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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Wayne Franklin, professor of English at the University of Connecticut and definitive biographer of the American literary figure James Fenimore Cooper. As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month, Prof. Franklin reviews Cooper’s background and major works, especially the “Leatherstocking Tales,” including The Last of the Mohicans, which are distinguished for their enlightened and sympathetic portrayal of the disappearing tribes. Franklin discusses why these books, set in upstate New York in the middle of the 18th century, and their memorable protagonists have captivated generations of readers for over a century, and why Cooper deserves more contemporary study and appreciation. They also explore Cooper’s lessons about the importance of constitutionalism, liberty, self-government, and civic knowledge as the basis for the rule of law in our republic. Prof. Franklin concludes with a reading from The Last of the Mohicans.
Stories of the Week: In Europe, despite a COVID-19 surge that has prompted closures of restaurants, theaters, and gyms, schools remain open. Are there lessons for the U.S.? Some prominent names have been floated to serve as the next U.S. Secretary of Education – among them, Eduardo Padron, president emeritus of Miami Dade College; Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; and Lily Eskelsen García, former president of the National Education Association – but would they accept?