‘I’m Still Here’

4 Jan

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A small thought on an essential fact as 2014 begins:

The other day, after a column on the good and bad of 2013, I got a letter from a reader named Arthur Blair, who felt I’d left out something important. “I believe that just being alive is still the best thing of any year.” I wrote back and told him that funnily enough, after noting in the column that every year has something to recommend it, I’d written “We’re here, we’re alive, made it through another year.” I cut it from the first draft for space. It was obvious enough that it didn’t have to be said.

But sometimes obvious things don’t get said, or said enough.

Mr. Blair shared the experience that had sharpened his appreciation for the simple fact of being here. In August, 1950 he was a young US soldier fighting the war in Korea. It was tough pretty much from the minute he got there. “I spent a long afternoon being shot at and grenaded by a North Korean about thirty feet from where I was lying on the ground and he was in a foxhole. Obviously I lived through that day by the grace of God, and I have considered every day since than as a gift from God.” He went on to serve in Vietnam and spent fourteen years on the faculty at West Point.

Not every day since Korea, he said, has been good – “I have been exhausted, hungry, sleep-deprived, afraid, bored, unhappy. Been through cancer, pneumonia, lonely, whatever. I have also been happy, contented, enjoying my family and work, and so forth. No matter what, I have been alive.” He is now 86 years old “and buried too many friends; but I’m still here.”

“Basically, every day is a good day underneath. No matter what bad happened in 2013, there is always a chance – hope — that things will get better.”

Mr. Blair’s note reminded me of one of my favorite lines from a movie I saw as a kid, “The Long Hot Summer.” Cantankerous old Will Varner, played by Orson Welles, is rocking on the back porch. His children are finally romantically squared away, his worries in that area are over. He blurts out in a burly southern drawl, with an air of discovery, “It’s GOOD to be alive.”

It is.

Where there’s life there’s hope – always.

Thank you, Arthur Blair, Colonel USA Ret., for your nice note, and Happy New Year to you.

Quote of the day: General Trainor on the loneliness of the today’s new veterans

4 Jan

Shared via feedly // published on Thomas E. Ricks’s blog // visit site

rickstrainor.jpg

Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor (and author, too) looks back at his returns from wars in Korea and Vietnam and discerns a major difference in the world today’s vet finds when he comes home:

Today’s all-­volunteer soldier is alone; very few of his peers have served in the military, much less gone to war. Rarely are there guys to hang out with at a Manion’s. Earlier, the American Legion, the VFW and reunions were a refuge of comradeship. But those are dying institutions, and today’s veteran is not a joiner anyway. He is largely isolated, with only his iPhone as a comrade. Wounded or whole, modern veterans speak of yearning to be back with their units, no matter how unpleasant it would be. Many feel alone, no longer a member of Henry V’s "band of brothers."

Quote 30 Apr

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Moral Lessons of High School Musical

27 Apr

High School Musical Logo

   

    Recently, my oldest daughter performed in High School Musical Jr. at our Catholic school here in Carlisle, PA. It has been a long time since I have attended a school play. The last time I saw a school production, the actors didn’t use microphones and the school didn’t need a license from Disney. In fact, I think our school music teacher wrote most of the plays himself.

    There were many interesting moral messages in High School Musical Jr, some good and some bad. So, I took out my iPad and hammered-out some that I churned over in my head while waiting for my daughter to mingle with her friends at the cast party.  (Note: I have not seen the movie High School Musical. Those who have could probably add many more points.) 

    These four points have given us literally hours of talk time around the dinner table. I tried to formulate these questions as open as possible. This helps them arrive at their own conclusion. 

  • The status quo is literally “the state in which.” We usually mean this as the existing  state of political or social conditions. What do you think status quo means? Is this different from what High School Musical is saying? When might it be good to follow the status quo? And when is it bad? What can we gain–or loose–by following or departing from the status quo?
  • A clique is a group of people, usually small, with common or shared interests. They give each other attention, but their group or association is normally closed; they do not readily allow others to join them.What would you do when your friends gave you or someone close to you grief for going between cliques? How might they be good; how might they be bad? Why do we not like cliques?
  • Risk is exposure to danger, a loss, or a hazard. Can risk be good? Can we try to many things? What things are good to try? And when can risk be bad?
  • Erma Bombeck once said “if life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits.” Life will have such peaks and valleys for everyone. How do you stay focused and grounded in your life?

