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a PhD in live projects and architectural education

Environmental zealousness

In a moment of unusually zealous environmental awareness, and after months of prevarication, I emptied our apartment’s paper and card recycling bin earlier this week. The morning afterwards the blue bins in our back court were emptied, and I realised I’d dumped one a recent copy of the monthly New York Review of Books taster supplement published once a month in the Saturday Guardian.

Drat.

In it was an article with the fairly concise title Britain: The Disgrace of the Universities by Anthony Grafton of Princeton University (note: the article as published is hidden behind the NYRB’s paywall, but it seems to have been published in its original form on the NYRB blog here).

Universities become great by investing for the long term. You choose the best scholars and teachers you can and give them the resources and the time to think problems through. Sometimes a lecturer turns out to be Malcolm Bradbury’s fluent, shallow, vicious History Man; sometimes he or she turns out to be Michael Baxandall. No one knows quite why this happens. We do know, though, that turning the university into The Office will produce a lot more History Men than scholars such as Baxandall.

Accept the short term as your standard—support only what students want to study right now and outside agencies want to fund right now—and you lose the future. The subjects and methods that will matter most in twenty years are often the ones that nobody values very much right now. Slow scholarship—like Slow Food—is deeper and richer and more nourishing than the fast stuff. But it takes longer to make, and to do it properly, you have to employ eccentric people who insist on doing things their way. The British used to know that, but now they’ve streaked by [ our American university system ]  on the way to the other extreme.

NYRB blog post with article: http://blogs.nybooks.com/post/437005501/britain-the-disgrace-of-the-universities

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