Thursday, December 29, 2011

Author Interview: William Jeynes on Character Education and Prayer in Schools

Q: What prompted you to write A Call for Character Education and Prayer in the Schools? What "message" do you want to communicate?

A: I was raised as an atheist, in an environment in which I was taught that people of faith were responsible for many of the problems of the world. I am old enough to remember when Bible readings, voluntary prayer, and character education were still a part of the public school curriculum. I am also young enough to remember when these practices were taken out of the public schools. Even though I was an avid, and admittedly bigoted, anti-Christian atheist at the time, I could clearly see the striking difference in the school atmosphere after these practices were removed. Before 1963, if there was a major student conflict, teachers would instruct students regarding the wrongs of bullying, bring them through the steps of love and forgiveness, and attempt to bring about a peaceful resolution. There was also the use of terms like “delayed gratification,” “the work ethic,” “loving one another” and “sacrificing for others” that quickly declined in their use after 1963. All these trends caused even me, a staunch atheist, to question my beliefs and my insistence that I had no desire to interact with a person of faith.

In the years of schooling that followed I saw the atmosphere of the schools radically change, as the students gradually jettisoned most convictions of right and wrong. A culture of drugs, gangs, and violence pervaded the schools I attended. I grieved over a student movement that said it favored peace, but was bombing school buildings and attacking faculty and firefighters supposedly in the name of peace. Something was terribly wrong with the worldview of many in my generation. There was a moral vacuum in which we were simply encouraged to “do our own thing,” rather than “sacrifice for others.”

The fear proclaimed by many adults of the time was that these morally confused youth would one day be our leaders. And indeed, gradually they became our leaders. I realized I had to confront my belief system that had largely been based on stereotypes of people I had never met. I consumed hundreds and thousands of books and realized that character instruction previously had a central place in the schools for a good reason. I also realized that our society had paid a large price for its removal from the schools. Even our current recession is largely due to government and corporate corruption, by the same leaders who had little or no character instruction in their schools. I realized that a large degree of character was necessary for a society to thrive. Society cannot thrive unless people trust each other and when character is reduced substantially, so is trust.

Q: What was the highlight of your research? In the course of your research, what discovery surprised you the most? What surprises readers/others the most about your research?

A: I was most surprised by the extent to which the character of a people is so closely connected to crime rates, academic achievement, economic health, and so forth. Of course, whether character instruction occurs in the school is not the only, nor even the most important, source of personal integrity. However, if one concurrently examines the decline of the family and societal morality, it is amazing the extent to which other indices reflect health or problems. For example, is it merely coincidence that after falling between 1948 and 1962, divorce rates surged 17 consecutive years between 1963 and 1980 and the nation’s average SAT dropped 17 consecutive years during precisely the same period? Is it coincidence that in nations that remove character instruction from the schools, juvenile crime starts to skyrocket in the following year and drops when this instruction is reintroduced?

When I shared these data with other academics, government leaders, and people all across the globe, probably 98% of them acknowledge that there is a strong relationship between the character issue and crime, corruption, achievement, and other variables. Even though these individuals had generally given little thought to the matter previously, they realize there is a relationship. It has surprised me how quickly experts have agreed that the data speak so “loudly” that to use their words, the relationship is “undeniable.” I think it is largely because of this fact that I have been humbled with the opportunity to speak on these findings for the White House and for several government departments. These ideas have been embraced by both the Obama and G.W. Bush administrations, as well as by the government leaders of Great Britain, China, and South Korea.

Q: How did your research change your outlook on character education and faith?

A: As I shared, my research really began years ago, when I was in high school. Confronted with the realities of what the dearth of character education and any notion of freedom of religion in the schools had produced, I gained a great appreciation for both character education and America’s Judeo-Christian heritage. I do believe that character education can be taught in the public schools in a way that is not religious, but rather teaches children values that are embraced by people all around the world. All people, unless they are criminals or sociopaths, want their children to be taught to love, to be honest and sincere, responsible, and so forth. These are the values that should be taught in the schools. Nevertheless, I also think that public educators should show greater tolerance toward people of faith and as President Bill Clinton and others have shared, this is clearly missing. School teachers should teach about people of faith respectfully.

It is no doubt ironic that the man who wrote the foreword for this book is Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s son, Bill Murray. Madalyn Murray O’Hair worked harder than any other individual to remove all vestiges of faith and character instruction from the public schools. Bill and I were both raised as atheists and knew nothing better than to agree with our moms growing up. But then we each got older, researched the matter, and concluded that the faith heritage of the United States had primarily been a force for good. Love of God, love of neighbor, humility, peace, and joy that are practiced by Christians, Jewish people, and others are values to be respected and not dishonored. Even if a teacher is not a person of faith, religious people should not be demeaned. I believe a moment of silence is an appropriate way for people of all religious and non-religious persuasions to reflect and that this should be allowed in the schools.

