Does College Have a Future After All?
The title of the post is the question asked by Michael Roth in his review of Fareed Zakaria’s recently published book: In Defense of Liberal Education. “It’s all the rage to bash colleges and the ‘excellent sheep’ that higher ed produces, so a ringing endorsement of a liberal education is both surprising and welcome.”
Roth summarizes the book nicely: “Fareed Zakaria offers a compact, effective essay on the importance of a broad, contextual education. Cheerfully out of step with the strident critics of higher ed, In Defense of a Liberal Education is a reminder that American colleges and universities are a powerful resource that has allowed so many young people to learn about themselves and their ability to have a positive impact on the world. Although he is well aware of the pressures on advanced study in this time of economic anxiety, Zakaria has confidence that the resources for addressing contemporary challenges lie within the very traditions being criticized.”
There’s certainly more to college than simply training for a specific job. Let’s hear it for the English, History and Philosophy majors. Let’s hear it for the liberal arts.
To Explain the World
I’m looking forward to reading this new book from Steven Weinberg: To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science. Weinberg is a winner of the Nobel Prize and recipient of the National Medal of Science, among many other honors. Here is the book summary from Barnes and Noble:
“In this rich, irreverent, compelling history, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg takes us from ancient Miletus to medieval Baghdad and Oxford, from Plato’s Academy and the Museum of Alexandria to the cathedral school of Chartres and the Royal Society of London. He shows that the scientists of ancient and medieval times not only did not understand what we now know about the world, they did not understand what there is to be understood, or how to learn it. Yet over the centuries, through the struggle to solve such mysteries as the curious apparent backward movement of the planets or the rise and fall of the tides, science eventually emerged as a modern discipline. Along the way, Weinberg examines historic clashes and collaborations between science and the competing spheres of religion, technology, poetry, mathematics, and philosophy.
“An illuminating exploration of how we have come to consider and analyze the world around us, To Explain the World is a sweeping, ambitious account of how difficult it was to discover the goals and methods of modern science, and the impact of this discovery on human understanding and development.”
David Carr's Last Word on Journalism
The New York Times pays tribute to the late David Carr, media critic and Minnesota native. As the story explains, Carr was also a teacher; last fall he began teaching a course at Boston University. “The syllabus for Press Play, published on the blogging platform Medium, is perhaps David’s most succinct prescription for how to thrive in the digital age. It is also David in his purest form — at once blunt, funny, haughty, humble, demanding, endearing and unique.”
Still Racing in the Street
Bruce Springsteen recently made a surprise visit to the annual Light of Day benefit concert in Asbury Park benefitting Parkinson’s disease. And at 65 he still played until 2 a.m.
One of my favorites, Racing in the Street:
The Bacchanal of Disruption
Leon Wieseltier writes a wonderfully provocative lead essay in today’s New York Times Book Review:
“The discussion of culture is being steadily absorbed into the discussion of business,” Wieseltier writes.” There are “metrics” for phenomena that cannot be metrically measured. Numerical values are assigned to things that cannot be captured by numbers. Economic concepts go rampaging through noneconomic realms: Economists are our experts on happiness! Where wisdom once was, quantification will now be.”
On “scientism, which is not the same as science:”
“The notion that the nonmaterial dimensions of life must be explained in terms of the material dimensions, and that nonscientific understandings must be translated into scientific understandings if they are to qualify as knowledge, is increasingly popular inside and outside the university, where the humanities are disparaged as soft and impractical and insufficiently new.”
On American intellectuals:
“Aside from issues of life and death, there is no more urgent task for American intellectuals and writers than to think critically about the salience, even the tyranny, of technology in individual and collective life. All revolutions exaggerate, and the digital revolution is no different. We are still in the middle of the great transformation, but it is not too early to begin to expose the exaggerations, and to sort out the continuities from the discontinuities. The burden of proof falls on the revolutionaries, and their success in the marketplace is not sufficient proof. Presumptions of obsolescence, which are often nothing more than the marketing techniques of corporate behemoths, need to be scrupulously examined.”
Discover the Cosmos
I love this photo from the Peak Terskol Observatory located in the northern Caucasus Mountains of Russia.
Photo Caption: Observatory, Mountains, Universe
Image Credit & Copyright: Boris Dmitriev (Night Scape)
Explanation: “The awesomeness in this image comes in layers. The closest layer, in the foreground, contains the Peak Terskol Observatory located in the northern Caucasus Mountains of Russia. The white dome over the 2-meter telescope is clearly visible. The observatory is located on a shoulder of Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe, with other peaks visible in a nearby background layer. Clouds are visible both in front of and behind the mountain peaks. The featured three-image composite panorama was taken in 2014 August. Far in the distance is the most distant layer: the stars and nebulas of the night sky, with the central band of the Milky Way rising on the image right.”
Gifts Readers Really Want for Christmas
I think I would have to agree with this fun post by Kelly Gallucci at Bookish, of ten gifts that readers really want for Christmas. My favorite is the first on the list, which is the only a pair of noise canceling headphones for reading in crowded public spaces.
The Art of Stillness
"At some point, all the horizontal trips in the world stop compensating for the need to go deep, into somewhere challenging and unexpected; movement makes most sense when grounded in stillness. In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”
— Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness
Books of the Year
It’s the time of year when various media outlets begin to list their picks of the best books of the year. The New York Times Book Review has compiled its annual list of the year’s 100 best. Amazon has made its list.
Book-lovers will also enjoy NPR’s new tool: Book Concierge. NPR staff and critics select 250 favorites from 2014 and present them in a very useful app. Readers can use filters to find specific subjects and genres.
Wolf at the Door?
Should journalism worry about content marketing? That’s the question posed by the in-depth cover story in the Nov/Dec issue of the Columbia Journalism Review: Wolf at the Door.
Author Michael Meyer examines the content marketing efforts being conducted on behalf of many well-known consumer brands and compares what they do to traditional journalism.
“Everyone I talked to for this piece seems to agree that some essential distinction between journalism and content marketing needs to be preserved, but no one agrees on exactly what that distinction should be.” Meyer takes a look at content marketing being done by Nestlé Purina PetCare’s team, Chipotle, and others. It is a very good look at today’s publishing environment: “content marketing,” “native advertising,” “branded journalism,” etc.
“As content marketers grow more sophisticated, they will continue to adopt the trappings of journalism if not the journalistic mission, creating a world in which more and more content looks and feels the same but in fact isn’t,” writes Meyer. “The truth is, we’ve always been out there in the information landscape on our own, choosing what to trust and what to ignore. The difference now is that there are fewer distinct features, fewer landmarks to guide us. Instead, we have labels. The landscape is flattening, and flattening fast.”