Useless professors, useless disciplines

In what is a pretty useless newspaper, The New York Times, there was this interesting, if depressing article.  Food for thought, Cats.

SOME of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates.

The most stinging dismissal of a point is to say: “That’s academic.” In other words, to be a scholar is, often, to be irrelevant.

One reason is the anti-intellectualism in American life, the kind that led Rick Santorum to scold President Obama as “a snob” for wanting more kids to go to college, or that led congressional Republicans to denounce spending on social science research. Yet it’s not just that America has marginalized some of its sharpest minds. They have also marginalized themselves.

“All the disciplines have become more and more specialized and more and more quantitative, making them less and less accessible to the general public,” notes Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and now the president of the New America Foundation.

There are plenty of exceptions, of course, including in economics, history and some sciences, in professional schools like law and business, and, above all, in schools of public policy; for that matter, we have a law professor in the White House. But, over all, there are, I think, fewer public intellectuals on American university campuses today than a generation ago.

A basic challenge is that Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience. This culture of exclusivity is then transmitted to the next generation through the publish-or-perish tenure process. Rebels are too often crushed or driven away.

“Many academics frown on public pontificating as a frivolous distraction from real research,” said Will McCants, a Middle East specialist at the Brookings Institution. “This attitude affects tenure decisions. If the sine qua non for academic success is peer-reviewed publications, then academics who ‘waste their time’ writing for the masses will be penalized.”

The latest attempt by academia to wall itself off from the world came when the executive council of the prestigious International Studies Association proposed that its publication editors be barred from having personal blogs. The association might as well scream: We want our scholars to be less influential!

A related problem is that academics seeking tenure must encode their insights into turgid prose. As a double protection against public consumption, this gobbledygook is then sometimes hidden in obscure journals — or published by university presses whose reputations for soporifics keep readers at a distance.

Jill Lepore, a Harvard historian who writes for The New Yorker and is an exception to everything said here, noted the result: “a great, heaping mountain of exquisite knowledge surrounded by a vast moat of dreadful prose.”

As experiments, scholars have periodically submitted meaningless gibberish to scholarly journals — only to have the nonsense respectfully published.

My onetime love, political science, is a particular offender and seems to be trying, in terms of practical impact, to commit suicide.

“Political science Ph.D.’s often aren’t prepared to do real-world analysis,” says Ian Bremmer, a Stanford political science Ph.D. who runs the Eurasia Group, a consulting firm. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, one-fifth of articles in The American Political Science Review focused on policy prescriptions; at last count, the share was down to 0.3 percent.

Universities have retreated from area studies, so we have specialists in international theory who know little that is practical about the world. After the Arab Spring, a study by the Stimson Center looked back at whether various sectors had foreseen the possibility of upheavals. It found that scholars were among the most oblivious — partly because they relied upon quantitative models or theoretical constructs that had been useless in predicting unrest.

Many academic disciplines also reduce their influence by neglecting political diversity. Sociology, for example, should be central to so many national issues, but it is so dominated by the left that it is instinctively dismissed by the right.

In contrast, economics is a rare academic field with a significant Republican presence, and that helps tether economic debates to real-world debates. That may be one reason, along with empiricism and rigor, why economists (including my colleague in columny, Paul Krugman) shape debates on issues from health care to education.

Professors today have a growing number of tools available to educate the public, from online courses to blogs to social media. Yet academics have been slow to cast pearls through Twitter and Facebook. Likewise, it was TED Talks by nonscholars that made lectures fun to watch (but I owe a shout-out to the Teaching Company’s lectures, which have enlivened our family’s car rides).

I write this in sorrow, for I considered an academic career and deeply admire the wisdom found on university campuses. So, professors, don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks — we need you!

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82 Responses to Useless professors, useless disciplines

  1. Token

    Good timing, I just linked to this article:

    Universities: The least free place in America

    Watch it to see how someone was harassed and sanctioned for reading a book and so much more…

  2. we have a law professor in the White House

    Ah, yes, that wee drollery never fails to raise a smirk.

  3. Token

    …we have a law professor in the White House…

    Yes, a constitutional “expert” who went out of his way to show he did not understand the constitution and is regularly breaking it with his abuses of executive authority.

  4. cynical1

    Yes, but when the modern day “Academics” are scolded, it’s because we are bogans with a hard wired
    distain for our intellectual betters.

    It’s a built in excuse just like “Climate change” causing every unexpected weather event.

    Appeals to authority and all that.

    “But, but, but he’s a nuclear physicist, not a climate scientist, what would he know about weather models”.

    Repeat and rinse…

  5. DrBeauGan

    Most academics attend primary school then secondary school then tertiary school. Then some leave and go back to primary or secondary school to teach while a smaller number do upper tertiary then go back to teach tertiary. They have all managed to avoid adult life. Why should any adult take any of them seriously?
    And if the social so called sciences had a trace of real science in them we might take an interest in them. But a fine mixture of bad statistics and bullshit doesn’t cut it.