Reflection on Creative Leadership Course

24 Apr
This course changed my perspective of leadership. Many of these concepts and ideas are not new, but I have never seen them combined and studied with any academic rigor. And I have not seen creative leadership concepts presented for practical use. For instance, I have looked to other industries for examples and examined patterns described by Bill Duggan and Roger von Oech.[1] But I couldn’t easily bridge between idea and action; I did not have a model to ground what seemed to me a fictitious creative ideal.[2]

In this short essay, I will examine some of these ideas. For brevity, I will omit terms such as “I have learned that;” I will instead use declarative statements.

It is easier to define creative leadership by what it is not than by what it is. It is not a series of drills, exercises, and icebreakers found in a corporate binder. And it isn’t beatnik poetry, Avant-garde artistry, or pure divine convergence. Tom Kelly and Jonathan Littman summarize the output of creativity well: “Innovators don’t just have their heads in the clouds. They also have their feet on the ground.”[3] This was the first bridge: there is some art in creative leadership. But creativity must be rational and grounded.

Creativity is not pure spontaneity and happenstance. Effective creative leaders are deliberate—they must make and foster conditions for themselves and others to create and innovate. It is all about environment. A farmer prepares and nurtures his crops by planning the planting and preparing the soil. He also must give space and time to the seed so it can best grow. Creative leadership is similar: it has all the elements of conditions, space, time, and risk.

Leaders cultivate six conditions for creativity: humility, openness, understanding, risk, structure, and climate. This list is naturally not definitive. I could have combined and harmonized these terms with academic research. But these conditions struck me—they jarred me the most—during this short elective. They are my framework for planning a “creative infection” for innovation to take root and thrive.

Creative leaders require humility. This isn’t merely limited to selfless service—there are many uncreative selfless servants. This facet of humility encourages a comfortable diversity of opinions, perceptions, and outlooks around the creative leader.[4] Creative leaders must therefore diversify their networks. They should include those from academia, multiple generations, and varying political views. Such humility also implies wisdom; it is a comfort and acceptance of ambiguity.[5] Tactical leaders must be experts in all corners of their operation. Creative leaders differ. Their humility forces them to reach out comfortably and respectfully to others.

Creative leaders develop an environment of openness to possibilities. This is not just accommodating new ideas. Peter Drucker calls this a “change in perception.”[6] Likewise, Gerard Puccio, et al., suggest expanding the landscape of possibility with open problem statements.[7] Open problem statements—a shift from “…we must do x…” to “how can we…”—increase creative possibilities. They unlink the perceived issue with the quick solution. They also prevent self-limitations inherent in quick problem solving. An open problem statement can unlock immense creative possibilities; they provide unlock discovery.[8]

Leaders conversant in creativity see it in two dimensions: corporately and individually. They know how and why creativity is a critical advantage to the organization. Using deliberate study and observation, they perceive how leaders should and shouldn’t use creative thinking to prevent stagnation in the organization. These leaders must also understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to creativity from psychological diversity within teams. Naturally, not all leaders can handpick teams, but the astute creative leader minimizes these challenges to creativity. Lastly, creative leaders study continuously. They do this to build maximum inventories of ideas, concepts, and experiences essential to the creative process.[9] Just as importantly, creative leaders encourage others to study the world around them aggressively.

Creative leaders accept risk and experiment. They seek opportunities and build laboratories to innovate. Naturally, creative leaders understand some management and business functions must maintain tight and rigorous structures. These business lines, such as accounting and range safety, require precise structure for control and oversight. But creative leaders also understand that there are many opportunities for risk taking throughout the organization. However, there is a paradox: risk and experimentation must be deliberate. It is not haphazard. Creative leaders should allow and plan for failure, but they first must have a sense for how the organization will accept experimentation and prototypes. In other words, without defined pathways for travel, creative ideas and concepts will hit speed bumps, uncertain detours, and dead ends within the organization.

