In a way, the censorship in US academia is worse than the Soviet kind. The Soviet censors were mostly dumb, uneducated people, and it wasn’t all that hard to pull wool over their eyes and make them think you are saying the opposite of what you were. Writer Vera Ketlinskaya, for instance, created a very realistic and poignant depiction of the horrors experienced by young people in Stalin’s industrialization projects. It was investigative reporting of the highest caliber. And she got Stalin’s Award in literature for it because she was smart about how she framed the story.
We don’t have any dumb bureaucrats censoring our work. We censor each other during the peer-review process. This means that the people keeping you in tune with the party line are very smart. If you hide your ideas so well that even they can’t find them, then nobody else will find them either.
Odd, though, that the publisher cited workplace-environment concerns as the impetus rather than the “especially violent belief” itself:
The top editor emphasized that Williamson’s firing was not a result of his being anti-abortion—a common position for deeply religious Americans of all political stripes—but because of what his especially violent belief could mean for workplace relationships with female colleagues who may or may not have had an abortion.
Very few times in my life have I not believed my eyes. And the news on these occasions was never good.
This morning I had such an experience, reading a column in the New York Times by Bret Stephens, who was defending the indefensible hire of writer Kevin Williamson by the Atlantic Monthly. In 2014 Williamson tweeted that women in America who have had abortions and the doctors who performed them should be hanged. William has never retracted that statement; indeed, he has endorsed it repeatedly.
On this topic, Stephens wrote:
Shouldn’t great prose and independent judgment count for something? Not according to your critics. We live in the age of guilt by pull-quote, abetted by a combination of lazy journalism, gullible readership, missing context, and technologies that make our every ill-considered utterance instantly accessible and utterly indelible. I jumped at your abortion comment, but for heaven’s sake, it was a tweet. When you write a whole book on the need to execute the tens of millions of American women who’ve had abortions, then I’ll worry.
“Then I’ll worry.”
I have been reading the Times for about fifty years. When I was young, after church my family would drive to the local drugstore to pick up the Sunday New York Times. My Mom had a copy reserved for her there. Once we got home, we dove into it. I made sure that I did not rush to pick up sections my Mom wanted first: Arts and Leisure and the Sunday Book Review; also let alone was the Week in Review section, which my Dad grabbed right away. The entire paper came my way eventually, though, and I spent hours reading it, practically cover to cover if I had time. Very happy memories.
Anybody who has seen my library – indeed, who has been (un)lucky enough to get into a debate with me – knows that I spend a lot of time reading material that galls, bugs, or even angers me. This is necessary mental and intellectual hygiene. And it is how I hug the world.
Not to have unsubscribed from the Times this morning, though, would have made me … an accomplice.
As a Stanford University graduate I am a bit sickened to have read this:
“Mindfulness begins with leadership,” said Dr. Leah Weiss, who teaches compassionate leadership at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. told CMO.com. “The best way to introduce mindfulness and/or meditation into a company or organization is to train leaders in mindfulness and compassion. When leadership sets the bar or example, employees will follow suit.”
Each of Dr. Leah Weiss’s three sentences here uses a variation of the word “leader.” But there is no *leader* in “mindfulness.” There can’t be. It is an individual practice.
“Talent alone won’t make you a success,” noted Johnny Carson. “Neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless you are ready. The most important question is, ‘Are you ready?'”
This quote came to mind while watching Emma Gonzalez speak yesterday.
Biographer Robert Caro’s books are marathon-long, though very much worth the time it takes to read them. His laceration of Robert Moses, “The Power Broker,” is almost 1300 pages. In a wonderful interview published in The New York Review of Books, Caro notes:
The finished version I gave to my editor […] was about 1,050,000 words. That was a polished finished version, not a draft. The book you read is roughly 700,000 words […] the maximum that [my publisher] Knopf’s production people felt they could get into a trade book.
At the time, I asked, “Can’t we do it in two volumes?” Bob Gottlieb [my editor] answered, “I might get people interested in Robert Moses once. I could never get them interested in him twice.”
The amount of research – reporting, reading, interviewing, digging, and corroborating – that goes into Caro’s books is gargantuan. I literally cannot imagine how a person can get such work all done with such intelligence. Surely, then, he must *write* with unbelievable speed. No.
My first three or four drafts are handwritten on legal pads. For later drafts, I use a typewriter. I write by hand to slow myself down.
I’m a very fast writer, but I want to write slowly.
When I was a student at Princeton. I took a creative writing course with the literary critic R.P. Blackmur. Every two weeks, I’d give him a short story I’d produced usually at the last minute. At the end of the semester, he said some complimentary words about my writing, and then added, “Mr. Caro, one thing is going to keep you from achieving what you want—you think with your fingers.”
