaled in the Chronicle headline she argues that "the retreat of humanists from public life has had enormous consequences" and "If we have a public culture that suffers for lack of ability to comprehend other human beings, we shouldn’t be surprised." Surprising insight for someone with a Harvard and Yale pedigree.

There's a lot more (this interview is to be savoured). The idea that American democracy represents the "transformation, from facts to numbers to data, traces something else: the shifting prestige placed on different ways of knowing," for example. And also: "Anyone who makes an identity-based claim for a political position has to reckon with the unfortunate fact that Stephen Douglas is their forebear, not Abraham Lincoln."

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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Last Updated: Mar 30, 2021 10:25 p.m.