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The First White President by Ta-Nehisi Coates

October 1, 2017
What We're Reading

“To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies. The repercussions are striking: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.”

Read the full essay here.

Listen to the audio version of this essay:

How America Went Haywire

September 6, 2017
What We're Reading

Read the full article from The Atlantic magazine here.

 

“What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, all of us free to reinvent ourselves by imagination and will. In America nowadays, those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts. Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation—small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become.”

 

“Why are we like this?

The short answer is because we’re Americans—because being American means we can believe anything we want; that our beliefs are equal or superior to anyone else’s, experts be damned. Once people commit to that approach, the world turns inside out, and no cause-and-effect connection is fixed. The credible becomes incredible and the incredible credible.”

The Man Who Planted Trees: New Transcription

October 5, 2015
Experiential EducationFilms

This animated adaptation of my favorite short reading, “The Man Who Planted Trees” by Jean Giono, won an academy award in 1987. In my opinion, the translation is the best out there: similar to the most common one, but more accessible in its English. A transcript wasn’t available online, so this morning, I transcribed it to include in my readings packet for the field. I hope you enjoy it!




Many years ago, I set out on a walking tour high in the Alps, a region quite unknown to travelers where ancient mountains thrust down into Provence. The trek began on barren moors twelve or thirteen hundred meters above sea level through land that was bleak and monotonous. Nothing grew there but wild lavender. My route led across Continue reading >>

How Would I Know?

September 28, 2015

I’ve been telling people all summer
about a tradition I’ve heard of.

In some Australian and American cultures,
nobody celebrates birthdays.
Instead, when they’ve reached
a new stage in life,
become a new and better version of themselves,
they take on a new name.

And I ask,
how would I know when it’s time?
Which questions would I need to ask?
Continue reading >>

Films for Fall in the West

August 23, 2015
Experiential EducationFilms

In working fall semesters for NOLS, students have the privilege to explore some of my most loved places: backpacking in the the Wind River Range, boating on desert rivers, and canyoneering on Cedar Mesa in southern Utah. This is a short selection of films I’ve been showing students this fall (and watching myself) for inspiration about upcoming adventures.

The Important Places


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Letter To A Former Student

August 23, 2015
Experiential EducationIndia

I have been examining in myself the same question you asked me: how to keep the experience alive. While I certainly don’t have the answers I hope I can offer some ideas. To start, I think that the question you ask might not be the right question. I think that it’s very common question to ask for anybody who has just lived one of the biggest (if not the biggest) adventures Continue reading >>

July in the Wind River Range with NOLS

August 15, 2015
AdventureNOLS

On Blaurock Pass, Gannett Peak behind

Continue reading >>

June in the Wind River Range

July 12, 2015
AdventureNOLS

Backside of Cirque of the Towers

Continue reading >>

Monument Valley Sky

June 6, 2015
AdventurePhotos

Cedar Mesa Sandstone Reflection

Train Rock and Monument Valley

Photos from Ladakh

May 11, 2015
AdventureIndia

Likir Valley Trek

Continue reading >>

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