For Historiann and Tony Grafton

Caffeinated enough at last I must move on for the day and do not have time, now, to do justice to this worthy project but I will say:

1- I am from an academic and cultural elite. One of my ancestors, the 19th century immigrant (everyone else had already been here for centuries), had a PhD from the Sorbonne; both of my grandmothers and many of their sisters had bachelors’ degrees when not more; my father has a PhD; I went to a so-called “public Ivy” for all of my degrees; I took upper division courses in various disciplines freshman year. This background colors my perspective very greatly.

2- I have no problem at all with classes in themselves not being particularly polished. I know people are either very research oriented or not even interested in school. I think students should be exposed to real research faculty and those research faculty should be responsible, but I have no problem with them being erratic. I am myself an erratic teacher in some ways and it is for good and bad reasons, the good one being that I do believe in being real and not in being some kind of plastic show.  However my general attitude is not helpful when:

a- students need to learn really basic skills, are not independent enough to manage the kind of intellectual and academic independence I associate with college; and

b- there are no bookstores, art cinemas, literary cafés, or lectures on campus, no intellectual environment except what students may be exposed to in and through class. In this kind of situation you must absolutely provide these things through classes.

3- I totally get it about some people being in college for the social life and others, for research. I totally identify and I do not have a problem with that atmosphere at all. I am one of the research hounds but I find the socialites entertaining, and they are kind enough to provide parties.

a- When I was a student, classes were just one of the places you went, and were not necessarily the most interesting – you just went, so you would know what had happened. For these classes, the more important things were what you read, the research you did, the conversations you had outside class with the professors and other students, and the related lectures you attended.

b- For my students classes are the only part of college there is. They have other lives and they come to class. Or they are socialites on campus, involved with that kind of thing, and they come to class. This is a very great difference between them and me, and I have still not fully absorbed its implications.

Axé.

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1 Comment

Filed under Questions, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

One response to “For Historiann and Tony Grafton

  1. Pingback: Our Universities: Why Are They Failing? Some (internet) dialogue | Brush off the dust! History now!

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