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Jul 14, 2005 9:58 am

Some Recommended Things ...

Michael Berube,"48 Hours," 11 July, responds to the decision of Pennsylvania's state House of Representatives to establish a committee to inquire into matters of intellectual diversity at colleges and universities supported by the Commonwealth.

Congratulations to our colleague, Caleb McDaniel, whose"Blogging in the Early Republic" gets a review notice in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In"New Challenge to Columbia, and to Chomsky, Finkelstein, and Cockburne," Alan Dershowitz ratchets up the charges and counter-charges of plagiarism over at David Horowitz's Front Page Rag. Really, I wish Harvard professors would not lend the dignity of their office to that scandal rag and that distinguished academic people would not use the charge of"plagiarism" as a purely political devise. Whether one has committed plagiarism or not isn't a function of Middle Eastern politics.

In"The Confidence Man: Meet Mark C. Taylor, the Virtuoso of Nietzschean Boosterism," Books and Culture, July/August, Villanova's Eugene McCarraher reviews Taylor's Money and Markets: Confidence Games in a World Without Redemption. The book is"Hipness unto death," says McCarraher,"braincandy" for"the Bobo set." Ah, Eugene, I wish I could have said it as well, myself. Just for fun, here's what the website of a mortal professor at Williams College looks like; and here's what Mark C. Taylor's website at Williams College looks like."Hipness unto death," indeed.

At coffee grounds, Evan Roberts very smartly lays out the evidence suggesting that the Chronicle of Higher Education's"First Person" columns are so formulaic that they might be cranked out by the same staffer time-after-time, like any advice columnist. But, at least we do know that the CHE solicits contributions to it and Rob MacDougall wants it known that his own"whiny First Person column did not use a pseudonym." After the CHE ran Ivan Tribble's"Bloggers Need Not Apply," Rex at Savage Minds comments on the irony of being invited to submit a column to the CHE about the job search. So, it's o. k. to dish the dirt in the Chronicle of Higher Education, so long as you don't do it on a blog? It tends to re-enforce Tim Burke's intuition that behind Tribble's problem lies both a technophobia and a fear of non-traditional publication. Thanks to Sharon Howard for the tip.

If you've not stopped by Mark Grimsley's Blog Them Out of the Stone Age lately, do go there to read"Crash" and"SITREP." In the former, Mark has some thoughtful recommendations for handling conflict. A month separates it from"SITREP" and that interim suggested to me that our colleague at Ohio State was grappling with difficulty. What holds my admiration for him is the candor and courage with which he faces it. Professor Tribble should be his understudy. Welcome back, Mark.

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Brad Johnson - 7/14/2005

For what it's worth, I think McCarraher's review is pretty much spot on. In the context of his greater critique, his jabs at Taylor's 'hipness' seem valid to me. In many ways, though I realize he would disagree with this assessment, his most recent work truly exemplifies the conservatism always at the heart of so much postmodern theory (if not the individual's personal politics).

Ralph E. Luker - 7/14/2005

Thanks, very much, for putting this on record here. If I were Mark Taylor, I'd be very proud to have this said of me as a teacher.

C. H. Wells - 7/14/2005

Hmmm... I'll speak up for a second, because I was a student of Mark Taylor's at Williams in the 1980s (BTW, I haven't read McCarraher's review, of any of Taylor's books in many years). I took "The Christian Tradition" from him--basically Gnostics to Aquinas--and it was a terrific class. He was a superb teacher; demanding, rigorous, insisting that his students closely read major, original texts and then be ready to discuss them. I can't imagine a better course in intellectual history. He was a capital-T Theorist even then, but I thought him much better than the vacuous theory-mongers whom we found it so easy to mock. Taylor didn't tolerate nonsense; anyone bullshitting would get shot down within 30 seconds, and Lord help you if he called on you in class and you hadn't read the material. After almost 20 years, I am surprised at how much from that class has stuck with me (which is NOT the case with most classes I took!). I know little about his scholarly trajectory since I graduated, or what he is like as a teacher now; McCarraher's criticisms may be on-target. But since he's catching such flak, I thought it important to note that, when I knew him, he was a great teacher.

Anthony Paul Smith - 7/14/2005

Well, yes, I guess I just don't have a problem with that in academia. Actually, it's funny, becasue when I saw Gene speak I thought he dressed very hip, very European. But anyway, I miss when Taylor did more in theology than with his information technology stuff.

Ralph E. Luker - 7/14/2005

As Gene said, very hip, right?

Anthony Paul Smith - 7/13/2005

I haven't either. Our Brad Johnson has and had some criticisms and I honestly was just curious. I also like McCarraher on a lot of things, though I've known him to be a bit harsh. I mean, yes, those signs do abound but Taylorl, I don't think, dislikes truth for the sake of 'cultural capital'. His article in the Times on the death of Derrida was the most even keeled, putting blame on the 'cultural left' in America as well as the conservative detractors of Derrida.

Oh, and his website is very nice. He's got a thing for that sort of stuff, so if he paid a web designer to design him a page or did it himself, more power to him as it looks very nice.

Ralph E. Luker - 7/13/2005

Good question, Anthony. In this case, I have not. I know McCarraher and trust his judgment. Have a look around. I think you'll see all the signs of what McCarraher calls "an entreprofessor, a broker in the intellectual markets, trading in some of the hottest stocks in cultural capital."

Anthony Paul Smith - 7/13/2005

Have you read Taylor's book?

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