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GEN Z IS THE LEAST RELIGIOUS GENERATION. HERE’S WHY THAT COULD BE A GOOD THING.

8 May

Generation Z Community Gen Z

Members of Generation Z are losing their religion, for better and for worse. My 17-year-old daughter, Sheila, does not believe in God. She attended church twice when we were trying to decide whether to raise her with religion (we decided against it). She’s been at synagogue a few times, attending friends’ bat mitzvahs, but those friends don’t believe in God either. Her circle of close friends is diverse in many ways: white, black, Latina, Jewish, Indian; three identify as bi or gay. They are less diverse when it comes to religion: Except for one girl, who’s an Evangelical Christian, religion is not important to these kids.

Sheila and her friends are typical of a growing trend in her generation. I say this not only as a parent. I teach at a Catholic university where increasing numbers of my students lack even basic knowledge of the tradition they were supposedly raised in. And I’m a sociologist of religion who has spent 15 years studying those who leave it.

So begins religious sociologist Christel J. Manning’s report and musings on Gen Z and religion. You may read her entire Pacific Standard piece here.

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THE CONSUMER AGE TURNED AMERICANS INTO GAMBLERS

2 May

Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich presents a check to Lerynne West, one of the winners of a $700 million Powerball prize in November 2018. Courtesy of AP Photo/Charlie Neibargall.

Today legal gambling in the United States is widely accepted and more prevalent than ever. But as recently as the 1950s, gambling was seen as a fundamentally un-American way to make a living. This shift in attitudes towards gambling—which took about a half-century to achieve—spoke to generational shifts in American beliefs about morality and capitalism.

So begins historian David G. Schwartz’s concise and cogent history of attitudes toward gambling in the U.S. in the 20th and 21st centuries. You may read his entire Zocalo essay here.

How the Census Changed America

1 May

 

The inventor Herman Hollerith devised a punch-card system to record census information. His invention transformed data-processing technology. Photograph by American Stock Archive / Archive Photos / Getty

In April, the Supreme Court began to hear arguments about one of the central requirements of the Constitution. It’s right there, in Article I, Section 2, clause 3: For a government of the people to function, the people must be counted. The Founders wanted an “enumeration” to occur within three years of the first meeting of Congress, and then “within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” A census, in other words.

So begins Ted Widmer’s brief consideration of some of the history of the U.S. Census. While he rightly notes the partial exclusion of African Americans for much of this history, he fails to note the even longer exclusion of most American Indians. Indians were not declared U.S. citizens until an act of Congress in 1924.

You may read Widmer’s entire New Yorker article here.

WHAT THE DODGERS AND GIANTS’ 1958 MOVE WEST MEANT FOR AMERICA

28 Mar

Few phrases are as evocative of a mythical, imagined urban past as “Brooklyn Dodgers.”

Those two words, particularly in the borough that is now a punch line for hipster jokes, bring to mind a different America, one where the U.S. saw itself as more of a political innocent just discovering its global superpowers, where hardworking immigrant families advanced rapidly into the middle class, and where young people survived on a diet of knishes, homemade pasta, kielbasa, and other foods from the old country (but rarely drank anything stronger than a milkshake). The nostalgia evoked by the phrase “Brooklyn Dodgers” was broad enough to include African-Americans making steady advances into the promise of full citizenship, symbolized by the integration of baseball by Jackie Robinson and the excellence of his teammates, from Roy Campanella to Don Newcombe.

Those fantasies—of the Dodgers, of baseball, of America—came crashing down in 1957. It was announced that winter that the Dodgers and their uptown rivals the Giants, who made their home in Harlem, would leave New York the following year for Los Angeles and San Francisco.

This move West, still decried in Brooklyn and among older New Yorkers, changed how Americans thought about baseball and the country.

So begins Columbia University professor Lincoln Mitchell’s summary of his book on the westward move of baseball in the 1950s. You may read the entire Zocalo Public Square post here.

On Influencing People, historically considered

6 Feb

Edward L. Bernays is regarded as one of the fathers of public relations. Although he died more than two decades ago, his influence pervades modern western consumer culture.

‘Group of Girls Puff at Cigarettes as a Gesture of “Freedom”’, read the front page of the New York Times on April 1st, 1929. It was no April Fools’ joke; rather, this spectacle of liberated, smoking women was one of Bernays’ most celebrated publicity stunts.

Bernays’ client, George W. Hill, president of the American Tobacco Company, had asked him: ‘How can we get women to smoke on the street. They’re smoking indoors. But, damn it, if they spend half the time outdoors and we can get ’em to smoke outdoors, we’ll damn near double our female market. Do something. Act!’

So begins Iris Mostegel’s History Today piece on Edward L. Bernays. You may read the entire article here.

Blackface in some historical perspective

5 Feb

Last Friday, it was revealed that Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia, had featured, on his medical-school yearbook page, a photograph of a man in blackface and a man in a Ku Klux Klan hood. Northam immediately apologized for appearing in the photo, but he then changed his story and said that neither person in the photograph was him; he did, however, say that he had once put shoe polish on his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume. By the end of the weekend, many members of the Virginia and national Democratic parties had called for Northam’s resignation.

To discuss the subject of blackface and its historical role in American politics, culture, and racism, I spoke by phone with Eric Lott, who teaches American studies at the cuny Graduate Center and is the author of “Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy & the American Working Class.” An edited and condensed version of our conversation is below.

You made read the New Yorker interview with historian Lott here. And, to read the Native News Online op-ed entitled Why is Blackface Racist but Playing Indian is Not? click here.

The Warlike Origins of ‘Going Dutch’

1 Oct

A pitched sea battle during the Anglo-Dutch Wars.

AT THE END OF A restaurant meal, deciding who pays and how much can be fraught. Societal norms tend to dictate if one person whips out their credit card, or if everyone should “go Dutch”: that is, pay their own share.

“Going Dutch” can quickly get complicated, with adding up tax, tip, and separate bills. But the origin of the term is even more complex: It likely stems from a centuries-old dispute between England and the Netherlands that left behind a slew of uncomplimentary phrases in English, all rooted in the word “Dutch.”

So begins Anne Ewbank’s reminder of the England-Netherlands rivalry in the 17th century. You may read the entire Atlas Obscura post here.

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