Friday, April 18, 2014

Theme: Education

  • It all started with cellphones, a long time ago. No student, and few teachers, would make voice calls from class, but in the early 2000s GSM phones started to offer nearly free text messaging, and students (and faculty) started to text during lectures and seminars. Before long students were composing text messages without even looking at their phones, courtesy of the good old duodecimal keyboard; some could actually text from a phone in their pocket. Read more
  • Rarely do scholars of Žižek speak of themselves or their work as “Žižekian.” Most scholars of Žižek write about particular facets of his work, and the “Žižekian,” as a mark of one’s own approach to philosophy, is rarely cited in scholarly work on philosophy or critical theory more generally.Read more
  • U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake performed the diplomatic equivalent of gold-medal figure skating last April in a meeting at the authoritarian central Asian nation of Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev University when a student asked him about warnings by American critics and human-rights monitors that “a democracy cannot have its universities making partnerships with authoritarian governments,” as the questioner put itRead more
  • The MOOC era has dawned with a rush of utopian and dystopian bombast, much of which is bound to be wrong. A platform for enabling high-quality instruction over the internet will probably be a boon for higher education at large, even if it drastically changes the working conditions of many people in the profession. At the same time, MOOCs have demonstrated their value only in a handful of fields that deal in limited kinds of knowledge and assessment (and in those venues, as far as I can tell, they are not especially controversial).Read more
  • Despite not employing much of the jargon, Stephen Schryer is resolutely Marxist - and not New Left or post - Marxist either, but the old-style, “primacy of class,” bourgeoisie vs. proletariat kind. His excellent first book, Fantasies of the New Class: Ideologies of Professionalism in Post-World War II American Fiction, offers a critique of the so-called “new class” of professionals and intellectuals that grew rapidly after World War II (WWII), a group he considers to be mystified about its role and position in capitalist society.Read more
  • In its March 2013 issue, The Atlantic ran a tersely titled article, “Anthropology, Inc.” The author, Graeme Wood, spoke about a market research company (ReD) that was hiring anthropology PhDs to use their training in social science field work to dreg up data closer to home—in fact, in the home itself.Read more
  • The singular achievement of the controversial early 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was to have discerned the true nature of Western philosophy — what is special about its problems, where they come from, how they should and should not be addressed, and what can and cannot be accomplished by grappling with them.Read more
  • The lone survivor of traditional Western European ‘scientific’ culture is science. It has survived because it is now the handmaid of technology, without which contemporary civilization would collapse utterly. Anyone who doubts this should try to get a research grant for genuinely “pure” research.Read more
  • In a short piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Ditch the Monograph,” Jennifer Howard surveys some recent experiments by university presses to cultivate and produce shorter-form e-books (i.e., Princeton Shorts and Stanford Briefs),1 and wonders if these books might not “pull in new readers for serious scholarship,” and at a time, moreover, when “academic libraries have ever-smaller amounts of money and space to lavish on [longer] books, which often have more pages than they have readers.”Read more
  • In fall 2009, an exhibition, public talk, and workshops by the Guerrilla Girls were presented at the Acadia University Art Gallery. Coincidentally, Gender and Development was being offered in the same semester. This provided an opportunity for a cross-disciplinary collaborative project that engaged students outside the classroom.Read more
  • Jacques Derrida speaks about the attitude of American journalists and university students.Read more
  • This semester I’ve been running a graduate level seminar at the City University of New York, on the difference between philosophy of science and science studies. The latter is a broad and somewhat vaguely defined term that includes (certain kinds of) sociology of science, postmodern criticism of science, and feminist epistemology. Read more
  • An academic career has a peculiar arc to it. When one is young, and first begins travelling around to various cities for conferences, it is as if one is Axl Rose or something, on tour, in hotels, where ordinary morality does not apply. One feels larger than life, and worthy of a biography or two.Read more
  • Remember this: Thurston Moore came to New York City to be a poet. Tired of driving his old man’s Volkswagen down from Connecticut, it was Gotham Book Mart, not CBGB, that convinced him to make the move in 1977. Bohemia had put down roots on the Lower East Side; Moore was sure he’d blossom.Read more
  • My month-long ultra-intensive spoken Sanskrit course at the University of Heidelberg has come to an end. I was the oldest student, and probably the weakest (in my defense, I'd had only one semester of formal study prior to beginning the course). This was an extremely humbling experience, but also, in the obvious and clichéd ways, edifying, character-building, etc.Read more
  • We all understand why free online music sharing is controversial. Musicians make a living by selling their work, and widespread unauthorized sharing could slash their revenue. File sharers respond with evidence that obscurity is more costly than piracy, for those below the rank of superstar, and that unauthorized online sharing can actually boost sales. But instead of entering that debate here, let’s just note its existence and take a detour around it.Read more
  • The national curriculum for England and Wales, introduced at the end of the 1980s, made it mandatory for schools to teach English grammar. Yet the myth still persists that grammar has not been taught since the permissive 1960s. For politicians in need of a populist gesture, that belief has been the gift that goes on giving.Read more
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