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Jonathan Zimmerman


  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: After A-Rod Doping Penalty, Don't Expect Meritocracy in Baseball

    Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).So here’s a quick quiz for all of the baseball fans out there: Which of the following players have taken performance-enhancing drugs? a. Barry Bonds b. Alex Rodriguez c. Henry AaronThe answer might surprise you: all of them. You surely guessed Mr. Bonds, who used steroids during his pursuit of Aaron’s home-run record. And everyone knows about Mr. Rodriguez, who has admitted that he took steroids earlier in his career. Rodriguez was suspended on Monday for the rest of this season – and all of the next one – for  allegedly taking PEDs again. Rodriguez appealed the suspension, which will allow him to play until an arbitrator rules on his case.

  • Originally published 07/19/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: In Defense of Sex Scandals

    Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned: I cheated on my wife. I brought shame and dishonor to her, and to my children. But I have asked them to forgive me.And now I’m asking voters to forgive me, too.Welcome to our political culture of sexual confession. Pioneered by Bill Clinton, who groveled on TV after his affair with Monica Lewinsky was exposed, confession has become an invaluable weapon for leaders who are caught with their proverbial pants down.Witness the fates of Clinton’s fellow Southerners David Vitter and Mark Sanford. Vitter won re-election to his Louisiana Senate seat in 2010 after admitting a “serious sin” involving prostitutes. Earlier this year, former South Carolina Gov. Sanford captured a House seat after acknowledging an extramarital affair.

  • Originally published 07/12/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: For Obama, Bush, Reagan, No Vacation from Politics

    Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and taught this summer at NYU's study-abroad site in Accra, Ghana. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).When William Howard Taft was president in the early 1900s, a cartoon showed a senator stuffing a bill into the mouth of a GOP elephant while a happily unaware Taft played golf. Mr. Dooley, the imaginary Irish-American bartender created by cartoonist Finley Peter Dunne, quoted Taft as saying, “Golf is th’ thing I like best next to leavin’ Washington.”Taft actually combined these passions, taking frequent golf vacations out of town, as Paul F. Boller, Jr. recounts in his book "Presidential Diversions: Presidents at Play from George Washington to George W. Bush." Taft's trips sparked mirth in the national press, which reported that the famously corpulent president could not bend over to tee up his own ball. But they also drew accusations that Taft was neglecting his official duties, and for a rich man’s sport at that.

  • Originally published 06/23/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: Children are Sexual Creatures

    Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of education and history at New York University. He is the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory and three other books. In 1985, the founder of modern American sex education gave a controversial speech about erections in fetuses. To Mary Calderone, who had started the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States back in 1964, new evidence about arousal in male fetuses demonstrated once and for all that children were sexual beings.Nonsense, said conservatives. To critics of sex education, childhood was — or should be — a time of sexual innocence. Racy movies, TV shows and magazines made kids prematurely interested in sex. And so did sex education, which robbed them of their natural virtue and replaced it with tawdry thoughts and feelings.I thought of this debate as I read the comments by Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, during the House debate on Monday over a bill that would ban almost all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. According to Burgess, fetuses do not simply experience sexual arousal; they actively arouse themselves.

  • Originally published 06/13/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: What Happened to Plain Old Summer Camp?

    Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at New York University. He is the author of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory."I went to three different summer camps when I was a kid, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I swam, hiked and played sports (badly). And sometimes, I did nothing at all. That’s what summer — and camp — were all about.But times have changed. About 20 years ago, so-called “specialty camps” began to replace the general-interest kind that I attended. So today you can go to camps that stress particular activities, from cooking and computers to robotics and rocketry.Even at general-interest camps, meanwhile, kids are much more likely to receive professional athletic coaching, top-of-the-line art and music instruction, or even SAT-prep classes. Camp isn’t just for fun anymore. It’s about building a resume, a skill-set, a profile, a future. Like school, camp now prepares young people to win the great Race of Life.Why?...