  6. .

    They have all managed to avoid adult life. Why should any adult take any of them seriously?

    I say the same of teachers.

    Sometimes the guys you went to school with talk to you like you are one of their pupils, and bam, you have tell them “last time or you”ll get flogged, sunshine”

    This stops however when they have kids.

  7. nerblnob

    As the saying goes, the “social sciences” are neither.

  8. Bruce of Newcastle

    There’s a long history of this. Printers of the bible and those saying that the people should be able to read it in their own language were often executed in the early 16thC. The Church at the time used a secret and unintelligble language (Latin) and excluded anyone who didn’t toe the line.

    This is one reason why I keep saying that Progressivism itself is a religion (ie as well as the allied religion of Greenery). The parallels with the Reformation are creepy.

    And the same seems to be happening to the progressive academia. Since their teachings increasingly do not resemble reality the people are ignoring them. And they are getting more excitable as the tithes, collected by the government and given to them, are being threatened.

    The one good thing is these people still hold to the old 60′s creeds of nonviolence. So far.

  9. dover_beach

    So, professors, don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks — we need you!

    Ah, yes, the learned friars, such as Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, never travelled or actively engaged with the community but ‘cloistered’ their learning which thus remained hidden. What an ignorant twat.

  10. .

    How hard do you think latin would have been for italians, french, spaniards etc to speak or write?

    People used roman script and after hearing the mass for decades, you’d understand spoken latin. The idea that the populace were illiterate is hardly the fault of the church, but in the least, it is exaggerated at the time of the reformation.

    The ideas wouldn’t have taken on if the masses didn’t know what was going on. Unless those who followed Luther or Wycliffe were all sheep.

    My source here states the male literacy rate in 1500 was 10% in England. We’re often lead to believe it was 1-5% or even less.

    Male literacy in England slowly and steadily increased from ten percent in 1500 to forty-five percent in 1714 and to sixty percent in 1750. Female literacy in England increased from a mere one percent in 1500 to twenty-five percent in 1714 and to forty percent in 1750.

    From John Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997) 155.

  11. .

    …and yes…by 1500, our English resembled modern English somewhat…and much of the language by then was composed of latin and greek roots.

  12. boof

    Too many words to explain a simple equation Professor=Idiot

  13. .

    Some boof, only some.

    A professor of medicine is usually an accomplished surgeon or specialist of some sort with a history of mentoring and also postgrad quals.

    They may have a messiah complex but they’re useful.

  14. dover_beach

    The Church at the time used a secret and unintelligble language (Latin)

    Those devils! It was a language so secret and ‘unintelligible’ that anyone that could read could read Latin. This might explain why the vast majority of books printed late into the 18th century were still in Latin.

  15. by 1500 […] much of the language by then was composed of latin and greek roots

    Well, not so much by 1500; by 1600, sure. The rise in the use of Greek and classical Latin in forming English words was more in the latter half of the 16th century. The first Regius Professor of Greek was appointed by Henry VIII in 1541.
    I recommend Brian Moynihan, Book of Fire: William Tyndale, Thomas More and the Bloody Birth of the English Bible (London, 2011).

  16. .

    DB

    Didn’t Florence or London have a high degree or literacy?

    I thought literacy was a function of demand more or less.

    A fisherman off Kintyre probably didn’t need to write at all. Their boss may have.

  17. Megan

    we have a law professor in the White House

    Made me laugh, too!

  18. .

    Deadman…any idea of the extent of literacy from the dark ages to now across Europe?

  19. H B Bear

    Luckily in Australia taxpayers are forking out for Teh Conversation so will are able to enjoy the full benefits of academic thinking on current issues.

    I especially look forward to those by Wendy Bacon and Professor Stephan Lewandowsky from my old uni, UWA.

  20. Token

    The Church at the time used a secret and unintelligble language (Latin)

    Is this because it was through to the rise of French what we call the lingua franca of the period? I guess the ancient Greeks hid their knowledge as did the Byzantines using their unintelligible language?

    It is strange that the legal profession on the continent does not get the same claims made of it. Is that because such scholars got to understand traditional law from the empire period – especially the Code of Justinian?

  21. Megan

    A degree is simply a sign of persistence. When I look around at the academics I know, they are a less an advertisement for intelligence and more like a collection of time-servers. With the very occasional exception.

  22. dover_beach

    Dot, no idea,but if you were being schooled you were learning Latin, I would think.

  23. Bruce of Newcastle

    My source here states the male literacy rate in 1500 was 10% in England. We’re often lead to believe it was 1-5% or even less.

    And the ‘literacy’ rate of the population now to read academic gobbledegook is what…?

