Religion still at the heart of politics in America

October 16, 2012

Everyone knows the history of the United States: The Puritans came from England to escape religious persecution, God blessed America, and our free nation stands as a “city on a hill” for the world to emulate.

According to James A. Morone, the Puritans, with their godliness and morality, set the tone for the new country. Download Full Image

The Puritans’ moral dreams “define American ideals,” Morone writes in his 2003 book “Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History,” which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and “inspire crusades at home and abroad – from the revolution of 1776 to the war on terror more than two centuries later.”

And “despite the clear separation of church and state – religion lies at the heart of American politics,” according to Morone, professor and chair of political science at Brown University, who will give a free lecture at Arizona State University on Oct. 29.

The lecture, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, will take place from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Old Main’s Carson Ballroom, Tempe campus.

Morone says that morals play such a crucial role in America because, primarily, “Americans believe in God. In other nations, a handful of stable faiths claim a fixed social place; in the United States, religions restlessly shift, split, and spread in a kind of ecclesiastical uproar.

“The nation develops not from religious to secular but from revival to revival. The moral fervor mixes with the American social chaos: new people keep arriving, and each new immigration stirs fears of moral decline.”

One illustration of this moral fervor happened in the 1820s, Morone said, when the postal service introduced Sunday mail delivery. “The innovation shook the ministers’ grip on the village Sabbath, especially in New England,” he wrote, “Suddenly the mail coach was barging into town, bringing news, noise, and a ride to the next village.

“Community leaders organized a great campaign to stop the Sunday deliveries. They raised funds, held rallies, published tracts, signed petitions, and failed to dent the infidels (or Democats) in Washington.

“The congressional community rudely snubbed the Sabbatarians. But the political movement, now up and running, shifted its attention to a larger moral cause – abolishing slavery.”

Morone said, “From the very start, Americans have been asking the same question: Who are we? Each new generation of immigrants provoke the question – and a great bout of politics. The debate about who we are always seems to turn back to morals: the virtuous versus the vicious, the saints versus the sinners, us versus them. These dichotomies are always on display but this election season has brought them out in full force.

Morone, who earned his doctoral degree from the University of Chicago, is widely recognized for his informative and inspiring lectures, having been awarded the Hazeltine Citation for “the teacher who most inspired them” by Brown University students in 1993, 1999, 2001, 2007 and 2008.

His most recent book, “The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office from Roosevelt to Bush” (2009), returns him to an issue that has shaped much of his scholarly work, that of why healthcare is such a contentious issue in American politics.

Morone also has written more than 100 essays, including one that reflects on Harry Potter and its lesson for American education.

James Morone is important as a speaker today because, as "a distinguished scholar and  dynamic public intellectual, brings together history, politics, religion, and public policy to illuminate currents in American life, past and present.  He poses the most basic and challenging questions about who we are as a nation," said Linell Cady, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.

Industry-university collaboration creates innovative distance-learning program

October 16, 2012

Arizona State University is taking another step to tailor engineering education to meet the needs of industry and working professionals.

This semester ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering has launched a distance-learning program in collaboration with Intel Corp. that offers company employees in Vietnam an opportunity to earn advanced engineering degrees. Intel Vietnam Grad Students Download Full Image

Sixteen engineers are enrolled for the fall semester as the first group of students in the Intel Vietnam Graduate Program.

Intel is the world’s leading semiconductor chip maker. It designs and builds technologies to support a broad array of computing devices.

The company’s multinational expansion is creating a growing need for more of its employees to acquire graduate-level education. Many of its facilities are in countries without extensive higher-education resources.

ASU’s new program is structured to enable the engineers to earn graduate degrees within three years while they continue to work full-time.

The program has been designed “to give the employees the specific competencies Intel needs them to acquire, but also to develop the individual students’ skills to match their own interests and career aspirations,” says Octavio Heredia, associate director of Global Outreach and Extended Education for the engineering schools.

Students will take classes taught by ASU tenure-track engineering faculty through video conferencing, and apply lessons learned in classes in projects overseen by ASU faculty.

In the quest to increase the productivity of a global engineering workforce, ASU has pioneered a true industry-university collaboration in the development and delivery of a global multidisciplinary program, Heredia says.

“Vietnam has recognized that education transformation is a long-term process, and is working with academic and industry partners such as Intel to aid the endeavor,” says Rick Howarth, general manager for Intel Products Vietnam.

Intel invests more than $100 million in education worldwide, and has been investing about $10 million in educational system transformation over the past five years in Vietnam, Howarth says.

“The ASU Intel Graduate Program is another benefit for our employees. It helps to cultivate the next generation of innovators and to enhance our employee’s skills and knowledge at ASU. We aim to develop a quality workforce for ramping up factory operations and for the overall high-tech industry,” he says.

All students in the ASU program will receive advanced training in semiconductor design, processing and packaging to align with Intel’s workforce education needs. Beyond that, students can choose curriculum with concentrations in either electrical engineering or industrial engineering.

In addition, all students will receive advanced training in project- collaboration management skills.

“We are focused on providing availability and flexibility. We are focused on balancing Intel’s needs with the individual students’ own professional goals,” Heredia says.

About 15 to 20 new students are expected to begin studies in the program each semester. Enrollment in the program is expected to grow as Intel continues expansion throughout Southeast Asia.

ASU’s engineering schools will also explore opportunities to work with other companies to provide advanced education to professionals in other parts of the world.

“We view what we are launching now as a pilot program for something that could become much bigger,” Heredia says.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering