Wisdom from Ian Bogost, University of Iowa – a fine addition to this ongoing archive of timeless advice. Pair with Greil Marcus’s fantastic 2013 School of Visual Arts commencement address.
But not all graduation speeches are created equal: Here are some of history’s most timelessly uplifting and thought-provoking speakers: Greil Marcus, Ann Patchett, Jacqueline Novogratz, Neil Gaiman, David Foster Wallace, Ellen DeGeneres, Aaron Sorkin, Barack Obama, Ray Bradbury, J. K. Rowling, Steve Jobs, Robert Krulwich, Meryl Streep, and Jeff Bezos.
I was taking an advanced calculus class and my instructor was reputed to be a fabulous researcher, but he barely spoke English. He was a very boring and bad teacher and I was absolutely lost and in despair.
So I went to the campus tutoring centre and they had Betamax tapes of a professor who had won teaching awards. Basically I sat with those tapes and took class there. But I still had to go to the other one and sat there and wanted to kill myself.
I thought at that time, in the future, why wouldn’t you have the most entertaining professor, the one with the proven track record of getting knowledge into people’s heads?
We’re still not quite there. In university you’re still likely to be in a large lecture hall with a very boring professor, and everyone knows it’s not working very well. It’s not even the best use of that professor’s time or the audience.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales argues the boring university lecture will be the first casualty of the online education revolution.
Pair with Don’t Go Back to School, Kio Stark’s fantastic manifesto for lifelong learning outside the system.
The length of the average dissertation from the top fifty majors, visualized. The humanities and social sciences – anthropology, history, and political science – clock in longest, whereas “hard” sciences like economics, mathematics, and biostatistics tend to be shortest.
Many lecturers and professors are privately quite appalled by the rise of creative writing in universities. They believe, for very good reasons, that it is not compatible with the study of literary texts: works of literature demand rigorous critical attention, a strong understanding of the workings of the English language, a good grasp of historical context, an abiding respect and love for tradition (including a firm knowledge of literary genres), and an impartial aesthetic and intellectual curiosity about the great artistic accomplishments of others. Such teachers are often, indeed, sharply opposed to the idea that creative writing could be part of proper university study. They certainly would not be willing to teach a course with any creative writing component and, secretly, quite possibly wish their creative writing colleagues would die horrible deaths, with the senior management in their universities deciding not to advertise for replacements.
Despite the speed and apparent smoothness with which creative writing has become incorporated into English departments, or (especially in the US) as a separate department alongside English, its institutionalisation is complex and deceptive. It is obvious, however, that its recent and remarkable expansion is closely bound up with the marketisation of higher education, especially in the US and the UK. Once you start thinking of “the student” as “the customer”, and once the customer’s own preferences are “prioritised” (to echo the business-speak that has come to prevail), it is inevitable that you should expect to see more courses in creative writing than in, say, medieval English prose or 18th-century pastoral verse.
Mad Men’s Jon Hamm visits Sesame Street to explain the art of sculpture, one of the 100 ideas that changed art.