In an early NoContest.CA post on editing, I described “the 9 C’s” I use when evaluating another writer’s work:
Almost all writers need a second set of eyes to assess and improve the first four qualities in a document they compose, because they typically already believe they’ve been concise, complete, clear, and convincing enough. To assess and improve the rest often requires that second set of eyes, too.
My mentor Diane Middlebrook once told me, “You cannot edit yourself any more than you can tickle yourself, and for the same reasons.” I thought of Diane the other day when reading an excellent post by Hootsuite Content Editor Curtis Foreman called “12 Quick Editing Tips for Social Media Managers.” Tip #4: “Have Somebody Else Edit Your Work.”
Even if you’re a solo practitioner, there’s probably someone in your life with a decent sense of style and taste who wouldn’t mind glancing over your tweets before you release them into the wild. And if you’re at an agency or brand, you’ve likely got a team member (or an entire team) who will be more than happy to point out that you really should stop using commas to join independent clauses already.
You should read the whole post; it’s excellent. I have to take issue with that first sentence, though. I doubt even the most charming “solo practitioner” would be able to persuade another person to glance over his or her tweets prior to their publication. When we are outside of the workplace or academic setting, we almost always need to fly solo, using solid if less exacting methods of revision: reading the post or tweet aloud, double-checking for facts, or the always smart “sleeping on it” before publishing it.
– photo by Robert Basil
An inaccurate interpretation of a particular data-point can nonetheless provide a metaphor that describes a lot.
The Republican House of Representatives’ tax plan would transform “tough enough” into *impossible* for tens of thousands of graduate students who receive fellowships that allow them to study “for free.” (Of course these students also usually teach as well, and those in the sciences do publishable research.)
Like a lot of my friends back in the day, I entered grad school with very little money in my checking account. (My savings account? Ha!) My Stanford University fellowship waived my tuition (about $60K in today’s dollars) and provided me with a small stipend (about $13K in today’s dollars). If my fellowship became a taxable benefit, I would have owed more than the equivalent of $8K/year or so in taxes to the IRS, in effect forcing me to choose between food and shelter – that is, preventing me from attending graduate school all together. (Loans would not have been a smart option for a Humanities student like myself; I had no expectation of getting a well-paying job before I went completely bald.)
Eviscerating the population of American grad students wouldn’t just wipe out generations of young scholars. It would also destroy the main mission of large universities – teaching. No tuition tax break = no T.A.s, no teachers of freshman composition, etc.
I cannot think of a simpler, more perfect way of destroying the standing of United States’ higher education.
cross-posted at basil.ca
No Contest co-founder Tierney Wisniewski has written a beautifully conceived and composed Master’s Thesis. Here’s the abstract. [I’ve added some paragraphing for ease of online reading, because abstracts by requirement are very, very fat.]
Self-determination theory (SDT) is a well-established theory of motivation that posits that we grow optimally to the degree to which our contexts afford us autonomy support, the collective term for the ways in which others afford us opportunities to satisfy our basic psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Although Ryan and Niemiec (2009) suggest that self-determination theory can be “critical and liberating,” I trouble their assertion, making use of literature on student voice, student-faculty learning partnerships, and radical collegiality, and propose that redefining the student role is an essential form of autonomy support if we wish to follow through on SDT’s liberating possibilities.
To that end, I undertook a narrative inquiry into five students’ experiences of transformation through role redefinition in a set of non-traditional university courses.
Participants described their experiences and relationships with peers and instructors before, during, and after this set of courses. A thematic analysis revealed that students experienced their post-secondary courses as largely controlling, with concomitant negative effects on their engagement and well-being, while they experienced these non-traditional courses as highly autonomy-supportive, with concomitant positive effects.
Analysis also revealed that students underwent two transformative processes: an incremental process of integration and a more epochal process of role redefinition. This latter process in particular was fostered through persistent messages that students’ educations belonged to them, through de-emphasis on the instructor-student hierarchy, and through being supported through their struggles with transformation.
Once students redefined their roles, they took more responsibility for their peers’ well-being, offered them autonomy support, and engaged more agentically in other courses by expressing themselves more, taking more risks, and even standing up to and defying miseducative instructors on their own and their peers’ behalves.
They came to perceive themselves as agents of change not only in their institutions, but also in other arenas, following through on the critical and liberating potential of SDT that Ryan and Niemiec had envisioned. This study has broad implications for how educators engage with students and how our institutions are structured, as well as how SDT research is conducted, if we wish to capitalize on this potential.
I am so very proud of you, dear friend.