Friday, February 29, 2008

close-minded professors and open source software

My life has recently been consumed by all things graduate school...last fall it was applying and convincing four professors that 18 schools was not too many and that writing letters for a number of them on my behalf wouldn't be all that time consuming. The first part of Winter, from January 15 to February 1, was a brief respite from all the hubbub. However, the days since then have been even more dreadful than the entire process of filling out applications, printing statements and writing samples, and coordinating it all with professors.

This, my friends, is the season of decision notification. After gleefully reading an acceptance letter from the University of Wisconsin, I have systematically been humbled by some of the finer institutions of America. Part of me thinks there is a History Department Roundtable that convenes and decides to trick students into thinking they are worthy, only to follow up with a plethora of "sorry, but we just had so many applicants this year..." letters. Fortunately, two discoveries have given me a modicum of enjoyment during this apprehensive time: one close-minded professor and an unrelated bit of free software.

My wonderful political science professor, Rodney G
runes, makes our class read the New York Times everyday. I've been following the primary season using precisely that outlet, and in Tuesday's Op-Ed section I found an interesting piece. Apparently they had the neat idea of asking several different experts what questions they thought were being ignored in all the debate. Most of the respondents seemed thoughtful enough, but then I got to the questions of one Ruth Wedgwood, professor of international law and diplomacy at Johns Hopkins University. JHU is one of those schools that, unfortunately, will not be graced with my presence this coming fall, and reading the ridiculously hawkish, narrow-minded, stupid comments of Prof. Wedgwood took most of my rejection pain away. Her first, and, reason leads us to believe, most natural, question, was,
Senator Obama, as commander in chief an American president must understand the sense of honor that motivates his armed forces. Last September, ran an advertisement in The Times that mocked Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq, as "General Betray Us." You chose not to vote on the Senate resolution that condemned the advertisement. Would you still characterize the Senate vote as a "stunt" and "empty politics"?
The fact that this was apparently the most pressing issue on the mind of this well-paid professor at one of the more illustrious institutions of higher learning in our nation is disturbing. With the dire economic situation, millions of Americans without health care and facing home foreclosure, the entire international scientific community talking about environmental tiping points and a climate that is literally on the brink of destruction, Professor Wedgwood is primarily concerned that Senator Obama didn't step up to the plate and censure an organ of the American free press. Apparently honor means never allowing the people to utter a negative syllable about an individual with bars on his shoulder.

Wedgwood also takes a parting shot at Senator Clinton when she says
The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution bars any former president from election to a third term. Is it truly consistent with the spirit of the Constitution to have the same professional couple occupying the White House for 12 years? Isn't this all the more true when Bill Clinton promised that voters would receive, during his first term, "two for the price of one"?
Only finding such absurd and embarrasing comments has made me realize that I could never be happy at an institution that rewards such an obvious lack of scholarship, intelligence, and courtesy. I'm going to go out on a limb, temporarilly ignore my rule gainst generalizing, and possibly even display a tiny bit of animosity, and say that I doubt such statements would ever come from the lips, pen, or keyboard of any professor from any department at the more progressive, prestigious, and higher-ranked-by-US News & World Report University of Wisconsin-Madison, a beacon of learning that provides cultural, intellectual, and practical support to an entire state of cold, loving, Packers-cheering people.

The latter half of the title to this entry refers to my newfound interest in open source software, specifically the Ubuntu distribution of Linux. Some kind soul left an installation CD in the library, and I've since tested it out and fallen in love. It should be noted that I'm writing this blog after booting from the CD. I've decided that the first thing I buy with my next paycheck is going to be an external harddrive, partly so that I can backup my music and other files, partly so that I can install Ubuntu (or possibly Xubuntu) on my laptop. It's very exciting.

To close, I'll give you what Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom would look like if I was writing it this week: Microsoft goes down for not keeping up with the times, the NYT editorial board goes up for providing me with a laugh, Google goes up for making viable server-side solutions to propriety software, dedicated nerds all over the world go way up for slowly paving the way to a post-Microsoft world, the JHU board of trustees drops for hiring Beth Wedgwood, and every citizen of Wisconsin climbs to the top for never allowing such a tragedy to happen.