    When we’re discussing climate science its exactly the same. The warmists invoke Hockey Team pal reviewed papers, when they bother at all to back their “science”, and never stick around to defend them when sceptics fisk their contents and expose the dodgy and unsupported claims. How many of the general population are equipped to do that eh? Ditto for political economy, sociology and Keynesian economics.

    In the UK Telegraph today there’s an article on an NSF study of the American population’s understanding of science. Not high. And another one on the American population’s understanding of everything else. Also not high. If the population for whatever reason gained fluency in academic speak and ever looked at what these wankers said they’d show them the door with the alacrity of Gustavus Adolphus.

  24. Token

    The rise in the use of Greek and classical Latin in forming English words was more in the latter half of the 16th century. The first Regius Professor of Greek was appointed by Henry VIII in 1541.

    Do you know anything about the continent?

  25. Louis Hissink

    Grammar schools were called grammar schools because their principal function was to teach grammar – latin etc. plus logic.

    Downhill ever since the progressives gained ascendancy.

  26. dover_beach

    Seriously, what is this ‘hid their knowledge’ business about? I’m perplexed.

  27. .

    Bruce of Newcastle
    #1192107, posted on February 17, 2014 at 10:20 am
    My source here states the male literacy rate in 1500 was 10% in England. We’re often lead to believe it was 1-5% or even less.

    And the ‘literacy’ rate of the population now to read academic gobbledegook is what…?

    Bruce

    I can read academic papers but I’ve read some that are just tripe. I don’t care if you are professor so and son, but you shouldn’t write page long paragraphs consisting of one or two sentences with lots of adjectives etc. It’s just crap. If an econometric text (W H Greene) is actually quite readable, then applied economics should aim for at least the same standard.

    This was peer reviewed crap from a highly respected journal.

    Part of the problem is a lack of scrutiny and a lack of reward for announcing ideas.

  28. Token

    Do you know anything about the continent?

    Sorry Deadman, that sounded abrupt. I meant to say do you have similar references from the continent?

    I remember reading material recently on HRE Frederick II & Charles IV of Bohemia on how they expanded access to knowledge & founded universities during their reigns, and am curious on how that squares against the experience in England?

  29. literacy from the dark ages to now across Europe

    Bryan Ward-Perkins, The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization (which I recently commended) does cover literacy, and the decline thereof after Rome’s decline in the west, slightly. I mentioned recently that the Islamic conquest of North Africa had a significant impact on production of papyrus and, accordingly, on literacy in the West.
    Alfred of Wessex fostered schools (for nobility, generally) and translation from Latin to English—and that good man led by example—with an expectation of a slight degree of literacy in the community. By Chaucer, we know, functional literacy was widespread among the mercantile class and encouraged among the gentry. For the most part, however, literacy outside the clergy was quite low in most of Europe, and particularly in Eastern Europe, until the Gutenberg revolution and the subsequent rise in Protestant bible-and-tract-reading. Then literacy rocketed.
    By Tyndale’s time we know than many ordinary English working men and women had high levels of literacy and even Henry VIII, a foe of Luther and his fostering of vernacular Bibles, at length succumbed to allowing an official English Bible. By the time of the Commonwealth under Cromwell, some English dairymaids had a level of literacy which would put many lecturers in modern Education faculties (and most of modern Detroit) to shame.

  30. cohenite

    The one good thing is these people still hold to the old 60′s creeds of nonviolence. So far.

    Good analysis Bruce, the elite like anything which preserves their sense of superiority such as with their cause Du jour, AGW, telling everyone that only climate scientists, like the priests before, are the only ones who can understand the evidence/word of GOD which proves that AGW exists.

    And they are becoming more excited and desperate as the utterly dreadful wind paper by England shows.

    But as to violence; these people are flat-track bullies; I’ve seen it at all the LM meetings at Newcastle; they are completely cowered by an efficient and visible security staff.

    It’s this attribute, they are cowards, which I cannot understand why the Abbot government doesn’t exploit; you go hard at these dickheads and like the miserable little children they are they’ll run away.

  31. Token

    By Chaucer, we know, functional literacy was widespread among the mercantile class and encouraged among the gentry.

    One should ask if the imposition of Norman French as the language of state for 300 years by the Norman / Plantagenet kings did more to make religion unintelligable than the churches use of Latin.

  32. Do [I] know anything about the continent?

    Alcuin of York, the foremost scholar of the day, was invited by Charlemagne in the late 8th century to be his leading scholar and teacher at his court. He wrote poetry, religious and grammatical treatises, and helped foster learning throughout the Carolingian realm. Elsewhere in Europe literacy was pretty bleak until the rise of printing—except in the Roman empire in the East: people too readily forget that Byzantium, and its high literacy, lasted until the 15th century just as they easily forget that Justin I (who, according to Procopius, was illiterate) and Arthur of Britain were contemporaries.

