Dicta

The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

Episode #28: The Civility Trap with Rusty Reno

Peter Wood

What purpose does civility serve? How can it be misused? Listen in as I discuss these questions and more with Rusty Reno.

Episode #12: Elitist Status Symbols with Darel Paul

Peter Wood

Peter W. Wood sits down with Darel Paul, a professor of political science at Wiliams College and author of From Tolerance to Equality.

The Oscars, Oppression, and Our Mal-educated Citizenry

Keli Carender

The Oscars are yet another example of how American civics education has been corrupted.

Oh No Pomo: Further Proof of the Rejection of Postmodernism

Carol Iannone

Literature lovers are pushing back against indiscriminate veneration of the avant garde. 

High Art Deserves a High Place in Higher Education

Peter Wood

Will the fine arts ever feel like native inhabitants of the university, or will they always be little guests?

NAS vs. Nas

Peter Wood

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) is sometimes confused with the hip hop artist and actor, Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, widely known as Nas. The mistake is understandable.  Here’s how to tell the difference.

Test Your Knowledge: Christmas Pop Culture

Glenn Ricketts

From 34th Street to Charlie Brown to the Grinch, Christmas has had enormous influence on popular culture. 

Teacher Movie Mythology and Won't Back Down

Peter Cohee

While most movies about teachers seem mythical, the recent movie Won't Back Down is a different type of teacher movie.

The Youth Vote

Jason Fertig

We know why faculty lean left.  But why do students?

Mumford and Sons: God, Literature, and Rock and Roll

David Clemens

A deeper look at the lyrics of popular band Mumford and Sons reveals influences of Steinbeck and explorations of the 21st century male experience and his spiritual yearnings.

Duke Cheston Reviews Sex and God at Yale

George Leef

Reviewer Duke Cheston finds the new book Sex and God at Yale effective in exposing the degradation of Yale.

No, This Isn’t “The Onion”

George Leef

Inside Higher Ed today has a story about a new book by a professor on hip-hop culture in college. In the interview, the author says, ”Hip-hop collegians are college students who create hip-hop and apply its sensibilities and worldview to their educational lives….They dance, rhyme, make beats, DJ, paint and draw visual arts such as graffiti, curate events, and more… A hip-hop collegian is not someone who simply listens to rap music. Anyone who turns on the radio can listen to rap music today because it is a mainstream part of American society. But a student who is deeply invested in the fuller culture of hip-hop, often by creating a part of it, and applies its sensibilities to education, is a hip-hop collegian.”

Sounds like a satire from “The Onion,” as one commenter wrote, but apparently not.

I wonder just what hip-hop “sensibilities” are and how they differ from the sensibilities affiliated with any other form of music. Other than perhaps creating more graffiti,how are these “hip-hop” collegians different from others?

Lady Gaga Makes It to Harvard

Charlotte Allen

Charlotte Allen ponders the curious fascination academics seem to have with a popular singer. Perhaps it's connected to post-modernist theory?

When Adolescent Culture Goes to College

Jonathan Imber

Sociologist Jonathan Imber analyzes the common threads running through recent student protest behavior.

"Popular Culture and the Academy" AQ Issue in Print

Ashley Thorne

The winter issue of Academic Questions looks at the ways pop culture affects higher education today.

Culture and the NY Times

Daniel Asia

I am aware that I am getting older, and therefore have less patience. But is it really that important where I or you were when John Lennon died? Thirty years after his untimely death this still seems to be an important question for some. I guess I need to ask why. John wrote some very nice tunes. A major thinker he was not. His activities in retrospect, seem a little tawdry, a little silly, and often downright foolish. I keep hoping the baby boomers will grow up, but my hopes are dashed repeatedly. I am left with the awful image of 90 year olds tottering in the old-age home to the streaming sounds of Satisfaction (yes, I know this is Mick's and not John's) and I want to hold your hand. Help!!

Newsflash: MSN Cites "Weird" College Courses

Glenn Ricketts

This just in from the MSN homepage, where there's a piece advising parents of prospective college students to check out what their hefty tuition buys them these days. The "weird" offerings include courses on dancing in laundromats (I'm not laughing - that really helped when my kids were young), the Philosophy of UFOlogy and the History of Furniture. Can you imagine that? Since I have a recollection that we may have run similar stories at this blog site, I thought I'd pass it along. I was unable to determine if any of them were freshman comp. courses, but I'll try to find out in light of George Leef's previous post on that fascinating subject.

Muppet Yoda or ‘Toon Yoda?

David Clemens

For 30 years, I have used Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now in conjunction with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to illustrate allusion, ambiguity, irony, anxiety of influence, medium imperatives, and narrative architectonics.  Oddly, the last few times I showed the film, many students were left speechless by the intensity of the experience.  I was puzzled at first but then realized that their distress might stem from something that Apocalypse Now lacks:  CGI. Today’s students are accustomed to computer-generated images and special effects, but CGI and full-motion capture/performance produce weightless pictorials with no substance.  Avatar and 300 are forgettable eye candy, impalpable as a mirage.  But in Apocalypse Now, when the script called for Col. Kilgore to order an airstrike and blow up a jungle with napalm, director Coppola blew up a jungle with napalm.  Coppola also blew up a physical Do Long Bridge and expended many hundredweight of black powder, phosphorous, and fuse on a physical village of Vin Drin Dop.  When a carabao is slaughtered, a real, luckless carabao was slaughtered. This gravity of actuality is shocking to today’s students for whom simulation, simulacra, and virtuality are the “natural” landscape.  Film critic John Podhoretz decries CGI because

the extreme artificiality of the form creates distance between the viewer and the work. The secret about the movies is the way they trick you into believing you are seeing something realistic when you are actually watching something entirely artificial. The key is the recognizable human face and the interaction of the human body with recognizable real-world objects.  Remove those from the picture and you are in the entirely stylized realm of kabuki theater.

Cyberpunk legend William Gibson contends that soon most people will live in a “blended-reality state.”  The “entirely stylized” apparitions of CGI convince me that my students already live there with profound emotional and educational consequences.

For Shame!

Peter Wood

On the transformation of the idea of "shame" - and how the right kind of shame is seen as honorable. Especially on the college campus.

Is American Cultural Influence Declining?

Herbert London

Cowboy hats in Japan? It seems America is still a trend-setter.

Zombies Ahead!

Peter Wood

Creeping public controversy about the role of zombies in our society prompts us to consider their place in higher education.

Shaming the Winners

Ashley Thorne

Media hype after a 100-0 basketball game between two small private schools in Dallas exemplified a cultural tendency to vilify success.

Updike at Rest

Peter Wood

Will the great American author's legacy outlive him?

The College Backgrounds of America's Leading Syndicated Columnists

Tom Wood

Journalism's roots in higher education remind us of the university's role in public society.

Chocolate Rage

Peter Wood

New anger in America sets cultural trends, writes NAS Executive Director Peter Wood.

The College Backgrounds of America's Leading Newspaper Opinion Columnists

Tom Wood

A look at how higher education has influenced the analysts and inscribers of American public opinion.

When I Squeeze You, You Make Noise!

Peter Wood

NAS executive director Peter Wood considers the rationale behind Princeton's "25 Most Influential Alumni" list. Not to miss among the "Portraits of Influence" is the man who gave us the Rubber Ducky song.

If I Ran the Zoo XIV

Erin O'Connor

Erin O'Connor and Maurice Black point us to Dr. Seuss's commencement address that urged, "swallow what's solid," but "spit out the air!"

NAS Is Moving

Peter Wood

On May 30, we will move in to our new office space near the Princeton airport.