Friday Ephemera
He’s So Liberal, You See

Elsewhere (92)

Kevin Williamson on innovation versus the state:

We treat technological progress as though it were a natural process, and we speak of Moore’s law — computers’ processing power doubles every two years — as though it were one of the laws of thermodynamics. But it is not an inevitable, natural process. It is the outcome of a particular social order. When I am speaking to students, I like to show them a still from the Oliver Stone movie Wall Street in which the masterful financier Gordon Gekko is talking on his cell phone, a Motorola DynaTac 8000X. The students always — always — laugh: The ridiculous thing is more than a foot long and weighs a couple of pounds. But the revelatory fact that takes a while to sink in is this: You had to be a millionaire to have one. The phone cost the equivalent of nearly $10,000, it cost about $1,000 a month to operate, and you couldn’t text or play Angry Birds on it… By comparison, an iPhone 5 is a wonder, a commonplace miracle. 

My question for the students is: How is it that the cell phones in your pockets get better and cheaper every year, but your schools get more expensive and less effective? How is it that Gordon Gekko’s ultimate status symbol looks to our eyes as ridiculous as Molly Ringwald’s Reagan-era wardrobe and asymmetrical hairdos? That didn’t just happen.

Heather Mac Donald on the self-destruction of the humanities:

In the summer of 2012, as the University of California reeled from one piece of bad budget news to another, a veteran political columnist sounded an alarm. Cuts in state funding were jeopardising the university’s mission of preserving the “cultural legacy essential to any great society,” Peter Schrag warned in the Sacramento Bee: “Would we know who we are without knowing our common history and culture, without knowing Madison and Jefferson and Melville and Dickinson and Hawthorne; without Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer; without Dante and Cervantes; without Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen; without Goethe and Molière; without Confucius, Buddha, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.; without Mozart, Rembrandt and Michelangelo; without the Old Testament; without the Gospels; without Plato and Aristotle, without Homer and Sophocles and Euripides, without Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky; without Gabriel García Márquez and Toni Morrison?”

Schrag’s appeal to the value of humanistic study was unimpeachable. It just happened to be laughably ignorant about the condition of such study at the University of California. Stingy state taxpayers aren’t endangering the transmission of great literature, philosophy, and art; the university itself is. No UC administrator would dare to invoke Schrag’s list of mostly white, mostly male thinkers as an essential element of a UC education; no UC campus has sought to ensure that its undergraduates get any exposure to even one of Schrag’s seminal thinkers (with the possible exception of Toni Morrison), much less to America’s founding ideas or history.

Related to the above, Jennifer Kabbany on not taking notice:

Leaders of the University of California system have agreed to disagree with – and outright dismiss without discussion – a lengthy report that details examples of leftist bias by professors and within social science curriculums throughout the 10-campus system.

John Murtagh on when terrorism is a credential among leftist academics:

Forty-three years ago last month, Kathy Boudin, now a professor at Columbia but then a member of the Weather Underground, escaped an explosion at a bomb factory operated in a townhouse in Greenwich Village. The story is familiar to people of a certain age. Three weeks earlier, Boudin’s Weathermen had firebombed a private home in Upper Manhattan with Molotov cocktails. Their target was my father, a New York state Supreme Court justice. The rest of the family was, presumably, an afterthought. I was 9 at the time, only a year older than the youngest victim in Boston. One of Boudin’s colleagues, Cathy Wilkerson, related in her memoir that the Weathermen were disappointed with the minimal effects of the bombs at my home. They decided to use dynamite the next time and bought a large quantity along with fuses, metal pipes and, yes, nails.

Given recent events in Boston, this may not have been the best time for Robert Redford to release his film hagiography of that same leftwing terrorist group. And it may surprise readers to learn just how many former terrorists have been beckoned to the bosom of academia. Must be all that “social justice” and “speaking truth to power” we hear so much about.

Feel free to add your own links and snippets in the comments.

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