  33. .

    Token
    #1192128, posted on February 17, 2014 at 10:47 am
    By Chaucer, we know, functional literacy was widespread among the mercantile class and encouraged among the gentry.

    One should ask if the imposition of Norman French as the language of state for 300 years by the Norman / Plantagenet kings did more to make religion unintelligable than the churches use of Latin.

    That’s what I was hinting at before, but by the end of that era, latin may have been understandable to most, even french.

    There are heptarchy era saints tombs with runic inscriptions (pre latin script).

  34. Bruce of Newcastle

    Seriously, what is this ‘hid their knowledge’ business about? I’m perplexed.

    OK, I was a bit harsh saying Latin was a secret and unintelligible language in the 1520′s and 1530′s. Should’ve put quotes around that and said “written Latin”. But with literacy low and Latin not the day-to-day language of the ordinary people they had to take what their priests said without being able to easily check it against the textbook. Guys were being burnt at the stake just for saying that ordinary people should even be allowed to read the Bible.

    When printing stimulated a rise of literacy and people went and did some checking it started a whole bunch of wars.

    Like now, only we fight on blogs these days. Progressive academics say thay they know best while collecting juicy salaries via the taxpayer. They hide their arguments in “turgid prose”. And fight to keep their power and privileges in the face of real data which disproves them. Same old same old.

  35. The problem of Latin in England—outside those taught in the grammar schools and the universities—was that even the clergy (whom, these days, people consider learned) could sometimes be remarkable ill-read. Tyndale complained of village priests who were barely literate and Henry VIII famously fumed about staid, literate priests, “Some are too stiff in their old Mumpsimus, and others too busie and curious in their new Sumpsimus”. This referred to the notorious account of an old priest who, after being told that he’s misread sumpsimus, “we have taken”, as the nonsensicalmumpsimus in the Mass, replied, “I’ve got so used to using the word mumpsimus that I’ll just go on saying it that way.”

  36. Notafan

    I read a history of Ireland (written by an Englishwoman) that mentioned some of.the English in Ireland looked down on the Irish because they did not speak English yet many were well versed in Latin and Latin is still taught throughout Europe.
    In Denmark I saw in the cathedral at Arhus 13th century artwork that had been covered since the reformation that had been the means by which illiterate peasants received biblical instruction.apparently the walls had been completely covered with instructional materials.

  37. Senile Old Guy

    From the article:

    Yet academics have been slow to cast pearls through Twitter and Facebook.

    We (my institution) have at least four academically related Facebook pages, I have multiple YouTube videos but Twitter is a cesspit. Why would I waste time on it?

    DrBeauGan:

    They have all managed to avoid adult life.

    You, sir, are a moron. I have kids, a job, a mortgage and am engaged in the various other activities that constitute “adult life”.

    I am now getting rather weary of Cat contributers routinely trashing all academics for the sins of some.

    Bruce of N:

    Since their teachings increasingly do not resemble reality the people are ignoring them.

    Odd, as most of my research over the past decade has been with industry, especially mining companies. They are not prone to paying for stuff which does “not resemble reality”.

    Dot:

    A professor of medicine is usually an accomplished surgeon or specialist of some sort with a history of mentoring and also postgrad quals.

    Exactly.

    Megan:

    When I look around at the academics I know, they are a less an advertisement for intelligence and more like a collection of time-servers.

    Well, this doesn’t apply to the ones I know. I can’t comment on the ones you know.

    Just as all taxi drivers, plumbers, moteliers, lawyers and financiers are not alike, so are all academics not alike. One of the runs the Cat.

  38. Squirrel

    “Deadman

    #1192093, posted on February 17, 2014 at 10:05 am
    by 1500 […] much of the language by then was composed of latin and greek roots

    Well, not so much by 1500; by 1600, sure. The rise in the use of Greek and classical Latin in forming English words was more in the latter half of the 16th century. The first Regius Professor of Greek was appointed by Henry VIII in 1541.
    I recommend Brian Moynihan, Book of Fire: William Tyndale, Thomas More and the Bloody Birth of the English Bible (London, 2011).”

    In 1649, Nicholas Culpeper, of Herbal fame, earned the displeasure of the College of Physicians by producing an unauthorised English translation of the College’s Pharmacopoeia – described, by the College, as “done very filthily into English” and as converting “the apothecaries book into nonsense, mixing every receipt therein with some scruples, at least, of rebellion or atheisme, besides the danger of poysoning men’s bodies”. The College’s criticism of Culpeper has a ring of familiarity, doesn’t it?

    More broadly, the NYT article reminds me that one of the reasons I lost interest in “news” services from the ABC is the tendency – particularly when things are slow (or seen by them to be) – to report academic research which amounts to an expensive, laboured statement of the bleeding obvious.

