Private intellectuals, public morons

My students are due to hand an essay in next week. Besides the typical whingeing relating to things like essay length (1500 words is apparently unreasonable these days), I’ve also had some students saying things like “if I had wanted to study museum subjects then I would be a Humanities student”. This, after I had the temerity to ask Economics students to read 2 pages of John Stuart Mill. By and large, this anti-intellectual culture seems to be thriving in the media also – this Sunday was typical, in that the weekend papers provided their usual 30-minute-maximum of diversion. Continue reading “Private intellectuals, public morons”

Classroom politics

Whether students like it or not, one of the things I aim for in my classrooms is to break down the (usually artificial) divide between academia and everyday life. It’s made somewhat easier by the fact that the sort of things I teach are easily applicable to non-academic activities. Continue reading “Classroom politics”

Plagiarism #3

Having spent the past few hours re-reading all the correspondence generated by Watson’s article, and the article itself, I still found myself mostly underwhelmed and unconvinced by Watson’s bile (except for the Hughes connections, which Krog hasn’t explained satisfactorily). Cogent argumentation, rather than rhetoric, should win arguments. So let’s look at the argument…

Continue reading “Plagiarism #3”

The darkening…

Subscribers to PoetryWeb have been debating the Krog/Watson thing too, in case you want more. I’ve had great difficulty following the debate, not only due to an irregular power supply to the campus, but also because power has, of late, not necessarily meant it’s been worth turning your PC on. To try and preserve our server disks and other hardware in the face of unannounced power outages, the IT folks have sensibly decided to shut the network down till Monday. The fact that this decision is sensible should not be interpreted to mean that I’m not irritated by it…

Plagiarism #2

My previous post on Stephen Watson’s allegations of plagiarism, levelled at Antjie Krog, comes down on Watson’s side. Subsequent to that post, Krog, her publishers, and Eve Gray have responded to the allegations. Having read these responses – particularly those of Krog and Gray – it becomes clear that I posted in haste, largely driven by a historical respect for Watson, a dislike for Krog’s Country of My Skull, and my own daily battles against plagiarists in my classrooms.

I no longer believe there to be any merit to Watson’s charges, and am now far more interested in the question of why he felt it necessary to be so hostile and disingenuous in his treatment of what appears to be a non-issue. Could it be as simple a thing as jealousy, given his relative obscurity of late?

The University, Inc.

On Monday next week, the new academic year at my University will begin – and I’m wondering if it’s too late to find some South American country to take refuge in. Because as every new year arrives, I feel more and more like the store manager at some discount supermarket, attending to queries of the order and import of “which electric toaster would you recommend?”. Continue reading “The University, Inc.”

Plagiarism

If you are a reader of New Contrast, this won’t be news to you. But others who are interested in the topic of plagiarism – and particularly in how much it seems tolerated, or even endorsed – by South African publishers, should be sure to check out the Sunday Times this week. Well, probably this week, but I can’t guarantee that.

[EDIT]: The full text of Watson’s article can be found here. Continue reading “Plagiarism”

Most of them, and I, survive

If I said something like”That was fun”, then I’d be lying. Any of you who have had to mark student essays or exams don’t need to hear this, but people who have never been exposed to these tasks are often strangely naive about the intellectual calibre of the typical student – and the typical human being, for that matter. Both are generally rather pointless on various standards – economic, social, and metaphysical, to name the three biggies. Continue reading “Most of them, and I, survive”

Again with the marking

Earlier this week I remarked to a colleague that it feels like we’ve just finished marking exam scripts. This is not true at all, of course, given that we finished marking sometime in early November. But there was so much of it, and so much utter crap to read, that the memory lingers long. And here I sit, knowing that I’ll have to wade into the worst of it all sometime today. Continue reading “Again with the marking”