Jon D. Schaff

Jon D. Schaff
Jon D. Schaff is professor of political science at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota where he teaches courses on American politics and political thought. He is author of Abraham Lincoln’s Statesmanship and the Limits of Liberal Democracy (SIU Press) and co-author of Age of Anxiety: Meaning, Identity, and Politics in 21st Century Film and Literature (Lexington Books). He lives in Aberdeen with his wife and four children.

Recent Essays

Will No One Rid Me Of These Meddlesome -Isms: Thinking and Rethinking Liberalism

Human liberty is indeed a good. But liberty is the freedom to choose well, not just freedom from restraints.

Public Enemy #1?: Smartphones and a Generation at Risk

Haidt’s book is a tour de force. I can give it no higher praise than to say I wish we could put this book in the hands of every parent, teacher, school administrator, schoolboard member, and legislator in the country. Haidt convincingly shows that mobile technology—mostly but not exclusively smartphones—does not just correlate with all these dire mental health trends but indeed contributes to causation.

Monuments to Human Stupidity? A Review of David Betz’s A Guarded Age

The film Patton contains many quotable quotes, some of which cannot be repeated on a family friendly website such as Front Porch (for example,...

We Could Do Worse…

Weak parties are susceptible to extreme candidates who take advantage of party weakness to run shallow, populist campaigns. These people seem fun. They appeal to our political id, mostly in the way they make fun of everyone who opposes them, and encourage us to fester in our (often reasonable) frustrations and anger.

Voices From The Past: The Humanistic Letters of Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More

Babbitt and More advocated the study of the humanities as a tool for the shaping of human souls toward virtue, helping confront what Babbitt characterized as the “civil war of the cave” that occurs in every human heart. Babbitt and More’s roughly forty-year friendship produced scores of letters that take the reader from the late nineteenth century into the 1930s.

The Liberty to Value Common Goods: A Review of The Political Economy of Distributism

While some of Salter’s discussion here is “inside baseball” for economists, what he is trying to achieve is laudable, namely getting distributists to recognize some shortcomings in their theory while encouraging economists to take distributism more seriously as a way of pursuing vital economic and social goods.

Are Americans Better Off?

Let’s just say you’d better have great discipline and a very rich interior life if you expect to be happy amid great affluence. If this is true of individuals, that money doesn’t buy happiness, why can’t it be true of a whole society?

Combatting the Christmas-Industrial-Complex

One can have a very merry Christmas with great simplicity. And maybe, thinking of charity toward our less fortunate neighbors, modeling simplicity has its virtues.

How Shall We Train Up A Child?: The View From One State

All education programs enculturate students. There is no neutrality here. The question is not whether education will form our students, but how they will be formed. Proverbs (22:6) says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Any curriculum and set of standards will base itself on certain ideas about the nature of the human person, how persons are shaped, and what kind of person society needs.

From Endoscopy to Colonoscopy: One Man’s Strange and Confounding Journey Through American Health Care

Beneath these critiques of the American medical system and the biological mysteries of the human body throbs a more existential question: How does one deal with suffering? These are some of the most moving parts of Douthat’s book. He finds himself literally prostrate before the altar seeking some meaning in his suffering.

The Face of Education

As a new school year begins, Jon Schaff takes stock of the effects of Covid on education. Learning is relationship, and, if the point of college, as the very term “college” implies, is to come together for the enterprise of learning, that coming together has to be more than a name or face on a screen.

Breaking our Concentration: Lessons from Jefferson, Hamilton, and Lincoln on Local Economies

Lincoln wishes to promote Jeffersonian virtues by Hamiltonian means. In a Jeffersonian vein, Lincoln wants to encourage small, independent operations that free people from dependence on “the man.”