Andrew Nelson

Perspective: Being A Neighbor

Dec 28, 2020
Pixabay + Pixlr

While my religious beliefs are deeply, deeply suspect to anyone who is a devout practitioner of any one of the world’s religions, there is a profound biblical lesson that should inform the civic behavior for everyone in these fractured United States of America. That lesson comes from the concept of “being a neighbor” from the “Parable of the Good Samaritan.”

Germs and viruses will infect you regardless of your political or religious affiliation. Be a neighbor and wear your mask.

Perspective: The Parable Of The Basketball Game

Nov 22, 2020
Cocoparisienne / Pixabay

The basketball game is set to start. Team B’s coach has his players on the floor, as well as the coach of Team R. The game will be officiated by three veteran, well-qualified and well-respected referees.

Perspective: The United States Of Conspiracy

Oct 19, 2020

Imagine hearing this from 13-year old kid in a junior high classroom: Joe Biden and the Democrats are running a child sex ring for pedophiles. Or, reading a recent letter to the editor in local paper that “QAnon” is a “good” thing. Both are laughable and frightening at the same time. 

Perspective: This Is A Sucker?

Sep 14, 2020
U.S. National Archives

Milt Giese still couldn’t talk about it. I worked with him at an asphalt paving company in the summer 1984. One afternoon I asked him about his experiences in the Army at the end of World War II in Europe. He talked for bit, but then stopped when he got to the part of helping recently liberated concentration camp victims. He teared up and was still unable to speak about that experience almost 40 years later. At 21, I only vaguely understood why. 

Perspective: Going Ahead Alone Or Going Down Together

Aug 10, 2020
public domain

This has been a very American summer, one that has brought out both the very best and very worst in its citizens. It’s also a summer ripe for an opportunity for a rededication to what this country is ideally supposed to stand for.

The following passage is from a speech that captures the spirit of that rededication. It was by a person of incredible strength, compassion and fortitude, and who now ranks in the top five historical figures I deeply admire.

Perspective: A Lesson From The Germans

Jul 8, 2020
By Cor2701, CC BY 3.0 /

Once again, I have found the latest round of “debates” on the legacy of the Confederacy baffling 155 years after the Civil War ended. Once and for all, we need consider the Confederacy for what it was and where it now belongs. The lesson on how to accomplish that comes from the Germans and how they treat their dark history.           

Perspective: A Middle-Aged White Guy

Jun 3, 2020
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

I live in a nice house with a nice lawn, in a nice subdivision and am comfortably upper middle class. My wife and I have both worked hard to have what we have. I also have the advantage of being a white male. I also have the disadvantage of being a white male.

Perspective: Migrant Mother

Apr 27, 2020

I clearly remember stories I heard as a kid from my older relatives about living through the Great Depression. The over-arching lesson I took from those accounts was this: unless you lived through it, you couldn’t truly understand what it was like.

Perspective: Missing The Kids

Mar 23, 2020
Wokandapix / Pixabay


As I record this perspective, it is now day four of our school district’s shut down because of COVID-19, and I’m about stark raving loony for two reasons.

First, e-learning is going to be no substitute for the intellectual fervor of a good class discussion. And second, junior high kids are hilarious, so I’m missing the dozens of good laughs I often get in a day. None of us will be getting the “brain food” to which we are accustomed.

Then there’s the problem with kids getting actual food.

Perspective: Luck.

Feb 17, 2020
National Cancer Institute / Pixabay

2020 has not started off well for my wife, Wendy. Not long after New Year’s, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  


Perspective: 2020 Is A Precipice Year

Jan 6, 2020

As I write this on the first day of 2020, I’m not certain that a “Happy New Year” is in order. This new year has a good chance of becoming what I would call a precipice year the same way that 1775, 1850, 1861, 1877, 1941 and 1968 were. If one reads enough history, one will soon learn that as a country we have not always done the right things. However, at least in the long run, right has prevailed over wrong. 


Perspective: How We Become Who We Are

Dec 2, 2019
Photo illustration/public domain, Gage Skidmore / CC by SA-2.0

A few days ago, I posed this question to my students: “How much could another person come to know about you by both looking through your phone and knowing who your friends are?” Their answer was no surprise: a lot! 


Perspective: Upstanders And Bystanders

Oct 28, 2019
Wikimedia Commons, CC0 1.0

A few weeks ago, our staff took 115 8th graders to the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie as part of a unit on discrimination I’ve been teaching. As we started our tour, our docent posed a question to our group, whose answer has had profound consequences through the course of history. Her question was this: Would you be an upstander or bystander if you saw a person doing deliberate harm to another person? I could see the gears were turning in many kids’ heads as they continued through the exhibits. 

Perspective: A Not-So-Bright Plan

Sep 25, 2019
KS KYUNG / Unsplash

I’m writing and recording this perspective in my home office that is illuminated with five LED light bulbs. In fact, save for one, every single light source in my house and garage comes from an LED bulb.

