The cult of the academy: jargon, insularity and statusI think we lost a few generations of art critics to academia. They all learned to write in a similar style, which I find very jargon-filled and impenetrable; and I also feel that their taste flattened and everybody liked the same fifty-five artists, and they would quote the same twenty writers over and over. I thought, “The art world is not this boring; how can this be?” Now, I’m seeing more and more younger writers starting to write online, making sense, speaking in ways that you can understand and, most importantly, putting out opinions. The juice of criticism is opinion. I really admire Artforum; I’ve never written for it for good reason: I’m not smart enough, but I look in the second-to-the-last paragraph and I see a phrase like “this problemetized the show.” Is that positive or negative? There is no judgment in it. Everybody is smart. So I can’t fit in that art world because I never went to school; I have no degrees; I am not schooled in the language of the empire.
JFK's Very Revealing Harvard Application EssayThe reasons that I have for wishing to go to Harvard are several. I feel that Harvard can give me a better background and a better liberal education than any other university. I have always wanted to go there, as I have felt that it is not just another college, but is a university with something definite to offer. Then too, I would like to go to the same college as my father. To be a "Harvard man" is an enviable distinction, and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain. April 23, 1935 John F. Kennedy
Social networks can support academic success -- ScienceDailyAccording to the authors, in choosing friends, students do not usually consider academic performance, but over time -- often in the middle of the academic year -- all members in a peer group tend to perform at about the same level. Thus, most students who surrounded themselves with high-achievers improved their performance over time. The opposite was also true -- those who befriended underachievers eventually experienced a drop in grades. According to the authors, while underachievers have a stronger influence on their networks, high performers tend to gain popularity and expand their influence over time, particularly by helping other students with their studies.
Yale Lecturer Resigns After Email on Halloween Costumes“I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious,” she wrote, “a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?”
What we really learn from James Meredith: Now you've gotten in the door, give thanks and shut up?In Tablet, James Kirchick wrote, ‘‘When I hear, in 2015, students complain about feeling ‘marginalized’ at Yale due to their racial, ethnic, religious, sexual or any other identity ... I can’t help but think of James Meredith.’’ […]To listen to James Meredith is a different thing entirely. ‘‘Ole Miss kicked my butt, and they’re still celebrating,’’ he said in an interview with Esquire in 2012. ‘‘Because every black that’s gone there since me has been insulted, humiliated, and they can’t even tell their story. Everybody has to tell James Meredith’s story — which is a lie. The powers that be in Mississippi understand this very clearly.’’ He continued, ‘‘They’re gonna keep on doin’ it because it makes it impossible for the blacks there now to say anything about what’s happened to them.’’
Tom Wolfe leaves Yalee re-writes his thesis. He lards it up with academic jargon and creates a phony emotional distance from his material (he refers to “an American writer E. Hemingway”), and it is accepted. Then he flees Yale as fast as he can. He’s entering his late 20s with only the faintest idea of what he might do to earn a living. But he’s ambitious, eager to find his place in the world. His father introduces him to business associates. Wolfe writes to the head of a sales institute and sends “excerpts from work I have done on the subject of Communist activity among American writers and other ‘intellectuals.’ ” He applies for jobs in public relations. He writes to American Airlines to inquire about a post. He even considers, briefly, a position teaching economics
Innovation in liberal artsMany liberal arts colleges (e.g., Antioch, Reed, Colorado, St. John’s) have been sources of innovation in undergraduate education. Due to their small size, emphasis on undergraduate education, and private control, they have been free to experiment with alternative curricula and pedagogies, unencumbered by the influence of powerful practitioner groups or the fixed requirements of professional licensure. If the liberal arts college as an educational alternative dies out or morphs into another type of higher education institution, an influential “test kitchen” for innovation in undergraduate education will disappear or, perhaps, become too peripheral to play a leadership role.
The decline and fall of the barSince 2008 partner earnings at firms of all sizes have decreased 9 percent in constant dollars, according to federal tax filings. Solo practitioners have been struggling for much longer. Since 1988 earnings for standalone attorneys, of which there are about 354,000 nationally, have declined 31 percent. The legal industry has shed more than 50,000 jobs in the past eight years. The decline began decades ago. Solo practitioners began floundering in the late 1980s. Their average income, adjusted for inflation, was $71,000 in 1988; it was $49,000 in 2012.
Declawing the ‘tiger mom’“Our research debunks the idea that there is something intrinsic about Asian culture, traits or values that produces exceptional educational outcomes,” Lee says. “First, the change in U.S. immigration law in 1965 was critical, because it ushered in a new stream of immigrants from Asia who are hyperselected – meaning that they’re more highly educated than their compatriots and also more highly educated than the general U.S. population.” For example, only 4 percent of people living in China have college degrees, but about 51 percent of those emigrating to the U.S. do. […]Moreover, these immigrants exceed the academic attainment of most Americans, 28 percent of whom are college-educated. “The biggest predictor of a child’s success is parental education,” Lee notes. “If your parents are college-educated, the likelihood of you going to college and graduating is very high.”
