Vol 2, Issue 2 February, 2020

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Learning Sciences Exchange Fellowship

The Learning Sciences Exchange (LSX) is accepting applications through February 15, 2020. LSX is an interdisciplinary two-year fellowship focused on child development (ages 0-5) designed to break through traditional silos that separate learning scientists from those in journalism, education policy, entertainment, and social entrepreneurship. The fellowship is administered by New America in partnership with the International Congress of Infant Studies and the Jacobs Foundation. Apply here.


Three questions with...
2017 Fellow Theodore Johnson

Your Fellows Project was the basis for your forthcoming book, When the Stars Begin to Fall: Race, Solidarity, and the Future of America. Can you share the origins of the project?

Just two months after my fellowship year started, the 2016 election changed the landscape for my book project. It was originally centered on black America’s political diversity and intended to argue that electoral competition for black voters is a precondition to the next wave of transformative policies that reduce racial inequality in the United States. But after Trump’s victory, much of the national interest turned toward white working class voters. After conversations with other fellows and book agents, I decided to expand the idea from one bloc’s electoral solidarity to the broader concept of national solidarity as a way of confronting racism in America. Through tons of research and writing more book proposals than I care to recall, When the Stars Begin to Fall was born. It is a book that argues racism is a threat to the American ideals, a multiracial solidarity grounded in civil religion is the best way to address it, and the model for this national solidarity can be found in the civic, political, and social history and experiences of black America.

You served as a commander in the United States Navy and held a variety of positions including as a White House fellow and speechwriter for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. What impact does your military career have on your current work?

Goal-setting and maintaining the discipline to meet writing benchmarks are easily the biggest impact from being in the military. Chipping away at the objective and staying on schedule—whether on an overseas deployment, preparing a nationally televised Memorial Day address at Arlington Cemetery, or finishing a book chapter—has carried through from service to my work today. It’s also given me a worldview that is both optimistic and pragmatic—I have a deep reverence for the nation’s ideals and serving alongside Americans from all over has helped me be hopeful for our future, but being part of a large hierarchical institution has shown me how difficult change is and that there is value in incremental progress.

You’re active on Twitter. How do you think about using the platform to promote your work and to affect policy change?

Mostly, I treat Twitter like a mini opinion column. The majority of my activity there are threads that unpack an idea over a series of tweets. In some ways, the goal is to breeze past the gatekeepers at publications and get my thoughts out quickly. This has helped me in a few ways: It’s gotten me commissions to write in major publications and for speaking engagements; threading gets more exposure than single tweets, and that has turned into meetings with elected officials and policymakers; and it increases my following and byline reach, which I hope will benefit my book! I have a relatively small following compared to other academics and writers, so I’m hoping to engage more this year and grow my audience.

Hot Off The Press

The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage

A riveting true story of industrial espionage in which a Chinese-born scientist is pursued by the U.S. government for trying to steal trade secrets.

By: Mara Hvistendahl, Class of 2017

Learn More

Two Cents

Fellows on where they find creative inspiration.

1: I go to some place in nature, or sometimes I pick a card from Brian Eno's deck of Oblique Strategies. — Bina Venkataraman, Class of 2016

2: It's always when I'm reading something and it stops me, prompting me to ask, 'I wonder. . . .' I pay attention to that curiosity. — Melissa Segura, Class of 2019

3: I read books outside my subject area that are written in a style that I'd like to emulate. With my book, I aimed for a fast-paced narrative, so I read a lot of thrillers. I also read screenplays and practiced storyboarding with films. — Mara Hvistendahl, Class of 2017

Two Cents

Marcia Chatelain's book, Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black Americawas reviewed in the New York Times. She was also interviewed in Vox and on NPR's All Things Considered about the book. 

David Rohde profiled Attorney General William Barr for the January 20th issue of the New Yorker. He was also interviewed about the article on MSNBC and NPR's Fresh Air.

Joshua Yaffa's new book, Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin's Russia, was reviewed in NPR, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Associated Press, and The Times. He was also interviewed about the book on NPR's All Things Considered.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the 1619 Project for the New York Times Magazine, will be a 2020 North Carolina Media & Journalism Hall of Fame Inductee.

Sarah J. Jackson wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about Twitter's impact on activism and culture in the U.S.

Greg Barker's upcoming Netflix movie Sergio premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. View the trailer here.

David Wallace-Wells' book, The Uninhabitable Earth, will be adapted for an HBO Max series.

George Packer, author of Our Man, won the 2019 Hitchens Prize.

Molly Crabapple wrote an article for the New Yorker about the Greek anarchist community Exarchia.

Patrick Radden Keefe's book, Say Nothing, returned to the New York Times Bestseller List for a total of nine weeks.

Pod Save the People, a podcast co-hosted by Clint Smith, won the 2020 iHeartRadio award for Best Political Podcast.

Two Cents
Go To This

The top 3 New America events we recommend you check out. Now.



The Scientist and the Spy

Join Mara Hvistendahl, Class of 2017, for a conversation with Anne-Marie Slaughter, New America CEO, about her new book The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial EspionageLearn more


Equity and Education in 2020

Join the Education Policy Program for a discussion on how inclusive teaching practices can improve equity in the classroom. Learn more


Disability and the Future of Work

Join New America and Source America for the release of a new report discussing how policy and practice can reshape the future of work for persons with disabilities. Learn More

Reading this month

This book is a sensitive study of the students plucked out of their communities and onto the campuses of elite colleges.
— Marcia Chatelain, Class of 2017

Learn More

This is the book to read if you want to understand the refugee crisis at our doorstep, told with a poet's touch. 
— Melissa Segura, Class of 2019

Learn More

Packer does a wonderful job of weaving together biography and history to tell a broader story about American foreign policy. 
— David Rohde, Class of 2020

Learn More

Free Swag

Fill out this tiny form for a chance to win a copy of Between Two Fires by Joshua Yaffa, Class of 2016!

(Please submit by COB Monday, February 10th to be considered.)

Get Swag!

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