Re-examining Atticus Finch; Harper Lee’s novels: Dean Thomas DiPiero on KERA’s “Think” (90.1FM) Wednesday, July 29, at noon

Wednesday, 7/29 – Think

Hour 1: Earlier this month, HarperCollins published Go Set a Watchman, the novel Harper Lee called the “parent” of To Kill a Mockingbird. This hour, we’ll talk about how the book has us reconsidering Atticus Finch and the rest of the Mockingbird universe with Thomas DiPiero, dean of the Dedman College of Humanities at SMU. DiPiero reviewed Watchman for the New York Post.

Hour 2: Matthew Diffee’s cartoons have routinely made the pages of The New Yorker for more than a decade. This hour, we’ll talk with Diffee about what separates the comics that make it in from the ones that don’t – and about packing the maximum amount of humor into a single frame. His new book is Hand Drawn Jokes for Smart Attractive People (Scribner). READ MORE

Brad Carter, Political Science, to lecture on ‘politics of anger’ at Wilbur Public Library

Dallas Morning News

Wilmer Public Library will host a lecture on Tuesday (8/4/15) about politics as part of its annual summer series.

Brad Carter, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, will talk about what influences people’s views on government and the development of a “politics of anger.” He will explore the history of political parties and how they’ve changed.

The event is free and open to the public. It will be at 7 p.m. at Gilliam Memorial Public Library, 205 E. Belt Line Road. READ MORE

Matthew Keller, Sociology, The Evolution of U.S. Innovation Policy

In a volume issued by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Prof. Keller argues that since the 1980s, the U.S. government has been involved in innovative dynamism through decentralized programs that have often fallen beneath the radar of public debates. Understanding the programs is crucial to bolstering the U.S. innovation system, and to nations that seek to emulate the U.S. capacity for innovation. The book includes work from the former Chief Economists of the World Bank and ADB, academics and policy-makers. READ MORE

Cal Jillson, Political Science, quoted in the Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle

Originally Posted: July 21, 2015

As Trump shoots from the hip, Lone Ranger Perry fires back

WASHINGTON – With Donald Trump under fire, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry sat for an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Monday night via satellite hookup, appearing by himself in the corner of a room beside a lamp, a set of books and a globe.
“I’m going to stand up to him, just like I would stand up to Vladimir Putin,” Perry said, explaining his escalating war of words with the outlandish business mogul, who had attacked Perry’s record of policing the southern border in Texas.

Perry, Hannity noted, seemed more willing than any of his GOP rivals to take on Trump, who has surged to the top of the Republican presidential primary polls. “There seems to be bad blood here growing,” he said.

“Well, I don’t know about bad blood,” Perry replied, “but when he attacks me and the bullet goes through me and hits the Texas Rangers … you better believe I’m going to stand up.”

The clip of Perry alone in a corner seemed an apt visual for a candidate who has been pushing back the hardest against the Trump phenomenon, even before the reality TV star’s incendiary remarks belittling the war record of U.S. Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam War POW.

“I have a message for my fellow Republicans and the independents who will be voting in the primary process,” Perry said last week, before Trump scrambled the GOP contest with his shot at McCain. “What Mr. Trump is offering is not conservatism, it is Trump-ism – a toxic mix of demagoguery and nonsense.”

The contrast has been particularly stark with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who courted the Manhattan tycoon in his Trump Tower office last week. Since then, Cruz has steadfastly declined to join the GOP scrum over Trump’s controversial remarks questioning McCain’s war heroism.

“I recognize that folks in the press love to see Republican-on-Republican violence, so you want me to say something bad about Donald Trump or bad about John McCain or bad about anyone else,” Cruz told reporters in Iowa. “I’m not going to do it. John McCain is a friend of mine. I respect and admire him and he’s an American hero. And Donald Trump is a friend of mine.”

Analysts say both Texans have been hurt by Trump, who has co-opted both of their messages on border security and immigration. He once even publicly questioned Cruz’s Canadian birth.

