In this week’s episode, Neil, Natalia, and Niki debate the Trump University fraud settlement, Mike Pence’s reception at Hamilton, and the wild turkey’s distaste for the wild.
Donald Trump’s lawyers reached a $25 million settlement in the lawsuits over Trump University. Natalia situated Trump U in the long history of for-profit colleges but also the history of self-help. Neil commented on the interviews with Trump University students who felt they had been defrauded. Niki noted the founder of the University of Phoenix, John Sperling, had created his for-profit college with democratizing aims, but it seemed to be another example of things that are more expensive for the poor. In that light, Natalia recommended two Barbara Ehrenreich books, Nickled and Dimed and Bright-Sided, for understanding this phenomenon more.
Pence and Hamilton
The cast of Hamilton delivered a speech to Mike Pence at the conclusion of a recent performance of the hit Broadway musical he attended. Neil placed the event in the history of theater as a place of political protest, but suggested the speech was different. Natalia recommended Lawrence Levine’s classic Highbrow/Lowbrow for understanding the changing place of theater in American culture. Natalia compared Mike Pence’s calm response to the incident to President Obama’s cool demeanor in the face of constant attacks, as detailed in David Remnick’s recent profile of the president.
Turkeys Gone Wild
We discussed Yoni Applebaum’s 2015 Atlantic article that examined how wildlife today, like the wild turkey, would prefer to live in human environments. Niki noted the persistence of American ideas about “civilization” and the “wilderness,” something shaped in part by Frederick Jackson Turner’s classic 1893 essay, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” Neil recommended Catherine McNeur’s book Taming Manhattan for how it details the history of wild animals in America’s largest metropolis.