A Clerk of Oxford: Blogging, Academia, and Aspiration

Photo Credit:  A Clerk of oxford

Photo Credit: A Clerk of oxford

One of the consequences of my friendship with Jessica is that I have been brought in touch with a fairly wide cross-section of British historians (and such). Mind you, I know only a few of them well, and a couple have become close friends but, I see a good bit of their public work. Frankly, I wish I was as well connected with American ones.

I have found many of them via Twitter, and that has led to several of them being featured here. One of my favorites, not least because her interests cross mine in several areas is A Clerk of Oxford. The other thing is that she is, I think anyway, a superb writer, able to transport one to the historical places she writes about. Frankly, I love her blog.

She has just published her 1000th post, and its tone is a bit sad, on what should be a joyous occasion. For those of you who read our blogs but don’t write one, I’ll tell you a secret: It ain’t easy. Coming up wit material that is both interesting and that one know well enough not to make too many mistakes is hard. To be able to write it in an interesting fashion is harder yet. She does it very well, far better than I do. So very heartfelt congratulations to her.

But the tone of her post was not all that cheery, as you’ll see. My impression was that she was turned down for a new position (I may well be wrong (if so, I hope she’ll forgive me.) and that it was done with open contempt by a senior faculty member. Well, that’s not unheard of, sadly not in business, and certainly not in academia. But it is not helpful, to the institution and certainly not to one turned down.

I have heard, from some of my friends over there, stories of the rankest incompetence, which would get you bounced off the curb in my company, no matter how senior you are, especially in the faculty leadership. For the most part they were told to me in confidence and so I will forbear sharing them with you but, I’ll say this, I believe every word she says here.

What we call ‘academia’, as practiced in universities today, is a modern invention, not more than a century or two old, and it seems to me that it’s swiftly reaching the point at which it becomes no longer sustainable; but scholarship and learning are much bigger than academia, and living somewhere like Oxford helps you to hold that in mind. The human desires to understand, to study, to teach and to learn are fundamentally good and beautiful things, however much any particular institution or any age may distort them, and Oxford’s long history of scholarship is a reminder of that: from its medieval origins, the monks and friars who gathered here to study and teach, through its history of benefactors, women and men who endowed colleges and gave money, asking nothing in return but prayer, to the countless generations who have laboured in its libraries to win the secrets of books, a silent wrestling-match with no prize but knowledge.
This is an idealistic picture, I know, but you’ll have to forgive me for being a little wistful right now. Most of the scholars, great in their day, who have worked within Oxford’s cloisters would not survive five minutes in modern academia, and I can’t help feeling that’s not a good thing. Of course I know that the world I’m describing would for most of its history have excluded people like me (a woman, from a non-traditional-Oxford background). But in effect, it still does; it still speaks in code, to keep insiders in and outsiders out. You might think that after eleven years in Oxford I’d have learned to crack the code, learned to fit in, but I’m as mystified as ever. It’s not just Oxford, anyway, but academia as a class – a culture still dominated by patronage, opacity and exclusion, only now in different ways. Now they talk the language of inclusion, while being as exclusive as ever. Oxford has a little bit of polite verbiage they put in their job adverts these days: ‘Applications for this post are especially welcome from women and ethnic minorities, who are under-represented among the University’s academic staff’. Well, you can certainly apply; but if you don’t respond well to an aggressive and hostile interview, you might end up quoting that verbiage back to yourself rather wryly. If I leave academia now, I just become a statistic. But I’ve received so much kindness and such rigorous teaching in this place (the vast majority of it from women); when I leave, I’ll take that with me, and do some good with it somewhere.]

A Clerk of Oxford: Blogging, Academia, and Aspiration.

And so I have little add, except that I offer her congratulations on a thousand posts, many of which I have enjoyed thoroughly, and commiseration and sympathy on her setback, which I hope will resolve itself to something even better. It can happen, and often does, at least two of my friends have oxford degrees and neither was a traditional type in college.

Toward the end of her post she included a poem by C.S. Lewis (and you all know what sucker I am for poetry).

In 1919, when he was still an undergraduate (and not yet a Christian), C. S. Lewis published a poem called ‘Oxford’. It’s full of youthful idealism, but it would be unjust to call it naive; the boy who wrote this poem had lived through a war worse than anything most of the people who inhabit a place like Oxford can even begin to imagine. He had a right to his idealism and his hope for a better world.

