Autumn Reading

So now that summer has come and gone, I still have a pile of books that I meant to read but didn’t get around to. I fear I will not get to this pile until next summer, and by then it will have grown even bigger. But yesterday I decided to dive into this little book (very short) by Louis Menand from 2010. It’s a must read for anyone considering a Ph.D. in the humanities or social sciences, and I think it helps outsiders understand the weird culture of academia.

It is the academic’s job in a free society to serve the public culture by asking questions the public doesn’t want to ask, investigating subjects it cannot or will not investigate, and accommodating voices it fails or refuses to accommodate.
— Louis Menand, The Marketplace of Ideas, 2010, page 156

Quick Trip to Santa Cruz

I just returned from a trip to give a talk in the anthropology department at my old alma mater, UC Santa Cruz, where I graduated in 1993 with my Bachelor of Arts. I have a very hard time believing that this was 25 years ago, but when I started college in 1988 the Berlin Wall was still standing. My, the time has flown. Santa Cruz is beautiful, but it felt weird to go back. The campus has grown and changed so much that it doesn't quite feel like the same place I went to school all those years ago.  But I will be forever grateful to the taxpayers of the state of California who made it possible for kids like me to get an excellent education (BA, MA and PhD) at such phenomenal public institutions of higher learning. California is proof that the public provision of heavily-subsidized or free higher education is a great investment in the future.