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robertogreco : 1903   4

William James - The PhD Octopus
"America is thus a nation rapidly drifting towards a state of things in which no man of science or letters will be accounted respectable unless some kind of badge or diploma is stamped upon him, and in which bare personality will be a mark of outcast estate. It seems to me high time to rouse ourselves to consciousness, and to cast a critical eye upon this decidedly grotesque tendency. Other nations suffer terribly from the Mandarin disease. Are we doomed to suffer like the rest?

Our higher degrees were instituted for the laudable purpose of stimulating scholarship, especially in the form of "original research." Experience has proved that great as the love of truth may be among men, it can be made still greater by adventitious rewards. The winning of a diploma certifying mastery and marking a barrier successfully passed, acts as a challenge to the ambitious; and if the diploma will help to gain bread-winning positions also, its power as a stimulus to work is tremendously increased. So far, we are on innocent ground; it is well for a country to have research in abundance, and our graduate schools do but apply a normal psychological spur. But the institutionizing on a large scale of any natural combination of need and motive always tends to run into technicality and to develop a tyrannical Machine with unforeseen powers of exclusion and corruption. Observation of the workings of our Harvard system for twenty years past has brought some of these drawbacks home to my consciousness, and I should like to call the attention of my readers to this disadvantageous aspect of the picture, and to make a couple of remedial suggestions, if I may.

In the first place, it would seem that to stimulate study, and to increase the gelehrtes Publikum, the class of highly educated men in our country, is the only positive good, and consequently the sole direct end at which our graduate schools, with their diploma-giving powers, should aim. If other results have developed they should be deemed secondary incidents, and if not desirable in themselves, they should be carefully guarded against.

To interfere with the free development of talent, to obstruct the natural play of supply and demand in the teaching profession, to foster academic snobbery by the prestige of certain privileged institutions, to transfer accredited value from essential manhood to an outward badge, to blight hopes and promote invidious sentiments, to divert the attention of aspiring youth from direct dealings with truth to the passing of examinations,--such consequences, if they exist, ought surely to be regarded as drawbacks to the system, and an enlightened public consciousness ought to be keenly alive to the importance of reducing their amount. Candidates themselves do seem to be keenly conscious of some of these evils, but outside of their ranks or in the general public no such consciousness, so far as I can see, exists; or if it does exist, it fails to express itself aloud. Schools, Colleges, and Universities, appear enthusiastic over the entire system, just as it stands, and unanimously applaud all its developments."

[via: http://submittedforyourperusal.com/2013/12/03/badges/ ]
williamjames  badges  credentials  credentialization  1903  snobbery  teaching  education  diplomas  highered  highereducation  institutions  institutionalization  exclusion  corruption 
may 2014 by robertogreco
xkcd: 2014
"Some future reader, who may see the term, without knowing the history of it, may imagine that it had reference to some antiquated bridge of the immortal Poet, thrown across the silver Avon, to facilitate his escape after some marauding excursion in a neighbouring park; and in some Gentleman's Magazine of the next century, it is not impossible, but that future antiquaries may occupy page after page in discussing so interesting a matter. We think it right, therefore, to put it on record in the Oriental Herald that the 'Shakesperian Rope Bridges' are of much less classic origin; that Mr Colin Shakespear, who, besides his dignity as Postmaster, now signs himself 'Superintendent General of Shakesperian Rope Bridges', is a person of much less genius than the Bard of Avon. --The Oriental Herald, 1825"
predictions  2014  xkcd  history  1834  1863  1903  1905  1907  1908  1914  1923  1924  1926  1934  war  education  future  futurism  1925 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Badges | Submitted For Your Perusal
“America is thus a nation rapidly drifting towards a state of things in which no man
of science or letters will be accounted respectable unless some kind of badge or
diploma is stamped upon him”

—William James, “The PhD Octopus” (1903)

[from: http://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/octopus.html ]
badges  williamjames  mattthomas  1903  credentials  credentialism  diplomas  via:lukeneff 
december 2013 by robertogreco
The city is a hypertext
"cognitive scientists have actually begun empirically verifying Simmel's armchair psychology. & whenever I read anything about web rewiring our brains, foretelling immanent disaster, I've always thought, geez, people—we live in cities! Our species has evolved to survive in every climate & environment on dry land. Our brains can handle it!

But I thought of this again when a 2008 Wilson Quarterly article about planner/engineer Hans Monderman, titled "The Traffic Guru," popped up in Twitter. (I can't even remember where it came from. Who knows why older writing just begins to recirculate again? Without warning, it speaks to us more, or differently.)…

In other words, information overload, & the substitution of knowledge for wisdom. Sound familiar?

I'll just say I remain unconvinced. We've largely gotten rid of pop-up ads, flashing banners, & <blink> tag on web. I'm sure can trim back some extra text & lights in our towns & cities. We're versatile creatures. Just give us time."
architecture  cities  timcarmody  kottke  media  perception  transportation  ubicomp  urbanism  psychology  infrastructure  technology  culture  design  environment  history  information  infooverload  adaptability  adaptation  urban  stevejobs  cars  cognition  hansmonderman  resilience  traffic  georgsimmel  1903  2008  2010  shifts  change  luddism  fear  humans  versatitlity  web  internet  online  modernism  modernity  hypertext  attention  brain  research  theory 
august 2010 by robertogreco

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