Uncharacteristically Brief Remarks

I’m very pleased by the vote in favor of open-access at Harvard. Not just because of open-access, but because it shows that it’s possible for faculty to choose dramatic changes or reforms in their way of business.

I don’t know why exactly, but I’m finding online arguments about Obama and Clinton really depressing, despite the fact that I feel very strongly about Obama being a good choice and fairly strongly about Clinton being a bad choice.

I liked some parts of this February 11th Inside Higher Education essay about liberal arts education. I think he’s right that a lot of our traditional arguments for the liberal arts approach are weak and unconvincing. I also think he’s really right that it’s important to build a liberal arts faculty around liberally educated teachers, that we shouldn’t be defining our faculty positions in specialized terms.

My committee assignments this year mostly involved budgets, long-term resources for planning, and helping to assess a plan for possible college participation in a commercial development in the town of Swarthmore. I’m still thinking through a lot of the issues involved, but I’m increasingly convinced that a big change in the underlying economics of private higher education is in the wind.

Speaking of the big development project, it’s hard to know how to get past basic personal preferences. I can see some institutional questions, I can see some questions about the economic well-being of the town and the county, I can see some basic “due diligence” issues, but a lot of it comes down to whether you like things the way they are or whether you’d rather things be some other way down in the town itself. I tend to the “some other way” feeling personally, but it’s kind of hard to say that to the “way things are” folks. On the other hand, pretty much every change in a community makes someone unhappy, and yet many such changes end up being impossible to imagine doing without once they take hold. These are hard conversations to have: they expose preferences that each of us normally veils so as to get along more happily with people whose tastes are different.

The intensity of the discussion about Cuba at Crooked Timber is interesting. I wasn’t wild about some of Chris Bertram’s post, nor am I convinced by some of the defenses of Cuba in the ensuing thread, though the point about having to consider the plausible choices facing any state at specific historical moments is an interesting one to chew over. I guess I’m more interested in and yet also kind of weary about the evident passion of the discussion itself. There’s part of me that just wants this whole discussion to go away, or at least to feel like history and less like a record needle skipping in place.

I’m not managing to read a book a day. Maybe I should call it Once-In-A-While.

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2 Responses to Uncharacteristically Brief Remarks

  1. Doug says:

    “pretty much every change in a community makes someone unhappy” As does lack of change… What was the old saying in the Shire? “Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both yes and no”?

    Part of the intensity at the CT post may be that for a high-profile blogger, he’s unusually thin-skinned. The sneering at anyone who’s politically to the right of the Orthodox Trots (Reformed, Sinaloa Synod), or some such, probably also helped raise the heat. On the other other hand, the sight of a middle-aged, British, opera-loving philosopher touting his closeness to the oppressed of the world by writing a blog post crowing about political events of a quarter century ago is just too much of a fat one across the plate for some people not to take a swing. I decided not to feed the troll. (Sorry about the mixed metaphor.)

    No, no, please don’t change the title! I still have visions of writing a little something about most of the books I read in 2007, maybe a comment a day. Your efforts give me hope (look, even Tim Burke can find the time!), although I have managed exactly none so far, or maybe one if you consider listing the books with a few random comments.

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