Q: How have people reacted to your book and/or the ideas you set forth? Is it what you hoped for, or is there more work to be done?

A: I have been amazed and humbled at the extent to which government leaders, in particular, around the world have embraced these ideas. These ideas played a large role in my development of a 4-point plan to stimulate the South Korean economy in 1998, in the midst of Asia’s 1997-1998 economic crisis, the greatest such Asian crisis of the post-World War II period. This plan passed the South Korean parliament and helped the economy recover faster than in any other nation in Asia, growing by over 10% each of the next 2 years. I have had opportunities to speak on these ideas for the Obama and G.W. Bush administrations. I have also spoken on these themes at some of the top 20 American and world universities. I surely do not deserve these opportunities, but I am convinced it is by virtue of the truth of these principles rather than based on any talent in me that people in the government, the social sciences, and elsewhere have responded so enthusiastically.

Nevertheless, one only has to look at the morning news to realize that there is much work that needs to be done. Most classrooms do not value character education and dozens of nations have greater religious freedom in the public square than Americans do. The United States has a long way to go, as does the rest of the world, but hopefully this book can be a beginning.

Q: What's next for you?

A: I am anticipating writing a book on School Choice. I first wrote on this topic in 2000 for the Cambridge Journal of Education, in an article entitled, “School Choice: A Balanced Perspective.” I received a very positive response from this article, because of its emphasis on balance. The people of the United States in recent years have become more polarized in their views and I think there is a real need to examine the data and look at certain controversial issues in a balanced way. I also continue to work with both academic and political leaders in the United States to develop ways of teaching character education that nearly everyone can support.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Author Interview: Joy Porter on 'Land and Spirit in Native America'

Q: What prompted you to write Land and Spirit in Native America? What "message" do you want to communicate?

A: Like most books, this one started from a mixture of concern that these issues were so infrequently discussed and from a desire on the author’s part to educate herself through the process of writing. One of the nice things about creating this book was the number of colleagues from outside of my discipline who were keen to help and give backbone to its arguments- from Alaskan anthropologists to scientists working on how radioactive and other risks are evaluated by the public.

The point of the book is to make clear how different various indigenous American approaches to land and spirit have been from Euro-American ones and to argue that those ideas have a special pertinence today as we fight to overcome inertia and address the causes and consequences of climate change. The book makes a point of dispensing with “Indians-as-eco-warrior” rhetoric but it does take very seriously the Indian experience of colonialism and the long record of Indian interrelationship with land and its vital and ongoing spiritual dimensions.

Q: What was the highlight of your research? In the course of your research, what discovery surprised you the most? What surprises readers/others the most about your research?

A: A lot in this book is likely to upset certain preconceptions. For example, Indian peoples are associated with ideas about balance within wilderness environments. That connection is not without validity but the larger picture shows Indian peoples to have been at the forefront of modernity and to have been forced to cope first with the environmental despoliation that modernity has brought about. Thus Land and Spirit has a chapter that deals with American Indian forced migration so as to make way for the nation’s “wilderness” parks and a large chapter on environmental justice and the complexities of Indian life in the nuclear southwest. Rather than conflating everything Indian with some woolly sense of the ecological, the book asks that we confront revealing truths about how some of America’s most disadvantaged communities have faced environmental stress within capitalism.

In fact, it was finding out more about the history and meaning of nuclear power and nuclear weapons and their Indian connections that surprised me most when writing this book. On one level, we should all recognize that everything American owes a great deal to what was or is Indian, but I had no idea how central Indian land, Indian mining effort and Indian suffering was to the growth and perpetuation of nuclearism in terms of national power and national defense. Like quite a few Indian people, I’m not simplistically anti-nuclear, but the more one reads the more one gains a dread-filled respect for this particular tiger we have caught by the tail. For what is good about nuclear power and particularly in terms of the containment of nuclear waste, the world owes Indian peoples a great debt.

Land and Spirit is an unconventional book. It does not confine itself to the tramlines of conventional regional or thematic history, instead it leaps across time and across disciplinary boundaries linking Native American Indian art, history, literature and philosophy to mainstream histories and up-to-the-minute debates. Part of the reasoning behind writing it was to bust Native American criticism and history out of its intellectual corral. It’s hard now to write about American literature without taking on board Native American Indian writers, but too often when issues like the environment, nuclear power and the history of the life of the spirit on American soil are discussed Indian people and Indian thinking gets ignored.

