Who’s the New Guy?
I. The Task: Why so awkward?
Everyone who writes for The League is ordinary, but some are more ordinary than others. Some of these super-ordinary League elites asked me to provide an introductory post, on pain of not being allowed to post rambling thought pieces anymore. I hear there’s also going to be a small “initiation” ceremony.
I’m kidding, of course. They’re all swell gents, those guys. But they did ask that I give the League‘s readers some background.
A caveat: As a native Midwesterner, I find this sort of exercise tremendously awkward. I’m terrible at most forms of self-involved social media—it’s paralyzing to have such a high degree of control over my self-image. Midwestern earnestness plays much better in the face-to-face world. Put another way: I’m not especially clever or self-aware, so I inevitably misjudge how things look to others on the Internet. I almost always screw up online introductions. I’m very probably doing so right now. #WINNING
II. The Background: Who am I?
With that in mind, it’s probably best to shoot through the bio as quickly as possible. I’m from Kalamazoo, Michigan. I attended Bowdoin College. I joined Teach For America and helped found a charter school in Brooklyn, New York. After two successful years in the classroom, I left to get a PhD in Government from Georgetown University. I won the Washington Post’s “America’s Next Great Pundit Contest” back in 2010. I have a beautiful, intelligent, and patient wife—and a very young and very big son (see above photo). I like old books, distance running, Chicago-style blues, and getting paid to write. Especially that last one.
Phew. I hope that’s helpful. Sorry if it’s painfully awkward. I’m (marginally) better in person.
III. The Reasons: Why blog?
I’m excited to be pecking keyboards for The League. Beats the heck out of my own online pad, especially since someone around here appears to have a knack for making a website look nice.
In addition, I find blogging to be a useful antidote against the Academy’s truly horrifying prose stylings. For example, this is an actual sentence from my (nearly finished) dissertation:
Context brings forth and rules out particular elements in observation, to the degree that the pursuit of knowledge affects the content of what we know.
Ugh. Academic writing is a contagious disease. The blogosphere isn’t usually very patient with this sort of willful obfuscation, and I appreciate the chance to practice other ways of writing.
What’s more, under the right circumstances, the blogosphere can even serve as something like an extended intellectual community. I’m writing a dissertation on the structure of 20th Century political arguments. Blogging makes it possible to argue much more fluidly with many more people than would otherwise be possible.
Finally, I should note that I don’t really spend much time in the comments sections—whether it’s my post or someone else’s. This is mostly for two reasons: 1) I suffer from “Someone is Wrong on the Internet Syndrome.” I have a hard time walking away from online arguments, which leads to all sorts of frustrating physical (mostly lack of sleep) and psychological consequences. Comments section donnybrooks always threaten to cost me short-term sanity. 2) As a result, I rarely have time to indulge.
Still, feel free to zing away down there, since I usually read them and take them entirely too personally. If you’re determined for a response, write something full-length and throw it up in a post—and I’ll do my best.
IV. The Interests: Who cares about John Dewey’s approach to epistemology?
Most of what I write publicly is related to the concerns I laid out in my first League post. I’m a leftist (a “progressive,” to be specific), but I despair at my team’s rhetorical ineptitude. We so rarely make a compelling, coherent case for what we believe—and it need not be this way. Hence John Dewey’s central presence in my dissertation. Hence my other, earlier arguments along the same lines.
Well, great. As I look this over, it reads like the work of a frazzled pedant who couldn’t be bothered to come up with a more interesting or stylish way of introducing himself. It’s like a policy brief in support of the “Please Take Me Seriously” position.
Which is, for better or worse, about as honest and accurate an intro post as I can write.