History lesson

Back in the day . . .from my colleague, Ian Johnston:

Ian in our kitchen after a discussion of Shakespeare – in the olden days.


In 1969 it was Malaspina College, then Malaspina University-College, and now Vancouver Island University – the name has changed over time and the place has grown bigger and bigger. What else has changed? I leave that to those still there to discuss.

Ian on education ( a few years ago):

The Rant [A Section Specially Designed for Letting off Some Serious Steam]

Ask Not What the University-College Can Do For You . . . and so on
by Ian Johnston

Qui s’excuse, s’accuse.

Last semester Ken Lyall was hauled out of his recent retirement and commissioned to conduct some sort of enquiry into research, scholarly activity, and so on at Malaspina. Dr. Lyall dutifully did the rounds talking to faculty and eventually, towards the end of his interviews, arrived at my door. We had a very pleasant conversation, near the conclusion of which he asked me the following question: “What do you say to faculty members who complain that the college does not provide them enough support for scholarship?” At the time the question struck me as a bit odd, but I muttered something in reply, and we finished our agreeable chat. Well, I’ve been thinking about that question for a while, and I think I may have arrived at a more complete answer than the one I was able to provide on the spur of the moment.

First of all, I’d ask them what they meant by “the college.” Aren’t they an integral part of this institution? Are they wondering why they don’t give themselves sufficient support? The question, thus posed, seems silly. If they are so keen to support scholarship, surely the best way to demonstrate their support for scholarly activity is to stop the endemic whining and, as the slogan says, just do it, by actually carrying out some project or encouraging and assisting their immediate colleagues in their endeavours.

But, of course, some might answer that by “the college” the question really means the college administration, those in charge of the money. The issue is that such executives don’t allocate sufficient money to what faculty want or need to do by way of scholarship. The obvious answer to this interpretation of the question is to ask those making the complaint where the money is to come from, with the proviso that they should immediately abandon any notion that there is a huge pot of money somewhere which is being withheld.

For some time around here there has existed a perception in academic circles that far too much money is squandered on useless things like physical plant, maintenance, Adult Basic Education, Vocational Education, and (on occasion) Liberal Studies. If this money went where it most properly belongs, into promoting scholarly activities, then all might be well.

This perception, although common enough, is excessively stupid for obvious reasons. Quite apart from the arrogance in the claim that other activities are useless or less important than the generally valueless work of university academics, the funds for many of these activities are often ear marked, so that if the activity were removed, the money would disappear. Moreover, there are provincial standards in most support areas (like Advising, for example), which Malaspina is expected to meet (and with respect to which, in some cases, we have been seriously deficient in comparison to other university-colleges).

Before those who expect more support from the college for their research launch into their next plangent chorus of lachrymose distress, they should be prepared to answer the following question: “Which specific area of your own department’s offerings would you recommend curtailing in order to obtain the support you are so desperate about.” Until they can answer that question, they, like pit bulls paraded in public in Nanaimo, should be muzzled.

For the largest wasteful squandering of money in this institution by far is the transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually of instructional money into faculty scholarship, or rather, to put the matter more precisely, into release time for such purposes (how much scholarship, trivial or otherwise, is actually done is a moot point). Such scholarship has no pedagogical benefits whatsoever (other than projects directly linked to student activity, in which case the issue is one of workload), and the release time we provide for it is a major factor contributing to the financial plight we are in, with a series of degree programs we cannot afford to maintain.

We established this gravy train to win approval from the University of Victoria for the upper-division courses we offered in their name here, and we have maintained the transfer of funds (and expanded it slightly) in order to win accreditation. It was the price of joining the club. Now that we have accreditation, let us hope that the administration puts a firm stop to any further robbery from student Peter in order to pander to the interests of some faculty Paul.

I’m sick of the complaint that we are expected to carry on scholarly activity and yet not given sufficient support. This statement is far more a confession of the inadequacy of the complainer than a significant critique of the institution. For over twenty-five years, with financial perquisites far less generous than those presently in place, Malaspina faculty carried out all sorts of scholarly activities (however that term is to be defined precisely), publishing academic books, scholarly articles, plays, poems, novels, textbooks and carrying out a number of important practical projects. The notion that scholarly work simply cannot be done at the present level of support is a self-serving lie or excuse or confession of failure or all of the above. [emphasis added]

To make this claim is not to say that all forms of scholarship are equally easy to pursue in Nanaimo. We are a long way from the nearest nuclear generator, Sumerian archeological site, sub-Saharan mosquito (in situ), or expert in regional dialects of the medieval Serbo-Croats. But the challenge of scholarship at the university-college, for those who feel they must do it, is to adjust the nature of the project to the resources at hand, not to whinge constantly about the lack of funds for some single project requiring very specialized resources.

In my own case, coming to work in the BC college system meant I had to give up a scholarly interest in the history of modern Shakespeare productions. My PD money did not permit regular flights to Stratford-upon-Avon (the real one). So what? I shifted my attention to what could be undertaken here. Those who protest that this is not possible in their case are just indicating their own lack of imaginative initiative.

It’s true that research training often is excessively narrow, a very poor preparation for a situation demanding imaginative intellectual flexibility (I recall one application for a job here which indicated that the candidate had spent the last fifteen years or so studying full-time the mating habits of a particularly exotic insect species). To wish to perpetuate that narrow specialization is all very well (I suppose), but to ask for more instructional money (i.e., student spaces) to promote it seems entirely antithetical to what this particular institution is here to achieve.