  39. The idea that the populace were illiterate is hardly the fault of the church

    Somehow I don’t think that excuses the execution of those wanting to print the bible in non-Latin languages, though.

  40. .

    How often did that really happen, Beer Whisperer? There is a lot of false mythology over Tyndale for example.

    The wormhole goes deeper

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_English_Hexateuch

    The Old English Hexateuch is the collaborative project of the late Anglo-Saxon period that translated the first six books of the Hexateuch into Old English, presumably under the editorship of Ælfric of Eynsham.[1] It is the first vernacular translation of the first six books of the Old Testament, i.e. the five books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) and Joshua.

    The translation is retained in seven manuscripts, most of which are fragmentary. The best-known of those is a richly illuminated manuscript kept in London: British Library, Cotton MS Claudius B.iv. Another copy of the text, without lavish illustrations but including a translation of the Book of Judges (hence also called the Old English Heptateuch), is found in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud Misc. 509.

    Claudius B.iv. was probably compiled in the second quarter of the 11th century at St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury. It incorporates translations and a preface by Ælfric of Eynsham, while the remaining parts of the translation were carried out by anonymous authors. Peter Clemoes suggests that Byrhtferth of Ramsey was responsible for the compilation as well as for parts of the translation.
    One or, more likely, several artists accompanied the narrative with 394 coloured drawings, containing about 550 scenes, many of which are unfinished, at varying stages of completion. The settings do not attempt to represent Old Testament life as anything different from that of contemporary Anglo-Saxons, and so give valuable depictions of many aspects of the Anglo-Saxon world. The extensive illustrations suggest that it was designed mainly for lay use.

  41. On literacy in modern Europe, by the way, I also commend R.A. Houston, Literacy in Early Modern Europe: Culture and Education 1500–1800 (Harlow, 1998)
    I see that Better World Books has a second-hand copy for US$8.48 (with free shipping).

  42. The extensive illustrations suggest that it was designed mainly for lay use
    Yes, Bibles in English were encouraged in pre-conquest times but, by the time of Wyclif and, later, Tyndale, even being suspected of having possessed their translations could get people burnt.

  43. Token

    Somehow I don’t think that excuses the execution of those wanting to print the bible in non-Latin languages, though.

    Don’t ignore how costly it was to get a document written.

    There is no evidence of any official decision to universally disallow translations following the incident at Metz until the Council of Trent, at which time the Reformation threatened the Catholic Church, and the rediscovery of the Greek New Testament presented new problems for translators. However, some specific translations were condemned, and regional bans were imposed during the Albigensian Crusade: Toulouse in 1229, Taragona in 1234 and Beziers in 1246.[14] Pope Gregory IX incorporated Innocent III’s letter into his Decretals and instituted these bans presumably with the Cathars in mind as well as the Waldensians, who continued to preach using their own translations, spreading into Spain and Italy, as well as the Holy Roman Empire. Production of Wycliffite Bibles would later be officially banned in England at the Oxford Synod in the face of Lollard anticlerical sentiment, but the ban was not strictly enforced and since owning earlier copies was not illegal, books made after the ban are often inscribed with a date prior to 1409 to avoid seizure.

    As Rosemarie Potz McGerr has argued, as a general pattern, bans on translation responded to the threat of strong heretical movements; in the absence of viable heresies, a variety of translations and vernacular adaptations flourished between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries with no documented institutional opposition.[15] Still, translations came late in the history of the European vernaculars and were relatively rare in many areas. According to the Cambridge History of the Bible, this was mainly because “the vernacular appeared simply and totally inadequate. Its use, it would seem, could end only in a complete enfeeblement of meaning and a general abasement of values. Not until a vernacular is seen to possess relevance and resources, and, above all, has acquired a significant cultural prestige, can we look for acceptable and successful translation.”[16] The cost of commissioning translations and producing such a large work in manuscript was also a factor; the three copies of the Vulgate produced in 7th century Northumbria, of which the Codex Amiatinus is the only survivor, are estimated to have required the skins of 1,600 calves.[17] Manuscript copies of the Bible historiale and, even more so, the usually lushly illuminated Bible moralisée were large, deluxe manuscripts, which only the wealthiest nobility (such as the French royal family) could afford.

    It has been a fun distraction to discuss the old chestnut created by Henry VIII when trying to justify actions during the dissolution of the monasteries.

  44. cohenite

    Ok, Senile Old Guy, you’re sick of being tarred with the generic brush that, IMO, an increasing number of academics deserve to be tarred with these days: to wit they are arrogant and dismissive of any contrary view regardless of whether it comes from the hoi polio or other academics.

    Take AGW for example, a failed hypothesis, which has had its pernicious influence sustained by various academics with only a few, maligned academic voices of dissent visible to the public.

