CRF Blog

The best books to read at every age, from 1 to 100

by Bill Hayes

The Washington Post has created a list of The best books to read at every age, from 1 to 100.

 Books are a portal to our personal histories. Pick up a worn copy of a childhood favorite and you might be transported to the warmth of a parent’s arms or a beanbag chair in a first-grade classroom or a library in your hometown. Avid readers could build autobiographies around their favorite books and come to the realization that what they have read is almost as meaningful as when they read it. A high schooler poring over “To Kill a Mockingbird” for a summer reading assignment encounters a different book than someone who reads it decades later, closer in age and outlook to Atticus than Scout.

In light of that reality, we took a stab at picking the best book for every age. There’s no definitive way to do this, of course. What moves one reader may not resonate with another, regardless of their birth year. So think of this list as a starting point, plus an invitation to look back at your own literary chronology: What spoke to you during a certain time in your life — and why? ….

Here are our picks for worthwhile books to read during each year of life, from 1 to 100, along with some of the age-appropriate wisdom they impart. [more]

Powerful, Disturbing History of Residential Segregation in America

by Bill Hayes

In A Powerful, Disturbing History of Residential Segregation in America for the New York Times Book Review, David Oshinsky reviews The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein.

One of the great strengths of Rothstein’s account is the sheer weight of evidence he marshals. A research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, he quite simply demolishes the notion that government played a minor role in creating the racial ghettos that plague our suburbs and inner cities. Going back to the late 19th century, he uncovers a policy of de jure segregation in virtually every presidential administration, including those we normally describe as liberal on domestic issues. [more]

The enduring influence of Mao Zedong

by David De La Torre

In The enduring influence of Mao Zedong, The Economist reviews Maoism: A Global History by Julia Lovell.

As Julia Lovell of Birkbeck, University of London, describes in “Maoism: A Global History”, the abstract chairman inspired revolutionaries around the world, from the highlands of Peru to the jungles of Cambodia, from the cafés of Paris to inner-city America. Mao’s ideology, distilled into a few pithy epigrams (“to rebel is justified”, “serve the people” and “bombard the headquarters” is all you need to know), helped foster suffering and mayhem not only in his own country, but around the world. His was the thinking behind Pol Pot and his Cambodian killing fields. It was his personality cult that encouraged an envious Kim Il Sung to push his own to similar heights of absurdity; North Koreans remain in its terrifying thrall today.

The cult of Mao did not end with the anarchy of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. It has enjoyed a tenacious afterlife that has not received the attention it deserves. [more]

For free classroom lessons related to Mao and other post–World War II happenings in China, see:

“Mao Zedong and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”

“The Chinese Civil War: Why Did the Communists Win?”

“Communism, Capitalism, and Democracy in China”

“The Dispute Over the South China Sea”

All are available from CRF’s Bill of Rights in Action Archive, it is currently only in PDF and you may have to register (if you haven’t already), which is free.

Confronting Implicit Bias

by Bill Hayes

Jennifer Eberhardt, a social psychologist at Stanford University, speaks on her new book: Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do.

China’s Latest Crackdown Target Is Liberal Economists

by Bill Hayes

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that China’s Latest Crackdown Target Is Liberal Economists.

Unirule [Institute of Economics] is the brainchild of Mao Yushi, a respected 90-year-old economist who was among the first scholars to spread free-market ideas such as deregulation and privatization within China. Until recently, the think tank was one of the country’s more influential nongovernmental organizations, benefiting from the relative liberty granted to economics since the rule of Deng Xiaoping, who once declared that he didn’t care “if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.” So long as they stayed mostly clear of politics, scholars were free to discuss Western thinkers and how their ideas applied to China. The result was a vibrant intellectual community that interacted with government decision-makers, providing data-driven reality checks for officials with little experience outside the Communist Party.

That space has shrunk drastically under President Xi Jinping, who has forcefully reasserted the party’s power and the state’s economic role, and has attacked the civil society that emerged under his predecessors. A crackdown on dissent that began shortly after he took office in 2012 has seen Unirule, which has a small but consequential following among entrepreneurs and academics, hounded almost into oblivion. Its Chinese website and social media accounts have been shut down, its events broken up, and some of its staff barred from traveling abroad.

As China navigates the challenges of a slowing economy and a bruising trade war with the U.S., some foreign observers have become alarmed. “Economic decision-making has become incredibly personalized under Xi. An economist who raises questions may be seen as raising questions with Xi personally,” says Julian Gewirtz, a researcher at Harvard and the author of Unlikely Partners: Chinese Reformers, Western Economists, and the Making of Global China. He calls the resulting chill “a profound source of risk for China’s future.” [more]

44 African Americans Who Shook Up the World

by David De La Torre

The Undefeated has created a slide show, in alphabetical order, with biographies of 44 African Americans Who Shook Up the World.

This Week’s New Yorker Cartoons

by Bill Hayes

To see a slide show of this week’s New Yorker cartoons, go here, scroll down to “Cartoons from the Issue,” and click on the arrow beneath each cartoon on the right to go through the slide show.

Interview on Conditions at Rikers Island

by Bill Hayes

For PBS’s Amanpour and Company, Alicia Menendez interviews Dr. Homer Venters on his book Life and Death in Rikers Island.

Many Americans Say Made-Up News Is a Critical Problem That Needs To Be Fixed

by Bill Hayes

In a new study, the Pew Research Center reports that Many Americans Say Made-Up News Is a Critical Problem That Needs To Be Fixed.

Many Americans say the creation and spread of made-up news and information is causing significant harm to the nation and needs to be stopped, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 6,127 U.S. adults conducted between Feb. 19 and March 4, 2019, on the Center’s American Trends Panel.

Indeed, more Americans view made-up news as a very big problem for the country than identify terrorism, illegal immigration, racism and sexism that way. Additionally, nearly seven-in-ten U.S. adults (68%) say made-up news and information greatly impacts Americans’ confidence in government institutions, and roughly half (54%) say it is having a major impact on our confidence in each other.

U.S. adults blame political leaders and activists far more than journalists for the creation of made-up news intended to mislead the public. But they believe it is primarily the responsibility of journalists to fix the problem. And they think the issue will get worse in the foreseeable future.

The vast majority of Americans say they sometimes or often encounter made-up news. In response, many have altered their news consumption habits, including by fact-checking the news they get and changing the sources they turn to for news.

In addition, about eight-in-ten U.S. adults (79%) believe steps should be taken to restrict made-up news, as opposed to 20% who see it as protected communication.

Similar to Americans’ news attitudes generally, stark partisan differences exist when it comes to made-up news and information, particularly in the area of assessing blame. Differences also emerge based on political awareness and age. In general, Republicans, the highly politically aware and older Americans express higher levels of concern about the impact of made-up news than their counterparts.

These concerns about made-up news are mingled with pessimism about the future of the issue. Most of those surveyed (56%) think the problem will get worse over the next five years. Only one-in-ten believe progress will be made in reducing it. [more]

Modern Slavery: An exploration of its root causes and the human toll

by Bill Hayes

InfoGuides from the Council on Foreign Relations provide basic information on current issues around the world. InfoGuides usually include histories, summaries, case studies, images, graphs, video, and links to additional resources. A recent InfoGuide was on Modern Slavery: An exploration of its root causes and the human toll.

Slavery dates back to ancient times and has left its trace across cultures and continents. Though slavery is now universally prohibited, with protections for individual rights enshrined in national and international laws, it persists.

Slavery exists any time a person has been recruited, transported, or compelled to work by “force, fraud, or coercion,” according to the U.S. State Department. Victims do not have the means to leave of their own will. Slavery today most often occurs in industries that are labor intensive, low skilled, and underregulated.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. — Article 4, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

Slavery occurs in the gulags of North Korea, on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, and in the brothels of Eastern Europe. Its victims are children forced into military action in the Democratic Republic of Congo or born into debt bondage at brick kilns in India, young men laboring on rickety fishing boats in Thailand, and children and women pressed into domestic servitude in Haiti. An estimated 40.3 million people are enslaved worldwide. [more

CPJ’s database of attacks on the press

by Bill Hayes

The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, non-profit group that promotes press freedom worldwide. Among its projects is a database of attacks on the press. You can generate reports to show reporters killed, imprisoned, or missing, between certain years, and sorted by year and country.

University of California Firearm Violence Research Center

by Bill Hayes

The University of California Firearm Violence Research Center examines what can be done about gun violence. The site further explains its purpose:

Firearm violence is a significant health and social problem in California and across the United States. The lack of basic information on the epidemiology of firearm violence and its prevention has led to widespread misunderstanding of the problem and has impeded prevention efforts. Evidence of the effects of state policies and programs for reducing firearm violence as well as basic information on benefits, risks, and prevalence of firearm ownership in California are also lacking.

The University of California Firearm Violence Research Center (UCFC) is the first state-funded center for firearm violence research, founded to address these gaps in knowledge on firearm violence and its prevention in July 2017.

UCFC, according to Section 14231 of the California Penal Code: the California Firearm Violence Research Act, will conduct interdisciplinary work to address:

1. The nature of firearm violence, including individual and societal determinants of risk for involvement in firearm violence, whether as a victim or a perpetrator.

2. The individual, community, and societal consequences of firearm violence.

3. Prevention and treatment of firearm violence at the individual, community, and societal levels. [more]

The Dickensian Conditions of Life in a For-Profit Lockup

by Bill Hayes

In The Dickensian Conditions of Life in a For-Profit Lockup for the New York Times Book Review, Nate Blakeslee reviews American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey Into the Business of Punishment by Shane Bauer.

Two weeks after Shane Bauer, a senior reporter for Mother Jones magazine, began his undercover stint as a prison guard at Winn Correctional Center in rural Louisiana, an inmate jumped the razor-wire fence and sprinted into the surrounding woods. There were no officers in the guard towers to witness his escape; the private prison company hired by the state of Louisiana to run the facility, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), had decided to save money by leaving those posts empty. An alarm sounded in the control room, but a guard ostensibly monitoring the battery of surveillance cameras saw nothing. Rather than review the footage, she simply switched off the alarm and returned her attention to whatever was occupying it beforehand. Hours passed before anybody noticed that the inmate was gone.

The situation at Winn went downhill from there, as Bauer revealed in a 35,000-word exposé that ran in Mother Jones in the summer of 2016, an article that immediately became one of the most celebrated achievements in that venerable publication’s recent renaissance. “American Prison” reprises that page-turning narrative, and adds not only the fascinating back story of CCA, the nation’s first private prison company, but also an eye-opening examination of the history of corrections as a profit-making enterprise …. [more]

The Week’s Cartoons

by Bill Hayes

See The Week’s latest collection of political cartoons.

For how to use editorial cartoons in the classroom, see Teaching With Editorial Cartoons.

by Bill Hayes provides “non-partisan information for voters in the Presidential election, so that votes can be based on issues rather than on personalities and popularity.” The site gets its “information daily from newspapers, speeches, press releases, and the Internet.”