Friday, October 31, 2008

When you don't know what you're talking about

... don't say anything.
A guy with a Gr. 10 education and a faux Oxbridge accent spouts off about the value of a university education, something with which is he completely unfamiliar.

Warren has never taught university students. He has no idea of the research that's going on. Yes, we get uneducated, unready students from high schools, but the smart ones with real desire are clued in by the end of first year. The quality of humanities scholarship is much better than it was fifty years ago. The research work is of far higher quality and theses are superior to those of two generations ago. Most Canadian history books written before about 1965 are simply jingoistic story books. The best, including all of Parkman's works on Canadian history and most of the works by the handful of Tory English writers that are Warren's intellectual well, are elegantly-written but poorly-researched political tracts.

Yes, the quality of writing has suffered over the years. It's something the academy shares with journalism.

As for the value of being self-taught, Warren really lets his ignorance show. Graduate students are nothing if not self-taught. In fact, when you're doing PhD research, you're supposed to be educating yourself in fields in which no one has worked before and you present the information you find to the world. That's the very idea of the thesis.

The Ottawa Citizen could be such a great newspaper. It has the best investigative reporter on Parliament Hill. It has a stable of talented, dispirited writers. And it has David Warren.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

That paper is nuttier than a candy bar.

I agree with Warren Kinsella, but would broaden his contention that the entire CanWest chain is a "glorified blog for fringe rightist kooks".

Aren't newspapers, and especially their columnists, suppose to aid in the effort of informing and educating the public?

David Warren believes that education generally is "double-plus ungood".

The Citizen incredibly has hired an anti-intellectual as a public intellectual.

They also have John Robson, the maddening, over-educated, knuckle-dragging libertarian whose commentary is completely out-of-touch with any normal, moderate centrist.

It makes you wish that someone would put CanWest out of its misery now and just cut it in twain. The junk bond market isn't moving fast enough.

There has gotta be better commentators in this city. Boy, will it be fun seeing whether these people can get jobs after the inevitable ownership change and downsizing at that paper. My money is on one with the Ph.D.

Ottawa Watch said...

Golly, I have a PhD... but there's only one job I'd want at the Citizen. That's a real dream of mine: to take a mess like the Citizen, revive and reevitalize its best writers and turn it into the top paper in Canada.
I think most journalists have that fantasy.
But I don't expect any calls soon.

Don said...

It's hard to believe that anyone would take advice on university education from a high school drop-out.

Anonymous said...

Oddly, enough Warren seems kind of hippiesque, expressing lots of sentiments I used to hear in the early 70's about not going to university.
Self-education might be okay but you can waste a lot of time that could be saved with a good professor in a subject who certainly disabuse you of a lot of bs, of all kinds.
I don't know whether things have improved much for undergrads at Canadian universities. Huge survey classes, little contact with profs, excessive competition for high marks.
A high level of inconsideration for undergrads i.e. scheduling exams two days before Xmas or in May.
who think that they are merely cash-cows for the university as a whole.

Ottawa Watch said...

I teach two first-year classes at Concordia, one with 65 students, the other with 11, and a post-BA diploma class with 27 students.
Depends on the school. The Globe has a new survey showing the size of first-year classes at various universities, among other things.