Amanda said...

You're a great writer.

I hope your harddrive can be salvaged.

Braden said...

I know I'm responding to a very, very old post. But it’s been that long for me. I Haven't kept up with your blog enough.

But anyway, I just had to comment here. Every time I read something of yours online it reaffirms to me how you've gone off the deep end recently.

We'll go bit by bit...

There's an oddness in your writing. "My wonderful political science professor"..."will not be graced with my presence"..."University of Wisconsin-Madison, a beacon of learning"...What’s with all the weirdness? It’s creepy. Who's your audience here?

Maybe I missed something, but what was with the fascination with University of Wisconsin in February of 2008? Were you accepted there or something? And regardless, the way you talk about them is weird. It's like you're an advertisement.

"My wonderful political science professor, Rodney Grunes, Makes our class read the New York Times everyday". Sounds pretty scary to me. Why not read a variety of news sources everyday? (Oddly enough as I was writing this I heard a quick stat on TV, didn’t catch the study, but it said something like 71% of all NYT articles on the administration so far have portrayed it positively)

"I've been following the primary season using precisely that outlet". Again, scary. Why not get your news from many sources?

So on to the main issue. The point of these people and their questions was like you said, "questions they thought were being ignored in all the debate". This was from the 20th debate. All the issues you listed (economy, health care, environment, etc.) had been covered more than thoroughly. They were supposed to be coming up with random, off the wall things to ask. So I don't think its "disturbing" that she asked the question about honor.

Furthermore, why the hatred for her questions? There were countless questions asked in this article, and it seems you just picked out the ones from the one person that was critical of the candidates, and offered a different viewpoint. With a comment like this from you, “Apparently honor means never allowing the people to utter a negative syllable about an individual with bars on his shoulder”, it seems like you’d be all for an alternative and critical viewpoint. How about the question from Christine Rosen that reads…”You have both admitted to being Blackberry addicts. How has this desire for constant connection and endless information changed your personal relationships and how has it transformed political culture?” Yet, you call out the worthlessness of Ruth Wedgwood’s questions. Odd.

Besides, her question has a point that you failed to address. You just bashed the comment portion of the question. But she did ask “Would you still characterize the Senate vote as a ‘stunt’ and ‘empty politics’”? That would have been interesting to see what he would say about that. Because like you argued as you were bashing this lady, there are more important issues that the Senate could be taking care of. I would personally call that kind of vote “empty politics”. That’s the kind of waste I hate to see in government. And I would hope my future president would agree. So I don’t have a problem with this question at all. It’s by no means “hawkish, narrow-minded” and “stupid”.

About the other question offered up to Hillary Clinton, not much else to say. Again, it’s just a tough question and critical comment coming from an alternative viewpoint. Nothing wrong with that.

Like stated before and in the article itself, these are supposed to be original questions about new topics that haven’t been covered over the many months of the campaign so far. All that happened here is, again, someone showed an alternative viewpoint, and you condemned them. So where is the close-mindedness really? Part of what makes this country great is free speech, openness of ideas and opinions, and the ability to express them.

On Universities…It seems all you value in a school is “progressiveness”, as well as going to school to be presented with things you already think and agree with. Same as our country in general, a great thing about schools is that you can be presented with a huge variety of knowledge, and from that develop your own thoughts. Showing a hatred for Johns Hopkins because they have a professor you don’t agree with is childish.

This stuff comes from self proclaimed “free thinkers”, “progressives”, and the like all the time. Like when the crazies jumped all over that Ms. California for having an opinion that wasn’t their own. Or how some in government want to pass the “fairness doctrine”. That’s what’s disturbing.

Welp, sorry for the wall of harsh text. Still love ya. I’ll try to keep up to date and respond to more recent posts for now on.