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1787 medallion designed by Josiah Wedgwood for the British anti-slavery campaign

My previous article about Uncle Tom’s Cabin provided a general overview of the plot and my takeaways from the book. However, I deliberately left out two critical pieces: first, the Christian motifs that appear throughout the novel; and second, the story of Uncle Tom himself.

The Christian Left

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

The true nature and doctrines of Christianity, and the responsibility of Christians to follow those doctrines, form a prominent and powerful theme throughout Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the book’s author, portrays true Christians as those who believe in a universal obligation to treat all humans fairly and with dignity, since we are all God’s children. Additionally, Stowe says, Christians must strive toward the salvation of all — even our enemies. …

“Not surer is the eternal law by which the millstone sinks in the ocean, than that stronger law, by which injustice and cruelty shall bring on nations the wrath of Almighty God!” -Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Chapter 45

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George Harris, his wife Eliza, and their son Harry in Canada

Most anyone who’s grown up in the United States has heard of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. We know it was an anti-slavery novel released some time around the Civil War — wait, was it before or after? When Jeopardy asks us for the book’s author, we pat ourselves on the back if we manage to pull “Harriet Beecher Stowe!” out of our foggy recollections of 10th grade history class. …

Not the autobiography, mind you

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Growing up, I had learned a little bit about Benjamin Franklin. I had heard of the Silence Dogood letters, his kite-flying experiment, his work as a printer, and the fact that he was one of the few people to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I learned about him peripherally when reading Alexander Hamilton’s biography several years ago. But these few, isolated facts left me with a shallow picture of this influential man.

Inspired by some daydreams I’ve had lately about melding a political career with technical/scientific exploits, I decided to finally pick up Walter Isaacson’s 2003 book, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, and delve into the world of this unique Founding Father. …

Several years ago, I had a revealing conversation with my younger brother. I confessed that I was feeling some existential angst and wasn’t sure what path I should take to have the most fulfilling and impactful life and career. “Well,” he said, “what kind of work makes you feel the most fulfilled?” I heard myself answering this simple question almost immediately: “Writing.”

That night, I set a reminder on my phone to “Write 200 words” at 9:00 PM every day. “Just write a little bit, anything,” my brother said. “Get in the habit.” He was right. …

A review of “The Knowledge Gap” by Natalie Wexler

I knelt next to [the girl] and asked, “What are you drawing?”

“Clowns,” she answered confidently.

“Why are you drawing clowns?”

“Because it says right here, ‘Draw clowns,’ ” she explained.

Running down the left side of the worksheet was a list of reading-comprehension skills: finding the main idea, making inferences, making predictions. The girl was pointing to the phrase draw conclusions.

-Excerpt from The Knowledge Gap (emphasis added)

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Flickr/Alban Gonzalez

Natalie Wexler’s new book, released just last month, pulls no punches. It wades boldly and fearlessly into the endless wars surrounding education reform, tackling controversial topics from reading instruction to the achievement gap, the Common Core, and standardized testing. The Knowledge Gap: The hidden cause of America’s broken education system — and how to fix it not only contributes an entirely different perspective on education reform from that found in most recent books of the genre, but also re-frames how we look at the system as a whole, giving exhausted educators and advocates that most precious commodity: hope, for real change. …

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Originally written and published on my blog in November 2014. Updated significantly in 2019.

I started learning HTML in 1999, when I was in 5th grade. I built countless websites on Geocities (with the requisite flashing GIFs everywhere), using the site for fun, for multiple web-based comic strips I made with friends, and even for school assignments. I built a website for the non-profit my grandmother ran. And I loved all of it.

A year later, I bought a copy of a book called Javascript Goodies and taught myself Javascript. A year after that, it was Java. Then Teach Yourself C in 21 Days. Then PHP and MySQL. I couldn’t get enough. I installed and tested multiple Linux distributions on my computer and learned to configure Apache web servers. Simultaneously, I was learning to use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, and Maya, a 3D modeling program. …

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Scenery from the high-speed train outside Anshun, Guizhou province

If you’re planning a trip to China and intend to visit more than one city, you’ll probably end up taking a train. The Chinese government has invested an incredible amount of money into building high-speed rail lines that now crisscross the entire country, forming the largest high-speed train network in the world. Utilizing this network as a foreign traveler is pretty easy, but it’s helpful to know what to expect.

First, you need your tickets. These are surprisingly easy to book online. You can purchase both high-speed and regular train tickets on This is important to book ahead of time (sales start 30 days before departure), since many routes do sell out. charges a $5 commission for most tickets, or $3 if your train ticket is very cheap (under ~$10). This can add up if you’re buying lots of tickets like we were, but their website is in English and they accept non-Chinese credit cards, unlike the official Chinese train site, so it is worth the price. If your travel plans change, you can cancel your tickets for a full refund (excluding the commission) up to 15 days before departure, or for a 5% penalty up to 48 hours before departure. I was a little bit skeptical of a generic-sounding website like, …

This summer, my wife and I took our first trip to Asia, visiting China, Malaysia, and Vietnam. We definitely overprepared a little bit, bringing things like mosquito nets that we didn’t need, and too many clothes. However, there were a few items we brought and a few things we set up before we left that we were very glad about.

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The LifeStraw water bottle

1. The LifeStraw water bottle

This thing was seriously a life saver. Since you can’t drink the tap water in any of these places, that means you have to get bottled water pretty much everywhere you go. However, if you’re desperate for water somewhere (for example, in your hotel room in the middle of the night) and don’t have any bottled water left, this thing is priceless. …

Traveling around Asia, especially China, can be a little intimidating. Having the right apps on your phone can make a big difference in your comfort level and how easy it is to navigate your way around. These six apps should be part of your toolbox.

To get around the Great Firewall that blocks Gmail, Facebook, and other U.S. apps in China, I recommend ordering a Hong Kong SIM card from Amazon (affiliate link) before you leave.

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Download the Google Translate language files you need so they’re available offline.

And in case you have any connection issues while you’re in the region, you should download these apps while still at home.

1. Google Translate | This is an obvious one, but be sure to also download the language files you need so they’re available offline. To do this, just click the arrow button next to the language you want in the language selection menu. …

About two months ago, I managed to find some ridiculously cheap tickets to China — $568 round trip to Guangzhou on Hainan Airlines. Those kinds of fares are not uncommon in the off season, but in July when most people actually have time off? Unheard of. This was too good to pass up, so about a month later my wife and I found ourselves on our first trip to Asia. (Why was I looking at Guangzhou in the first place? …


Jonathan Gelbart

Former Director of Educational Initiatives and Innovation for the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute. Engineer. AZ native. Articles represent my personal views only.

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