Two Cultures

Category archives for Two Cultures

What I Learned From the Liberal Arts

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about liberal education and the failure modes thereof, I thought I should try to do something constructive and make suggestions regarding how you might go about a “poetry for physicists” kind of thing. After all, one of the things I find intensely frustrating about a lot of “crisis in…

On Class and Skills and Education

In a comment to yesterday’s post about the liberal arts, Eric Lund makes a good point: The best argument I have ever heard for doing scholarship in literature and other such fields is that some people find it fun. I single this out as a good point not because I want to sneer at the…

Sunday evening, as a part of the kick-off to the new academic year, we had a talk by Andrew Delbanco, a professor at Columbia and the author of College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be. This was intended as a sort of affirmation of the importance of the sort of educational experience Union offers,…

The stupid Steven Pinker business from a few weeks ago turned out to do one good thing after all. It led to this post at Making Science Public, which quoted some books by Jacob Bronowski that sounded relevant to my interests. And, indeed, on checking The Common Sense of Science out of the college library,…

A Pox on Both Your Cultures

A lot has been written about Steven Pinker’s article about “scientism,” most of it mocking his grandiose overreach in passages like this: These thinkers—Descartes, Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Leibniz, Kant, Smith—are all the more remarkable for having crafted their ideas in the absence of formal theory and empirical data. The mathematical theories of information,…

Technology Is Science, Too

Via a retweeted link from Thony C. on Twitter, I ran across a blog post declaring science a “bourgeois pastime.” The argument, attributed to a book by Dierdre McCloskey is that rather than being at the root of economic progress, scientific advances are a by-product of economic advances. As society got more wealthy, it was…

In my darker moods, I sometimes suspect that all academics, regardless of their specialty, are engaged in the same pursuit: searching out and exposing the systematic oppression of… whatever department or program the faculty member speaking at the moment happens to belong to. No matter what field of study they work in, faculty seem to…

Science Is Our Human Heritage

In which I get a little rant-y about yet another proud display of ignorance from the Washington Post’s education blog. ———— Some time back, I teed off on a school board member who couldn’t pass a simple math test, who proudly told the world about his ignorance via a post at the Washington Post‘s education…

(Note: This was not prompted by any particular comment. Just a slow accumulation of stuff, that turned into a blog post on this morning’s dog walk.) It’s been a couple of years now that I’ve been working on writing and promoting How to Teach Physics to Your Dog, so I’ve had a lot of conversations…

Survey-Related Inadequacies

I recently participated in a survey of higher education professionals about various aspects of the job. It was very clearly designed by and aimed at scholars in the humanities and social sciences, to the point where answering questions honestly made me feel like a Bad Person. For example, there were numerous questions about teaching methods…