But the new conflagration also presents opportunities. For Cruz, a Trump implosion – still by no means certain – would be a chance to reclaim the anti-Washington part of the GOP base that has rallied around Trump’s no-holds-barred tactics.

“It’s a bet that at some point, Trump disappears,” said Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson, explaining Cruz’s reluctance to go after Trump. READ MORE

Mysterious link emerges between Native Americans and people half a globe away

ScienceMag.org

Originally Posted: July 21, 2015

The Americas were the last great frontier to be settled by humans, and their peopling remains one of the great mysteries for researchers. This week, two major studies of the DNA of living and ancient people try to settle the big questions about the early settlers: who they were, when they came, and how many waves arrived. But instead of converging on a single consensus picture, the studies, published online in Science and Nature, throw up a new mystery: Both detect in modern Native Americans a trace of DNA related to that of native people from Australia and Melanesia. The competing teams, neither of which knew what the other was up to until the last minute, are still trying to reconcile and make sense of each other’s data.

“Both models … see in the Americas a subtle signal from” Australo-Melanesians, notes Science co-author David Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. “A key difference is when and how it arrived in the New World.” The Nature team concludes it came in one of two early waves of migration into the continent, whereas the Science team concludes it came much later, and was unrelated to the initial peopling. READ MORE

 

DNA From Kennewick Man Shows He Was Native American, Says Study With SMU Ties

KERA NEWS

Originally Posted: July 14, 2015

kennewick-man-SI

Nearly two decades after an ancient skeleton was discovered in Kennewick, Washington, scientists finally have a better idea about its hotly-debated origins. SMU anthropologist David Meltzer co-authored a recent study into what’s been dubbed the Kennewick Man. LISTEN HERE

Thomas DiPiero, Dedman College Dean, reviews author Harper Lee’s new book Go Set a Watchman ahead of its release this week

New York Post

Originally Posted: July 12, 2015

Forget the controversies – ‘Go Set a Watchman’ is worth reading
By Thomas DiPiero

It’s strange to think of Scout, eternally a 10-year-old desperado, as an adult. Strange to think that Jem is dead. Strange to think that “Go Set a Watchman,” the original draft of the book that became the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird,” exists at all.

And most of all, it’s strange to read that Atticus Finch, the moral compass and hero of “Mockingbird,” is a racist.

“Boycott the book!” some commentators cry. Should have never been published, other critics say.

But to me, Atticus’ complexity makes “Go Set a Watchman” worth reading. “Mockingbird” was written through the eyes of a child. “Watchman” is the voice of a clear-eyed adult. READ MORE

Edward Countryman, History, How Textbooks Can Teach Different Versions Of History

NPR

Originally Posted: July 13, 2015

This summer there’s been an intense debate surrounding the Confederate flag and the legacy of slavery in this country.

In Texas that debate revolves around new textbooks that 5 million students will use when the school year begins next month.

The question is, are students getting a full and accurate picture of the past?

Eleventh-grade U.S. history teacher Samantha Manchac is concerned about the new materials and is already drawing up her lesson plans for the coming year. She teaches at The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, a public school in Houston.

The first lesson she says she’ll give her kids is how textbooks can tell different versions of history. “We are going to utilize these textbooks to some extent, but I also want you to be critical of the textbooks and not take this as the be-all and end-all of American history,” she imagines telling her new students.

She doesn’t want to rely solely on the brand-new texts because she says the guidelines for the books downplay some issues — like slavery — and skirt others — like Jim Crow laws.

She says it’s “definitely an attempt in many instances to whitewash our history, as opposed to exposing students to the reality of things and letting them make decisions for themselves.”

You might be wondering how Texas got these books in the first place, so here’s a quick history lesson:

In 2010 the Texas State Board of Education adopted new, more conservative learning standards.

Among the changes — how to teach the cause of the Civil War.

One side of the debate: Republican board member Patricia Hardy said, “States’ rights were the real issues behind the Civil War. Slavery was an after issue.”

