Tuesday, February 03, 2009


"Not knowing how to think true more than one sort of opinion is like never leaving the street one was born in."

- Richard Hollingdale, "Introduction" to Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols/The Ant-Christ

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A new motto

"I approach deep problems like cold baths: quickly into them and quickly out again." (Nietzsche, The Gay Science 381)

Thursday, September 11, 2008


"‘I generally define well-off’, says Obama’s website, ‘as people who are making $250,000 a year or more’. Which means that people making, say, $225,000 (who are in the 97th percentile of American incomes) are middle class; and that they deserve to be taxed in the same way as those in the 50th percentile, making $49,000. The headline of the website on which this appears is ‘I’m Asking You to Believe’. But asking the 40 per cent of Americans who live on under $42,000 to believe that they belong to the same middle class as the approximately 15 per cent who make $100,000–$250,000 may be asking too much...
"The point, then, is that the nomination of Obama is great news for American liberals, who love equality when it comes to race and gender, but are not so keen when it comes to money. Liberals are the people who believe that American universities and colleges have become more open because, although they are increasingly and almost exclusively populated by rich kids, more of these today are rich kids of colour. (Obama’s popularity on college campuses is no accident—he is diversity’s pin-up.)"

Walter Benn Michaels, "Against Diversity" New Left Review 52 (Jul/Aug 2008) pp. 35, 36.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The idea of history and the modern subject

"There were times when it appeared to Dorian Gray that the whole of history was merely the record of his own life, not as he had lived it in act and circumstance, but as his imagination had created it for him, as it had been in his brain and in his passions. He felt that he had known them all, those strange terrible figures that had passed across the stage of the world and made sin so marvellous, and evil so full of subtlety. It seemed to him that in some mysterious way their lives had been his own."

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray [1891] (London: Penguin, 1994) p. 166.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Last Week's (August 14th) Times Higher Education carried an opinion column from two business managers. In it can be found the voice of the most destructive tendencies within British universities today. A clearer example of the problems they face is hard to imagine. I am trying to shape my rage into a letter to the magazine's editors, but it is difficult to be clear and concise when so angry. For now I will simply reproduce the article.


Times Higher Education, 14 August 2008, p. 24

Generation Y is wired up and ready for action so what's the problem

Graham Manville and Gill Schiel outline the challenges institutions face harnessing the potential of this new whirlpool of talent.
Generation Y is storming through our universities and is about to storm the workplace.
As many baby boomers head towards retirement, Generation Y - those born between 1979 and 1995 - is taking the stage. Potentially this group could form up to 40 per cent of the workforce by 2014.
They are talented. They know they are talented. This is a generation with skill sets and attitudes geared for a fast-changing world. Marketers forecast that they will have a huge economic and social impact in the coming years. Those organisations that can manage and retain them will perform best.
Research conducted in a leading global investment bank supports the published findings of both academics and practitioners: Generation Y is "connected". Its members are technically savvy in a Web 2.0 environment.
(A gritty view of what today's students really think is given on the YouTube video, A Vision of Students Today, featured last week in Times Higher Education. You can see it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGCJ46vyR9o)
Generation Y has grown up in a culture of positive affirmation. These rising stars value education and want educational qualifications. They are ambitious and confident. Managed well, they can significantly improve the performance of an organisation. All good so far?
The downside is that their career expectations often race ahead of their current abilities. Generation Y members are impatient to get ahead. They want rapid progression - and it cannot come soon enough. They expect recognition. They yearn for international travel irrespective of the business case. But the stark reality is that they lack the influencing skills of office realpolitik.
Managers find that this generation needs lots of feedback and guided supervision. Firms report Generation Y's members are career agile. They neither expect nor desire a job for life. It is common to find a trail of past jobs on a CV reflecting less than five years of experience. This creates real challenges for recruitment and retention.
In management theory, products and business units showing great promise are either "stars" or "problem children".
Both have huge potential, but one is a risky option. The authors believe that members of Generation Y mirror this theory. The traits exhibited by Generation Y in the workplace are paralleled in higher education. We believe higher education institutions face two main challenges.
The first relates to developing and adapting curriculums to harness Generation Y's potential. This group has come of age in a 24/7, "on demand" personalised environment. We now witness higher education institutions offering a more personalised education using Web 2.0 technologies. This provides the institutions with a double bonus - lower- cost education plus apparently giving the students what they want. Is skinny latte, bagel and podcast "to go" the order of the day? This seems attractive to a demographic that wants to live life to the max, multitask and still enjoy the trappings of a "student experience".
Face-to-face teaching is still critically important. But it needs to be optimised to address the second challenge: finding the solution to Generation Y's underdeveloped soft skills.
Using learning interventions such as Socratic questioning and coaching could help foster a deeper learning style and facilitate self-development. In short, the academic needs to be a critical friend to the student and sometimes redefine and manage expectations. Many academics are familiar with anecdotal evidence of some students wanting a 2:1 degree but not an education, which is a recipe for rote learning.
The challenge for higher education is not to side-step this need. Gaining short-term approval from students may indicate success, but it does not address the real issue. Students need to be prepared for the real world.
Of course straight talk is easier said than done. National Student Survey feedback influences league-table position and tutor feedback reinforces or undermines staff morale. But by not taking the long view, we run the risk of taking our eye off the real prize. The result could be a polarised Generation Y workforce of high-fliers and high-maintenance candidates.
Increased economic uncertainty means employers can be more selective. They will want to pick the "stars". Many Generation Ys will need a reality check to avoid the "problem child" label.
Graham Manville is a senior fellow at the University of Southampton and a management consultant. Gill Schiel was a senior human resources manager with 15 years' experience in a global investment bank. She is now a mature student at Bournemouth University, studying psychology.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Russia Day

Thursday was Russia Day - a holiday to celebrate Russia's independence. We went to Peterhof. Here is the Grand Cascade:

There are lots of wicked fountains:

The 'Northern Star' ensemble (run by my host family) was performing:

And so were some men with pipes:


Across from the Tekhnologicheskii Institut,

there is a statue of Mendeleev:

And a mural of his periodic table:

Pioneers' square and its sculptures

Here is Pioneer square (the Pioneers were the younger version of the Komsomol - a sort of Communist cub scouts - for those aged 8 to 13) and some it its weird and wonderful sculptures...
(click to enlarge; about 2MB each).

Friday, June 13, 2008

from afar

There are photographs ready. But all my internet time is taken up with dealing with the insanity of the ESRC.
Only time to wonder at the death-throes of habeas corpus, which David Davis is unlikely to succeed in reviving, in my humble opinion, although perhaps we shall see. I'm a few hours to early to see whether Irish voters have killed the EU constitution. The analysts say that if they have voted 'no', then Gordon (or whoever) will likely be forced in to holding a referendum in the UK. Which would be a welcome oasis of something resembling 'democracy' in the midst of the present desert.
Meanwhile, I've realized that (historiographically,) my research project ultimately revolves around the French revolution... clearly my fault for temporarily forgetting that EVERYTHING revolves around the French revolution... details, perhaps, when I have more time.