Cory Leonard

Archive for June, 2013|Monthly archive page

Value Added for Liberal Arts: Plumbing for a Thoughtful Life

In career on June 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm

A new report from the American Academy of Sciences makes the case, although not passionately enough for David Brooks, a committee member, for the liberal arts and humanities as an essential part of an education.  The challenge?  Courses and faculty are moving away from the big questions of beauty, truth, and goodness for aspects of multiculturalism, intense specialization, and other intellectual trends.  The former, Brooks asserts, has a lifelong impact on students.

Brooks observes:

Somewhere along the way, many people in the humanities lost faith in this uplifting mission. The humanities turned from an inward to an outward focus. They were less about the old notions of truth, beauty and goodness and more about political and social categories like race, class and gender. Liberal arts professors grew more moralistic when talking about politics but more tentative about private morality because they didn’t want to offend anybody.

To the earnest 19-year-old with lofty dreams of self-understanding and moral greatness, the humanities in this guise were bound to seem less consequential and more boring…

The report is important, and you should read it. It focuses not only on the external goods the humanities can produce (creative thinking, good writing), but also the internal transformation (spiritual depth, personal integrity). It does lack some missionary zeal that hit me powerfully as a college freshman when the humanities were in better shape.

via NYT, The Humanist Vocation.

None of this is new for anyone who follows the issue, as Scott Sprenger, associate dean of humanities at BYU, does, where he blogs on the national debate that has led to the abandonment of French programs, career issues for students, and the shape of the overall discourse.

 

Volcker Plans to Restore Faith in Government

In politics on June 4, 2013 at 4:45 am

Volcker Plans to Restore Faith in Government - NYTimes.com

 

He has a rule named after him–but it is being ignored.  He battled against inflation, and served as Treasury Secretary David M. Kennedy’s right hand.  He hoped that his descendents would avoid careers on Wall Street.  And now Paul Volcker aims to fix the way government works–all at the ripe age of 87.

Despite well-financed programs at Ivy League universities like Harvard and Princeton and elsewhere, in some academic quarters, “public administration is almost a bad word,” Mr. Volcker said in an interview on Tuesday at his office in Rockefeller Center. Too often, he said, the focus is on theory rather than the nuts and bolts of governance.

“We’re not going to be a think tank,” he said. Initially, “We’re going to be a catalyst, a coordinator, with a couple of senior people, a few junior people and some nonresident fellows.”

via Volcker Plans to Restore Faith in Government – NYTimes.com.

 

Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen:”The New Digital Age”s Futurist Schlock | New Republic

In tech on June 2, 2013 at 3:16 am

 

My favorite anti-tech guy, Evgeny Morozov in TNR takes on the Google dynamic duo with his gloves off, tackling “Panglossian” techno-worship and what he regards as the “superficial and megalomaniacal” book.  Its like Wired magazine with the hyperdrive stuck in reverse.

In the simplicity of its composition, Schmidt and Cohen’s book has a strongly formulaic—perhaps I should say algorithmic—character. The algorithm, or thought process, goes like this. First, pick a non-controversial statement about something that matters in the real world—the kind of stuff that keeps members of the Council on Foreign Relations awake at their luncheons. Second, append to it the word “virtual” in order to make it look more daring and cutting edge. If “virtual” gets tiresome, you can alternate it with “digital.” Third, make a wild speculation—ideally something that is completely disconnected from what is already known today. Schmidt and Cohen’s allegedly unprecedented new reality, in other words, remains entirely parasitic on, and derivative of, the old reality.

via Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen:”The New Digital Age”s Futurist Schlock | New Republic.