The Musings of a Wannabe Intellectual

Month: July, 2012

Britain: The Disgrace of the Universities by Anthony Grafton

Accept the short term as your standard—support only what students want to study right now and outside agencies want to fund right now—and you lose the future. The subjects and methods that will matter most in twenty years are often the ones that nobody values very much right now. Slow scholarship—like Slow Food—is deeper and richer and more nourishing than the fast stuff. But it takes longer to make, and to do it properly, you have to employ eccentric people who insist on doing things their way. The British used to know that, but now they’ve streaked by us on the way to the other extreme.

Meritocrats by Tony Judt | The New York Review of Books

Universities are elitist: they are about selecting the most able cohort of a generation and educating them to their ability—breaking open the elite and making it consistently anew. Equality of opportunity and equality of outcome are not the same thing. A society divided by wealth and inheritance cannot redress this injustice by camouflaging it in educational institutions—by denying distinctions of ability or by restricting selective opportunity—while favoring a steadily widening income gap in the name of the free market. This is mere cant and hypocrisy.

The Humanities Matter More – Inside Higher Ed

We are making and remaking cultural forms, often in new and exciting ways. If you are older, or more conservative, you might think these forms are strange. But you should recognize that such sentiments are a predictable reaction, like the fear of the awesome and the new. That fear is a good thing. It marks revolutionary thinking. If you want a son or daughter trained for life in the unpredictable future, and if they want to get a college or university degree, know that a genuine and durable knack for innovation comes from the humanities, and not from a degree in Marketing.

Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms

“What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this, by the way. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”

Quotable Quotes – Martin Luther King, Jr

“Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the question – is it politic? Vanity asks the question – is it popular? But conscience asks the question – is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.”

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Weighing in on Reference Managers

When I was first introduced to Endnote I was blown away by how easy it was going to make my life (I believe “what is this sorcery” may have passed my lips). But I began to run into minor issues with library managing, Endnote communicating with Word and other standard teething problems and became quickly disillusioned. My fickle (and lazy) nature led me on a quest to locate a reference manager better suited to my nature.

I first sample Zotero. Zotero can be downloaded and become a part of your firefox browser. It politely offers to reference and add websites and other sources found online to your library. My issue with Zotero was the library. I find it less than ideal when you have large quantities of sources and, if I am being honest, it’s just really ugly.

Enter Mendeley.  It is easy to use (you can simply transfer your libraries from Endnote and Zotero) and pretty. But my absolute favourite parts of it are:

  1.  When you drag a document onto it, it will save the document and extract the details from it. Yes, sometimes the information is wrong but if you have the title it will look on Google scholar for the correct information (or at least a version of it).
  2. Internal search and highlighting – it has made research a thousand times easier to simply search for keywords and have Mendeley present a selection of papers.
  3. The app – I live, study and work in three different cities. The app allows me to have my library on my phone (which is permanently attached to me) so I always have my sources with me.

Basically, this was a blog simply to say Mendeley is the greatest and you should all get in on it.

Slavery by Another Name

“What’s fascinating about Green Cottenham is the fact that he isn’t special. He’s not well known. He’s not a historical figure of importance. But that is part of the beauty. He is representative of all of the nameless, faceless people who disappeared during this timeframe, who were deemed to be of no value. And then you realise the value isn’t necessarily in being important. We all have interesting stories. We all have a life story worth telling.”
— Tonya Groomes, Slavery by Another Name (PBS Documentary, 2012)