Thus, to return to the question Dr. Lyall posed in my office: now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’d tell those making the complaint to shut up and get some sort of (intellectual) life here within the present arrangements (something like, say, teaching) or seek employment elsewhere.

Source.

SS: A guided tour

The Bell Tower, Tower of

London: Thomas More, Elizabeth

I, and Other Histories, Part 1

An interesting and informative description of a visit to various locations in the UK. Enjoy the trip!
From “Ordinary Philosophy” : ~ Ordinary Philosophy is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Any support you can offer will be deeply appreciated!

RIP, Dr. Homer Swander

One of the world’s greatest Shakespeare teachers dies at 96. I was a student of his at UCSB. Great experience.

Dear Bob,

This is Murph’s daughter, Susan, writing to tell you that Dad passed away at 3:40 a.m. the morning of February 15, 2018. He died peacefully at 96 years of age.
 
You may know that his beloved wife, Laura, died a little over a year ago at the age 0f 93. They had been married for 73 years.
 
Neither of them wanted memorial services or any big fanfare. They didn’t even want obits published. I may ignore that one and submit obits anyway. Their ashes will be laid to rest together at Calvary Cemetery in Santa Barbara.
 
If you wish to honor them in some way, donations can be made in their names to a non-profit organization that they supported over the years and that they deeply believed in. It is Project Aurora, P.O. Box 193, Cottage Grove, OR 97424 (501C3 corporation). They had a very personal connection to this group.  
 
If you have any questions or want more information, please let me know. Feel free to pass this email & news on to whomever would want the info.
 
Thanks,
 
Susan Swander
An earlier post here.

New Journal

List of science fiction television programs by...
List of science fiction television programs by genre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Journal of Science Fiction and Philosophy, a peer-reviewed, open access publication, is dedicated to the analysis of philosophical themes present in science fiction stories in all formats, with a view to their use in the discussion, teaching, and narrative modeling of philosophical ideas. It aims at highlighting the role of science fiction as a medium for philosophical reflection.

The Journal is currently accepting papers and paper proposals. Because this is the Journal’s first issue, papers specifically reflecting on the relationship between philosophy and science fiction are especially encouraged, but all areas of philosophy are welcome. Any format of SF story (short story, novel, movie, TV series, interactive) may be addressed.

We welcome papers written with teaching in mind! Have used an SF story to teach a particular item in your curricula (e.g., using the movie Gattacca to introduce the ethics of genetic technologies, or The Island of Dr. Moreau to discuss personhood)? Turn that class into a paper!

Yearly Theme

Every year the Journal selects a Yearly Theme. Papers addressing the Yearly Theme are collected in a special section of the Journal. The Yearly Theme for 2017 is All Persons Great and Small: The Notion of Personhood in Science Fiction Stories.

SF stories are in a unique position to help us examine the concept of personhood, by making the human world engage with a bewildering variety of beings with person-like qualities – aliens of bizarre shapes and customs, artificial constructs conflicted about their artificiality, planetary-wide intelligences, collective minds, and the list goes on. Every one of these instances provides the opportunity to reflect on specific aspects of the notion of personhood, such as, for example: What is a person? What are its defining qualities? What is the connection between personhood and morality, identity, rationality, basic (“human?”) rights? What patterns do SF authors identify when describing the oppression of one group of persons by another, and how do they reflect past and present human history?

The Journal accepts papers year-round. The deadline for the first round of reviews, both for its general and yearly theme, is October 1st, 2017.

Contact the Editor at editor.jsfphil@gmail.com with any questions, or visit www.jsfphil.org for more information.

Source: The Splintered Mind

Flare (science fiction novel)
Flare (science fiction novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Sunday’s Sermon: Samuel

Samuel_Beckett,_Pic,_1

Born 13 April 1906. Became one of the most influential writers of the 20th century; Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot is a modern masterpiece.

 

Read   “Beckett’s Godot: A Bundle of Broken Mirrors” written  for the North American Beckett Festival, at the University of Victoria, by clicking on the Beckett book.BBOOK

 

1st English edition (Grove Press) translated b...
1st English edition (Grove Press) translated by the author (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Control

I remember, as a kid in Lutheran catechism class, the following conversation:

Bob: “The Lord thy God is a jealous God” – but Reverend, what would God have to be jealous of? How could an all-powerful, all-knowing being be jealous of anything?

Reverend: “You need to memorize the material! So, please stop asking questions and just memorize the answers in the catechism.

I think now that was the moment I began to doubt that the church had anything to offer me. Later on I would learn about the fallacies used to win arguments and to shut off learning. [Check out the fallacies in the side bar.]

This morning I read two newspaper articles that reminded me of that long ago attempt by a figure of authority to shut me up. Both are from the USA. One from Texas. One from Florida. Both attacks on education and freedom.

From Florida:

Any resident in Florida can now challenge what kids learn in public schools, thanks to a new law that science education advocates worry will make it harder to teach evolution and climate change.

From Texas:

But here in Texas, the bigger battle over tree ordinances is whether they represent a form of local government overreach. Gov. Greg Abbott (R), citing grave worries about “socialistic” behavior in the state’s liberal cities, has called on Texas lawmakers to gather this month for a special session that will consider a host of bills aimed at curtailing local power on issues ranging from taxation to collecting union dues.


Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups.