Archive for March, 2009

Harvard’s Worthless Degree?

Posted on March 31st, 2009 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

The blogger MSM Monitor isn’t so sure that Harvard’s motives for promoting study of the humanities are benevolent.

I’ve got one (not from Harvard). I majored in history, and as fun as some of the memories are, it was a waste of time and money. I don’t want to dismiss the whole experience as worthless, but looking back, that’s pretty much the extent of my ejerkashen at the school.

And look at what they want you to get a degree in….

Malapropism of the Day

Posted on March 31st, 2009 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

This from an e-mail a colleague received:

My apologies for any incontinence, but….

The correspondent, of course, meant “inconvenience.”

Oldies But Goodies

Posted on March 31st, 2009 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Yesterday’s Globe had a nice piece about the renewed interest in reading the classics at Harvard.

To entice students to explore such subjects, Harvard has more than tripled the number of small freshman seminars taught by star professors. Among the 132 diverse classes: “The Beasts of Antiquity and their Natural History.”

President Drew Faust, a Civil War historian, has said that education in the humanities prepares students to challenge the status quo.

“That kind of critical thinking and questioning is something we should encourage and instill more fully than we do,” Faust said in a recent interview about the value of a liberal arts education when jobs are becoming hard to come by.

How do you increasingly open Harvard to students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and then sell them on the humanities, though? That will be an interesting challenge…..

Comment of the Day

Posted on March 31st, 2009 in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

After a post below about people who want a “Confederate Memorial Day,” a commenter named Terry wrote,

My ancestors fought for the South because their lands were invaded by Northern troops. None owned slaves, even though loyal Union families in the border states did until December 1865 – 6 months after the war ended. I consider what they did a good and honorable thing. The observance would help tourism in an area that took 100 years after the Civil War to recover from the damage done by the war.

I am torn between my frustration at such a comment, whose understanding of American history I profoundly reject, and  my desire to try to reach some common ground with Terry.



I write as someone whose Southern ancestors did own slaves and did participate in the Confederacy. I’m not just a Yankee carpetbagger. (In the plus column, members of the St. Louis branch of the family gave Dred Scott his freedom.) My roots in the South go pretty deep—to 1638. My cousins and I still own land in Virginia—the remnants of the family plantation. (I think it was a beautiful spot once, but now it’s not accessible by road, the bugs are terrible in the summer, and poachers are a concern.)

And I certainly don’t think the South has any monopoly on racial problems. I’ve lived in New York and Boston; plenty  of racism in both places. I grew up in Connecticut, which, when I was in college, had the most KKK members per capita of any state in the country. So don’t think that I speak from any sense of holier-than-thou morality.

That said, I think you’re being dishonest about history and the motives behind the push for a Confederate Memorial Day.

To your point about “your lands being invaded”…well, the South fired first. But more importantly, since the United States was a single country until Southern states began seceding, I’m not sure that you could call the presence of Union troops in the South “an invasion.” You can not invade your own country.

As for your ancestors, with all due respect, fighting for the Confederacy—which was, at its heart, a defense of slavery—was not “a good and honorable thing.” Southern whites want to believe this is so, but this is an unsustainable myth. Doesn’t mean that our ancestors weren’t brave or that they didn’t make enormous sacrifices. It does mean that they were misguided and wrong and that that is something their descendants have to come to terms with, just as Germans had to come to terms with Adolf Hitler. While the courage of those who fought for the Confederacy is to be respected, their choice is not.

I can’t say how long it took whatever area you’re talking about to recover from the Civil War, but even if it did take 100 years, that still puts us at, oh, 1965. Regardless, the proper response is not to sanctify the Confederacy. I’m sure that there are plenty of ways to promote tourism. But instituting a holiday memorializing a racist state shouldn’t be one of them.

Unless, of course, you’d like to attract all those KKK members from Connecticut, and all the people who opposed the Martin Luther King holiday in Arizona, and the people who just couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Barack Obama….

In the end, Terry, there’s just no way that a Confederate Memorial Day wouldn’t be divisive. Once again, it would put the South on the wrong side of history. Isn’t there a better way to promote tourism?

Things Really Have Changed

Posted on March 31st, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Barack Obama signs a bill protecting 2 million acres of American wilderness, and it’s barely a blip in the news…

Sometimes, amidst all the chaos of the economy, it’s helpful to step back and appreciate how nice it is to have a president who isn’t an idiot.

Eat, Etc.

Posted on March 31st, 2009 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Never having read “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir of post-divorce meanderings, I’ve never understood the book’s success. It is, frankly, just one of those books that men are constitutionally uninterested in.

“This is the kind of literature that countless women soak up like biscotti in a latte cup: food, clothes, sex, ‘relationships’ and gummy, feel-good ‘spirituality,’ ” writer Charlotte Allen wrote last year in The Post’s Outlook section.

Discussion of several of the above things makes me cringe somewhat. I am, however, more than happy to discuss politics, spring training, the state of the stock market, anything Apple, and the virtues of Megan Fox.  I know. Pathetic, right?

Nevertheless, I do find the popularity of the book fascinating. EPL clearly speaks to something that many women feel—alienation? Dissatisfaction? Yearning? A sense that they haven’t found the romance in their lives? (Or that they’ve lost it?)

Whatever the reason, virtually every woman I know has read the book. And I don’t know a man who has.

Yesterday Gilbert gave a talk about the book at the National Cathedral in Washington attended by 2, 250 people, of whom about 2, 245 were female. Let me put that in context: for a book reading, attendance of 2, 250 would be like a U2 playing a free concert…for the state of California.

As the Washington Post describes it, the event had something of a cultish quality.

Gently, ever so gently, she informs her fans that she, for one, is moving on from “Eat, Pray, Love.” She doesn’t have time for yoga and meditation anymore, though she does take daily “silence baths” with her cat….

(Apparently she married the Brazilian, whatever that means, but it sounds like a good idea.)

As much as I find the success of such a book bewildering, I also find it heartening and sort of admirable. As any writer will tell you, women read more and buy more books than men do. It’s one of their many admirable qualities, but I’ve never really heard a good explanation why that’s the case. Any ideas?

College on the Cheap

Posted on March 30th, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Daily Beast reports on the 20 best bargains in college education.

Among them: UNC, Harvard, Rice, Swarthmore, and Centre College.

Monday Morning Zen

Posted on March 30th, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Right On

Posted on March 30th, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Here, by the way, is a photo from the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies of a right whale feeding.

(That’s seaweed in front of his/her mouth, but right whales feed on plankton.)

Pretty amazing.


Posted on March 30th, 2009 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

The Times has a new education blog, “The Choice,” about “Demystifying College Admissions and Aid.”

Aside from contributions by Times education reporter Jacques Steinberg, the blog appears to be entirely writtten by high school seniors.

As April 1st approaches quickly, I am finding it exceedingly difficult to muster the courage to check the mailbox each day

If I were editing the blog, here’s how that sentence would read:

As April 1st approaches quickly, I am finding find it exceedingly difficult to muster the courage to check the mailbox each day

(That is a knock on the Times, by the way, not the writer.)

While the use of high school kids surely makes the blog cheaper for the Times, it does limit the appeal.

Also draining some of the tension: The Times has chosen the kinds of people the Times always chooses—diverse but homogenous, if you know what I mean. So far, not one of the kids has gotten a rejection…..

It’d be nice to see the posts of a total fuck-up normal kid whose experience is a little less valedictorian-esque.