It is well that there are palaces of peace
And discipline and dreaming and desire,
Lest we forget our heritage and cease
The Spirit’s work — to hunger and aspire:

Lest we forget that we were born divine,
Now tangled in red battle’s animal net,
Murder the work and lust the anodyne,
Pains of the beast ‘gainst bestial solace set.

But this shall never be: to us remains
One city that has nothing of the beast,
That was not built for gross, material gains,
Sharp, wolfish power or empire’s glutted feast.

We are not wholly brute. To us remains
A clean, sweet city lulled by ancient streams,
A place of visions and of loosening chains,
A refuge of the elect, a tower of dreams.

She was not builded out of common stone
But out of all men’s yearning and all prayer
That she might live, eternally our own,
The Spirit’s stronghold — barred against despair.

And my hope that she will keep blogging because I, at least, and I know I’m far from alone, love her blog, and her insights. And I hope it all works out for her.

 

How Liberals Ruined College – Kirsten Powers

1431359490423.cachedKirsten Powers has written a book. So what? I hear many of you say, still another liberal writing a book about how bad things are. Well, yes and yes, Powers is by any American appraisal, a liberal, and she does think a lot of things are bad. If you had asked me back in 2008 if I would ever have praised her, well the answer would have been “NO!” and maybe more emphatic than that.

I would have been wrong. Because Powers is a real liberal, who has an innate respect for freedom and America. Her liberalism reminds me greatly of my youth, in northern Indiana and especially in Minnesota, where people really did believe in good faith that the government could effect changes in the environment, business and such, for the better. And, if we’re honest, working with people like them it did. A lot of us had, even then, philosophical problems with it but it worked amongst people of good will, and still likely would.

The trouble is that her kind of liberalism got swamped by what we see today. The strident, divisive kind that can only really be described as fascist, and Powers, like many others got left behind. And that’s very sad because it is no longer possible to, ‘Come, let us reason together’ for the best for the American people. Because for many that is not even a minor goal for them. They want money and power, without regard of who gets hurt along the way, and they will use the power of the state to silence anybody who gets in their way.

And so, I think Kirsten Powers is making a journey, one that many, including Ronald Reagan, made before her, from liberal to classically liberal, and she has written a book. It’s called The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech. While I won’t recommend it (because I haven’t read it) it is on my wish list and I think you likely should.

She published an excerpt in The Daily Beast yesterday, and here is some of it. I am impressed with what she says.

The root of nearly every free-speech infringement on campuses across the country is that someone—almost always a liberal—has been offended or has sniffed out a potential offense in the making. Then, the silencing campaign begins. The offender must be punished, not just for justice’s sake, but also to send the message to anyone else on campus that should he or she stray off the leftist script, they too might find themselves investigated, harassed, ostracized, or even expelled. If the illiberal left can preemptively silence opposing speakers or opposing groups— such as getting a speech or event canceled, or denying campus recognition for a group—even better.

In a 2014 interview with New York magazine, comedian Chris Rock told journalist Frank Rich that he had stopped playing college campuses because of how easily the audiences were offended. Rock said he realized some time around 2006 that “This is not as much fun as it used to be” and noted George Carlin had felt the same way before he died. Rock attributed it to “Kids raised on a culture of ‘We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.’ Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say ‘the black kid over there.’ No, it’s ‘the guy with the red shoes.’ You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.” Sadly, Rock admitted that the climate of hypersensitivity had forced him and other comedians into self-censorship.

This Orwellian climate of intimidation and fear chills free speech and thought. On college campuses it is particularly insidious. Higher education should provide an environment to test new ideas, debate theories, encounter challenging information, and figure out what one believes. Campuses should be places where students are able to make mistakes without fear of retribution. If there is no margin for error, it is impossible to receive a meaningful education.

Instead, the politically correct university is a world of land mines, where faculty and students have no idea what innocuous comment might be seen as an offense. In December 2014, the president of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney, sent an email to the student body in the wake of the outcry over two different grand juries failing to indict police officers who killed African-American men. The subject heading read “All Lives Matter” and the email opened with, “As members of the Smith community we are struggling, and we are hurting.” She wrote, “We raise our voices in protest.” She outlined campus actions that would be taken to “heal those in pain” and to “teach, learn and share what we know” and to “work for equity and justice.”