  • Originally published 06/07/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: Protecting Children and Faith

    Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and lives in suburban Philadelphia. He is the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory (Yale University Press).In 1907 Mark Twain published a scathing attack on Christian Science, which held that all illness lay in the mind. In his trademark satirical style, Twain congratulated the religion for providing “life-long immunity from imagination-manufactured disease.”The other kinds of disease were real, Twain insisted, and their victims required medicine – not prayer – to get better. But Twain also condemned the growing movement to prosecute faith healers and parents for withholding medical care from children who died.A century later, we know much more about what makes people sick and well. As Twain understood, though, we still need to balance the protection of children with the religious liberty of their parents. And that’s why we should retain narrowly crafted laws exempting parents from child-abuse charges if they resist medical care for religious reasons....

  • Originally published 06/02/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: Protect the Watchdog Press – from Obama

    Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).Did the White House misrepresent the Benghazi, Libya, attacks to cover up its own ineptitude? Did the Internal Revenue Service purposefully target conservative groups for scrutiny?Americans rely on journalists to cast light on these thorny issues. But if reporters can’t do their jobs, everyone else will most likely remain in the dark about serious government mistakes.That’s why all Americans should be deeply alarmed about the Obama administration’s recent investigations of news organizations, which have drawn far less ink than the Benghazi or IRS scandals. And that’s exactly backward. The most worrisome threat right now is to the people who actually produce the ink: US journalists.

  • Originally published 05/23/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: Politicizing the IRS is a Bipartisan Tradition

    Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).Does the Internal Revenue Service scandal conjure “unpleasant echoes” of Richard Nixon?Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) of Tennessee said last week that it did. So did a host of other GOP critics, who linked the recent targeting of conservative groups by the IRS to Nixon’s use of the agency as a weapon against his “enemies list.”Liberals quickly replied that President Obama had pledged to root out political bias from the IRS, offering his full cooperation in the ongoing investigation. And whereas Nixon expressly ordered the IRS to harass his foes, there’s still no evidence that Mr. Obama himself even knew about the IRS practice until media outlets reported it.But both sides are ignoring the sordid politicization of the IRS before Richard Nixon, when Democrats – not Republicans – were in power. Despite what you may have heard, no single party owns an historical monopoly on IRS-related sleaze. And that’s precisely why we all need to be vigilant in guarding against it....

  • Originally published 05/19/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: This Graduation Season, Let's Remember the Twentieth Century

    Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).Aim high. If you fall, pick yourself up. And, most of all, follow your dreams.Welcome, college graduate, to your 2013 commencement exercises. The speeches are all about you! You should find something that makes you passionate; you should pursue it, as far as you can....But education should help us get beyond ourselves, to transcend the narrow particulars of our interests and wishes and ambitions. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing your passions, of course. But the real question is how they’ll affect the people around you.

  • Originally published 05/10/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: The Prom -- An American Relic

    Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is writing a history of sex education around the world.In 1954, American Girl magazine published a book of beauty tips for young women. It included helpful suggestions about preparing for the ultimate American beauty contest: the high school prom.“This is the moment to slip into your dress . . . Put your hair in place again, fasten your necklace or bracelet, and step into your pumps,” the book advised. “And wheee! Look now! There really is another you in the mirror. A you that is practically exuding a subtle new fascination, a wonderful femininity.”I’ve been thinking about this passage as I watch my own daughter get ready for prom, which seems like a relic from another age. And maybe that’s the whole point of it. In a time of enormous flux and ambiguity in gender relations, this ritual returns us to a time when men were men and, yes, women were women.The first recorded reference to a prom is from a student at Amherst College, who wrote in 1884 about attending prom at nearby Smith. But as more Americans joined the middle class, prom left the elite precincts of private colleges and filtered into the nation’s burgeoning secondary schools....

  • Originally published 04/22/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: Boston Marathon, Long a Melting Pot for Good

    Jonathan Zimmerman, author of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory," is a professor of history and education at New York University.A Chinese graduate student, killed by one of the explosions. An immigrant from Costa Rica, clad in a cowboy hat and assisting a victim who lost his legs. An Indian-American surgeon, charging toward the injured after completing the race himself.And two Chechen brothers, suspected of causing all of this mayhem.These images have haunted and inspired us since last Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon. Lu Lingzi was studying statistics at Boston College. Carlos Arrendondo, who was handing out flags at the race, lost a son in Iraq. Dr. Vivek Shah is an orthopedic surgeon at New England Baptist Hospital, where he returned to work just a day after bandaging several of his fellow runners....