Perspective: The Pursuit Of Power

Aug 21, 2019
Jeffrey Hamilton / Unsplash

Forty-five years ago this month, President Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in disgrace.  


Perspective: A Room In Montpelier

Jul 15, 2019
Pthomaskmadigan, Wikimedia / CC by SA 4.0

A few weeks ago, when I was driving in Northern Virginia visiting Civil War battlefield sites, I happened across a sign for James Madison's home, Montpelier. After thinking about it for a few seconds, I decided to drive the 28 miles to Orange, Virginia to visit the home of the founding father I've read the least about.

Perspective: The Messes You Leave

Jun 10, 2019
RitaE / Pixabay

I wrote this perspective on the morning June 6th, the 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord that began the liberation of Western Europe. I also just recently completed my 30th year working with high school and middle school kids. Those two events, one monumental and one definitely not, have got me pondering the messes that one generation leaves for another. 


Perspective: Our Mutual Pledge

May 6, 2019
Archibald Willard's "Yankee Doodle"

Several weeks ago, I was watching an interview with historian Michael Beschloss as he was discussing his latest book, The Presidents of War. As he was talking about our continued divided times, he quoted the last line from the Declaration of Independence, which reads, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Perspective: Do We Really Get What We Vote For?

Apr 1, 2019
Elkanah Tisdale / public domain

For those of you who don’t know who the “Gerry” is behind gerrymandering, it comes from Elbridge Gerry, who was a statesman and diplomat, ultimately serving as the vice president under James Madison.

Perspective: Money Doesn't Equal Superiority

Feb 25, 2019
by "Intellectual" / Pixabay

A couple of weeks ago on the Late Show, Stephen Colbert said, “Money makes you think you know things you don’t know.” And on the same night on Full Frontal with Sam Bee, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman said this about the super wealthy: “Sometimes they are just lucky. Sometimes they really are smart, but about something, tiny, narrow. They get ‘billionaire’s disease.’ People want what you can give them, so they tell you what you want to hear.”  

Perspective: The Man I Didn't Vote For...Twice

Dec 10, 2018
public domain

I’m writing this perspective on the day of George Herbert Walker Bush’s state funeral. I did not vote for Mr. Bush in either the 1988 or 1992 presidential elections. I can confidently say a generation later that I disagreed with many of his education policies. But I can also confidently say I was ignorant of what drove the man.  

An Easy Fix For A Complex Problem

Nov 5, 2018


Tomorrow morning I will walk into the Oregon-Nashua town hall and vote. But, as I have had to do too often in past elections, I will also be shaking my head in disgust over what our elections have come to in our country as I fill in my ballot. 

Broken In The Short Term

Oct 1, 2018

This last June, my wife and I had the chance to get a private tour of the U.S. Capitol from her long-time friend, who is also a long-serving, dedicated, highly capable public servant in the Congressional Budget Office. Over the course of her career, she has testified many times in front of members of Congress and knows the institution well.


It's 1984 Again

Aug 27, 2018


My brother and I had a conversation a few weeks ago that was a telling one. He told me he had started rereading George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, and stopped. It was simply too depressing, because too much of it rang too true in 2018. For reference’s sake, Orwell wrote this novel in response to the state terror that was Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union. 

Being Quietly Loud In Today's Culture Battles

Jul 23, 2018

A few weeks ago in a local movie theater, my wife and I took in the documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, about a true American hero: Fred Rogers. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend that you do. But, I’ll warn you now, it is shattering in all the right ways.

Flags And Facts And Falsehoods

Jun 18, 2018

A few weeks ago, I was driving down a residential street in a familiar town here in north central Illinois. Hanging outside one of these houses that lined this street was not one but two Confederate flags.

I went a little further down the same street and noticed another flag on another house, but this one was only half Confederate; the other half displayed the American flag. I was tempted to check the date on my phone to make sure I wasn’t in some time warp, but I didn’t. I knew I was still indeed in May 2018.

The Press Have A Role To Play

May 14, 2018

James Madison once said, “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”

And mistrust of those wielding the levers of power in government goes back to the days of the American Revolution, closely followed by intellectual brawls in creating the U.S. Constitution, and soon followed by the party wars of the 1790s.

That mistrust is still with us, and it is a healthy thing.

Where Will You Land In This Moment?

Apr 2, 2018

Transformational moments always see those who will be on the right side of history and those who will land on the wrong side.

Those who land on that wrong side do so because they are often beholden to misguided social or economic forces. And those forces can be compellingly strong.

New Items For The School-Supplies List

Feb 26, 2018

I’m going to warn you right now: What’s going to follow is marked by sarcasm, bitterness and perhaps some faulty logic.

I believe school districts need to update their school-supply list to reflect the times. Depending on the grade level, most kids need the prerequisite pens, notebooks, notecards and calculators. But there are two things missing from that list that I think are now necessary to safely attend school in this country: bullet-proof vests and SWAT helmets. And here’s why.