Author Archives: Peter

About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.

what does it mean to say democracy is in retreat?

According to Freedom House, “Democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017 as its basic tenets—including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law—came under attack around … Continue reading

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notes on John Ashbery, Paradoxes and Oxymorons

A “plain” is a level place. Some plains are places that were leveled. Isaiah 40:4: “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” A “level” is … Continue reading

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register and propose sessions for Frontiers of Democracy 2018

Frontiers of Democracy is an annual conference hosted by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University since 2009. The 2018 conference will take place from June 21 (5pm) until June 23 (1 pm) at Tufts University’s … Continue reading

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insights on police reform from Elinor Ostrom and social choice theory

Elinor Ostrom was my favorite scholar. Her research was empirically rigorous and methodologically innovative. After working with Vincent Ostrom on water management, she turned to a series of studies of police. Her findings are pertinent today, when crime has fallen but … Continue reading

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the moral significance of instinct, with special reference to having a dog

When dogs and their human owners look into each others’ eyes, oxytocin, a hormone involved in the maternal bond, rises in both creatures. When dogs are given oxytocin via a nasal spray, they want to look in their humans’ eyes … Continue reading

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analyzing Donald Trump’s speech patterns

Just before the 2016 presidential election, I wrote: Donald Trump’s speaking style is extraordinarily paratactic. That is, he utters declarative sentences without any of the explicit transitional words that can explain why sentences fit together. No “therefore’s,” “on the other hand’s,” … Continue reading

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what is cultural appropriation?

Matt Walsh, who writes from the perspective of the religious right, garnered widespread attention after sharing his dismay that Christians indulge in “Hindu worship” like yoga. … It’s worth noting that he’s not necessarily wrong. Yoga derives from ancient Indian … Continue reading

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pseudoscience and the No True Scotsman fallacy

I’m sure the point has been made before, but it occurs to me that to describe shameful episodes like racial eugenics as “pseudoscience” risks the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. This is an early (possibly the first) telling of the No … Continue reading

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22 million new voters by 2020

With The LAMP, a New York City nonprofit that works on media and digital literacy skills, my colleagues at CIRCLE are launching the 22×20 Campaign, which has the tagline “22 million new voters by the year 2020.” For the night of the … Continue reading

Posted in 2018 election, advocating civic education, press criticism, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


In home movies and fading Polaroids, They look funny, their lapels wide and garish, Their facial hair risible, movements jerky. They look naive–fools, ignorant of what came next. But I report: the grass felt just the same When you raked … Continue reading

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