Monday, September 26, 2011

Nice review of "Baseball as a Second Language"

The Asian Review of Books reviews Baseball as a Second Language here. For those just coming to this subject, the book is available here. (Amazon will have it available eventually, but it takes several weeks to turn up in Amazon's index.)

Wrap on the Pledge

The freshman pledge has by now gotten rather more attention than it deserved. Among those commenting on it are Virginia Postrel (Bloomberg), Andrew Sullivan (Daily Beast), Ross Douthat (NYTimes), Josh Rothman (Boston Globe), Carly Weeks (Toronto Globe and Mail), and the Edmonton Journal.

I would not have brought it up again had I not run across this priceless clause from the Constitution of the Lawrence Base Ball Club, Harvard's first "New York Rules" baseball team. The Constitution is dated November 3, 1858 (the team had played a few games in September of that year). This is the way such things should be dealt with--by private agreements, if at all: "Any member of this Club behaving in an ungentlemanly manner or rendering himself obnoxious to the Club, may be expelled from the Club by a vote of two thirds of the members present and voting at a meeting specially called."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jobs for the Digital Age

We have heard so much about jobs and the need for a workforce educated for the computer age, I couldn't get this out of my mind.

Last Saturday I went on my weekly supermarket run. At the deli counter I asked for "six-tenths of a pound of turkey." The deli man, who was in his twenties, replied, "What's that? Two-thirds?"

This struck me as an odd response. The scale is digital, after all, unless the display he sees is different from the one that faces the customer. His response suggested that he did not know that "six-tenths" is "0.6." But more than that, what was he going to do with the information if I told him "yeah"? Would he know how to read two-thirds off a digital scale? I told him "A little more than half a pound" and that is what I got.

I shrugged and forgot about it. Until I went to a different supermarket today on the same errand.

"Six tenths of a pound of turkey," I said. Deli man #2, about the same age, replied, "Is that like a quarter?" Wow, I am seeing a pattern here. Maybe it's just the Stop&Shop chain?

How the hell is the U.S. going to compete in this world when people in their twenties don't know decimals? You can't even slice turkey in a market without knowing that much!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Speaking of kindness

I was party to a weird event this afternoon. I was attending a panel discussion at Harvard. There were three panelists and two moderators sitting at a table in the front of the room, and the room was overcrowded, maybe 125 people with only about 100 seats. I arrived exactly at 5pm and took one of the few seats that was available at that time, which was in the first or second row, next to the end. About 10 minutes later, a few minutes after the first speaker started to speak, a quite elderly woman walked very slowly and uncomfortably from the back to the front of the room along the aisle on the opposite side. She started to seat herself on the floor in the front of the room. Everybody could see this but nobody made a move. I stood up, walked in front of the panel table across the room, and gestured to her to take my seat, which she did. I am still scratching my head over that one. If anyone else was there and thinks I missed something in the way this little scene unfolded, do correct me.

Also, here is a homily I gave at Morning Prayers last Friday, which is not unrelated this whole troubling subject.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Freshman Pledge, continued

The Huffington Post has a piece taking my worries about the pledge to another level.

And anyone following this ought to read the Christakises' piece in the Crimson and the comment thread attached to it. I don't agree with everyone who agrees with me, by the way.

I am glad the display of the signed pledges has been abandoned, and appreciate the good judgment of the College on this decision.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Innovative University

An interesting book by that title has just been published. The authors are Clayton Christensen of HBS and Henry Eyring, an administrator at BYU-Idaho. The book provides parallel histories of the evolution of these two universities, Harvard and BYU-Idaho. BYU-Idaho is an LDS-church affiliated institution, and I was surprised when I learned that my rendition of Harvard history in Excellence Without a Soul seems to have influenced the authors. It's quite a good account of why change is hard in higher education, giving a case history of one instance in which it has been successfully implemented. I enjoyed reading it, and was interested to learn about what used to be called Ricks College, though I might have learned more if some other examples of higher ed innovation, ones more comparable to places like Harvard, had been presented--though they are not that easy to find!