Serendipity

by Kieran Healy on January 9, 2006

A few years ago, way back in the days before Crooked Timber, I wrote a post about “Princeton’s old library-borrowing cards”:http://www.kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2002/11/26/the-network-of-ideas/. A snippet:

When I was a grad student at Princeton, someone told me that (just like most libraries before computers) the books in Firestone library used to have a pocket inside the cover where the book’s borrowing record was kept on a card. When someone wanted the book from the library, the card would be removed and stamped with the date. Faculty and students then stamped their own name on the card or (either earlier, or instead) simply signed the card when they borrowed the book.

The computer catalog and University ID cards replaced this system. Books now have barcodes and the computer system holds a record of everyone’s borrowing. But Firestone has a huge number of volumes, so the library staff couldn’t simply stick the new barcodes in every one. Instead, they did it on demand. If an old book was borrowed under the new system for the first time, a barcode sticker would be affixed to its inside cover. The old card was thrown away.

Very occasionally, then, one would come across a book or journal that had been acquired by the library under the old system, had been borrowed a few times, but then lost popularity and just sat in the stacks. Inside the back pouch would be the old library card, with its list of dates, stamps and signatures on it.

The card shown here has a signature from “John Rawls”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Rawls, from March 21st 1950. Beneath him is “Jacob Viner”:http://cepa.newschool.edu/~het/profiles/viner.htm, the economist. And there also is “Gregory Vlastos”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Vlastos, the ancient philosopher and ethicist. As it happens, this evening we’re having a philosopher stay with us for a night or two — one who collects and sells antiquarian books. This topic came up over dinner, and I mentioned my tiny card collection. The philosopher expressed an interest, so I fished them out from a box in the garage, where they’ve been (inside another box) unlooked at for several years. I only have four cards — perhaps I should have worked harder to pilfer Princeton’s treasure trove — but there on one of them (The Philosophical Quarterly v.6, 1956, 6000.7163), quite unexpectedly, just below the signature of “Walter Kaufmann”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Kaufmann and just above the stamp of “Gilbert Meilaender”:http://www.bioethics.gov/about/meilaender.html is a name that’s been in the news just today: S. A. Alito, ’72. How odd.

Defining victory down, part 2

by John Quiggin on January 9, 2006

In this post, I mentioned that I hadn’t seen any commentary from pro-war bloggers on reports that the US will spend no more on Iraqi infrastructure once the current allocation of $18 billion, most of which was diverted to military projects, is exhausted. Although there was lengthy discussion both here and at my blog, no one I noticed pointed to any examples of pro-war posts on the topic.

I said at the time I didn’t want to get into a “Silence of the Hawks” pointscoring exercise on this. As a general rule, no particular blogger is obliged to post on any particular topic. But I would have thought, if you made it your business to report regularly on Iraqi reconstruction, that such a report was worth covering or correcting.

The Winds of Change website gives a weekly report on Iraq, with a focus on reconstruction news. It appears to be a successor to Chrenkoff’s Good News from Iraq, though less relentlessly upbeat. This week’s report contains no mention of the end of reconstruction funding. In case the WOC editors missed it, the WP report is here.

Update Armed Liberal at WoC responds (graciously) to this provocation, calling the Administration’s decision “bizarre” and pointing to an earlier critique of the wiretapping policy. That still leaves the policy undefended, so I thought I’d try again.

Instapundit is usually quick to disseminate pro-Administration talking points (for example on wiretapping) and has posted regularly on Iraqi reconstruction. Only a month ago, Instapundit linked to an Austin Bay post headed (rather ironically in retrospect) The White House Finally Gets Serious About Iraqi Reconstruction. So, now that the nature of “seriousness” in the White House has become clear, does Glenn Reynolds support the cessation of reconstruction funding? Does anybody? End update

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Max Hastings on History Teaching

by Harry on January 9, 2006

Max Hastings had an interesting piece in the Guardian during the break attacking the comments on History teaching in the recent QCA report. I haven’t read the report, so can’t evaluate his critique, but I can say that he gets one thing exactly right.

He singles out the ‘alarm call’ about the

perceived “lack of relevance” of history to pupils’ future working lives. This echoes the notorious remarks of Charles Clarke, when education secretary, dismissing medieval and classical studies.

and rightly knocks on the head the idea that everything in the school curriculum should be relevant to our working lives:

At the weekend, I glanced at some of my old school essays. The questions seem interesting: “Should one think of Henry II as a lawless and arbitrary monarch, or as the founder of an orderly legal and administrative system?”; “Why did Edward I succeed in Wales and fail in Scotland?”; “Can anything be said in favour of James I’s foreign policy?”
Even in 1961, one could scarcely argue that familiarity with such themes contributed much to employability. They were no more “relevant” to middle-class white teenagers then than to schoolchildren of West Indian or Muslim origins now. We addressed them, first, because education is properly about learning to think, and objectively to assess evidence; second, so that we knew something about a broad sweep of the history of the society to which, whether by birth or migration, we belonged.

He’s right to attack the utilitarian approach he identifies to the curriculum.

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Hoorah: David Cameron on the 11-Plus

by Tom on January 9, 2006

The BBC are reporting an interesting speech by David Cameron in which the leader of the Conservative party describes the rough shape the British education system might take if he were to be elected as Prime Minister.

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Robert Blakey

by Chris Bertram on January 9, 2006

I was intruiged by some throwaway comments by David Boucher at the Oxford Political Thought Conference last week, concerning Robert Blakey, author of perhaps the first history of political thought to be written in English, the two-volume History of Political Literature from the Earliest Times which devotes 11 pages to Milton and one-and-a-half to Hobbes. Blakey was brought up to be a furrier and worked in the trade, was a Cobbetite Radical and newspaper editor, Mayor of Morpeth, novelist, philosopher of mind, logician, autobiographer, and academic. He was sacked from his Chair at Queen’s Belfast for “neglect of duty” and awarded a Gold Medal by King Leopold of the Belgians, but was best known to his contemporaries as an expert on angling under the pseudonym “Palmer Hackle”. Fuller details are “here at via Roger Hawkins at Morpathia”:http://www.morpethnet.co.uk/entertain/antiquarian/local_worthies.htm#1.%20ROBERT%20BLAKEY . We shall not see his like again!