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Handmaking America: A Back-to-Basics Pathway to a Revitalized American Democracy Paperback – August 28, 2012
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About the Author
Bill Ivey is the founding director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University. During his long tenure in public service, he served as Senate-confirmed chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts in the Clinton-Gore administration, and in that capacity is credited with both increasing the agency's budget and restoring good relations between the NEA and Capitol Hill. He is a trustee of the Center for American Progress, and served as a Team Leader in the Barack Obama presidential transition. He is the author of "Arts, Inc. How Greed and Neglect have Destroyed our Cultural Rights," and "Engaging Art: the Next Great Transformation of America's Cultural Life." As past president of the American Folklore Society, he today serves as China Liaison for that group. He makes his home in Nashville, Tennessee.
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Top Customer Reviews
Ivey points to education as being primarily responsible, through a shift from creating better citizens to creating better workers. He argues that schools should try and make us more civic minded and worldly, thinking of bigger ideas and concepts and that corporations should be the ones training us to do what they need us to do. Fair enough, but there's a slippery slope. What are American values? How do we seek consensus on what we should be as a nation? What exactly are American values and beliefs? Ivey likewise speaks about how we all need to reform the way we live, what we do, and how we behave. Most of what he says makes sense, but there's the question of personal responsibility versus becoming a "nanny state". While I agree we all need to look in the mirror and ask if "to thine own self be true" I don't know how many people will actually do it. Ivey is certainly right that the anxieties building now mirror those of earlier ages and while the Progressives certainly enacted sweeping changes they were gradual and implemented over many decades. The pendulum seems to swing quickly but in reality its sweeps in slow decade long swoops. Some of the ideas Ivey advocates are unlikely to gain traction, such as going to a four day work week and suppressing productivity to allow for more employment. France did just that and look at where they are economically speaking! Ivey argues not for larger government but a smarter government, which honestly...doesn't everyone? Ultimately some of Ivey's ideas make sense and seem honest and sincere but others are just a bit too much. His call for more public intellectuals and raising the level of debate and discourse in our society in particular was appealing to me. We DESPERATELY need more enlightened public intellectuals who are willing to put forth ideas as well as debating and arguing them. While I like much of what Ivey suggests I think given our current political, social, and cultural environment I think it's all a bit way too optimistic.
I appreciated the way Ivey takes Obama to task for failing to present an inspiring vision for the nation early in his presidency. I think it bothered many of the people who voted for him.
You won't be very far into the book before you're asking yourself questions like, when and how did we lose our shared sense of a bright American future? How did we become so divided and partisan, so absorbed by consumerism? Ivey's book does not contain an easy formula for fixing America's problems which, after all, were years in the making. Instead, this book calls on us to agree on the substance of the problem and begin to talk about it.