Review – The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
The state of the youth in America is hardly a new preoccupation, and as long as we have seen the future, some have predicted chaos and doom following on the heels of the next generation. Continue reading →
There’s meant to be something somewhat seedy about the profit motive. Perhaps this is why, in the case of education, many of us recoil in horror as soon as the prospect is introduced. This is an irrational response, but it’s not entirely unreasonable. Education is something which makes politicians misty-eyed. It makes their voices quaver. Our leaders describe with great emotion the need for the next generation to do better, to have more, to go without less. Continue reading →
The continued popularity and influence of Edward Gibbon’s classic work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire represents something of a conundrum. Long included as part of the canon of great historical writing (if such a thing can be said to exist), it is hardly perfect; indeed, there are many reasons – superficially at least – why it should be disregarded by contemporary students. Continue reading →
Amid the sound and fury generated by this month’s Budget, one new measure introduced by the Chancellor went by almost without comment – George Osborne’s proposal for the mandatory teaching of maths up to the age of 18. Continue reading →
On one level, one must agree with the statement entirely: every historian, in the act of writing, is implicitly chronicling his or her own times. In a basic sense, this can be seen in the language or dialect they use, even in the vernacular of their work. Each is connected with history, but each is still of the present, directed by the exigencies of the present day. The words themselves might also have political connotations from which they cannot be entirely dissociated. E. H. Carr, in his seminal work of historiography What is History?, provides a pertinent example:
The names by which successive French historians have described the Parisian crowds which played so prominent a role in the French Revolution – le sans-cullottes, le peuple, la canaille, le bras-nus – are all, for those that know the rules of the game, manifestos of a political affiliation and of a particular interpretation.
Recently I had the great pleasure of reading Niall Ferguson’s The Pity of War. My review of that book – which takes a rather holistic approach – can be read on this blog. It has given me cause to think about the nature both of historical writing and how historians are perceived in the public sphere: whether, in other words, they can be ‘public intellectuals’ – that much overused phrase which somewhat lazy journalists use to denote academics who, in this view of the world, have apparently descended from the ivory tower to commune to the masses. Continue reading →
History is more than a collection of dates and facts, kings and queens, battles and wars. It is also a guide for how we see the world, a shaping influence in the construction of our own worldview. Added to that, and increasingly seen in places like Russia, where media and writing of all kinds – everything that constitutes the nation’s intellectual life – can be conscripted into the creation of sinister political machinery, it can be a powerful tool. Even a weapon. Continue reading →
I do not begrudge you the ability to precede anything you write, say or do with a warning. That is your right, and I would not want to take it away from you even if I could.
But there is, of course, a disparity of some magnitude between prefacing your own words with a cautionary notice – in this case a ‘trigger warning’, a practice which has gained some campaigning traction of late, especially in higher education – and demanding that others do the same. And there is an even greater gulf between doing so in a private capacity and wishing for universities and other public bodies to institute similar arrangements as a matter of policy. Such measures, especially when some advocates start to argue for their establishment out of civilised necessity, begin to resemble censorship on the sly. While it does not ostensibly interfere with the individual’s freedom of speech – a vital and inalienable right as that is – attaching warnings to undesirable material, those writings and works which contain unwanted aspects, could lead to the driving away of potential readers or viewers. Forcibly impeding the free dissemination of ideas is still censorious, even if the hat worn while doing so is one of kindness and concern. Continue reading →
As an A2 student who has spent over a year planning my progression to higher education, university is never far from my mind. When reading about the sorts of campus censorship – no-platformings and trigger warnings and safe spaces away from critical ideas and interpretations – which seem increasingly prevalent at British and American universities of late, my first thought is often one of irritation. Continue reading →