On the other side: Lawrence Allen, a Democrat on the board: “Slavery and states’ rights.”

Ultimately the state voted to soften slavery’s role, among other controversial decisions, and these standards became the outline for publishers to sell books to the Texas market — the second-largest in the country.

The final materials were approved last fall after the state board did some examination and said the books get the job done.

Brian Belardi from McGraw-Hill Education, the publisher of some of the new material, agrees. “The history of the Civil War is complex and our textbook accurately presents the causes and events,” he said, adding that the Texas books will not be used for the company’s clients in other states.

History professor Edward Countryman isn’t so sure the materials do a good job.

“What bothered me is the huge disconnect between all that we’ve learned and what tends to go into the standard story as textbooks tell it,” says Countryman, who teaches at Southern Methodist University near Dallas and reviewed some of the new books.

He thinks the books should include more about slavery and race throughout U.S. history.

“It’s kind of like teaching physics and stopping at Newton without bringing in Einstein, and that sort of thing,” he says.

“The history of the United States is full of the good, the bad and the ugly, and often at the same time,” says Donna Bahorich, the current chairwoman of the Texas Board of Education.

While she admits the state standards didn’t specifically mention important things like Jim Crow laws, she says she’s confident students will still get the full picture of history if teachers, and the new books, fill in the blanks. LISTEN

Political Science professor quoted in Fortune Magazine article

Fortune Magazine

Originally Posted: June 30, 2015

Chris Christie 2016: Should a bully be president?

For presidents, success is most often achieved not by pummeling opponents into submission but by schmoozing instead.

Of all of the printable words used to describe Chris Christie—bold, brash, boisterous—bully might be mentioned the most.

The Republican New Jersey governor has garnered a reputation for being short-fused, with a habit of countering slights with immediate, precise, and perhaps disproportionate retribution.

The New York Times in 2013 published a rundown of incidents in which Christie used his political power to administer payback to his opponents, no matter their prominence.

There were video clips of Christie publicly dressing down teachers who spoke out against his plan to cut public employee benefits. A New Jersey state senator, who’d previously served as governor, lost his security detail after Christie said he delayed a cabinet nominee. An institute run by a Rutgers professor lost funding after the professor sided with New Jersey Democrats on a redistricting plan. Then there were allegations from the mayor of Hoboken, who said Christie’s office threatened to withhold recovery aid for damage due to Hurricane Sandy if she failed to approve a development project. And most notably, investigations into the Bridgegate scandal revealed that Christie’s associates had ordered the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge, which caused a mammoth traffic jam, after the mayor of nearby Fort Lee, N.J., declined to endorse the governor for reelection.

At one point, Christie’s unfiltered and flamboyant style catapulted him onto the national stage. He reasserted himself there on Tuesday, announcing his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Christie’s trademark combativeness will distinguish him from the crowd of Republican competition, but will it make him a good president?

“Christie may well find that kind of aggressive demeanor to be better attuned to campaigning than governing,” says Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University. READ MORE

Cal Jillson, Political Science, Lights… cameras… committees!

WFAA

Originally Posted: July 6, 2015

DALLAS —At Dallas City Hall, they’re stringing cable and installing video cameras. The city is investing $2.5 million in new equipment that will broadcast city government to a wider audience.

Before now, many committee meetings were not televised, and none were archived for easy public access. Now — after the City Council returns from its July recess — citizens will have access to 200 hours of live and recorded meetings every month.

“We feel it will make it easier for our residents to understand our business; how Council members arrive at the policy decisions that they’re making; and, at the end of the day, just making what we do easier to understand,” said city spokeswoman Sana Sayed.

Cal Jillson, a political science professor at SMU, applauds the high-tech access. “I think openness and transparency are always a good thing,” he said.

Committee meetings are where much of the heavy policy work is done — like drafting a plastic bag ban or writing rules so Uber can operate in the city. It’s also where citizens get more time to speak their mind.  READ MORE