College depressionIn 2013 the American College Health Association surveyed close to 100,000 college students from 153 different campuses about their health. When asked about their experiences, at some point over the past 12 months: 84.3 percent felt overwhelmed by all they had to do 60.5 percent felt very sad 57.0 percent felt very lonely 51.3 percent felt overwhelming anxiety 8.0 percent seriously considered suicide The 153 schools surveyed included campuses in all 50 states, small liberal arts colleges and large research universities, religious institutions and nonreligious, from the small to medium-sized to the very the large.
An unfortunate incident, a teachable moment | John PalfreyWith the benefit of a few days of reflection, the primary lesson I take away from these events is one of humility. Personally, I realize the limits of my persuasive power […]. A few weeks ago, I stood before all 328 graduating students in Cochran Chapel and told them unequivocally not to host or to attend such a party. On large screens in the chapel, as a cautionary tale, I put up a recent newspaper article about a peer school at which a large number of former students were arrested at a graduation party in northern New England. We sent a clear letter to students and families about graduation week, as we do every year; we held follow-up meetings with students and parents to forestall these events. As we now know, for some students, these efforts did not prevent such an event from taking place.
Am I a writer yet?Students who ask a lot of questions about time management, blow deadlines, and whine about how complicated their lives are should just give up and do something else. Their complaints are an insult to the writers who managed to produce great work under far more difficult conditions than the 21st-century MFA student. On a related note: Students who ask if they're "real writers," simply by asking that question, prove that they are not.
Former UNC official says pressure led to improper graduate admission of athletesFormer federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein’s critical report on the scandal caused Thomas to come forward. Shortly after his report came out in October, she sent the correspondence regarding Waddell to Wainstein, the NCAA and the commission that accredits UNC. She said all acknowledged receiving the correspondence, but after nearly three months with no further contact, she reached out to The News & Observer in January.Waddell’s case points to an issue rarely discussed in college sports – the use of graduate school programs to extend an athlete’s eligibility. There’s far more attention placed on athletes’ qualifications to be admitted as undergraduates and on their academic work toward a bachelor’s degree.
Michael Lewis on the Columbia School of JournalismThose who run, and attend, schools of journalism simply cannot—or don't want to—believe that journalism is as simple as it is. The textbooks, the jargon, the spell checkers—the entire pretentious science of journalism only distract from the journalist's task: to observe, to question, to read and to write about subjects other than journalism. They have less to do with writing journalism than avoiding having to write journalism at all.
Rejected in job search, PhD launches online writing workshop“Applying to creative writing assistant professor jobs is a yearlong process, and I got four interviews, and I didn’t get any of those jobs. […] I’d spent so much time investing in getting what I thought was going to be a tenure-track job, and it didn’t happen. And the critique that I got was that I was too young, that I didn’t have enough out there yet in comparison to other people who were ten years older than me […]And I had developed all these classes I wanted to teach, like ‘Science Fiction Fairy Tales,’ and I had no outlet for this anymore, and I was really, really sad. There was this group that I joined on Facebook of other female science fiction writers, and I floated this idea to them in August, and everyone was like, ‘Do it! Do it! Do it!’ And without their support and love I never would have gone through with it.”
64 Dartmouth students cheated... in an ethics classDartmouth College has charged 64 students, many of them varsity athletes, with honor code violations following allegations of widespread cheating in a sports ethics class. […] According to Balmer, in late October, students who failed to attend class passed off handheld devices known as “clickers” to classmates. Those students then used the gadgets to answer questions on the absent students’ behalf to make it appear as though they were present in class, Balmer said.
Why do you have to be so accomplished to get into college?I graduated from Yale in 1984, although I’d never get in today. It occurs to me that I’d also not likely get into Colby College, where I have been a professor for almost 20 years, or Tufts, where I worked as an adjunct for seven years before that. After all, I was just a smart kid. I got good grades and did well, but not extraordinarily, on the SATs. I was the editor of the school literary magazine and wrote for the school newspaper. I didn’t play any sports. I thought of those in need with distress but that was the sum total of my humanitarian efforts. I babysat a little, read a lot. The only thing I really excelled at was having no friends. But being a bright, socially awkward teenager won’t, it seems, get you very far anymore.
