Joe Mathews is California and Innovation Editor for Zócalo Public Square, and writes the weekly syndicated Connecting California column, which appears in 30 media outlets around California. He is co-author, with Mark Paul, of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the …
The Radical Meaning of Silence
In a Noisy World, Wordless Glances and Subtle Gestures Have Always Been Powerful Statements
Everyone claims to want silence right now. Uber is trialing the use of a mute button so you can ride in peace. A British newspaper columnist has finally found a way to forget all her problems—floating in the sea, both …
In Search of ‘the Commons’ in Modern America
My Rhode Island Town Has Had a Communal Green Since 1694, but Today’s Public Spaces Are Complicated and Splintered
“The commons” is a concept, an ideal. The commons are property we all share, property that’s owned not by any one person or group, but that’s held—well, in common. It also has a distinct history in the U.S., harking …
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The Fabulous Fable of Fabiola's Scholarship Fund
While Rich Californians Paid Bribes to Get Their Kids Into College, a Struggling Sophomore Shares Her Small Windfall
This spring—as federal prosecutors announced a major college admissions scandal that had ensnared wealthy movie stars and prominent Californians, who paid millions in bribes to get their kids into elite universities—a poor kid from a poor California town faced her own dilemma about money and universities: How could she use her own meager bank account to help others go to college?
Fabiola Moreno Ruelas, an 18-year-old from the Salinas Valley town of Gonzales, was about to become California’s most unlikely philanthropist. She had not had a glittering, Carnegie-style (or even Kardashian-style) upbringing. In fact, she had suffered much of the worst of California, from the deportation of her father, to a serious ...
Americans Have Always Celebrated Hacks and Swindlers
In 19th-Century New England, Rule-Breaking Yankees Were a Source of National Pride
Grab a burger at the James Dean diner in Prague, pay homage to the Miles Davis monument in Kielce, Poland, or stop by the Elvis fan club of Malaysia, and you’ll see how a certain brand of 1950s “cool” still shapes perceptions of America abroad. What people mean by cool can be hard to pin down, but cultural historians tend to agree on some basics: defiance, self-control, individualism, and creativity—ideals epitomized by the jazz and beat movements of the early 20th century.
Long before these characteristics were cool, however, the term was linked with American identities in a very different way, and in very different contexts. Tracing its history helps us understand how we have come to ...
The True Horror of Sunny Santa Cruz
The City’s Residents Feel Powerless Over Their Future—From Housing to Climate Change
California Isn't the Center of the World—and That's a Good Thing
For Centuries, the State’s Distance From Traditional Seats of Power Has Forced It to Innovate
Why California Should Close Failing School Districts
Southern San Diego County's Sweetwater District Cannot Escape Mismanagement and Corruption on Its Own