Forthcoming, 2012

Q: How did your research change your outlook on this subject?

A: I learned a lot about how urgent the need for change is when it comes to the environment and a lot about why it might be that we aren’t making those changes more quickly. In a world of 7 billion plus that is increasingly being torn apart by the legacy of recent global financial mismanagement, the need for new thinking is urgent. Land and Spirit argues that we need to look at our spiritual understanding of the earth and at the sometimes ugly truths of our history in order to find a popular and sure-footed path forward. The book does not set forth prescriptive answers, but it puts aspects of Indian experience center stage and it demands that we think about what’s “wild” on this earth in a new way.

Q: How have people reacted to your book and/or the ideas you set forth? Is it what you hoped for, or is there more work to be done?

A: This interview is happening when the book is only just in production but those few who have read it have used words like fantastic and amazing. They do owe me money though, now I come to think of it…only joking! One thing is clear though, much more nuanced work needs to be done on nuclear power in Indian country across disciplines. Also, we need to wrest debate about climate change away from mostly literary environmental writers and away from scientists who communicate primarily in the language of maths. These folk are obviously pivotal but so are other voices and other understandings. I hope this book encourages other writers on Indian themes to take Native American Indian Studies in an inclusive manner into productive communion with other fields and other disciplines. Indian history and Indian thought is too valuable not to be widely thought about and debated at the interstice of today’s most pressing arguments.

Q: What's next for you?

A: I am finishing another book for The University of Toronto Press about a poet who claimed to be Iroquois and who fought in the first world war. It’s called The American Indian Poet of the First World War: Modernism and the Indian Identity of Frank “Toronto” Prewett, 1883-1962. Prewett was a fascinating character who was the lover of Seigfreid Sassoon and got published by Virginia Woolf. The project is being supported by the UK Arts & Humanities Research Board. Aside from his illustrious Bloomsbury literary connections, Prewett is interesting because of his response to war. He suffered severe shell-shock. His experience and his writing says something meaningful, I think, about modernity and about primitivism and what it meant to have voice at the beginning of the twentieth century.

After that I am working on another project, this one supported by the British Academy. It too will be a new book, The American Presidency and Tribal Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century. It addresses the most important question in twentieth-century Native American politics--how decisive were personal tribal relationships with individual American presidents? Answering that could alter fundamentally not only our existing understandings of the presidency but also how we conceptualize relationships between “small nations” and dominant powers more generally.

JOY PORTER is Senior Lecturer & Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities at The University of Swansea, Wales, UK, author of To Be Indian: The Life of Seneca-Iroquois Arthur Caswell Parker, 1881-1955 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2002), co-editor with Professor Kenneth Roemer (University of Texas, Arlington), of The Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature (University of Cambridge Press, 2005), editor of Place and Indian History, Literature & Culture for Peter Lang (2007) and coauthor of Competing Voices in Native America (2009).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Recipe #8 - Chocolate-Covered Coconut Macaroons

King David's Chocolate-Covered Coconut Macaroons
(This is a recipe that we used in the book Cooking with the Bible: Recipes for Biblical Meals. It's a hit every time.)

3 ½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
¼ cup matzoh cake meal
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, separated, plus 1 egg white
6 oz. imported bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup water
1 tsp. almond extract


  1. Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. In bowl, mix together coconut, matzoh cake meal, and 1 cup of the sugar. Add eggs and extra egg white and mix with fingers until well blended. Gently shape about 2 tablespoons dough into a pyramid and set on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, leaving about 2″ between cookies. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden on top. Cool completely.
  3. In saucepan, melt chocolate with the water, almond extract, and remaining ¼ cup sugar. Bring to boil; then simmer slowly for a few minutes until mixture starts to thicken. Cool slightly. Holding each macaroon with 2 fingers, dip half the cookie into the chocolate so that it is half black and half white. Allow to dry for a few seconds while tilted over a dish, then place on wax paper. Repeat with remaining cookies. Cool completely.

Yield: 16 macaroons

[Source: King David's Chocolate-Covered Coconut Macaroons recipe reprinted by permission of Recipe Gold Mine]

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Recipe #7 - Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake
(From the film Gosford Park; our guest Judy Baker lovingly prepared this luscious cake for our repast.)

4 eggs
1 c. vegetable oil
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. white granulated sugar
1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground allspice
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
3 c. carrots, peeled and grated
1 c. canned crushed pineapple (without the juice)
1 c. slivered almonds
1 c. flaked coconut
½ c. raisins


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, buttermilk, sugars, and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients and sift into the batter. Stir in the carrots, pineapple, almonds, coconut, and raisins until well blended. Pour into three 9" round pans that have been lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake for 50–60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to settle for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. When completely cooled, remove parchment paper.
  4. Ice the top of each cake with a vanilla buttercream frosting (see next), then ice the sides until the entire cake is covered.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

½ c. butter, room temperature
1 lb. confectioner’s sugar
½ c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cream the butter, then add the sugar a little at a time until the mixture begins to resemble crumbs. Slowly add the milk, beating all the while, then pour in the extract. Continue to beat until wispy. If the icing appears to be too runny, add more sugar.

Yield: 12–16 servings


Recipes provided by Cooking with the Movies: Meals on Reels authors Anthony F. Chiffolo and Rayner W. Hesse, Jr.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Evolution of U.S. Special Forces

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. Special Forces played a major role in the U.S.-led attack of Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Thanks in part to their efforts, by early December 2001 Kandahar, Afghanistan, the Taliban's last stronghold, fell to coalition forces. During the Iraq War, U.S. Special Forces were once again front and center, securing several large areas of the country. In this excerpt from the Introduction to John C. Fredriksen's Fighting Elites: A History of U.S. Special Forces, the author discusses the recent evolution of U.S. Special Forces into one of the key components of current U.S. military strategy.

Modern American special forces are a far cry from their historical antecedents, but threads of continuity persist in their tactical mastery of unconventional warfare. Moreover, the extreme dangers posed by the Soviet Union and Red China to the United States finally triggered a lasting resurgence in terms of special operations doctrine and, for once, the American military not only raised new special forces units, but also grudgingly maintained them as part of the standing military establishment. These include not only storied formations such as the Army’s Green Berets and Rangers, and the Navy’s SEALs, but also lesser known entities like the Air Force’s Air Resupply and Communications Command, the Marine Corp’s Force Recon companies. All performed dutifully during the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts, assuring that, while special forces may not enjoy wide popularity within military institutions, they were no longer considered expendable and subject to immediate disbandment at the end of hostilities.

The United States received an abject lesson in the utility of possessing appropriate special operations units for each service and every contingency following the disastrous Iranian hostage rescue attempt of 1980, which exuded dramatic remedial effects to that end. The interval between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the War against Terror found special forces employed in minor fare like hunting war criminals in the Balkans and Somalia, tasks for which they are trained to do, but they acquired little distinction. However, the attack against the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, again spelled in stark relief the growing and sometimes dire necessity of recruiting, training, equipping, and preserving a viable special operations capabilities. That the cruel Taliban regime in Afghanistan and their al-Qaeda terrorist consorts were run out of that rugged country in only three months proffers incontrovertible proof that U.S. Special Forces are a potent factor to reckon with. They currently operate everywhere around the globe, wherever American interests and security are threatened, and scores of dead terrorists offer mute testimony to their deadly effectiveness. Given the implications of terrorism to national security, there is little wonder that, over the past two and a half centuries, America’s special forces have evolved steadily from episodic tactical novelties into battlefield force multipliers and standing strategic necessities. The 21st century may very well prove itself to be a golden age of unconventional warfare, and high-tech, special warriors to wage it.

John C. Fredriksen, PhD, is an independent historian. He is the author of 30 books and reference encyclopedias on military history, most recently Fighting Elites: A History of U.S. Special Forces. His other publications include ABC-CLIO's American Military Leaders: From Colonial Times to the Present and America's Military Adversaries: From Colonial Times to the Present. Fredriksen has also authored a series of chronologies detailing the histories of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Recipe #6 - Pike's Apple Torte

Pike’s Apple Torte
(This recipe recreates a dessert from the film Big Eden. Although there was not enough room for this movie in Cooking with the Movies, it's a wonderful film with delicious food.)

7 Tbsp. butter
2 c. Red Delicious apples, skinned, cored, and sliced
4 eggs, well beaten
1 ½ c. sugar
¾ c. all-purpose flour, sifted
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ c. chopped walnuts

1 c. Granny Smith apples, cored, pared, and thinly sliced
½ c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a small frying pan, melt half the butter and fry the apples in it until soft, about 3-4 minutes on each side. (Do not allow to burn.) Pour out into a large bowl, and mix together with the remaining butter and all other ingredients.
  • Generously butter a 9” round funnel cake pan. Pour the mixture into it.
  • In a large bowl, combine the topping ingredients. Individually place each apple slice on top of the cake mixture, in a fan shape, or some other clever way.
  • Bake for 60 minutes, or until the center is set. Allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.

