The Impractical Professor

Philosophical ruminations.
Feb. 29 2000 3:30 AM

The Impractical Professor

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Street Smart in the U.K. British Secretary of State for Education David Blunkett is urging academics to "get streetwise." Stop doing research that is "perverse, driven by ideology paraded as intellectual inquiry," and devote yourselves to work that is "directly relevant to the policy debate," he said. Although academics have spoken out against the minister, Blunkett has announced the opening of six new centers to promote "practical research" that would inform policymaking, according to the London Independent. "We are not," said Blunkett, "interested in worthless correlations based on small samples from which it is impossible to draw general conclusions."

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St. Louis Historical District

This year's convention of the Organization of American Historians in St. Louis will double as a protest against racism. The OAH considered canceling its annual meeting scheduled to take place at a hotel in the Adam's Mark chain when five African-Americans and the NAACP sued the company for racial discrimination. Projected financial losses from cancellation made it impractical, so the OAH decided instead to relocate most of the sessions, exhibits, and meals out of the hotel and onto the campus of Saint Louis University. (Click here for an OAH statement on the decision, and here for an Adam's Mark press release.) The organization also plans to demonstrate against Adam's Mark from an adjacent park.

Kerrey Fulfills Presidential Ambitions

Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., will become president of New York's New School University in 2001, when his Senate term expires. Kerrey, who has represented Nebraska in the Senate since 1989, does not have a background in academe—he earned a bachelor's degree in pharmacy—but observers say that his work on distance education in the Senate and his fund-raising prowess caught the attention of the New School trustees.

Food for Thought

Each year, students at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., get a break from cafeteria fare when food-service vendor Sodexho Marriott cooks from the family recipes it solicits from diners. The idea of the "Recipes From Home" program is to ease the transition to "dorm food." According to a Sodhexo press release, one of the favorite recipes of 1999 was "Jed Cahill's Favorite Authentic Regulation Down Maine Fish Chowdah."

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Spilling Their Seed

Earth Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for the destruction of experiments on genetically altered crops at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 800 oat plants engineered for resistance to fungus and viruses were overturned in a university greenhouse, and the acronym "ELF" and the phrase "Free the Seed" were spray-painted on the greenhouse walls. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that at least 18 separate sites have experienced eco-vandalism since last July, including the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at Davis.

I Quit. Not

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