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April 15, 2016

Like a swimming duck, there's a lot going on here under the water that you can't see. The site might be holidaying, but I'm not. Here's the April column for Australasian Science magazine.

Universities. What are they for?

Universities in the English-speaking world seem to be moving away from the idea of what a university should be toward institutions which are driven by money and customer demand. The type of problem varies from place to place. The trend now in the UK for example is "noplatforming", where protests are held to prevent people who have controversial opinions speaking at events held on university campuses because exceptions have to be made to the principle of freedom of speech. In the US it seems to be the infantalising of students in order to protect them from challenging or potentially offensive material being presented in lectures or reading material. In one outstanding case a professor was disciplined because a student (in a tertiary level English class) objected to the racism inherent in the word "niggardly". (Not understanding etymology is not confined to undergraduate students – I saw someone with a PhD in linguistics criticise the use of certain terms because they "denigrate" members of certain racial groups. The word "denigrate" descends from a Latin expression meaning "to call something black".)

You can read the rest here.


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