Yield: 8-12 servings

Recipes provided by Cooking with the Movies: Meals on Reels authors Anthony F. Chiffolo and Rayner W. Hesse, Jr.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Author Interview: Nathan R. Kollar, Defending Religious Diversity in Public Schools

Q: What prompted you to write Defending Religious Diversity in Public Schools?

A: I initiated and facilitated an eighteen-month investigation into how four undergraduate colleges and three seminaries identified and taught those who believed differently than the majority in their institutions. This research, sponsored by the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, enabled me to see how the radically different in our midst enhanced the learning of both teacher and student in our classrooms. It was an easy step to see how diversity in the entire educational process was necessary for a more complete education. This step was encouraged and facilitated by Anthony Chiffolo, an editor at ABC-CLIO. The result was Defending Religious Diversity which was an amalgam of teaching and research from the grant and twenty-three years of teaching as adjunct professor in the leadership program at the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester.

Q: What "message" do you want to communicate?

A: That diversity in general and religious diversity in particular are necessary for our national survival.

Q: What was the highlight of your research?

A: Being able to understand and clearly communicate the vast amount of legal interpretations and development surrounding religion in our public schools.

Q: In the course of your research, what discovery surprised you the most?

A: That religious bullying occurs in many of our public schools.

Q: What surprises readers/others the most about your research?

A: That it is possible to bring those who differ radically from each other together for enhancing the common good.

Q: How did your research change your outlook on religious diversity?

A: It made me realize that many times intrareligious diversity is more divisive than interreligious diversity.

Q: How have people reacted to your book and/or the ideas you set forth?

A: Many wish that what is portrayed there can be achieved but hesitate to bring these ideas and skills into everyday practice. Reading about religious diversity is easy; living religious diversity is a challenge.

Q: Is it what you hoped for, or is there more work to be done?

A: I had hoped that , once principals and school boards recognized that schools that have a comprehensive religious diversity program have less bullying and a more comprehensive view of the world, they would implement or deepen programs for diversity in their schools. This has not happened not only because of the difficulty of implementation but also because the present state of education in the United States is in crisis as to goals, methods, evaluation, and financial backing.

Q: What's next for you?

A: If diversity is essential to living in a pluralistic society then it is necessary for my spiritual life. Recent experiences with traditional college age students and middle aged attendees at adult education forms led me to further research and seeking to bring to fruition a primer for understanding the spiritualities of the classical religions and their alternatives. The UCLA longitudinal study demonstrates the need for such a work and an international conference on diversity of religions. Interfaith Understanding Conference suggests how to meet that need. My challenge is to get beyond the popular myths about spirituality and provide tested means from the social sciences to enhance people’s lives in this primer for understanding diverse spiritualities.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Recipe #5 - Wilted Lettuce with Peas and Pearl Onions

Wilted Lettuce with Peas and Pearl Onions
(From the film Gosford Park)

1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 bag frozen peas, or 2 small cans
1 bag frozen pearl onions
2 c. water
1 lb. bacon, well done and cut into bits
1 Tbsp. bacon grease

In a medium pot, combine the lettuce, peas, and pearl onions with the water and cook until the lettuce is quite wilted and the peas and onions are cooked through. Drain. Add the bacon bits and grease, toss, and serve.

Yield: 6 servings

Although a dish featuring “wilted” lettuce might lack a certain “title” appeal, this recipe is quickly prepared, colorful, and quite tasty.

Recipes provided by Cooking with the Movies: Meals on Reels authors Anthony F. Chiffolo and Rayner W. Hesse, Jr.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holiday Recipe #4 - Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts
(This recipe is from the movie Gosford Park, directed by Robert Altman.)

1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts (try to buy them fresh the day they are to be used)
salted water
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
½ c. light brown sugar
1 tsp. Balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp. black pepper
½ c. hazelnuts, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Wash the sprouts and pull off any yellowed leaves. Parboil them in just enough salted water to cover for no more than 5 minutes, then drain.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the butter and brown sugar with the Balsamic vinegar and pepper, then stir in the hazelnuts. Transfer the mixture to cover the bottom of a small baking dish. Place the sprouts on top of the nut mix, close enough together so that they don’t tip over. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Serve piping hot as an accompaniment.

Yield: 6–8 servings

Recipes provided by Cooking with the Movies: Meals on Reels authors Anthony F. Chiffolo and Rayner W. Hesse, Jr.