Shortly thereafter, McCartney sent another email. This one was to apologize for the first. What had she done? She explained she had been informed by students “the phrase/hashtag ‘all lives matter’ has been used by some to draw attention away from the focus on institutional violence against black people.” She quoted two students, one of whom said, “The black students at this school deserve to have their specific struggles and pain recognized, not dissolved into the larger student body.” The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported that a Smith sophomore complained that by writing “All Lives Matter,” “It felt like [McCartney] was invalidating the experience of black lives.” Another Smith sophomore told the Gazette, “A lot of my news feed was negative remarks about her as a person.” In her apology email McCartney closed by affirming her commitment to “working as a white ally.”

McCartney clearly was trying to support the students and was sympathetic to their concerns and issues. Despite the best of intentions, she caused grievous offense. The result of a simple mistake was personal condemnation by students. If nefarious motives are imputed in this situation, it’s not hard to extrapolate what would, and does, happen to actual critics who are not obsequiously affirming the illiberal left.

 

Keep reading How Liberals Ruined College – The Daily Beast.

Seems to me that the time approaches swiftly for us to welcome another refugee from the illiberal left to ‘The Dark Side’. Smart, easy on the eyes, and thinks for herself, my kind of woman!

What’s in a name?

Jessica wrote this post two years ago for Mother’s Day, and I think it to be timeless. It tells us much that we know but maybe only subconsciously about how important our mothers are to all of us, and how very important they are to our development. Think about this, Jess lost her mother when she was seven and yet, from accounts by those who know, she is a great deal like her mother. Some things are timeless in a society, and the role of mothers is paramount amongst them. I should add that Jess herself continues to improve and when I last spoke (metaphorically) to her, she sounds very much like the girl, I first met, she is recovering well Here is Jess. Neo

20130510-211820.jpg

When I was little, I would sometimes hear my father say that something or other was ‘like mom and apple pie’ – it was a synonym for everything good in life, and the clear implication was that mom had baked the apple pie. I don’t hear it much nowadays. Being a Mom is not, I think, much argued as a career option for girls, nor valued by teachers, and home baking (not chez Jess) not in fashion either. Here in the UK we are having an argument about how many children a child minder can care for, with all parties arguing the case for it because we need more women out there in the work place. I have several female friends who work and whose entire salary goes on paying for the nanny or the child minder. All the latter are female, but there is a class thing going on there; it is OK for women who couldn’t have a career in, say TV or whatever to mind children; educated middle class women like myself should get out there and have that career; if we get pregnant then we farm the little one out as soon as we can.

That left me thinking about who, then, will do what my mother did in my case, which was pass on values and moral teaching. I don’t recall being taught right from wrong – it was my mother did that for me when I wasn’t looking. It was my mother who took me to church, and, like countless mothers before her, helped pass on the values she had inherited. She had a career, she used to say – CEO the house and family. My Daddy was a determined sort of man, fond of getting his own way; he used to say he wasn’t always right but was never wrong. On the farm, his word was law – in the house, however, he would leave it to my mother – that was her realm. I am sure I did not get my own obsessive tidiness and love of cleaning from Daddy, who used to infuriate my mother by strolling in, in muddy boots and leaving his ‘clutter’ everywhere. She gave me those things, and more. My sister (who is really my half sister) said recently, after I had persuaded a workman to do something she wanted done that it was like watching my mother at work. I asked what she meant. She explained that my mother had been an expert at persuading our father to do things in just the way I had. It set me to thinking what else of my mother’s I had absorbed without knowing it?

My mother died when I was seven, and my memories of her are fairly dim. Daddy was my great hero, and I never met a man yet who lived up to him. My sister says I am a man’s woman, and I do prefer male company. But I am my mother’s daughter in more ways than I know, and I am glad she made me part of her career. So, for all those mothers who have passed on so much to so many if us, thanks mom.

Mothers' Day Cake crop

Mothers’ Day Cake crop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Mother’s Day!

from us both

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Higher Education Reform-Carolina Style

educationAround here, we are fond of saying, “Things that can’t go on: won’t”. In many ways, this is one of them.

A right-leaning public policy foundation is making waves in North Carolina’s public university system. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on how the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy is getting traction among the state’s Republican political leadership. The Center, the Chronicle tells us, aims to “[make] public colleges more accountable to the public, by holding them to their ‘chief goals of scholarly inquiry and responsible teaching’” and many believe its stances have influenced legislative proposals as well as the Board of Governors of the state’s university system, largely appointed by the GOP. More:

Jenna A. Robinson, the center’s president, calls the organization a watchdog for a university system that has become too expensive for many students because of ballooning administrative costs.

