Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Gottfried and Bento...

I am reading Matthew Stewart’s The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World. I am gearing up for some collaborative work on reverence, listening, and education, so this is a sidelight, a bit of summer reading...but oh so absorbing.

I have never read much Leibniz. A philosopher at my university has a "Leibniz" vanity plate on his Toyota pickup truck, so I am reminded each day in the parking garage of the lacuna in my reading. I did audit Spinoza's Ethics with Ed Curley in grad school. Stewart refers to Spinoza by his nickname Bento.

But Stewart's book is an lively narrative of the history of ideas, full of wonderful biographical insights and cultural descriptions. I now realize how much I have dwelled in my study of philosophy in what a good friend calls our epistemology absorbed culture, that I knew so little about the circumstances of the work of these early moderns. The historical detail of Stewart's book is fascinating.

I don't know enough to evaluate thoroughly Stewart's major thesis regarding the meeting Leibniz had with Spinoza in Holland in late 1676, a few months before Spinoza died. Though Leibniz downplayed the importance of the meeting, Stewart states that "In fact, the meeting with Spinoza was the defining event of Leibniz's life. Everything before points toward it for resolution; and everything after points back for explanation" (p. 15). At least that is how far I have gotten in this book...

I do like this bio blurb on Stewart (b. 1963) from the inside back cover: "Matthew Stewart received his doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University. A founder of a management consulting firm, he retired in order to pursue a life of contemplation. He lives in New York."

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Jim Horn's Schools Matter blog posting for today discusses a global plan for taking over education, headed up by a man named Best. No, not the hapless Beatles drummer who gave up the sticks to Ringo. Randy Best, and his Whitney International University System. What caught my eye was the discussion of a national college of education, and how it would operate. Already being beta tested in Chicago. Thanks Jim for your vigilance.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Professors Behaving Badly...

News from the non-hospitality in education front...

  • A professor at my university makes students who are even a few seconds late sit down in front on the floor of a large, amphitheater sized lecture hall.
  • Another professor announced each time to a graduate class no less that he had better not hear a cell phone go off. One day, a shy Asian woman's phone went off and he called her to the front of the room and asked her to go immediately to the dean's office. She left in tears.
  • Numerous professors at my university lock the door of their rooms when they start the class, thus preventing students with legitimate reasons for tardiness from partaking.

So, readers, got any similar stories?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sourcein' in Style...

I just finished Andrew Delbanco's recent book on Herman Melville, a clearly written, almost meditative take on the man, his work, and his time. I come from where Melville wrote Moby-Dick, and my parents and brother now lives beneath Mount Greylock, the peak the author gazed upon from his study window at Arrowhead, likening it in winter to the snow-white whale.

That aside, what contributed to my delight in reading the book was in no small part how Delbanco did his sources. As one weary of the cluttered disfigurements of APA and Chicago author-date, or the tedious and equally cluttered numbering of foot or end notes in Chicago, I appreciated that Delbanco merely cites page numbers in the back, with a word or two to identify the quote on that page, and then a source. I enjoyed just reading these notes, more than I would end notes in a conventional scholarly work, as the words quoted called up for me that particular passage. The text itself read cleanly, without the jerkiness due to source documentation.

Update, 6/4: In rereading Paul Woodruff's elegant little gem, Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue (Oxford UP 2001), I noticed Woodruff uses a similar, non-invasive, source format. Maybe there is a name for this citation style?...and Matthew Stewart's The Courtier and the Heretic uses it too...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Now look here good chap...TAKE DOWN THAT BLOG!

Erik Ringmar, a faculty member at the London School of Economics, was told by the LSE to take down his blog, where he had posted a speech he had given to prospective students. In the speech, Ringmar had criticized the teaching at LSE, and encouraged students to consider other options. Read about this skirmish here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Churchill Down

Gotta love it...from the comments to the Inside Higher Ed story on the latest in the Ward Churchill saga.

You have to admire a guy as corrupt as Churchill. He defended himself before the UC Committee regarding plagiarism charges by revealing that he had ghostwritten two articles that had text similar to his own. They then discovered he had used those two articles as citations, providing evidence of scholarly agreement for his positions, effectively citing himself in a circle of wondrous invention.
Brian Gratton, Professor at Arizona State University, at 6:05 pm EDT on May 16, 2006

Levinas on the Wabash

My wife and I just had a wonderful conversation over coffee at Panera Bread on the levee of the Wabash River, with a friend who is deeply involved with Levinas (grad students here started a study group with him last fall, then these same students spearheaded the formation of the North American Levinas Society, which had its inaugural meeting here last weekend, with 100 scholars). I am going to be investigating how the language of reason suppresses the language of prophecy in education. I can see bringing in David Purpel as well as my work on Schweitzer. I see this as relevant to a book chapter on reverence and listening that I am about to start with a good friend.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Why I read Jim Horn's Schools Matter blog...

Here's today's entry from Jim, entitled "National Math Panel and Modern Day Eugenics."

When Age has its advantages...

John Merrow's latest podcast...with my comments in brackets...I am glad to be beyond such...


A young adjunct professor would like nothing more than a full time teaching position that would put him on the long road {six years is not long, is it?} towards tenure, but most of his requests for job interviews go unanswered. {very common, appalling practice} H. Michael Gelfand is popular with students {oh dear} at the University of Arizona. The 37-year-old {adjuncting has got to get REALLY OLD at that age} history {tough going...will have to find out his area, which may be hot or not} instructor has a passion and talent for teaching {oh dear again}, his PhD, and a nearly-completed book.{he will be competing with others who have COMPLETED a book} How much more will it take? {Luck, good letters, an A-list doctoral program, the right job at the right time, what else, dear readers?}

PS: He did land a tenure track job after the interview with Merrow, at James Madison.

Monday, May 01, 2006

New Alex Molnar book

Here's a good, thorough review of Alex Molnar's new book School commercialism: From democratic ideal to market commodity.