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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The cost of the American dream

In its simplest form, the American Dream asserts that success should be determined by effort, not one’s starting point. This is the promise on which most Americans base their hopes and the calculus that is supposed to govern our institutions.

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Race and political division during American Reconstruction [excerpt]

Despite succeeding in reuniting the nation after the Civil War, American Reconstruction saw little social and political cohesion. Division—between North and South, black and white, Democrat and Republican—remained unmistakable across the nation. In the following excerpt from Reconstruction: A Concise History,  Allen C. Guelzo delves into the complicated nature of race and politics during this […]

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Do you have what it takes to be a copper?

Are you studying to become a police officer? Perhaps you have considered volunteering as a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO)? Whether you are a student of policing, or simply interested in police theory, you can test your knowledge with our short policing quiz.

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The shortest history of hatred continued and partly concluded

As a matter of fact, it is a long story, because the distant origin of hate—the word, not the feeling—is far from clear. As usual, we should try to determine the earliest meaning of our word (for it may be different from the one we know) and search for the cognates in and outside Germanic. At the beginning of the month (see the post for 1 August 2018), a good deal was said about the Gothic language.

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The allure of the peasant in organic farming

Idealizing pre-modern life has a long history in western culture. When Europeans discovered the vast new world of the Americas, new visions and possibilities arose in their imagination, not just of the Native Americans that populated the new continent, but of Europeans themselves. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes understood Native Americans to live in a pre-civil condition, savages ridden with violence.

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Ten perspectives on music and autism, from ten people on the spectrum

Since the emergence of autism as a diagnosed condition in the 1940s, the oft-noted musical proclivities of people on the autism spectrum have generated much interest. Reports of savant-like abilities, extraordinary feats of musical memory, and disproportionately high rates of perfect pitch abound, along with a high degree of emphasis on music’s importance in therapeutic interventions.

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The Plastic Age

Recently, the issue of single-use plastic and its impact on the environment has come to the fore, with many companies vowing to cut back their plastic use, and increased media coverage across the globe. It isn’t difficult to see why there is a growing passion for addressing the problem of plastic—its environmental significance is truly shocking—and in 2016 the Ellen MacArthur Foundation published a report that concluded there will be as much plastic in the ocean as fish by 2020.

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World Humanitarian Day [podcast]

On this episode of The Oxford Comment, we take a look at the challenges faced by humanitarians today. Host Erin Katie Meehan sat down with Health & Social Work editorial board member Sarah Gehlert, Belinda Gurd and Alexandra Eurdolian of the UNOCHA, and esteemed psychologist Robert J. Wicks to explore important questions about humanitarianism.

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The Grainy and Grisly History of Crime Photography

Judicial photography dates back to Belgium in the 1840’s when the earliest known photographs of criminals were taken within prisons by prison officials. In Switzerland, 1852, Carl Durheim was commissioned by Attorney General Jacob Amiet, and tasked with taking photographs of arrested vagrants in Bern. During this period, judicial photography was used by local authorities to document individuals who travelled, and were unknown to local police.

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Oral disease or random object? [quiz]

How can medical professionals tell whether individuals have a disease? The simple answer is that body tissues are examined under the microscope, but the long answer involves reams of research and hours of study and intense examination.

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The multifaceted art of lying

In 1882, Mark Twain gave a short speech titled “On the Decay of the Art of Lying,” not his best or wittiest. I assume that Oscar Wilde did not miss the published text of that speech, for seven years later, he brought out  a kind of treatise in the form of a dialogue with a similar title, namely, “The Decay of Lying—An Observation,” one of his most powerful and brilliant (as always, too brilliant) essays.  

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Democracy and political violence: the case of France

Does democratic politics eliminate political violence? Are citizens of a democracy prepared to resolve their political differences solely at the ballot box? The fighting at Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 suggests that these are questions as relevant today as at the highpoint of European political confrontation during the interwar years.

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Editing The Scarlet Pimpernel

Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel (1905) is one of those popular novels that we tend to assume we already know without having read it. This tale of the French Revolution has been adapted many, many times, for the stage, small and large screens, and radio, and it has been frequently parodied over the decades, most famously, perhaps, by the Carry On team with Don’t Lose Your Head (aka Carry on Pimpernel).

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The Geneva Conventions and the minimum standards of humanity

On the occasion of World Humanitarian Day, it seems appropriate to look to the basic principles of humanitarian law, which show what is always unacceptable. Prior to 1949, there was little international humanitarian law applicable to non-international armed conflicts, although such conflicts were becoming increasingly prevalent and overtaking their international counterparts.

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