Monthly Archives: December 2015

Sol Gittleman on the history of higher ed

Sol Gittleman has a piece on the history of higher education in the US full of delightful little nuggets:

After Thomas Jefferson created the religiously liberal University of Virginia, in 1819, faculty members slept with loaded pistols under their pillows for fear of riotous students…

It was a wild sellers’ market. Tenure took hold not because of Senator McCarthy’s threats to free speech, but because it was the only way to keep your faculty from leaving for other jobs. Current teaching applicants will be stupefied to learn that in 1966, after two years as an assistant professor at Tufts, without a single major publication, I was approached by a wonderful dean who placed his hands on my head and said, in effect, Poof, you have tenure! There was no peer review, no formal review of any kind…

To paraphrase Will Rogers, “Schools ain’t what they used to be and probably never was.” American memory has always been suspect and triumphalist. People seemed to have forgotten that it took the Third Reich to move an anti-intellectual America into the forefront of higher education…

The reality is that, mostly by accident and occasionally by design, we have created a system of remarkable diversity and choice… No other nation could possibly replicate — or want to replicate — this breathtaking, occasionally dysfunctional, sometimes wasteful, and often ungovernable collection of disparate institutions…

Nick Rowe on the costs of inventing vs. learning

Nick Rowe makes a very good point:

It (sometimes) takes resources to invent a new technology (“R&D”)…

It (sometimes) takes resources to learn a new technology (“learning”)…

most people spend much more time learning existing ideas than inventing new ideas. Assuming costly learning seems to be at least as important as assuming costly R&D…