Tuesday, February 08, 2005


I've always taken learning to be almost sacred, scholarship to be transcendent, books sublime. Given this disposition, I was unable to stomach teaching that 20% of my students who were there to get by by hook or by crook (avoid class, avoid the book, succumb to cheating, etc.).
So says Jim Ryan, formerly of the new defunct Philosoblog, and now a Conservative Philosopher contributor, in an exchange with Bill Vallicella. I found this exchange amusing as I felt the same kind of disappointment in my university classes as a student. I had naively hoped to leave that attitude behind when high school was done. Vallicella's comments about text books also rings true:
Most people have no intellectual eros, could not care less about scholarship, and place no value whatsoever on good books. Proof of the latter point can be found by scouring the used bookstores in a locale like Boston-Cambridge. Take a book off the shelf that was assigned in a course, note the underlining or 'magic mark-up' and how it extends maybe three or four pages and then stops -- great for me, of course, who gets a relatively pristine copy for pennies, but indicative of the pointlessness of reading assignments.
A little known fact about me is that when I was a student, I worked in the university bookstore. Partly this was because it was a very convenient place to work, and partly it was because I really liked books. I can verify that what he says is true. It was disappointing to see educated people scorning the fact that they had to buy books in order to take a class. By far the biggest book haters were business students (economists, not so much) and I doubt that fact will surprise anyone. This might, however. The second most common book haters were in the faculty of education. I've heard it said that teachers are often mediocre students. Maybe. I know there's good ones out there. In any case I've always thought that both of those groups would have been better off in a trades school doing more hands on things. The business students, in their defense, were a very high energy bunch. The teachers were impossible know it alls. "Let me tell you how you really should run this bookstore... " Speaking of being in the wrong place - for the last two days a large number of the visitors to NWW have come here after searching for "peeping thong." NWW is not exactly dedicated to the kind of eros you were looking for, eh? Oh well, a few of them seem to have stayed a while and a couple even had nice things to say.

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