Steve Hochstadt

Steve Hochstadt is a writer and an emeritus professor of history at Illinois College.

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  • Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire


    Image via Shutterstock.

    I read an article the other day about a famous liar, Jonah Lehrer. Less than a year ago, Lehrer was a writer for the New Yorker, one of the most prestigious jobs in journalism. He was caught fabricating quotations and plagiarizing from other writers, and resigned in disgrace. Then in February, he got $20,000 from the Knight Foundation to give a talk about his lies and how he planned to redeem himself. The Knight Foundation claims it promotes quality journalism under the slogan “informed and engaged communities”. Now he has just scored a deal with Simon and Schuster for a book tentatively titled A Book About Love. Looks like lying can be a good career move.


  • The Right to Privacy


    Image via Shutterstock.

    I am a very private person. I won’t tell the cashier at the sports equipment store my phone number. I am not interested in reading the details of people’s daily routines that make up so many blogs. I don’t understand the need to put revealing photographs on public websites. I don’t like to talk about myself, even to friends. So I am completely out of touch with the contemporary Facebook ethos.


  • Pray Like I Do


    The Wailing Wall. Credit: Flickr/anaulin.

    A few days ago, a group of Jewish women gathered to pray at the most sacred place in Jerusalem. The Wailing Wall surrounds the ancient Temple Mount, where Jewish tradition says God gathered the dust to make Adam, where Abraham bound his son Isaac, where two Jewish temples stood for hundreds of years, where the Divine Presence rests. The women were surrounded by other Jews, who tried to prevent them from reaching the Wall, who cursed them, and threw water and chairs and stones at them. Three of these ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters were arrested.


  • Play Ball, Jackie


    Credit: LOOK Magazine, 1954.

    I grew up in a Brooklyn Dodgers family. I loved Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, and Pee Wee Reese. I rooted for the Dodgers when they were “Da Bums”, when they lost three World Series before I was five years old, all to the Yankees. So of course I loved Jackie Robinson.


  • Tipping Points: Is the Culture War Over?


    Image via Shutterstock.

    This is an extraordinary moment in American politics. The possibility that the Supreme Court will declare some or all of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional is already sufficient reason for that label. But that is just one piece of a larger shift, a movement in the tectonic plates of national politics.

    In 1996, 27 percent of Americans said they favored gay marriage. By 2006, that proportion had risen to 35 percent. In 2010 it was 41 percent. The latest poll last month showed 49 percent. This shift applies to every possible grouping, from the most opposed (white conservative evangelical Protestants over 65) to the most in favor (liberals under 30).


  • I Need Police Protection

    I bother some people. A lot. I know this from reading the comments about me that appear everywhere these columns are read. It has been made clear to me more than once that some people with wealth and power in this town don’t like that I publish my opinions every week. There are people who would very much like me to dissociate my writings from Illinois College, where I work.

    People with less personal connection with me have much harsher ideas in mind. They say I shouldn’t be a teacher, that I shouldn’t be allowed to write for a newspaper, that I am an evil person. They want to shut me up entirely.

    What if they were in charge? What if our political system, at any level, were dominated by the people who want to get rid of me? That’s not such a far-fetched possibility.

    When a police car drives by my house now, I have nothing more to fear than my neighbors do. That is a privilege enjoyed by few people on this earth. We Americans talk a lot about our rights. It is easy to forget that our ability to express our opinions without worry that the cops will show up at our door tomorrow is rare in the world, and has often been violated here at home. We must always be vigilant in protection of our sweet liberty.


  • Clothes Can Demean the Woman

    by Steve Hochstadt

    People used to say, “Clothes make the man.” That was true. Before the French Revolution, commoners were prohibited by law from dressing like nobles, so a person’s class was recognizable from their clothes. Clothing was a sign of status, wealth and power.

    Today celebrities wear jeans, and commoners can buy designer knock-offs, so it’s hard to tell who’s who from the way they look. Only male politicians seem to wear status uniforms all the time – dark suits, solid ties, flag lapel pins, and boring shoes.

    Even if they no longer identify class, our clothes still make an impression on others, and are designed to do just that. Wearers, designers, and manufacturers collaborate to create individual looks, which are always socially influenced and sometimes socially prescribed. In the American world I see in my small hometown and everywhere else, the look prescribed for women is sexy. And I think it’s a mistake for women to capitulate to that fashion in their everyday dress.

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