Monday, February 8, 2016

How to comment on an online news article about higher education: a helpful list of rhetorical tropes

1) Refer to everything outside of higher education as "the real world," with the implication that colleges and universities are somehow unreal.

2) Refer to all students who express opinions you dislike as "coddled." As nobody ever uses the word "coddled" any more to describe anything except These Kids Today, this is a particularly useful way to create the impression that their ideas can be discounted automatically.

3) Describe all professors as left-wing Marxist tenured radicals. (Unless, of course, the news story you are commenting on is about the latest "disruptive" innovation or technology, in which case it should be taken as read that all professors are hide-bound conservatives who refuse to change anything ever. In either case, their opinions can safely be dismissed.)

4) Mention Saul Alinsky a lot. Nobody has the foggiest idea who this is, so he can be used as a convenient shorthand for All Things Vaguely Menacing, and you'll sound super-smart while you're doing it.

5) Pick a random arts-and-humanities course with a normal title, such as "Existentialist Philosophy" or "Eighteenth-Century Literature," and refer to it as a "major." Demand to know where all the jobs are for the eighteenth-century literature majors, and express your sincere concern that they need to be saved from themselves.

6) Pick a random arts-and-humanities course with a somewhat odd title, such as "Taco Literacy," and hold it up as an example of Everything Wrong With Every University Ever. Do this in the comment threads on stories that have nothing whatsoever to do with this particular course. (Or, in general, cherry-pick the strangest and most extreme example you can find of anything, treat it as a typical example, and shoehorn it into the comments on stories that have nothing to do with that thing.)

7) Refer to all fields of academic inquiry that focus on people other than white men as "Grievance Studies," and declare them to be intellectually and morally bankrupt by definition. If you do this often enough, and loudly enough, you will be excused from having to explain how you know this.

8) Ah, hell, you might as well declare all fields that end with "studies" to be intellectually and morally bankrupt by definition. If you are feeling particularly generous, you might make an exception for Religious Studies, Classical Studies, or International Studies ... no, on second thought, you've never seen any job ads with any of those fields in the title of the position, so it's safe to say they're all equally pointless.

9) Assume that liberal arts colleges, liberal arts majors, a liberal arts curriculum, and political liberalism are all exactly the same thing.

10) Conflate "holding an unpopular opinion" with "being a member of a minority group," and, in general, fail to distinguish between categories-based-on-opinion-and-belief and categories-based-on-identity. This will allow you, for example, to accuse people who disagree with you of hate speech, or to call for affirmative action for people who do agree with you. If anybody calls you on this, mention look, a squirrel! Rachel Dolezal.

ETA: 11) When citing examples of wasteful university spending, be sure to mention climbing walls. Never any other sort of sports or recreational equipment. Always climbing walls.

... I need to stop reading the comments, don't I?

Monday, February 1, 2016

political bafflement

Why has being anti-French literature, anti-Greek-philosophy, anti-anthropology, and anti-non-vocational-education in general suddenly become such a popular conservative talking point?

Aren't these the very fields that have the most to do with preserving the knowledge and traditions of the past? What, exactly, do these people think they are conserving?

Friday, January 22, 2016

1902 Shakespeare quiz, Seventh and Lastly

Only seven questions in this final installment, alas, since the Numbering Genie seems to have struck again.

50) What do we know from the Plays about the private means and residence of the aunt of a young lover who came near having his head cut off?
51) Give six examples from the plays of nineteenth-twentieth century slang.
52) What character in the plays lost his head because he wrote correct Latin?
53) What character said that two potentates must be equally valiant, because they were both born by rivers in which salmon abounded?
54) What character was accused by his sister of preaching better than he practiced?
55) What character knelt before his blind father backward so as to pretend that he had grown a beard?
59) What King thrust into prison by his foes, receives a secret visit from one of his grooms, who breaks into sobs to think that the horse of which he had the care, is to be used in the triumph of former master's enemies, and what was the horse's name?

Thanks for the quiz, B.W.H. It was fun, if occasionally frustrating. I bet you didn't think someone would be taking it 114 years in the future. I wonder who you were.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

1902 Shakespeare quiz, part 6

40) What character in the plays uses the name of a popular seventeenth century author as an ejaculation?
41) What lady had for her maid the daughter of a celebrated witch?
42) On what day of the week, and at what hour did Romeo kill himself?
43) What character in the plays feared to cross the English channel for fear of seasickness.
44) Tell Cleopatra's fish story.
45) What character invited guests to a banquet and set them up for nothing but hot water?
46) What character in the plays was buried in the sand on a sea-beach?
47) What character was supposed to be possessed of a devil? What one talked Staffordshire dialect?
48) What character was hanged for stealing a crucifix from a cathedral?
49) Who arranged a play to be performed before a noble lord and wanted to play all the parts himself?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

1902 Shakespeare quiz, Part 5

30) Give the pleadings and arguments in the action of William Visor of Wincot, against Clement Perkes of the Hill?
31) What was the color of Orlando's hair? Who punned on his own name on his deathbed?
32) What dainties did Perdita provide for the sheep-shearing feast?
33) What was Shakespeare's favorite ballad judging from the fact that it is the one oftenest alluded to in the plays.
34) What six characters in the plays are palpably thumbnail sketches for six characters in the later ones?
35) What Scriptural story did Falstaff think fittest to be represented on tapestry?
36) What women in the plays had beards?
37) What character in the plays owed his life to his ability to write a clerky or engrossing hand?
38) What character in the plays was punished for his crimes by being buried breast deep in the earth and left to starve?
39) What character in the plays made a plume for his hat out of a pack of playing cards?

Monday, January 18, 2016

1902 Shakespeare quiz, Part 4

As before, I've transcribed the questions exactly as written, spelling errors and all.

20) How many years had Falstaff known Bardolph before he met Mrs. Quickly?
21) What was the name of Poins's sister? And who is alleged to have promised to have married her?
22) Where is breach of promise mentioned in the Play's?
23) What character was taken prisoner in joke by his friends disguised as enemies?
24) What character, who boasted of his knowledge of a certain language, was exposed by his companions who talked to him in gibberish which he mistook for that language?
25) What was Dull's riddle and what was the answer to it?
26) What are the names of the only four dogs in Shakespeare?
27) What noble lady refused to accept forgiveness from her leige if spoken in French and what Queen refused absolution if given in Latin?
28) Who was Casca's schoolmate?
29) Give all the instances of second marriages in the plays?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

1902 Shakespeare quiz, Part 3

In which the questions range from fairly normal trivia to "Guess what B.W.H. was thinking when he wrote this."

10) What lady in the Plays gave a critical opinion on her physical attractions? How many others are there of her name in the plays?
11) What Shakespearean characters played billiards?
12) What pair of lovers in the Plays played chess?
13) What was the maiden name of Petruchio's wife?
14) What Shakespearean characters mixed their metaphors?
15) What poetry did Falstaff propose to supply a theme for?
16) What character in the Plays gives a purely fanciful definition of a Latin noun to make a point in an argument?
17) Give three examples of Shakespeare's opinion of schoolmasters?
18) Two characters in the plays are said to have been born under the influence of certain planets; and one under a constellation. Name characters and influences?
19) What animal did Shakespeare hear of being hung for killing a human being?