    What’s your view on that oppression of dissent in academia and indeed AGW generally?

  45. Senile Old Guy

    What’s your view on that oppression of dissent in academia and indeed AGW generally?

    There is oppression of dissent in many workplaces, including academia. This is wrong but those who wish to oppose it have to consider the potential damage to their careers and livelihoods. Those who have kids, such as me, have to think especially carefully. At the end of the day, I have a responsibility to my family.

    On the issue of AGW, it is worth noting that some of the most prominent academic dissenters are either retired, very senior or working in disciplines offering some protection. Even this does not necessarily save them from repercussions.

    For my part, I have been active on the internet and blogs to the extent I can. (Although I do less now because I think the whole thing is gradually going away.)

  46. Bruce of Newcastle

    Odd, as most of my research over the past decade has been with industry, especially mining companies.

    SoG – I chose my words carefully: “progressive academics”. I did not say “all academics”.

  47. Senile Old Guy

    On related issues:

    GOD particle scientist Professor Peter Higgs, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics last year, says he finds his new-found fame “a bit of a nuisance”.

  48. Token

    Odd, as most of my research over the past decade has been with industry, especially mining companies. They are not prone to paying for stuff which does “not resemble reality”.

    Please tell me Senile Old Guy that you and your ilk are seen by the humanities staff to be like John Goodman in the US TV series Community.

  49. Ellen of Tasmania

    Okay, Dr. BeauGan, if you are still around I have a couple of homeschooling sites that might interest you.

    homeschoolaustralia.com
    http://www.hea.edu.au

    Both those sites have discussion forums. Most of my info and contacts is for both Christian and classical education, because that’s what we did. The above sites have a lot of ‘unschooling’ material, which for some reason seems very popular in Australia. And I guess that uses up my two links.

    Look up ‘www welltrainedmind’ dot com, along with classicalhomeschooling dot com – both have recommendations for reading lists and so forth. Charlotte Mason is similar but not the same as the classical (trivium) approach and if you just do a search of her name you’ll come up with a lot of stuff. Dorothy Sayers had an essay on the trivium or classical approach to education (called ‘The Lost Tools of Learning’) and that’s available online too.

    Remember that Ron Paul is developing a homeschool programme (ronpaulcurriculum dot com). The junior years are free and you pay for the later years. You also pay to join the discussion groups and forums etc. I know that Tom Woods and Gary North are involved in that. Obviously a strong libertarian bent.

    Of interest also is Arthur (Art) Robinson – www robinsoncurriculum dot com. His story is really interesting, his approach different, and his kids are brilliant. He was running for the US congress – artforcongress dot com.

    When it comes to maths, far and away the most popular of all programmes for homeschoolers is Saxon Maths.

    Hope something in all that proves helpful. Sorry to be off topic, everyone.

  50. How often did that really happen, Beer Whisperer?

    I don’t know. I was pointing out the principle, not the now ambiguous facts. A lot of terrible things have occurred “in the name of god”. I don’t need to know every instance to know the difference between the justifiable and the unjustifiable.

  51. James of the Glen

    SOG: “(Although I do less now because I think the whole thing is gradually going away.)”.

    With that exceptionally boof-headed fool and liar John Kerry now running around trying to spread Obama’s pathetic “climate change” scam, now is the time to ramp up publicity for the evidence which negates the CO2 hypothesis.

    2014 will require a concerted effort to beat the Warmists over the head with the reality stick.

  52. Slightly off topic. We just had our Melbourne primary school teachers commissioned for the 2104 year. Of the 50 teachers 47 were female and three were errrr……. male.

  53. stackja

    arcane unintelligibility

    seems to sum up the ‘intellectuals‘ of today.

  54. Senile Old Guy

    Please tell me Senile Old Guy that you and your ilk are seen by the humanities staff to be like John Goodman in the US TV series Community.

    Not being senior enough, I have to keep my head down, at least on things which have my name attached.

    * Note that my username might be entirely accurate, in all respects.

  55. Senile Old Guy

    2014 will require a concerted effort to beat the Warmists over the head with the reality stick.

    I think the Problem of the Pause is really starting to bite and the increasingly contrived “explanations” are starting to hurt The Cause. The Faithful will continue to believe. But the general public will look at their power bills, and read/hear the 27th reason why it stopped warming years ago, and…well, the opinion polls are showing what happens next.

    There are now some good reasons to expect that The Pause will turn into The Cooling and then the wheels will really fall off the little red wagon.

  56. Driftforge

    Still, translations came late in the history of the European vernaculars and were relatively rare in many areas. According to the Cambridge History of the Bible, this was mainly because “the vernacular appeared simply and totally inadequate. Its use, it would seem, could end only in a complete enfeeblement of meaning and a general abasement of values. Not until a vernacular is seen to possess relevance and resources, and, above all, has acquired a significant cultural prestige, can we look for acceptable and successful translation.”

