All entries by this author

Argument Over Academic Boycott of Israel *

Jul 4th, 2003 | Filed by

Oxford professor rejects Israeli student, and is now being investigated.… Read the rest

Private School After All *

Jul 4th, 2003 | Filed by

State school is better socially, but what of children who want to do sums now?… Read the rest

‘Somebody with a Doctorate’

Jul 3rd, 2003 5:27 pm | By

Well, this is what I’m always saying. This is where anti-elitism gets you. Influential political operatives who are not ashamed to sneer at education.

Why this administration feels unbound by the consensus of academic scientists can be gleaned, in part, from a telling anecdote in Nicholas Lemann’s recent New Yorker profile of Karl Rove. When asked by Lemann to define a Democrat, Bush’s chief political strategist replied, “Somebody with a doctorate.” Lemann noted, “This he said with perhaps the suggestion of a smirk.” Fundamentally, much of today’s GOP, like Rove, seems to smirkingly equate academics, including scientists, with liberals.

And hence with really terrible people. The GOP could of course look at it another way – they could wonder why … Read the rest

The Bush Administration Versus Scientists *

Jul 3rd, 2003 | Filed by

To Karl Rove, a Democrat is ‘someone with a doctorate’…and that’s not a compliment.… Read the rest

Orwell Bash *

Jul 3rd, 2003 | Filed by

Contradictions, inconsistencies, and life-risking commitment to the truth.… Read the rest

Fiedler’s Legacy *

Jul 3rd, 2003 | Filed by

“Do you still believe that st-st-stuff about Huck Finn?” asked Hemingway.… Read the rest

Caring and Sharing

Jul 2nd, 2003 11:25 pm | By

Now, language is an interesting subject, isn’t it? So much of what we talk about at B and W comes down to language – well it would, wouldn’t it, since we’re talking about what gets written and said in academic ‘discourse’ and ‘texts’. Naturally it’s language, what else would it be, mud pies? But it’s interesting all the same.

I mentioned Deborah Cameron the other day, after hearing her with Richard Hoggart on Thinking Allowed. A friend sent me a link to this article of hers, which is an excellent read. Also quite amusing in places.

In the past, the habit of talking about oneself was almost universally decried as impolite, immodest and vulgar. Today’s experts, by contrast, do not

Read the rest


Jul 2nd, 2003 8:44 pm | By

I have one or two more thoughts on this matter of scientific literacy that we were discussing last month (that is to say, yesterday), inspired by this article on the CSICOP website, which was in turn inspired by a pair of articles in the Guardian.

One thought, which I touched on but in a jokey not to say flippant manner, has to do with how manipulative and touchy-feely and sub-rational it all seems. The public feels this and feels that, and the public feels this or that because we do things to make them feel that way. We hold their hands, we flatter them, we plant moist kisses on their cheeks, we tell them we really value their opinions. Is … Read the rest

The Reptile Brain

Jul 2nd, 2003 8:38 pm | By

I’ve had one or two further thoughts about Deborah Cameron’s ‘Good to Talk’ article.

And the relevance of this to the subject of conversation is that intimacy must be created and sustained to a large extent through a particular kind of talk, involving continuous mutual self-disclosure. The modern cliché ‘they just couldn’t communicate’, proffered as an explanation for the break-up of a marriage or other significant relationship, does not imply that the parties never spoke or that they found one another’s conversation unintelligible. Rather it implies a lack of honesty and emotional depth in their exchanges—a failure by one or both individuals to share their feelings openly and express their true selves authentically.

This is all true, and good stuff, … Read the rest


Jul 2nd, 2003 6:36 pm | By

On second thought, I take it back. That business about incentives and rewards. The fact is I don’t really believe that, or if I do it’s only about 25%, it’s only set about with a mass of stipulations and qualifications and reservations. I don’t so much believe it as see that other people have a point when they believe it. Or perhaps I mean I don’t so much believe it as want not to be a silly fatuous naive wool-gatherer who doesn’t understand how the economy works. I don’t want to have the kind of ideas that, if anyone were ever so stupid as to put them into practice, would immediately reduce the economy to a level with Bangladesh’s. So … Read the rest

Affirmative Action Debate Continues *

Jul 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

The Chronicle of Higher Education surveys the Supreme Court decision in the Michigan case.… Read the rest

Hobsbawm as de Tocqueville *

Jul 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

Not egalitarianism but individualist, antinomian-but-legalistic anarchism is the core value system in the US.… Read the rest

Star System

Jul 2nd, 2003 2:02 am | By

The Boston Globe has a depressing article about the star system in US universities. Maybe in the great scheme of things it doesn’t matter much, maybe I’m just a Puritan to find it so dreary. But it does seem so Hollywoodish, so rock star-ish, so hype-driven, so silly, so irrational-appeal-based, and hence so anti-intellectual.

“One couldn’t imagine all of this happening in Oxford, where there’s a kind of gentleman’s agreement that we’re all equally brilliant,” Ferguson says in an interview. “It’s extremely bad form to suggest that one person is as vulgar as to be a star.”

Yes…well I know what you’re thinking. You’re picturing a crowd of moss-covered mediocrities in Oxford contentedly trudging along the daily round, boring their … Read the rest

Read All Year *

Jul 1st, 2003 | Filed by

Children who read more are better at reading, researcher says.… Read the rest

Houdon and the Enlightenment *

Jul 1st, 2003 | Filed by

Diderot, Rousseau, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, captured as no one else knew how.… Read the rest

Glass More Than Half Empty

Jun 30th, 2003 8:58 pm | By

This month is rather empty. A great many N and Cs got erased by the server malfunction. I might eventually put some of them back, if only for my own satisfaction. And the date is really July 27, but I have to call it June to get it in this month.… Read the rest

Winner-Take-All System in US Universities *

Jun 30th, 2003 | Filed by

A star system for a few while the drones barely make a living. Is this education or show biz?… Read the rest

Himself in Letters *

Jun 30th, 2003 | Filed by

Flaubert’s letters tell more of him than a biography can. Julian Barnes on the late Flaubert scholar Jean Bruneau.… Read the rest

Marina Warner Reads Harry Potter *

Jun 29th, 2003 | Filed by

Dr. Faustus meets Horatio Alger, and Rowling piles on the horror.… Read the rest

Much Bolder Than it Looks *

Jun 29th, 2003 | Filed by

And not a summer cottage read. George Graham reviews Daniel Dennett’s Freedom Evolves.… Read the rest