Monthly Archives: April 2009

Is Academia Outdated?

Mark C. Taylor, chairman of the religion department at Columbia, seems to think so, at least as it’s currently structured. His New York Times op/ed, “End the University as We Know It,” argues:

Graduate education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).

This follows on the heels of similar laments, such as Thomas Benton’s piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go.”

Contained within both articles is the sense that school–particularly graduate school in the humanities–extracts value from students by having them teach intro college classes at low wages while stringing them along with promises of an academic career that will fail to materialize for the majority, all while loading them up with debt.

I think colleges, both undergrad and graduate programs, are going to have to change their emphasis to really show a return on investment to students in years ahead. I think a liberal arts education is a wonderful thing, but it’s hard to justify going tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars into debt to pursue a degree that won’t bring with it a basic standard of living.

Similarly, I think the academic emphasis on a life of the mind–students and faculty cloistered in the pursuit of knowledge–will give way to smaller-scale certification programs aimed at passing along specific skills and proficiencies. Something will be lost, and it would be good for some broad elements to remain, to encourage critical thinking and depth of experience, but as it stands, the process of higher education feels more and more like a scam.

Four Quick Points on Torture

1. Bush administration officials displayed a minimum of due diligence before embarking on their torture program.

2. Khalid Sheik Muhammad and Abu Zubaydah were waterboarded 266 times.

3. Intelligence officals argue: “There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics.

4. One of the main motivations for toture? “The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime…

Dale Dobson: Gaming After 40

FLYMF Alum Dale Dobson has started a new blog, “Gaming After 40.” In his first post, he lays out his motivation:

I’m starting this blog to reminisce, speculate and celebrate the history, future and present state of the odd, wonderful fusion of art and technology that videogames present. I hope younger readers will find interesting retro trivia and history here, and older gamers will hear a sympathetic voice as we get our collective butts kicked online. I’m going to talk about what I’m playing, what I’ve played, what’s exciting and new, and what has stood the test of time. Probably at excessive length, but that’s why it’s a blog and not a newspaper column.

The blog is just up-and-running, but the posts are compelling and thoughtful so far. If you’re into video games at all, or if you once were and drifted away, I recommend reading it.

Dale’s stories “Toontown Personals” and “Educational Board Games” were published in FLYMF’s Greatest Hits. Other stories he contributed to FLYMF include “Short-Lived Retail Franchises,” “Evil Forces Surround Me,” “If Desserts Were Sold Via Multilayer Marketing,” “Abandoned Muppet Film Projects,” and “Abbott and Costello Meet Larry David.”

Torture Memos Inspire Outrage

Washington Post opinion writer Dan Froomkin expresses the outrage many of us feel upon the release of White House torture memos.

The profoundly disgusting memos made public yesterday — in which government lawyers attempted to justify flatly unconscionable and illegal acts — provide a depressing reminder of a time when the powerful and powerless alike were stripped of their humanity.

These memos gave the CIA the go-ahead to do things to people that you’d be arrested for doing to a dog. And the legalistic, mechanistic analysis shows signs of an almost inconceivable callousness. The memos serve as a vivid illustration of the moral chasm into which the nation fell — or rather, was pushed — during the Bush era.

Here’s my message to my political representatives. Hopefully if enough voices are raised, people will go to jail for their illegal torture advocacy.

To: President Barack Obama
CC: Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Roland Burris, Congressman Mike Quigley

A Call for a Special Prosecutor to Investigate Torture

Dear sirs:

The release of the Central Intelligence Agency interrogation memos, coupled with other alarming information that has trickled out in books and newspapers in recent years, has made clear the real possibility that war crimes were committed by leading members of the Bush administration.

In response to these contraventions of American law and moral standards, a special prosecutor needs to be appointed to investigate these abuses of the rule of law and human decency. Otherwise, the standards of justice and decency our country has long espoused will be forever tarnished.