    Don’t recall this (language simplicity) being an issue with translation efforts in PNG, although there were certainly anecdotes that described the struggle to communicate concepts in the local tongue. The high school I boarded at was at the main base for Wycliffe Bible Translators, and that process had become quite refined.

    Of course the earliest works took the longest – some people spent nearly 30 years conducting their translations. There were also a couple of sad cases where by the time the work was completed the language had basically fallen out of use. Still, other languages that would have faded now have a written form, teaching materials and are growing again.

  57. Driftforge

    There are now some good reasons to expect that The Pause will turn into The Cooling and then the wheels will really fall off the little red wagon.

    I’m starting to actively caution people against getting involved with renewables related stuff given the political risk involved. It’s taken pretty well – most of the guys can see the writing on wall for that gravy train.

    Science – doesn’t matter if its real, just if it is plausible and it provides scope to organise a valuable consensus around.

  58. Bruce of Newcastle

    Of the 50 teachers 47 were female and three were errrr……. male.

    If you saw ABC lunchtime news today you’d raise your eyebrows there were so many as 3.

    Somehow I doubt the RC into the unions will have the ABC doing long spots on it every day for months the way they do with that RC.

  59. brc

    Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard. Henry Ford went to college to study bookkeeping, the rest he learnt as an apprentice. Both went on to massively improve the world, both because of the profit motive.

    Not all academics are pointless neckbeards, but the rate is high enough to view any with suspicion. The only academics I know worth talking to are heavily into consulting and other streams of business, the professorial bit seems to be maintained as a bit of marketing push.

    There are still academics organizing Marxist conferences. That alone is enough to cast suspicion on the rest. Why any rational individual with an ability to read ad think would ever associate themselves with marxism is a question for the ages.

    The key to rapid progress now is in the startup scene. Start young, be ambitious and have a go at starting soemthing. You can either join an existing company at the beginning, get angel or vc funding, apply to an incubator, bootstrap or crowd fund your idea. Many ways to get started. If you fail you learn lots, and still spend less money than a degree. If you succeed you stamp your name on a particular field and might get rich.

    Sure beats the stuffing out of listening to a Marxist crap on about social justice and climate change in a stifling classroom.

  60. cohenite

    On the issue of AGW, it is worth noting that some of the most prominent academic dissenters are either retired, very senior or working in disciplines offering some protection. Even this does not necessarily save them from repercussions.

    How true; look at Bob Carter, Ian Plimer and Murray Salby, all crucified for holding sceptic views.

    Anyway, we know the alarmists are thugs and bullies and any view which requires such tactics to sustain it is suspect straight away. So, speaking anonymously what is your view of AGW?

  61. Walter Plinge

    Not sure if this was mentioned in a earlier thread but it seems ‘social sciences’ academics are less intelligent than physical sciences academics. A controversial study to be sure but it’s plausible given mathematics, engineering, physics, &c, require high-level skills the soft ‘sciences’ don’t.

    In an interview, Dutton said social scientists aren’t stupid, or necessarily extreme in their politics or overly religious. But, statistically speaking, they have lower IQs than their colleagues in biological and physical sciences and are likelier to be extremely conservative or liberal or religious, or both.

    Dutton said that there are many similarities between political extremism and religious fundamentalism; in other research, he uses the term “replacement religions” to describe the phenomenon.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/so-who-are-the-smartest-scientists/story-e6frgcjx-1226826041147

  62. hzhousewife

    Dr BeauGan

    A very good USA based friend used calvertschool.org, she was raised all over the world so her parents used them sometimes with her, and she has 3 kids she used it for at various times in the past 20 yrs. All 3 are in “College”, the middle lad is in Harvard Medical. You can ask for an info package by email . I don’t know how expensive it is.

  63. Senile Old Guy

    So, speaking anonymously what is your view of AGW?

    I thought that was obvious. Short answer: it’s a crock. Longer answer: humans do affect climate (UHI and rainfall) but most variability is natural.

  64. Megan

    …to be extremely conservative or liberal or religious, or both.

    Wait, what?

  65. God help anyone who questions the infinite virtue of education (now a euphemism for credentialism), but I even worked with a lefty who reckoned he learnt nothing in uni, even doing IT. Worse, he learnt everything in the uni pub from senior students for the price of a schooner. As a senior student later, he offered the same services. Ultimately, the guy is a whiz project manager who could manage a complex project in the public service without raising a sweat.

    Dare I say it, there are limits to what teaching can achieve. Invaluable yes, but not the be-all and end-all by any measure.

  66. cohenite

    Longer answer: humans do affect climate (UHI and rainfall) but most variability is natural.

    No doubt. David Stockwell has shorthand presentation about agricultural patterns and changing rainfall distribution; see slides 11-12 here.