Risk taking begs some key questions: Should the leader shield the organization from uncertainty? Should he distill, filter, or only clarify for the organization, giving them a sense of stability? Or should the leader embrace ambiguity and teach his organization to do the same? Obviously, this is complex, but after gaining corporate understanding of the organization, this question is not either/or, but both/and. In some parts of the organization, a creative leader could stabilize and filter uncertainty (facilities management, for example). But in other parts of the organization, he may elect to allow uncertainty to flourish. Examples might be human resources, logistics, or in pockets where employees naturally gravitate to creativity.

Leaders must understand how organizational structure helps or hinders creativity. Creative leaders know there is a paradox surrounding tight-knit teams: high social cohesion—that is, tight and familiar groups—can dampen creativity.[10] This often surprises those taught that the most effective organization has deep continuity and expertise. Stability and skill are required in many organizations, but they do not necessarily lend themselves to creativity. These tight groups can be more prone to groupthink; they tend to be very good at killing ideas.

Leaders can reduce social cohesion without scrapping core leadership groups. For instance, in key strategy sessions with garrison directors—those leaders directly reporting to the garrison commander and deputy—we introduced small groups of employees from multiple levels and from every directorate. We did this to increase communication by “planting seeds” about our corporate strategy. We also disrupted an otherwise entrenched group and unlocked significant creativity.

This prompts a number of related questions: where should we place innovators? Do we give them special access? Do we build small groups such as strategic initiative groups? Do we take a combination approach—to build a climate of innovation throughout the organization, but build small teams for rapid innovation projects?[11]

Creative leaders use these five elements—humility, openness, understanding, risk, and structure—to build climate. Climate is the wrapper for these five ways. It can also bind the nine elements or means suggested by Steve Zeisler: challenge and involvement, freedom, trust/openness, idea time, playfulness and humor, conflict, debate, idea support, and risk-taking.[12]

Which element or tool we use is not of primary importance. We may adopt the perspectives of Steve Zeisler, Puccio et al, Duggan, or von Oech, but the gist of creative leadership is deliberateness. This deliberateness requires planning, foresight, and personal awareness. But deliberateness also means work. At the start of this course, I would’ve told you that creativity was magic or spark of the Divine. To a limited extent, this may be. But I found is that creativity is work. Plain and simple.

And last, like cost cutting on our garrisons over the past years, creativity and innovation is continuous. It is not an end state. Creativity is plugging away at the problems, stretching them, flipping them, and imagining the possibilities. Creative leadership is study and observation; creativity is also about getting the job done.

The chart “Thinking Critically About Critical Thinking” by Diane F. Halpern, and Heidi R. Riggio[13] hangs in virtually every seminar room. While we briefly read and discussed creative leadership in the Strategic Leadership, it took 30 hours of elective discussion, and many other hours of reading and reflection to unlock the potential of what Halpern and Riggio are trying to convey. I now look at that chart and it is pregnant with meaning. And for this, I thank you.

Endnotes


[1] William Duggan, “How Aha! Really Happens,” Strategy+Business, January 2011, http://www.strategy-business.com/article/10405?gko=06d13&cid=20110104enews (accessed January 11, 2013) and Roger Von Oech, A Whack on the Side of the Head (New York: Warner Books, 1998), 1-229.
[2] Thomas Kelley and Jonathan Littman, “The 10 Faces of Innovation,” Fast Company 99 (October 2005): 74, http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/99/faces-of-innovation.html (accessed January 11, 2013).
[3] Ibid.
[4] This is the “Medici Effect” cited in Dyer, J. H., H. B. Gregersen, and C. M. Christensen. “The Innovator’s DNA.” Reprinted in Harvard Business Review, December 2009, 61.
[5] Robert J. Sternberg, “WICS: A Model of Leadership in Organizations,” Academy of Management Learning and Education Vol. 2, No. 4 (December 2003): 393.
[6] P. F Drucker,. “The Discipline of Innovation,” Reprinted in Harvard Business Review (August 2002): 100.
[7] G. J. Puccio, M. C. Murdock, and M. Mance, Creative Leadership: Skills That Drive Change, 2nd Edition, (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 2011), 162.
[8] J. H. Dyer, H. B. Gregersen, and C. M. Christensen, “The Innovator’s DNA.” Reprinted in Harvard Business Review (December 2009), 60.
[9] Roger Von Oech, A Whack on the Side of the Head (New York: Warner Books, 1998), 6.
[10] “How to Kill a Team’s Creativity,” Reprinted in Harvard Business Review (August 2002): 17.
[11] A. E. Pearson, “Tough-Minded Ways to Get Innovative,” Reprinted in Harvard Business Review (August 2002): 118.
[12] Stephen Zeisler, “Establishing a Creative Climate,” elective discussion, Carlisle Barracks, PA, U.S. Army War College, April 11, 2013 and article Stephen Zeisler, “Innovation: A Focus on Climate” (2000), 1.
[13] Diane F. Halpern, and Heidi R. Riggio, “Review of Skills for Creative Thinking.” Thinking Critically About Critical Thinking Fourth edition (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2003): 75.

“Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; Habemus Papam! Papa Francisco!”

13 Mar

“Love for the Roman Pontiff must be in us a delightful passion, for in him we see Christ. If we talk and listen to our Lord in prayer, we will go forward with a clear gaze that will permit us to perceive the action of the Holy Spirit, even when faced with events we do not understand, or which produce suffering or sorrow.” St Josemaria, In Love With The Church, 13

Quote

“Men do not dif…

8 Mar

“Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.”

GK Chesterton, Illustrated London News, October 23, 1909

Movie Messages

6 Mar

Marty-doc-remoteWe don’t watch TV in our house. Actually, I need to clarify that: We don’t watch TV connected to a cable, satellite, or rabbit ears complete with tin foil. In fact, the last time we watched network TV was well over a decade ago. However, we do own a TV: a small 15” LCD job that we pull out of the closet once a week on a Saturday or Sunday evening to watch a movie.

We don’t miss TV. In fact, we regained hours of our lives since we “cut the coax.” back. Sure, some have the time to sit and watch TV. On the other, there are kids we need to raise, feed, dress, wash, and read to. True, several of our children are quickly growing up, leaving us just one to supervise in the bath, but all of the kids like us to read to them. What do we do with all this time on our hands? We talk and read.

Since my wife and I grew up in the lost decades of the late-60s to the mid-80s, we occasionally default to a strange lexicon, using or throwing out a term or movie line that catches our growing kids off guard. Naturally, the kids let most of this pass, unlike that picture of dad wearing when he was eight or that commercial we had to show them about getting “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter…you got your peanut butter in my chocolate!” (Thank you, YouTube).

Naturally, we feel a sense of obligation to give our children some context about our past in general, but these odd movie lines in particular. We met this obligation this last Sunday night by watching Back to the Future.

What always seems like a great idea doesn’t always come off so well. As parents, we are sensitive to the tacit Utilitarian messages, although this gives us material for later discussion. The key to getting through these surprises is just not to overreact and draw attention to these errors. (As if we’re 100% successful at doing that….). Even if we were 100% ready for the moral messages, nothing could prepare us for the 80s big hair sported by Marty McFly’s girlfriend (“Did you ever have hair like that, Mom?”) and other treats.

Movies such as Back to the Future can be great material for days of discussion. This is a gauge I use for meaningful films: if I’m thinking or talking about the movie 24 or more hours later, it is meaningful. This shouldn’t be confused with a good movie which requires an intersection of great dialogue, message, photography, acting, and scenery. Back to the Future has little of these great movie elements, but it still holds its own in a particular way.

We do talk quite a bit to our children about messaging and marketing in movies. I want them to be wise in the ways of the marketers. In fact, I made this point to my oldest daughter not too long ago. I showed her clips of Bogey, Bacall and others smoking in the movies. I then asked her how often she saw smoking being shown as cool in movies today; her answer was spot on: “not at all.” She then saw the causality between the message and the medium.

In this light, Back to the Future is a great example of the sad Hollywood tradition of trying to test the limits. The movie was obvious in displaying a puerile desire to break two limits. First, the writers tried to stretch the limits of swearing. Now, this certainly wasn’t a film that dropped F-bombs ever other sentence. But, in what appears to be its desire to get the language out there, it seemed so contrived and unnatural that it was obvious. The writers could just omit it and the film would’ve been essentially the same. Second, was its peeping Tom scene where George McFly is…well, you get the picture. I suppose the writers had to get George up in a tree doing something so he could accidentally fall into the street, nearly getting hit by his future wife’s father. But, the concept is so Porky’s-esque that I just shook my head wondering how a writer makes a living out of this stuff. Sadly, they do.

Still, Back to the Future has some real meat for discussion. Somewhat obvious is the issue of time travel. Was it right that Marty wanted to change the future by changing the past? If we saw this as wrong, would it be OK as long as a good would come of it? How quickly would you dispense with your moral conscience?—as quickly as Dr. Brown did? How should boys treat girls and vice versa? When is anger justified? Is pacifism or not doing anything OK or is it directly opposed to justice…. As I said, we’re still talking about these various messages.

I’d love to hear how other parents have used both old and new movies as teaching material for their children. How and when do you discuss these movies: do you talk over movies with your child immediately, over the dinner table, or at your child’s bedside? What movies stick out as good movie material? Do you only show those movies where all is Utopian, or do you balance your selections with movies that have upsets and resets so you have substance for your discussion?

The Great Books for Strategic Leaders

3 Mar

Image

The US Army War College’s Great Books for Strategic Leaders (LM2244) elective has been a fantastic experience. I admit that the reading list daunted me at first, and I bit my lip for the first few sessions wondering if made a serious error by enrolling for the course.

Several people have asked me about the book selections we used in the course. I am providing a list of our readings below, grouped by each monthly three hour discussion session. Additionally, I included my proposed personal reading list for the next year.

Course Intro and Epic Poetry

Andrew Abbott, “The Aims of Education” The University of Chicago Record, September 26, 2002. [http://home.uchicago.edu/~aabbott/Papers/aims2.pdf] (accessed July 24, 2012)

Dorothy Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning” (Oxford, 1947) [http://www.gbt.org/text/sayers.html] (accessed July 24, 2012)

General Sir John Hackett, “From My Bookshelf,” Military Review (November 1988): 87.

Bernard Knox, “Introduction” in The Iliad translated by Robert Eagles (New York: Penguin Press, 1990)

Homer, “The Iliad,” translated by Robert Eagles, Introduction and Notes by Bernard Knox (New York: Penguin Press, 1990).

Living Well

Plato, The Apologia [http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1656/1656-h/1656-h.htm] (accessed July 24,2012)

Aristotle, The Nichomachean Ethics (selections) [http://www.gutenberg.org/

cache/epub/8438/pg8438.html] (accessed July 24,2012)

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations [http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2680/2680-h/2680-h.htm] (accessed July 24, 2012)

Confucius, The Analects [http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/3330/pg3330.html] (accessed July 24, 2012)

Classical History

Tacitus, The Annals [http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.html] (accessed July 24, 2012)

Tragedy

Aristotle, The Poetics [http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1974/1974-h/1974-h.htm] (accessed July 24, 2012)

Aeschylus, Agamemnon [http://classics.mit.edu/Aeschylus/agamemnon.html] (accessed July 24, 2012)

Euripedes, The Bacchae, [http://classics.mit.edu/Euripides/bacchan.html] (accessed July 24, 2012)

Euripides, The Trojan Women [http://classics.mit.edu/Euripides/troj_women.html] (accessed July 24, 2012)

William Shakespeare, Coriolanus [http://shakespeare.mit.edu/coriolanus/full.html] (accessed July 24, 2012)

The Birth of the Modern Mind

Thomas Aquinas, On Being and Essence [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/aquinas-esse.asp] (accessed July 24, 2012)

Francis Bacon, Novum Organum (selections) [http://www.constitution.org/bacon/nov_org.htm] (accessed July 24, 2012)

Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method [http://www.gutenberg.org/files/59/59-h/59-h.htm] (accessed July 24, 2012)

William Shakespeare, King Lear, [http://shakespeare.mit.edu/lear/full.html] (accessed July 24, 2012)

Modern History

Francis Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe : the French and Indian War (New York: Da Capo Press, 1995).

America’s Political Revolution: the Constitutional Debate

The Constitution of the United States of America [http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html] (accessed July 24, 2012)

Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, The Federalist Papers [http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fedpapers.html] (accessed July 24, 2012)

Ralph Ketcham, The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates (selections) (New York: Penguin Press, 1986).