The center’s critics, however, see its influence as distorting the view of higher education in the state […]The center promotes “a very narrow, archaic view of what a university should be,” said James C. Moeser, who served as chancellor of the flagship campus from 2000 to 2008. “They’ve strongly influenced the direction of the Republican Party in the state. Most faculty are terrified of them.”

The Center’s work and influence can be seen as part of a trend: red states are beginning to lean forward on their skis in dealing with universities—institutions that have historically been bastions of Democratic and left-wing ideas.

Red Higher Ed Reforms Put Pressure on Carolina Blue – The American Interest.

One has to be careful here, this type of thing can easily slip (especially for conservatives) into anti-intellectualism. But it also is true that intellectualism is not the same thing as radical leftism, nor is toeing the party line.

John Adams famously said, “There are two types of education… One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live.” In many ways, I think we have over the years conflated them. one doesn’t, after all, need a degree in Transgressive Gender Studies to be the receptionist at XYZ Corporation. Yet many most companies require a degree these days simply to hire one. Why?

I think it is a practical requirement, initiated simply because the average secondary school graduate can no longer be expected to be able to read, write, and do arithmetic reliably. And so to meet their requirements, they raised the entry standards, simply because our public schools have failed to provide employable graduates. That comes simply under that iron law, “One must do what one must do.”

But that is not the mission (or shouldn’t be) of the university. John Adams also said,“I must study Politics and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematics and Philosophy.” In other words, the university is there to teach us to think and to study, with a knowledge base, on the underlying issues of the day, and yes, pure science and philosophy. In practical terms, the leaders of society; the teachers, the preachers, the engineers, the doctors, the military officers, and so on. The guy (or girl) answering the phone, no so much.

The other thing is that a university should teach one to learn, and keep on learning. Anybody that thinks learning ends with your degree is simply delusional. And here, I’m an example. I figured out in my sophomore year that I had little or no desire to spend the rest of my career in an office, or teaching formally, for that matter, and so I went to work. I’ve never regretted that decision, nor have I ever quit learning. And now my friends number amongst them, several with PhDs from some of the best university’s on earth, who treat me as an equal, because I have somewhat that same level of knowledge, although I think I likely have some serious holes (and likely always will), although I’m slowly working on it.

Much of the problem is not with the universities, we have corrupted their mission to do the job that our primary and secondary schools have failed (and are failing) to do. In large measure. the universities will fix themselves when they are required again to do what they are designed to do, instead of being remedial high schools.

And I suspect, in large measure, the financial problems will also be cured when a university degree is an honor to be earned rather than a requirement to be employed. Tenure, is, of course, a silly idea, designed to allow people to be lazy and not do their job effectively, and needs abolishing at all levels.

The financial problems of going to college will disappear when one is again required to use one’s own resources to go, so that it is one’s rational self-interest to get a useful education instead of all the silly majors that one can have today-that allow one to get a job at MacDonald’s

EU Preps for War Against the Internet: Decides to Lose Again

AAEAAQAAAAAAAANYAAAAJGU4MmZmYjg2LTg5NjQtNDFiNS04MWRkLTcwZmMyNmY0M2RkMAWell, this is interesting, although not very surprising, really. Does anybody really think that Europe (especially Germany and France) can compete with the US on a level playing field? No, me neither. The UK, maybe, but nobody else has a chance, and if good sense ever breaks out in the ruling clique in Britain (or they lose the election) they’ll likely get with the program and with their friends and run away from Europe, again.

I say that because I’ve noticed something. If you look at European technical prowess, especially innovation, in anything from civil engineering to the internet, you’ll find the British leading, and everybody else following, while they whine about ‘the Anglo-Saxons’.

They’re right, as well. The American Interest noted today that the EU wants to regulate Google et. al., much more than they do.

THE EU VS SILICON VALLEY

EU Preps for War Against the Internet

EU Preps for War Against the Internet – The American Interest.

As an aside, I’m no huge fan of Google, I think they’re more than a bit intrusive, and I’m not overfond of their data mining and selling my information to all and sundry. But you know what, I use Google products because they work, I don’t have to. There are other providers, just as I no longer use Microsoft products. But it’s remarkable that a company that started in an American garage a few years ago has all Europe scared of them :)

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned but I hope they do. Why? because if they do, the US will simply increase our lead over the hidebound, over-regulated Europeans, while the best Europeans will again come to America where they can innovate much more freely than they can at home. (And make us still richer, and more innovative!)