    The thing about UHI though is while it has a significant local effect on temperature trend, DTR and rainfall it does not appear to play a part in the Earth Energy Balance [EEB]; a changing EEB with less radiation leaving is a fundamental part of the AGW hypothesis.

  67. dover_beach

    Walter, that ‘study’ was canned in the Open Thread days ago.

  68. Simon

    Walter I assume that is why gay marriage is the holy grail for lefty uni types, it effectively puts their religion on a par with real religions if they can marry people excluded by other beliefs.

  69. Rococo Liberal

    I’m always suspicious of legal academics who haven’t practised law. Unless you have or have had a practising certificate you can’t really be a legal expert. The real brains in law are the lawyers and the judges who make the law, not someone viewing things from outside the system.

    Of course Obama never actually practised law, so he doesn’t really know any.

  70. motherhubbard'sdog

    there were certainly anecdotes that described the struggle to communicate concepts in the local tongue

    John 6:35a, Inuit translation “I am the seal blubber of life”.

  71. dragnet

    Hear hear Rococo!! I feel i can safely pass over any article in the Law Society Journal written by an academic.

  72. .

    I agree Rococo. The same applies for academic economists touting stock tips who’ve never worked in the private sector.

  73. Fred Lenin

    Scotland must have been advanced in education ,as the first “Education Act” was passed around 1650 or thereabouts.Probably very advanced for those days ,the education system in Scotland was known for its effectiveness and practicality for generations,but these days I suppose it has been Corrupted by bourgoise socialist fascism like many other countries,its Time to make the Past our Future,back to the practical Old Ways!

  74. johanna

    It is also worth noting the effects of dilution, which have debased academia beyond repair.

    50-60 years ago, about 5% of the population had a university degree. Academics were the brightest of the brightest (in most cases) and had the prestige that accompanies it. If they said something, there was a reasonable chance that it was worth listening to.

    Now that we have mickey mouse universities and degrees (eg Tourism Studies), teaching and nursing requiring a degree, and the outgrowth of flummery like Media Studies and Women’s Studies in Arts faculties, a lot of academics – and their students – are frankly not very bright. They have nothing worthwhile to say, and the less we hear from them, the better, IMO.

  75. a lot of academics – and their students – are frankly not very bright.

    Indeed; and, even more inexcusably, too many are remarkably ignorant and ill-read.

  76. johanna

    Very true, Deadman. I have met plenty of people from all walks of life (including on this blog) who have more intellectual curiosity and rigour, and are vastly better read, than the mediocrities that populate much of academe today.

    There are honourable exceptions, of course, including our own Doomlord and Mr Kates!

  77. HK_Brother

    Well, there’s a reason why American Conservative radio guy Mark Levin calls the NYT, The New York Slimes.

    The problem with “moden intellectuals” who permanently reside in their academic ivory towers, is that:
    => Their ideas don’t work in the real world.
    => They are never held responsible for failed implementations of their ideas.
    => More often than not, they have no real world experience to understand the consequences of their flawed ideas.
    => They are often arrogantly ignorant. ie: The smartest dumb people you’ll ever met.

    It’s why more and more people stop listening to those who haven’t been “bloodied” in a real world job or offer common sense ideas that actually work.

    Isn’t that human nature? To reject BS.

  78. .

    johanna
    #1192600, posted on February 17, 2014 at 8:04 pm
    It is also worth noting the effects of dilution, which have debased academia beyond repair.

    Another thing is “equality between disciplines”

    It’s bullshit. it’s why business faculties have trouble keeping law lecturers or auditing lecturers, the private sector pay rate is too good.

    It’s also why we don’t teach a business degree over six months full time. Accountants etc won’t admit their qualification is easier than a B Eng or degree in pure maths, applied maths or stats.

    It then empowers people with “doctorates” in surfing, macrame etc.

    Unis cannot admit their utility or difficulty is different, even to different people.

  79. johanna

    Well said, Dot. As if an honours degree in Pure Maths from a good university is worth less than a PhD in Tourism Studies from the local upgraded TAFE. What a joke.

    The good news is, experienced recruiters (and I was one of them) know the difference. The bad news is, charlatans of all stripes get to write articles and be interviewed on the MSM as “Doctor Something.”

  80. Tintarella di Luna

    Another thing is “equality between disciplines”

    If that’s the case how come students doing the HSC are marked down even when they get 100% in macrame and don’t get an ATAR worth of pinch of dodo doo-doo?

  81. Tintarella di Luna

    I suppose there’s something to saying: trust me I’m NOT a lawyer or a doctor.

  82. .

    If that’s the case how come students doing the HSC are marked down even when they get 100% in macrame and don’t get an ATAR worth of pinch of dodo doo-doo?

    Once enrolled, that is now irrelevant!

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