Monday, April 5, 2010

From The Suggestions Bin

The Ancient was kind enough to offer a list of suggestions for blog posts.  Here, FLG answers some of them:

The case against graduate school: The theory of praxis revisited.
FLG is always loathe to use Greek words like praxis.  The meaning becomes distorted, loaded, and lost. (See also techn√©.)  Broadly speaking, however, there are two cases against grad school.  First, and FLG is referring to PhD programs not professional ones, they prepare too many students, too narrowly for a very competitive career as a professor/researcher.  The odds of the average PhD student at some third tier school getting a tenure track job is pretty slim.  Yet, the training prepares them for that job specifically seemingly with little thought as to how the additional education can translate into more traditional careers if it doesn't work out.  Given that by definition that it did work out for the professors, perhaps they aren't the ones to provide this explanation.  Maybe some outside people need to come in, or the university needs to work with local companies to promote their PhD candidates for corporate jobs.  Plan Bs.  Who knows?  Maybe you buy the ticket and take the ride and that's that.  Second case against grad schools:  They don't appreciate the obvious genius of one Fear and Loathing in Georgetown.

Do Americans need to learn Chinese? (And if so, why didn't it hurt us that no one ever got around to learning Japanese?)

Fuck no.  English is the de facto universal language.  Therefore, they're learning English, not the other way around.  Americans have the benefit of learning the universal language from birth.  As FLG has often said, this gives them a huge benefit.  They should learn a language of which the attendant culture is interesting to them.  It's much easier to get motivated to learn a language when the literature and culture that you are reading about is interesting in its own right than to study a language because it *may* have economic benefits years down the line.  There was no reason to learn Japanese, nor learn Chinese now.  Learn what interests you.

Securing your assets against hyperinflation.

Agree with Andrew on this one -- TIPS.

What pound of fiscal flesh should conservatives seek in exchange for their inevitable surrender to a value-added tax?

Private social security accounts.

If intellectuals are so important, why is France so f*cked?  

Well, if you consider my theory that the Western politics is a debate between Plato and Aristotle, where Plato philosophizes from the top down and Aristotle from the bottom up, the problem with France is that they're Platonists.  Arguing from the top down, from ought rather than is, can lead you in fucked up directions.  The French have gone in many of those directions.

Who killed poetry? (And why didn't anyone notice?)
FLG blames the 1950s.  First, Dylan Thomas dies.  Then, the Beat Generation came on the scene.  They were so obsessed with capturing the visceral and spontaneous that the quality of writing fell off.  Too often the rough draft was the only draft. Nobody noticed because everybody who would notice was high or too put off by the lack of syntactical polish.

How might the collapse of the euro-zone affect the US?

Short-term, it's bad.  Dollar strengthens in a flight to safety and exports to Europe will drop off.  Long-term, who knows?  Not FLG.  Although, given the history of fiscal, monetary, and exchange rate policy of southern Europe, FLG thinks it will hurt them far more than us.


Caroline said...

No kidding that grad school doesn't offer much of a Plan B. The site I write for is trying to fix that, although it sure would be easier if the professors added advice since there are so few jobs out there.

Post Academic--on getting a job after life in the academy

Anonymous said...

My wife learned Japanese - because it was fun, and interested her - and it in fact has been very helpful professionally. She did do it because she liked it, though. dave.s.

FLG said...


I'm not saying that learning another language won't be professionally beneficial. I'm saying that possible benefits years down the line doesn't provide great motivation when memorizing vocabulary. For English learners, the benefits are more certain and immediate, I think.

The Ancient said...

I think private social security accounts are a political nonstarter (see Bush, G.W., Spending My Political Capital Down to Zero, 2005-2006).

I'd much rather see some sort of flat tax. (But it couldn't happen unless Obama himself pushed for it, and that would be a stretch. Still, if the trade-off was a more robust VAT, he might think about it.)

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