  • Originally published 04/21/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: Colleges as Country Clubs

    Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory."My daughter is a junior in high school, so I've spent part of this spring making that upper-middle-class pilgrimage known as "the college tour."But as we were led across sweeping lawns by tour guides walking backward, I found myself thinking less about my daughter's looming college experience and more about how different her life will be after she graduates.I've also been thinking about "Girls," the television series about four young women trying to make ends meet in New York. Three of them are depicted as recent graduates of Oberlin, which is also the alma mater of "Girls" creator and lead actress Lena Dunham.

  • Originally published 04/03/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: Liberal Hypocrisy on Bloomberg's Moneyed Fight for Gun Control

    Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).Bloomberg is buying another term in office! It’s an outrage!That’s what lots of my fellow liberals said when billionaire Michael Bloomberg spent $102 million of his own cash – about $174 per vote – to win re-election as New York mayor in 2009. And they were right. Unchecked money turns politics into a corrupt poker game, where the well-to-do get to stack the deck.So why aren’t these same critics complaining, now that Mr. Bloomberg is showering his millions on candidates who back gun control and same-sex marriage? Because liberals like these causes, of course.

  • Originally published 03/29/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: Why I Love, But Also Hate, March Madness

    Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).I’m a crazed basketball fan, so I love it when the NCAA tournament rolls around. But I’m also an educator, and so I hate myself for watching.That’s because college sports are – to put it bluntly – a plague on American higher education. They add a big-ticket item to our mounting costs, and they compromise our academic quality. And now we’ve got the numbers to prove it.Let’s start with costs. Colleges in the Football Bowl Subdivision – the most competitive of the Division I programs – spent an average of nearly $92,000 per athlete in 2010, according to a January study by the American Institutes for Research. For the student population at large, the average per capita spending was less than $14,000.I’ll spare you the math: These schools spend more than six times as much on athletes as they do on students generally....

  • Originally published 03/19/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: What’s Not Being Taught About the Iraq War

    Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of education and history at New York University. He is the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory and three other books. Upon the 10th anniversary of America’s war in Iraq, a critical question with serious ramifications has been little explored: What are our children being taught in schools about the conflict, as it passes from “current events” into history?To answer this question, one obvious place to start is school textbooks. I looked at several of them, and was happily surprised. The books present a fairly complex and balanced view of the war in Iraq, avoiding the falsehoods and sugarcoating that has so often marred American history instruction. But textbooks only tell part of the story.Just as important is what is actually emphasized in the classrooms, and the ability of teachers to engage in real inquiry. Unfortunately, a combination of school policies and judicial decisions have made it so that many kids learn little or nothing about what we have done in Iraq, or why we have done it.

  • Originally published 02/25/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: What's Wrong With the Slavery Math Lesson?

    Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of education and history at New York University. He is the author of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory.”In 1941, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People released a report condemning racist school textbooks in New York City. Music books routinely referred to blacks as "darkeys," while literature anthologies called them "coons" or "Sambos." Worst of all, American history textbooks depicted slavery as a genteel institution developed by benevolent white Southerners to "civilize" savage, ignorant Africans.All of these books were profoundly offensive to the city's African-American population, of course. But they were also full of lies, as NAACP secretary Walter White emphasized. "This study was made not on a basis of racial sensitiveness or pride," White wrote, describing the NAACP's textbook report, "but on the highest plane of historical accuracy and objectivity." Indeed, the report drew on research by pioneering black historian Carter G. Woodson to refute the textbooks' cheery portrait of life under slavery.

  • Originally published 02/19/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: A History Lesson on Assassinations

    I taught a course last month in the United Arab Emirates, which isn’t a democracy. But according to an Emirati guy I met there, the United States isn’t much of a democracy, either.“Anyone you don’t like, you just assassinate him with a drone,” he told me. “Shoot first, ask questions later.”But now lots of people are asking questions about U.S. drone strikes, especially after the recent confirmation hearings for John O. Brennan. Nominated by President Barack Obama to direct the Central Intelligence Agency, Brennan defended the CIA’s targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere as essential to national security....