Modern Literature: the Novel as Satire

William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair [http://www.gutenberg.org/files/599/599-h/599-h.htm] (accessed July 24, 2012)

Modern Poetry/Reading for Life

TBD

Modern Literature: the Novel as Philosophy

George MacDonald Frazier, Flashman, Flash for Freedom!, Flashman in the Great Game (New York: Knopf Publishing, 2010)

Future Reading Program (2013-2014)

I prepared this near-term reading list from three primary sources: The Great Books of the Western World list,[i] the Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature,[ii] and from peer suggestions. I also arranged this list by specific topical areas for further personal study. These four categories driving the corpus of future reading and study include: the strategic implications of the Great Books program and leadership; human understanding, human nature, and metaphysics; the study of scientific thought; and western political philosophy.

Strategic Implications of Great Books and Leadership

Charles Hill, Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011). I read a review of this book[iii] and instantly wanted to learn how the author applied the Great Books to the realm of statecraft. Using the text I would like to learn how leaders can use and misapply the Great Books, and how to best inculcate the Great Books in personal and institutional learning.

Roland Huntford, The Last Place on Earth, (New York: Modern Library, 1999). Suggested by Dr. Hill, this book looks to be a solid case study in two different leadership approaches stemming from differences in cultures and subcultures.

Cervantes, The History of Don Quixote de la Mancha (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). I have two reasons for wanting to read this book. First, I want to read a book by a man who fought in one of the greatest military turns of fortune: the Battle of Lepanto (1571). Second, the book promises to be a great leadership study not because Don Quixote succeeded, but because of stalwart persistence made possible through self-knowledge.

Saint Thomas More, The Four Last Things, The Supplication of Souls, A Dialogue on Conscience (New York: Scepter Publishers, 2002). This is a volume of three works by More. It largely consists of a collection of letters between More and primarily his daughter Margaret and, to a lesser extent, his step daughter Alice Alington. Within these writings, I hope to examine further the role of continual formation of conscience in its rights and duties to the strategic leader.

Human understanding, human nature, and metaphysics

The Battle of Maldon (Anglo-Saxon Books, 2000). This epic poem dating from
991 AD examines not only the disasters resulting from poor leadership, but also the nobility of death in battle despite uncertain odds.

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (Cutchogue, NY: Buccaneer Books, 1993). This book has long been on my reading list. As human understanding is a necessary competency of the strategic leader, I could just as well classify the text under the topic of leadership. I hope to gain from the text further insights into why, even in horrid circumstances, survival may hinge on an understanding of meaning.

Czeslaw Milosz, The Captive Mind (London: Vintage Books, 1990). Similar to Man’s Search for Meaning, I hope to glean greater understanding of humanity and maintaining one’s conscience at a time when western intellectual elites were praising the societal success of Communism.[iv]

Study of Scientific Thought:

Johannes Kepler, Epitome of Copernican Astronomy (Prometheus Books). First, I feel I should read Kepler since we hail from the same small town in Germany. Second, I desire to gain a better understanding of the effect of new scientific thought on nations before, during, and after the Copernican Revolution.

Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2012); Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations (New York: Basic Books, 1977); and Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (New York: Routledge, 2002). Our readings on Birth of the Modern Mind prompted a personal interest in further investigating modern scientific thought across the range of disciplines such as decision theory, social science, and ethics. These works promise to be difficult, but rewarding.

Western Political Philosophy

Pierre Manent, An Intellectual History of Liberalism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996). I began this text a few months ago, reading it in parallel with the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. I intend to gain greater insights into the nascent thought not only of the 17th and 18th Centuries, but also their effect on our current Western political philosophical tradition.

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). I plan to read this text to both round out my study of 17th and 18th Century political philosophy and also as a foundational work for classical conservatism.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2011). This text has long been on my list as a general history study. I became interested in reading it once again after reading Charles Murray’s sociological study Coming Apart.[v] Specifically, I would like to understand de Tocqueville’s observation of free association and its role in American society.


[i] Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (New York: Touchstone Books, 1972), 350-362 and Mortimer Adler, The Great ideas; a syntopicon of Great books of the Western World (Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1955).

[ii] Elizabeth Kantor, Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature (Washington, DC; Regnery Publishing, 2006), 3-185.

[iii] Adam Kirsh, “The New Republic: Great Books Or Great Leaders?” NPR Partner Content from The New Republic, entry posted August 19, 2010, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129295828 (Accessed February 23, 2013).

[iv] Andrew Hill, e-mail message to author, February 20, 2013.

[v] Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010 (New York: Crown Forum, 2012).

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