After transferring to Magdalen College, Oxford, in the autumn of 1874, Wilde scored highest marks on his entrance exams, and finished by taking a prestigious double first in “Greats,” the relatively recent, classics-based curriculum officially known as literae humaniores. Always attentive to his image, he liked to imply that these successes came easily — “he liked to pose as a dilettante trifling with his books,” Hunter Blair recalled — but in fact put in “hours of assiduous and laborious reading, often into the small hours of the morning.” Whatever his taste for lilies and Sèvres, he was a grind.
– Daniel Mendelsohn, “Oscar Wilde, Classics Scholar” in Waiting for the Barbarians
“I was quite surprised to find that students will absolutely defend to the death the lecture – a mode of learning that many of us are getting used to thinking of as an out-of-date method of teaching.”
From a report cited in the Times Higher Education Supplement.
Sometimes those of us in education grow weary of the escalation of Wall Street compensation while educators’ pay remains stagnant or declines. One might draw the conclusion that the world values Wall Street types more than academic types, and we know that cannot be so. Now we have the evidence from The New York Times. Beverly L. Hall, a district superintendent in the Atlanta school system, drew the attention of prosecutors who decided she is worth a $7.5 million bond, while back in New York City Michael S. Steinberg, worker at SACS Capital Advisors who made tens of millions trading “investments,” was released from custody on a mere $3 million bail. Now Ms. Hall allegedly hauled in over half a million dollars over several years from her activities, and prosecutors consider her worth (by bail and bond standards) over twice as much as Mr. Steinberg. Let’s not miss this chance to highlight a shift in society’s appreciation of what educators do.
P.S. Note that neither of these people has seen her or his day in court, and it might be time to roll out the bromide: each is innocent until proven guilty.
The Cloud is another way to make people property-less. Capitalism does not want you to have property. Rather than have a DVD or a piece of music or a book, capitalism will lure you into the Cloud, where all the property is elsewhere, and you are permitted to have a virtual relationship with that property. However, the property is owned by someone else who does not live anywhere near you. The owner will stream it to you — for a fee. The owner will allow you to store things in the Cloud — for a fee. The owner will allow you to access the data in the Cloud — for a fee. But after you pay the fee, you have no object, no property, no-thing. No Used Stream Store will open up on the town square, the way there is a secondary market for books, for example.
All of this signals a future you might not enjoy. Sounds like an empty future, a dark future, full of clouds.
You might be interested in the interview with Jaron Lanier.
The problem with our cloud software right now is that it does tend to be run by the person with the biggest computer on the network, and serve certain interests more than others. It’s not an honest broker. We are constantly running into a situation where a company like Google is saying: we are being the honest broker. Of course that is ridiculous because they are a commercial concern.
In discussing the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek with others, it is often difficult to convey what each of these figures means by the real, since the real does not exist. The real is not to be confused with what most of us would call reality — see how the confusion begins? Sometimes it helps to come at the topic from a different angle. Today’s angle: fast food. We can imagine that many people, if asked, would confess that fast food puts us on the fast track to illness and other problems, problems food and beverage manufacturers build into their products. The manufacturers used to go to great lengths to keep that fact hidden.
Like the executives of tobacco companies, some of the food and beverage manufacturers have realized that non-hidden-ness can function as successfully as hiding the facts/toxins. Literary people have known this since Poe’s “The Purloined Letter.” People tend not to see what is right in front of them. It’s frequently the best place to hide things. Jeffrey Dunn, former Coca-Cola executive sums it up: “It’s not like there’s a smoking gun. The gun is right there. It’s not hidden.” Some fast foodies take their knowledge of self-destructiveness as a badge of honor by proclaiming things like, “At least I know what’s killing me,” demonstrating that empowering knowledge = a deeper level of denial, or non-seeing. “I see that I do not see, so stop trying to make me see.” This is the starting place of almost all education. What happens after that is a version of the story of Anne Sullivan.
“People seldom see the halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved.”
– Anne Sullivan
A new book by Bart van Es will be available in North America next month, but we can learn some things already, thanks to a review in the Times Higher Education Supplement.
Shakespeare in Company is a meticulous account of the institutional and economic forces that shaped the plays themselves and an acute analysis of the ways in which this shaping occurred. For instance, in 1594 Shakespeare became a sharer in the Chamberlain’s Men and, as such, an “attached” playwright. Unlike Kyd, Chapman, Jonson, Ford, Webster or Beaumont, Shakespeare wrote for a single company, an arrangement, claims van Es, that he “initiated”. This facilitated the composition of roles with particular actors in mind and “a new concern with the process of casting individual performers [which in turn] enabled the creation of psychological depth”.
Sometimes it helps to have someone say “no.” The naysayer often deserves gratitude. Think of it as appreciating the black smoke during the pope’s election.* Didn’t some of us feel a little bit better when the vote did not produce a new pope? Evgeny Morozov is our non-pope. I imagine that when all the well-to-do tech gurus were rushing toward Second Life, now a piece of internet detritus, Evgeny was there yelling, “No!” And, “In what craziness are you people engaged?” However, no one listened. Shall some of us try listening to him by reading his new book?
What makes today different is that the overall excitement about “the Internet”—I find this concept so sickening and suffocating that I use it in scare quotes throughout the book—makes us blind to the pitfalls of solutionism and justifies many silly interventions and reform agendas. Why not do all these things—eliminate hypocrisy or crime—if “the Internet,” this revolutionary technology, allows us to? — Evgeny Morozov
*Yes, of course the black smoke is a metaphor for the black soul of the church, in the same way the dark smoke signals the appearance of the Wicked Witch of the West in the film version of The Wizard of Oz. Is it an accident in light of Evgeny’s new book that WWW should be her initials?