4.0535 Musings: Disciplines, Universities & Education (6/147)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 27 Sep 90 18:01:57 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0535. Thursday, 27 Sep 1990.

(1) Date: Wednesday, 26 September 1990 2142-EST (30 lines)
Subject: miscellaneous

(2) Date: Wednesday, 26 Sep 1990 18:20:06 EDT (16 lines)
From: "Patrick J. O'Donnell" <U1095@WVNVM>
Subject: 4.0530 Social Sciences and the University

(3) Date: Wed, 26 Sep 90 20:20:06 EDT (35 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: It's the quality of mind that counts, yes?

(4) Date: Wed, 26 Sep 90 20:42:48 EDT (21 lines)
From: TEBRAKE@MAINE (William H. TeBrake)
Subject: Is it really necessary to dump on whole groups of non-humanists?

(5) Date: Thu, 27 Sep 90 09:10 EDT (36 lines)
From: Sheldon Richmond <S_RICHMOND@UTOROISE>
Subject: writing among academics

(6) Date: Wed, 26 Sep 90 21:11 EST (9 lines)
Subject: RE: 4.0524 "Educationist"?

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wednesday, 26 September 1990 2142-EST
Subject: miscellaneous

Welcome Back, HUMANIST! Not that there isn't plenty else to do, but I
did miss you. And Congratulations, Norman Coombs (thanks, Willard, for
posting the kudos -- yes, it is a singular form, in Greek, but I almost
said "kudo"!)! As for the sociologists and psychologists, and the
connected tales of woe, try being in "religious studies" (originally
"religious thought"!) in a highly professionalized and science oriented
(also social science) context such as Penn! At least we can consciously
focus on trying to bring together the best in the various "approaches"
to religion, including sociological, anthropological, psychological,
historical, philosophical, philological-textual, and the like. Indeed,
the only humanities courses here devoted to instruction in using
computers as such are offered by "religious studies" (that must mean
something!?). Ian Lambert, can that information help with your quest
for "biblical computing" courses? (You have a ready made text book in
John Hughes' BITS, BYTES & BIBLICAL STUDIES [Zondervan, 1987, but still

Finally, my general experience with language skills in such "different"
scripts and structures as Hebrew and Arabic is that adeptness in Math
(or in testing well in "quantitative" skills) often correlates with
adeptness in learning and using the languages by native English/American
speakers. But Judy Koren says she is lousy at Math but adept at
languages. Blows another hoary theory of mine! Ah well, life is too
short to worry about it.

Bob Kraft (Religious Studies, U. Penn)
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------25----
Date: Wednesday, 26 Sep 1990 18:20:06 EDT
From: "Patrick J. O'Donnell" <U1095@WVNVM>
Subject: 4.0530 Social Sciences and the University

In Professor Kessler's response about social sciences and the humanities,
I believe there are at least two misleading remarks. 1) the humanities
and the social sciences are closer in the nineties than, perhaps, they
have ever been, with the fast-growing evolution of cultural studies, of
which new historicism (whatever its problems) is but a single offshoot.
2) the claim that documents have not swollen in the humanities in the
20th century is incomprehensible, both for primary and secondary texts.
NB especially for secondary texts, one only need compare a 1935 MLA
bibliography with a 1988 MLA bibliography to see the difference. I
really don't understand, therefore, the distinctions Prof. Kessler is Dn
interdisciplinary notation which has not quite yet lost its relevance)
part of the human sciences.
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------47----
Date: Wed, 26 Sep 90 20:20:06 EDT
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: It's the quality of mind that counts, yes?

My gratitude to Norman Miller for his sermon in praise of mind over
departmental affiliation. Perhaps there are many humanists in this
seminar who by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have been
driven to the margins of the (officially defined) humanities and found
that culture and cultivated intelligence do not end there or fade into
barbaric cant. We certainly have cant enough within the very core of the
humanities, tired old crank-turning, frantic new crank-turning, and many
other symptoms of pervasive morbidity I need not enumerate. What I've
always thought was humane about the humanities was the training in the
exercise of the imagination, the ability to transcend one's own mental
provincialisms and take on other worlds. For me the computer has been
the occasion for many adventures -- perhaps I should call them raids --
into disciplines for which I was never trained (one of them is, in fact,
sociology), but I have not noticed on the whole that the prose gets any
worse or the wit any less sharp. Or any better.

Computing in the humanities relentless drives us outward to seek
connections with other disciplines. From the perspective of computing,
can any distinction be made between the social sciences and the
humanities? When we consider the phenomenon of modelling, how is the
representation of systems in the humanities any different from those,
say, in medicine? To drive this to its limit, is there any such thing as
"computing in the humanities", or is our field merely a response to a
temporary problem of user support?

Wandered a bit, I know. I keep thinking that the primary value of
computing for the humanities is the reexamination it should force us to
make of what we do and why, where we draw our disciplinary lines, and
why. But now I must run off and be productive, with a computer.

Willard McCarty
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------28----
Date: Wed, 26 Sep 90 20:42:48 EDT
From: TEBRAKE@MAINE (William H. TeBrake)
Subject: Is it really necessary to dump on whole groups of non-humanists?

Of course, there are those in education and sociology who do not write
as well as they should, just as there are those in the humanities who
are less than perfect. But what really is the point of the infantile
categorization of sociologists or educationists (if that's what they
prefer, so what?) as poor writers. Such statements make those of the
recently castigated Halo seem very sophisticated indeed. And it's
downright foolish to be jealous of an occasional new building for one of
the social sciences, isn't it? Unthinking statements of this type earn
for us humanists as a group the reputation of being self-centered,
egotistical know-it-alls. If we do not treat others with respect, we
have no right to expect it for ourselves. I shudder to think where my
own discipline of history would be today if it had not been exposed to
some of the methods and perspectives of the social sciences. Maybe we
should also learn better manners from another quarter?

Yours (with one foot in the humanities and one in the social sciences),
Bill TeBrake, History, U. of Maine.
(5) --------------------------------------------------------------45----
Date: Thu, 27 Sep 90 09:10 EDT
From: Sheldon Richmond <S_RICHMOND@UTOROISE>
Subject: writing among academics

The Kessler/Miller exchange, and other commentators remarks about
"educationists" and writing raises a distressing question:

Why do academics, by and large, write so unclearly?

We know that in medieval times scribes often wrote obscurely to hide
their ideas from the unlearned who might confuse their minds by
misconstruing profound thoughts. What's the rationale for unclear
writing these days?
Two theses: 1) People (i.e. university professors) don't take you
seriously unless you write in the jargon of the day --this thesis has
been mentioned in the HUMANIST.
2) These people have nothing to say (the 'emperors
of the Mind are naked'), but want to hide the obvious bareness of their
thoughts from themselves.

New ideas are hard to express so we need new jargon, "technical
language", to convey the new and complicated theories.

Let us suppose this is true. The obvious reply is-- put your money
where your mouth is: Please tell us your new ideas, in the social
sciences, or the humanities?

Let us hear just one new idea, or even one new question:

My challenge is, can we in the HUMANIST, compile a list of say, 10 new
ideas developed in the last thirty years? Let them come pouring in--a
torrent of original thoughts in the social sciences and humanities, even

Sheldon Richmond
(6) --------------------------------------------------------------14----
Date: Wed, 26 Sep 90 21:11 EST
Subject: RE: 4.0524 "Educationist"? (1/99)

"Educationist" may be a barbarism in the ears and eyes of some
of you gentlefolk, but neologism it is not. It's been in the lingo
for over 150 years.

Dirk Jellema