June 21, 2007
Partially due to the impending move next month and related changes on my mind, I’m still “at sea” in writing a decent posting on a topic related to librarianship, academia, or technology. My last posting promised to continue examining Gorman’s latest critique of Web 2.0, but I think I said everything that needed said (at least from me) and others have written much better criticisms that sound about right in assessing it. So, below are a few supposedly “random” things that I would like to share, and about which I have some opinions.
The Chron (a good abbreviation for The Chronicle of Higher Education that I found in ACRLog) has an interesting article by John D. Barbour, a professor of Religion at St Olaf. He discusses his dealings with a very conservative student who acted as a provocateur in his class, and who turned in mediocre work. Barbour is a liberal, and he still contemplates whether it impacted how he graded the student. However, don’t expect David Horowitz (himself a former Marxist) to use it to illustrate the apparently rampant liberal bias that runs roughshod over academia. In fact, Barbour worried that his views of the student’s performance reflected his own prejudices, even though he comments that he has encountered plenty of thoughtful conservative students in his classes. As a result of his concern, and in the interest of fair-mindedness, Barbour believes in retrospect that he gave the student a better grade than he deserved.
As those familiar with academia know, conservatives look askance at the rhetoric and stridency of “victimology,” an unflattering umbrella term employed to deride various [Name of Group] Studies programs, and to conflate what they represent with the spectre of political correctness. Ironically, Barbour’s story illustrates how some conservatives can appropriate the same victimiology they deride as a tool against liberal professors. In the case of Barbour’s student, he may have done so unwittingly. Nevertheless, some conservative groups (such as Students for Academic Freedom) have had their own chilling effect on academic discourse.
Considering broader issues related to this story, it seems approrpiate to discuss my own political journey, which was impacted by experiences during my undergraduate years. Coming from a small town in the Midwest, I began as what one might best describe as a Garrison Keillor Democrat. As an undergraduate, I got introduced to more radical ideas I wouldn’t have heard in my hometown. I worried that perhaps I wasn’t “liberal enough,” so I ended up taking on (or perhaps just trying on) ideas to prove my liberal mettle. Over the years, I have worked through and rejected many of the more absurd notions that made me wonder about “the real reasons” why I might enjoy certain things. For example, the notion that Beethoven’s Ninth represents an act of rape should be (and has been) called on for the subjective lunacy it represents, and for trivializing the very real acts of sexual assault that cause very real suffering. Still, spectral versions of these ideas from college make me contemplate how the world “really works,” even if I do not ascribe to more radical and deterministic views of the world.
So, there’s a sketch of my political views. I have kept them concealed for a number of reasons, but Barbour’s article prompted me to engage in full disclosure (at least from a quick “Red/Blue” perspective) to give my regular readers an idea of how my political views may affect my views on other topics.
This is so sad. Michael Stephens‘ dog Jake passed away just a day before Stephens defended his doctoral defense. As one who has a dog, the news about Jake resonated with me. It made me think of Arabella; she’s getting on in years, but she remains quite spry when activated by the doorbell or the prospect of a Caesar meal in “meaty juices.” At least for a few days, her “accidents” probably won’t seem quite so awful. They’re a drag to clean, but they indicate that Arabella remains a part of our lives. I guess these feelings reflect what Karen Schneider says about the value of social software. They may allow us to become known to the greater world, but they can serve the deeper purpose of fostering interconnectivity to us all.
Part of what prompted me to write today was a posting in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Blogosphere, which recommended my blog. I hadn’t written in about a week, and my postings have strayed a bit from professional stuff, so it seemed appropriate to come up with a decent posting. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Steve Sherlock for the referral, too, especially since my blog has remained relatively quiet lately.
Just for Fun
Well, for me and fans of the composers Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss… another cartoon from Soho Dog where the composers “re-enact your favorite music moments.” The most recent one comes from the first Indiana Jones film, Unfortunately, I don’t recall which scene this refers to, but it’s still exciting to see that someone can play upon the traits of the two composers for comic effect. Recently, I figured out how to contrast their views on money, and to bring in Wagner’s views to boot:
Mahler didn’t care about makin’ bank
Strauss did care about makin’ bank
Wagner cared about takin’ others’ bank
Well, I thought it was funny.