Funny thing, isn’t it? We’ve built this powerhouse of a country (not that we don’t have plenty of problems, ourselves) on the freedom to try new things and see if you can make a living with them. We’ve done this since about 1650,nd we have built the most powerful economy in the world, and protect it with the most dominant military the world has ever seen with our pocket change. We’ve done this by letting people try and fail, and try and fail, and finally try and succeed.

It’s a hard model. It’s follows from that old saying about the Oregon Trail, “The weak never started and the sick died along the way,” But, you know, there was nearly always someone around to feed the hungry and nurse the sick, and the dead got a decent burial. And the ones that made it, built a world that their grandfathers couldn’t have imagined, where one of the consequences of being poor is being too fat, because you eat too much while playing video games.

I don’t condone such a lifestyle but I’m in awe at a system that can take a world that nearly starved for billions of years and in a few generations make that happen.

And that is what America has done, with some British help (and gold) and with the people who were stifled by Europe. It’s a logarithmic curve, if you haven’t noticed, constantly accelerating, if we keep going there is no way to know where we’ll be in twenty-five years, let alone a hundred.

Carroll Bryant once said:

Some people make things happen.

Some people watch things happen.

And then there are those who wonder, ‘What the hell just happened?”

I know where I want to be. How about you?

The Left’s Burning Cities

Breitbart.com

Breitbart.com

I suppose it’s time to say something about Baltimore, not that I have anything overly pertinent to add. I have noticed though (as has David French, in the linked article) that what is going on is really nothing more than two of the Democratic Party’s prized identity political groups: public employee unions, and welfare recipients, having a disagreement.

In Baltimore, as the National Guard steps in, curfews are imposed, and business owners pick up the pieces from their burned-out, looted stores, let’s not forget why one more American city has been torn apart by racial violence. Blue America has failed at social justice. It has failed at equality. It has failed at accountability. Its competing constituencies are engaged in street battles, and any exploration of “root causes” must necessarily include decades of failed policies — all imposed by steadfastly Democratic mayors and city leaders.

Are the riots caused by the Baltimore Police Department’s “documented history” of abuse? Which party has run Baltimore and allowed its police officers to allegedly run amok? Going deeper, which American political movement lionizes public-employee unions, fiercely protecting them from even the most basic reform? Public-employee unions render employee discipline difficult and often impossible. Jobs are functionally guaranteed for life, and rogue officers can count on the best representation money can buy — courtesy of Blue America.

Continue reading The Left’s Burning Cities | National Review Online.

As always seems to be the case, people despair when they don’t have the self-respect that a job, almost any job, engenders. We innately know, deep within in us, the difference between earning something and simply being given it. And frankly, it’s hard to imagine a much more hostile place, in America, than the city of Baltimore to start a business that would provide jobs. Michael Tanner noticed this as well:

The unemployment rate in Baltimore in February was 8.4 percent, compared with just 5.5 percent nationally. In the Sandtown–Winchester/Harlem Park area, which is near the center of the unrest, more than half of the people did not have jobs, according to a February 2015 report from the Justice Policy Institute and the Prison Policy Initiative.

One reason for this is the city’s — and the state’s — unremitting hostility to business. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that only seven states and the District of Columbia have a worse business climate than Maryland. The state’s tax burden is huge and growing. According to the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, Maryland ranks a dismal 40th in terms of business taxes, and an even worse 45th in terms of personal-income taxes. According to this report, Maryland is one of just a few states where the personal-income tax creates “an unnecessary drag on economic activity.” The state’s small businesses face the nation’s seventh-highest marginal tax rates.

As if that were not bad enough, the city of Baltimore adds one of the highest property taxes among comparable cities. Despite a recent modest reduction in property-tax rates, Baltimore still has a tax rate more than twice the rate of most of the rest of the state. A recent study by the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy ranked Baltimore twelfth out of 53 major cities in terms of high property taxes. When the city taxes are combined with state taxes, Baltimore ends up with the ninth worst tax burden out of 50 major American cities.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/417619/poverty-despair-and-big-government-michael-tanner

Not where I would start a business, would you? And so, the cycle will continue, until it doesn’t of course, because at some point the politicians will run out of other people’s money.

And at that point, real poverty will ensue. When people find out that they have nowhere to spend their welfare benefits, not even MacDonald’s, what will happen? I don’t know, and doubt anyone else does either,.

I suspect, if we are lucky, Detroit does

 

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