Monthly Archives: November 2013

Myanmar: it is not a democracy (yet)

Just having Myanmar’s pro-democracy icon and Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, in Australia is a lovely thing. She is one of those few international figures, along with Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Xanana Gusmao, who seem to be all but universally admired in the West. But despite Daw (to use the polite honorific) […] … learn more→

Not whether, but when

When the Stanford sociolinguist Penelope Eckert read my “Lying About Writing” post, she was just approaching the end of her writing-in-the-major course, so she already had her mind on what undergraduates need to learn about writing well. Agreeing with my criticisms of a silly list of don’t-do-this maxims handed out by an unidentified English department, […] … learn more→

Encryption ethics: are email providers responsible for privacy?

Ex-National Security Agency (NSA) employee Edward Snowden’s various leaks – the most recent being a slide showing that the NSA infected 50,000 of computer networks with remote-controlled spyware – confirm that state intelligence agencies around the world have been collecting and analysing people’s behaviour online for years. Many people now feel that their online privacy […] … learn more→

Louisiana Lawmaker Says to Defund Libraries and ‘Send Users Back to Mexico’

This column has discussed book after book that has been banned and/or challenged for various reasons. Most incidents are the result of ignorance and intolerance, others may even be innocently well-intentioned; but what happens when entire libraries are threatened in order to serve the arrogant hatred of racism from ignorant individuals to push a political […] … learn more→

Two cases of plagiarism by politicians

In the summer of 1987, a young, brash Delaware senator by the name of Joe Biden was attempting to become the youngest American since John F. Kennedy to become president of the United States. The popular political figure was considered a strong contender for the office due to his moderate image, his energetic speaking ability, […] … learn more→

The kludging of higher education

Why does applying for student aid seem to require an advanced degree in accounting—and yet college keeps getting more expensive? Why does accreditation involve countless hours and mountains of paperwork—and yet many college graduates still don\’t learn very much? Why are so many things in higher education complicated and ineffective at the same time? The […] … learn more→

What links a birth in Montana, the Kennedy assassination, and the Spanish Civil War

What follows is a circuitous reflection on the thin line between significance and meaninglessness, between fateful conjunctions and complete coincidences, between public history and political “truths,” between personal histories and the burden of expectations A Montana couple recently celebrated the birth of their child, born on November 12 at 2:15 in the afternoon. The birth […] … learn more→

Russia’s silence on climate change helps no one

Russia is the fourth largest producer of greenhouse gases, but has shown little initiative and remained quiet among the turmoil at the UN Conference of the Parties (COP) climate summit in Warsaw. The hottest issues under discussion – of compensation for loss and damage and historical responsibility – appear of little relevance to the country. […] … learn more→

MOOCs: Usefully middlebrow

I was having lunch with a brilliant, hip colleague in the digital humanities when the question of MOOCs came up. \”MOOCs are over,\” she said. \”Administrators haven\’t figured it out yet, but everyone else knows.\” My tech-savviest administrator friend agreed. Having taken two or three online courses to check them out, he admitted it: \”MOOCs […] … learn more→