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« This Week's Acquisitions | Main | Marian »

March 03, 2006



You are being rather harsh. He was, for all his naivety, being honest when life seemingly demands dishonesty.

Best practice at an interview is to be deferential, non-threatening, hard-working, a little bland, but above all, safe. You know your place, and you are jolly pleased to be in it.

This is sad. So much could be done by employing the best people for the job, passionate advocates of good teaching and good research, with a determination to push forward to better things. People with some 'go' in them. But large organisations like universities and corporations don't like that. They like control. That's why they stagnate.

They like safe. A bit boring. A bit beige. They like people who are never going to take a stand on anything.

And no-perish the thought-new ideas.

So smile sweetly, dress conservatively, show an interest, and be fundamentally dishonest. Because that's what the academic industry has come to.

And that, in a nation born out of revolution!

A. G. Rud

Son of Larry Summers?


Re: 'Son of Larry Summers?'

Can someone translate that into English please. I half suspect A. G. Rud is taking a swipe at Clanger, but I can't tell.

According to the BBC, Mr. Summers said that 'women had less "intrinsic aptitude" than men for science'. Such a generalisation has little evidential merit. If there is a biological difference, it is one of numerical ratios, and not a neurological barrier faced by all women, but not by any men.

The ratio of Asperger syndrome suffering uber-geeks is about 10 male to 1 female. That *may* explain the 10:1 ratio in groups who write software, a good benchmark for the pointy-end of 'science'.

Female scientists are per se, no better and no worse than male scientists. There is likely to be fewer female scientists than there should be due to the inherent, deplorable gender discrimination still rife in our society, but at the same time, more men than women may want to do science degrees. This isn't wrong, and may have neurological reasons. We have some evidence (aspegers) that it may. Work is on-going.

Treating numerical equalities as a problem that need fixing to a 1:1 ratio regardless of any other context, is, to quote a phrase, 'political correctness run mad'.

The main thrust of my original post was that universities now operate like large, old, sedate, and stagnant corporates. Academic study is about a continuous revolution of ideas. The students will always learn from and then supplant the teachers in a healthy system.

Every idea worth having has annoyed someone when it first appeared. Creating a system that for sake of safety, cannot have new ideas, is not a good thing.

The academic world needs people who say things that the majority don't agree with. It's called academic freedom. The alternative is a dictatorship.


Clanger, what the academic world needs is a bit more complicated than just random individuals coming in and prescribing revolution.

I don't see anything here against academic freedom -- I see TLP making a good point that while the columnist might have thought himself to be all about ideas and change, what he said might well have come out with the semblance of insult and ignorance.

It's good to suggest what one can bring to an institution during the interview, but tread carefully as what you feel may be the next great thing maybe something the department's had a bad experience with or whatever. Remember that you're selling yourself on multiple levels: if you come across as an abrasive know-it-all, there's always another candidate with a lot of ability that includes people skills.


What does Miss Manners have to say about taking indirect potshots at maddening, incompetent professors in term papers? One in particular has a fetish for removing dashes, commas, and parentheses, so I have taken the liberty of quoting a critic on the absurdity of the corrective posture.


Apologies if my post seemed like a pop at TLP-it was nothing more than banter, laced with irony. A lot gets lost in translation.

From the UK, the US protocol of formalised politeness in academic circles can be seen as hiding a multitude of sins in a rigorously thought-policed system, subject to witch-hunts, people forced from office, boycotts, and lawsuits.

I think the columnist was actually saying that he saw his approach was wrong.

Now more than ever we need 'random individuals coming in and prescribing revolution'. Individuals such as Leavis, Derrida, and Foucault. Ultimately, they made the way research is done today possible.

The academic environment must be, above all else, a zone of special privilege, where you can always say something that nobody else agrees with, without fear, regardless of your social skills or lack of them. If it isn't, we sink to the level of the politicians, and must worry about our PR, our spin, and every comment we make.

If you disagree with someone, argue with them. Don't silence them. And a lack of social skills doesn't make you any less of an academic, nor any less inspirational as a tutor.


I'm coming to this late, but I couldn't resist responding to Clanger's remark: "A lack of social skills doesn't make you any less of an academic."

If anything, it makes you more of an academic!

(Remember Richard Russo's line: in an English department, the real competition is for the role of straight man.)

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