  • Originally published 02/14/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: Whose Daughters Will Engage in Combat?

    Jonathan Zimmerman is Professor of Education and History and Director of the History of Education Program, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.Now that women can assume combat roles in the military, I've got a question for you: Whose daughters will do the combatting?Not mine. And not yours, either, if they live in a leafy, upper-middle-class suburb like the one where my two girls have grown up.That's because the military draws overwhelmingly from the middle and lower-middle classes of our society. And that's what most of our news coverage has ignored, in the rush to congratulate the Pentagon for removing the ban on women in combat.Let's be clear: the Pentagon should be congratulated. Thousands of female medics, drivers, and other servicewomen have already seen battle overseas. But they have often been blocked from key promotions because they lacked official "combat" designations....

  • Originally published 02/06/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: The Silly Debate over Ed Koch's Sexuality

    Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory.”Was Ed Koch gay? I don’t know, and I don’t care. And neither should you.When the former New York mayor died last week, we heard all the old cliches about why he should have come out of the closet-or why it was necessary to “out” him. If he were openly gay, the story goes, he would have done more to fight AIDS during the early years of the epidemic. And he would have made it easier for other people to come out, too.But as Koch correctly insisted, his sexual orientation was nobody’s business but his own. And to see why, let’s imagine that Koch wasn't male and gay, but female and straight.Then let’s suppose that Ms. Koch — like 40% of American women — had undergone an abortion. Would it be OK to “out” her for that, too?...

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: The Middle East's Nonexistant Gay Rights Movement

    Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University. He is teaching a course this January at NYU's Abu Dhabi campus.ABU DHABI -- "We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still," President Barack Obama declared at his inauguration last Monday, "just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall."But does it also go through Sharjah?That's where two dozen men were arrested and lashed in 2004 at an apparent "gay wedding" here in the United Arab Emirates, where homosexual relations are illegal. Since then, untold numbers of gays have reportedly received lashes, prison sentences, psychological "therapy" and hormone treatments to remedy the so-called "illness" of homosexuality.President Obama received just praise for mentioning Stonewall, site of a 1969 New York police raid and riot that touched off the modern American homosexual rights movement. And to his credit, the president and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have instructed U.S. foreign aid agencies to support gay-rights efforts overseas. "Gay rights are human rights," Ms. Clinton said in 2011....

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: Americans Want a Good Inauguration Show -- Corporate Funding or Not

    Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University and is currently teaching a three-week course at NYU’s campus in Abu Dhabi. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson walked from a nearby boardinghouse to the Capitol to be inaugurated as the third president of the United States. His two predecessors, George Washington and John Adams, had arrived at their own inaugurations by stagecoach, clad in elegant suits.But Jefferson went on foot, wearing the clothes “of a plain citizen without any distinctive badge of office,” as a Virginia newspaper reported. Jefferson swore his presidential oath, gave a brief speech, and then walked back to have dinner with his fellow boarders.

  • Originally published 01/17/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: [Video] Blame Games

    Jonathan Zimmerman is a Narberth resident and a professor of history at New York University. He is teaching a course at NYU's Abu Dhabi campus. E-mail: jlzimm@aol.com. ...In Washington, stricter regulation of video games has become a post-Sandy Hook cause du jour. Last week, Vice President Biden convened a high-profile meeting with video-game executives. Some have called for warning labels and other precautions.But we still don't know if playing video games makes users more likely to behave aggressively. Research on the subject is spotty and mixed, and millions of Americans clearly play violent games without becoming violent.For the most part, they also play them in a stationary position. So we shouldn't be surprised that video games are very strongly associated with obesity, especially among the young. In 2011, the World Health Organization named video games the single biggest cause of child obesity.Why would playing video games lead to more weight gain than, say, watching television? Nobody knows, although one recent study suggested an intriguing possibility: Video games make you hungry. Boys who played them were found to consume four times as many calories as they burned off....