9.438 Humanist as intellectual matchmaker?

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Sun, 7 Jan 1996 17:37:49 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 438.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)

[1] From: Willard McCarty <mccarty@phoenix.princeton.edu> (32)
Subject: o tempora! & what can be done about them

My recent note about getting talented people together to undertake work in
humanities computing resulted in a quite justified comment that for many or
most young scholars the possibility of a career is very slim indeed -- there
are, simply, no careers to be made by the projects we may dream of, however
compelling these may be. So I repent me of my tossed off remark. Having
removed that impurity, however, fine gold remains. In the course of our work
we encounter much that needs doing, that we cannot ourselves hope to do. So,
what can be done about that which remains to be done? Humanist is one of the
vehicles we have at our disposal. How might Humanist help bring together
talented people and interesting projects?

I recall a remark that a close friend and great scholar has made to me
numerous times: because the academy is as it is, for many of us the
intellectual life will simply have to continue outside of it. Again my
question: how can Humanist help, both inside and outside the academy?

For those of us within the academy, this should be a worrisome state of
affairs. There's the moral question just raised by Maris Roze of DeVRY, and
a serious matter it is, the "I'm all right, Jack" attitude of those who are
secure. I'm thinking rather of the long-term threat to our academic way of
life as, inevitably, more and more of the intellectual activity moves
outside the academy. Various people (e.g. Stanley Katz of the ACLS) have
already observed how the Internet, esp. in the form of the Web, threatens
the monopoly that academic institutions have had over the distribution of
culturally important information. Some may scorn current efforts in distance
education via the Internet, but I see no reason why in principle education
via the Internet cannot compete successfully e.g. against large lecture
classes with tutorials run by TAs. Nothing can, of course, substitute for
face-to-face encounter between a real teacher and a student eager to learn,
but how much of this actually takes place under current conditions? (I am
NOT, by the way, suggesting that a TA is necessarily a bad teacher,
though I certainly wasn't a treat for my students then; rather, that a
system in which TAs do much of the teaching is at best second best.)

At the risk of annoying you thoroughly, let me ask again: what can Humanist
do about all this?