“From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter.
Some day I intend reading it.”
— Groucho Marx
Twitter is a medium that rewards us for snark, for sick burns, for edgy jokes and cruel comments that deepen the grooves of our group. And then it’s designed to make the sickest of those burns and the worst of those jokes go viral, reaching far beyond their intended audience, with untold consequences. That’s good for engagement on the platform, but it’s often bad for the people it happens to…
Twitter is not your friend. It is built to reward us for snarky in-group communication and designed to encourage unintended out-group readership. It fosters both tribalism and tribal collision. It seduces you into thinking you’re writing for one community but it gives everyone the ability to search your words and project them forward in time and space and outward into another community at the point when it’ll do you maximum damage. It leaves you explaining jokes that can’t be explained to employers that don’t like jokes anyway…
If you’re a conservative, the liberal tweets that get shot into your sightline aren’t the most thoughtful or representative missives; they’re the ones designed to make you think liberals hate you, are idiots, or both. The same is true if you’re a liberal: you see the worst of the right, not the best. And after you’ve seen enough of these kinds of comments from the other side, you begin to think that’s who they are, that you’re getting a true picture of what your opponents are really like, and what they really think of you — but it’s not a true picture, it’s a distortion built to deepen your attachment to your friends, your resentment of your opponents, and your engagement on the platform. And it’s one that plays on our tendencies to read the other side with much less generosity than we read our own side.
“Therefore he seems to me a very foolish man, and truly wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is in the world, and ever wish and long to reach that endless life where all shall be made clear.”
— Alfred the Great
The Big Bang Theory: From Caricature to Complexity (Peter Augustine Lawler): “The Big Bang Theory ultimately points to the limited but real wisdom that comes from understanding two partial truths—that of the personal, judgmental, loving God and also that of the ‘God of nature’ the scientists seek to understand. The show leads us to think about how to put together the two explanations of ‘the Big Bang’—one based on faith in a personal Creator and one based on scientific discovery of the impersonal laws of nature—to account truthfully for both nature and human nature.”
“Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world.” And a non-trivial evidence of benevolent Providence!
resistance is futile, part zillion – Text Patterns – The New Atlantis: “My students are in class with me for two-and-a-half hours, 150 minutes, per week. During those 150 minutes I choose to focus on our using, together, the technology of the codex.”
Alan Jacobs hits the spot on why professors ban laptops (and presumably, tablets) in the classroom. I may be considering this for the future, especially when it’s combined with that research showing that note taking goes better in handwriting.
Coffee is the very beverage of the people of God, and the cordial of his servants who thirst for wisdom. When coffee is infused into the bowl, it exhales the odor of musk, and is of the color of ink. The truth is not known except to the wise who drink it from the foaming coffee cup. God has deprived fools of coffee, who with invincible obstinacy condemn its use as injurious.
— Journal of the Transylvanian Medical Society, 1834
Teaching and parenting share this in common: In both relationships, the goal is to produce independent and self-sufficient human beings. The risk that helicopter parents run is that they will raise children so coddled that they have a hard time functioning on their own in the larger world. So too with the way we have infantilized our students. Afraid or unwilling to challenge them, we pass them through with perfectly good grades but without much of a sense of how to work on their own or think for themselves. – The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher
Just to be fair, here’s an acknowledgement that helicopter teaching is also a thing to avoid. Every vocation has its pitfalls.
Bye-Bye Birdies: Sending The Kids Away to College – Tenured Radical – The Chronicle of Higher Education: “many faculty see behavior in students (particularly absenteeism, lateness, disorganization and requests for special arrangements) as irresponsible, lazy, dishonest and immature, when in fact students are living, and making decisions, in ways that make complete sense to them and to their parents. So without further ado, here are things you can do as a parent to make your kid a strong and independent college student.”
In short, don’t be helicopter parents! (In fairness, K-12 practices do seem to encourage this but college is not Grade 13.)
Yesterday was St. Benedict‘s day; it’s the second of two, as his proper day is March 21st, but June 11th has also long been celebrated. Three monks made simple vows and that’s always a fine moment for the college as well as the monastery.
In the spirit of the day, here’s a reflection on Benedict the saint from Benedict the pope emeritus.
Odysseus: Patron Hero of the Liberal Arts: “So how will I present this illiterate pagan Odysseus, a man, moreover, with the additional disadvantage of being a fiction, as the patron saint of liberal arts, the arts of interpretation?”
Since Eva Brann is asking the question, her answer is more than worth hearing. TLDR; if we cannot interpret our own lives, they will be interpreted for us by others. And in that case, why bother living?
Fresh out of Guardian columns, but here’s this week’s reading nonetheless. Just wound up the new translation of Herodotus’s The Histories, by Tom Holland. It’s a fine version, although idiomatically modern in many places. But that does serve to make the text more immediate, and probably more like what the initial audience in Athens would have heard. Highly recommended, and much better than getting your Thermopylae by way of Frank Miller.