“A Shared Place: Wendell Berry’s Lifelong Dissent.” Jedediah Britton-Purdy writes a long and thoughtful review of Berry’s essays and body of thought. He avoids many of the lazy critiques of Berry (e.g. he recognizes he’s not sentimentally nostalgic), and even where he registers his disgreements—or, perhaps, precisely where he registers his disagreements—he offers much food for thought.
“Betting the Farm on the Drought.” Seamus McGraw writes about farmers adapting to changing weather patterns and how such adaptations play out amid cultural tensions, not only between urban liberals and rural conservatives, but also between tire and tilth farmers. As one farmer told McGraw, “There’s two types of farmers. . . . One either has the tire gene or the tilth gene. You either want a big shiny red or green tractor to disc up all the ground or you want to conserve that ground and make sure you have the right tilth.”
“Bridges of God: The Church and the Rural-Urban Divide.” Charlie Cotherman asks “What might it look like for churches to begin to build bridges from the country to the city and from the city to the country, not as mission fields but as relationships from which to learn, grow, and together partner as equals in the mission of God?”
“The Politics of Procreation.” Joel Kotkin parses the probable effects of the world’s declining birthrate. (Recommended by Jeff Polet.)
“How to Defend Limited Government and the Common Good.” Nathan W. Schlueter reviews Mathew D. Wright’s A Vindication of Politics and suggests it provides insight into current debates over the flaws and merits of liberalism.
“Big, Impersonal Institutions Are Failing Us. Loyalty to Our Communities Might Save Us.” Chuck Marohn from Strong Towns talked with Patrick Deneen on his podcast this week.
“Material World.” Over at Dissent Alyssa Battistoni wrestles with Bruno Latour’s new book and his politics. She finds different points of agreement with Latour than I do, but her essay is well worth reading.
“Nationalism as Religion: The Proper Love of Place in Today’s Politics.” Jon Schaff offers a critique of nationalism and a rousing defense of localism: “The appeal of Donald Trump and other nationalists lies, at least in part, in their willingness to defend those who have lost most in the era of globalization. American nationalists seek to preserve certain unifying national ideals in an era of identity politics and hyper-pluralism. Still, Americans—particularly Christian Americans—should be skeptical about nationalist arguments for other reasons.”
“Churches Are Saving Ethiopia’s Last Remaining Native Trees.” Amir Aman Kiyaro describes the theological traditions that lead Ethiopian Christians to plant and tend forests.
“A Throwaway Line Led ‘Washington Post’ Reporter To Call Rural Midwest His New Home.” NPR’s Rachel Martin interviews Christopher Ingraham about what it’s been like moving to a place he once called “the absolute worst place to live in America.” (Recommended by Nick Skiles.)
“Rotten STEM: How Technology Corrupts Education.” Jared Woodard, in American Affairs, has a lovely take-down of ed-tech and its snake-oil sales pitches:
The U.S. education system spent more than $26 billion on technology in 2018. That’s larger than the entire Israeli military budget. By one estimate, annual global spending on technology in schools will soon total $252 billion. To hear presidents and prime ministers tell it, this spending is laudable and even necessary to reduce inequality and prepare a workforce ready to compete in the global economy.
But the technology pushed into schools today is a threat to child development and an unredeemable waste. In the first place, technology exacerbates the greatest problem of all in schools: confusion about their purpose. Education is the cultivation of a person, not the manufacture of a worker. But in many public school districts we have already traded our collective birthright, the promise of human flourishing, for a mess of utilitarian pottage called “job skills.” The more recent, panicked, money-lobbing fetish for STEM is a late realization that even those dim promises will go unmet.