Peers drag us up... and downLeonardo Bursztyn, an assistant professor at UCLA, and Robert Jensen a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, handed out fliers encouraging 11th-graders to sign up for a free SAT class. The twist: Some of the fliers said that everyone in the class would know who signed up. Some of the fliers said that decisions would be kept private. In honors classrooms, kids were 25 percent more likely to sign up if they knew their peers would be judging them. In non-honors classrooms, kids were 25 percent less likely to sign up.
Huffman coding, building block of data compression, was a student's final exam hackIn 1951, David A. Huffman and his MIT information theory classmates were given the choice of a term paper or a final exam. The professor, Robert M. Fano, assigned a term paper on the problem of finding the most efficient binary code. Huffman, unable to prove any codes were the most efficient, was about to give up and start studying for the final when he hit upon the idea of using a frequency-sorted binary tree and quickly proved this method the most efficient. In doing so, the student outdid his professor, who had worked with information theory inventor Claude Shannon to develop a similar code. By building the tree from the bottom up instead of the top down, Huffman avoided the major flaw of the suboptimal Shannon-Fano coding.
Profs getting olderThe average age for all tenured professors nationwide is now approaching 55 and creeping upward; the number of professors 65 and older more than doubled between 2000 and 2011. In spite of those numbers, according to a Fidelity Investments study conducted about a year ago, three-quarters of professors between 49 and 67 say they will either delay retirement past age 65 or—gasp!—never retire at all.
UNC-Chapel Hill Should Lose Accreditation?Any accrediting agency that would overlook a violation of this magnitude would both delegitimize itself and appear hopelessly hypocritical if it attempted, now or in the future, to threaten or sanction institutions—generally those with much less wealth and influence—for violations much smaller in scale. […]If falsified grades and transcripts for more than 3,000 students over more than a decade are viewed as anything other than an egregious violation of those standards, my response to the whole accreditation process is simple: Why bother?
Chunking makes writing hardScholars lose their moorings in the land of the concrete because of two effects of expertise that have been documented by cognitive psychology. One is called chunking. To work around the limitations of short-term memory, the mind can package ideas into bigger and bigger units, which the psychologist George Miller dubbed "chunks." As we read and learn, we master a vast number of abstractions, and each becomes a mental unit that we can bring to mind in an instant and share with others by uttering its name. An adult mind that is brimming with chunks is a powerful engine of reason, but it comes at a cost: a failure to communicate with other minds that have not mastered the same chunks. The amount of abstraction a writer can get away with depends on the expertise of his readership. But divining the chunks that have been mastered by a typical reader requires a gift of clairvoyance with which few of us are blessed. When we are apprentices in our chosen specialty, we join a clique in which, it seems to us, everyone else seems to know so much! And they talk among themselves as if their knowledge were conventional wisdom to every educated person. As we settle into the clique, it becomes our universe. We fail to appreciate that it is a tiny bubble in a multiverse of cliques. When we make first contact with the aliens in other universes and jabber at them in our local code, they cannot understand us without a sci-fi universal translator.
The curse of knowledge, aka hindsight biasmajor contributor to academese is a cognitive blind spot called the Curse of Knowledge: a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know. The term comes from economics, but the general inability to set aside something that you know but someone else does not know is such a pervasive affliction of the human mind that psychologists keep discovering related versions of it and giving it new names: egocentrism, hindsight bias, false consensus, illusory transparency, mind-blindness, failure to mentalize, and lack of a theory of mind. In a textbook demonstration, a 3-year-old who sees a toy being hidden while a second child is out of the room assumes that the other child will look for it in its actual location rather than where she last saw it. Children mostly outgrow the inability to separate their own knowledge from someone else’s, but not entirely. Even adults slightly tilt their guess about where a person will look for a hidden object in the direction of where they themselves know the object to be. And they mistakenly assume that their private knowledge and skills—the words and facts they know, the puzzles they can solve, the gadgets they can operate—are second nature to everyone else, too.
Academics write to prove they're academicsIt’s easy to see why academics fall into self-conscious style. Their goal is not so much communication as self-presentation—an overriding defensiveness against any impression that they may be slacker than their peers in hewing to the norms of the guild.
The new model would codify the college sports world as one “much more, perhaps, of haves and have-nots,” said Peg Bradley-Doppes, the vice chancellor for athletics at the University of Denver, which is not in a Big 5 conference. “It may make the competitive experience more challenging.”
In 1985, 46 percent of incoming freshmen at the 250 most selective colleges came from the top quarter of the income distribution. By 2000, it was 55 percent. As of 2006, only about 15 percent of students at the most competitive schools came from the bottom half. The more prestigious the school, the more unequal its student body is apt to be. And public institutions are not much better than private ones. As of 2004, 40 percent of first-year students at the most selective state campuses came from families with incomes of more than $100,000, up from 32 percent just five years earlier.