All Posts Tagged With: "Harvard University"
Why Canadians shouldn’t feel so smug about this video
A video is making the rounds showing students at Harvard University struggling to answer a simple question of world geography: what is the capital of Canada? Canadians love this game. We congratulate ourselves for knowing plenty about the US while looking down our nose at Americans who know nothing about us. And the fact that even the best and brightest Americans—Harvard students no less—are so ignorant, well that’s just the whipped cream on the ice cream isn’t it?
But it’s a silly game and we should stop playing it.
For one thing, in videos like this there is no way of telling how many students came up with Ottawa but weren’t shown in the final edit. For another, we should acknowledge that at least most of the students seemed embarrassed by the fact that they didn’t know. And besides, Canada, unlike the UK or France or Japan, is one of those cases where the capital city is not the largest or most prominent city—so it’s a tricky question. I bet most Canadian students think the capital of Australia is Sydney.
But the main reason we should stop finding ways to feel superior to Americans when it comes to a world knowledge, is that, if we faced facts, we would have to admit that we are not much better. Sure we know a fair bit about the US because we are awash in American media, but what about the rest of the world?
Indeed, if you are a Canadian university student, why not take a little test right now? Consider, for example, the world’s ten most populous countries. Can you list all of them? And if you can, can you name the capital cities of each of them? I’m going to assume that you know the capital of China is Beijing, but what about India? Mumbai? Guess again.
Put your hand up if you know the capital of Brazil. Now put it down if you thought it was Rio de Janeiro—it’s actually Brasilia. Do you know the capital of Pakistan, the world’s sixth most populous country? How about Nigeria, the seventh? Can you name any cities in Nigeria?
Don’t get me wrong: I think world knowledge is important. But there is a lot more to knowing about the world than knowing game-show style trivia. It’s more important to me that people know more about efforts to reduce poverty in Bangladesh than the fact that its capital is Dhaka.
Let’s hope they are studying that at Harvard. And everywhere else.
Todd Pettigrew is an associate professor of English at Cape Breton University.
What students are talking about today (March 4th)
1. Harvard University has bagged billionaire superwoman Oprah Winfrey as its 362nd commencement speaker, according to The Crimson student newspaper. “Oprah’s journey from her grandmother’s Mississippi farm to becoming one of the world’s most admired women is one of the great American success stories,” university President Drew Faust wrote in a press release. That sure beats the speakers at my commencement from the University of Guelph, who included Pamela Wallin, a woman whose journey started in Saskatchewan and who went on to become host Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Canadian edition before racking up many frequent flyer points as an unelected Conservative senator.
2. Also at Harvard, a 24-hour campus library is considering a napping room for students who can’t quite pull all-nighters and would instead like to rest for a few hours between exams. The room would be accessible to students who present ID. Blankets and pillows would be provided, reports USA Today. I could see this working, so long as it’s not pitch black in there. That would just be creepy.
A Nicki Minaj t-shirt at Harvard, football & bike-sharing
1. As the deadly Israel-Gaza conflict continues, CNN has footage of Anderson Cooper ducking from rocket strikes on repeat while Maclean’s Michael Petrou explains what to watch for next and Nick Taylor-Vaisey analyzes the headlines.
2. Proving that Harvard is still a refuge for the world’s foremost intellectuals, the student-run clothing store Harvard State is selling t-shirts with singer Nicki Minaj’s likeness and the words “Yale You a Stupid Ho.” The photos have offended some (at Yale I assume), but they need not worry. Unlike the shirts that proclaim “Veri Drunk Since 1636,” these ones aren’t yet sold out online.
3. McMaster University’s Marauders football team beat the Calgary Dinos on Saturday at the Mitchell Bowl held at Ron Joyce Stadium in Hamilton in front of nearly 6,000 fans. That means the 48th Vanier Cup on Nov. 23 in Toronto will be a rematch of the 2011 final when McMaster barely beat Laval’s Rouge et Or. Read more in The Silhouette.
Former politician to split time between U of T and Harvard
Former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is taking half-time teaching posts at Harvard and the University of Toronto.
Ignatieff joins the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto with a half-time appointment as professor this month.
In January he is to assume a half-time appointment as professor of practice at the Harvard Kennedy School.
The 65-year-old academic and author had already been teaching some courses at the University of Toronto.
Despite attempts to save money, university cites “extraordinary financial challenges”
The Boston Herald is reporting that, in the wake of a 30 per cent drop in its endowment, Harvard University will be laying off 275 employees over the next week.
“Difficult circumstances have called for difficult decisions,” wrote Harvard president Drew Faust in an e-mail, citing the school’s “extraordinary financial challenges.”
Since January, the school’s administration has tried to save money by cancelling travel spending, reducing discretionary spending, and freezing the salaries of 9,000 employees. Buyouts were offered to 1,600 workers; 500 accepted the offer.
According to an e-mail from the school’s vice president for human resources, the layoffs will be split between administrative and professional positions as well as clerical and technical workers. Forty other employees will see their hours cut.
“These steps have helped to keep the number of involuntary reductions as small as possible,” reads the HR e-mail. “Unfortunately, further cuts are needed in order for Harvard to adjust to the institution’s new economic reality.”
In full gear, professor reviewed student applications in the middle of a war zone
Last year, Kit Parker was a Harvard professor. Today, he is a U.S. army major in Afghanistan.
Parker has spent his whole career juggling two unlikely professions: Teaching and fighting. He returned in December to Afghanistan, where he has been involved in numerous firefights and attacks on his convoys with roadside bombs.
His unusual career path has put the 43-year-old in what he calls “the two extremes of human condition.”
“You have Afghanistan, where you have … 90 per cent illiteracy, people living in mud huts, roughly the 12th century,” says Parker, a towering man with a shaved head, darting blue eyes, a southern drawl and an apparently strong command of just about any subject he talks about. “And then you got people at Harvard, where supposedly we are all literate and have all kinds of education available to us. How more different can these two environments be?”
And yet, he says, one thing is the same – the relentless pace of the work. Nothing prepared him better for Harvard than his first deployment.
“I was used to every day, 24/7-work to survive,” says Parker, who is with the 3rd Brigade of the New York-based 10th Mountain Division. “And you step into the tenure track at Harvard and it is the same thing.”
Parker first heard about Afghanistan as an undergraduate at Boston University in the 1980s. The university was running a training program for Afghan reporters who then wrote articles about the war between the mujahedeen and the Soviet Union’s troops for the university newspaper.
“Little did I know when I was reading these news articles in the student paper that almost 20 years later I would be in this hell hole,” says Parker of Birmingham, Ala. “Joke’s on me.”
He got his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in Boston before moving to Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University, where he earned a master’s in chemical engineering and a PhD in applied physics. He was also an army reservist.
Just before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Parker was considering getting out of the army.
“It was getting more and more difficult to maintain two careers at a high speed,” he says.
But when the attacks happened, “I was in for the whole shebang.”
Visiting professorship will focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies
Harvard University is set to endow a visiting professorship in the study of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies, a position it believes will be the first named, endowed chair on the subject at an American university, according to The New York Times.
The one-semester professorship, made possible by a gift of $1.5 million raised by a network of Harvard alumni, is set to be announced tomorrow as part of the group’s annual commencement dinner.
The post will be named after F.O. Matthiessen. According to Harvard draft press release, Matthiessen was a Harvard scholar and literary critic who “stands out as an unusual example of a gay man who lived his sexuality as an ‘open secret’ in the mid-twentieth century.” The professor leapt to his death from the window of a Boston hotel room in 1950.
“When Harvard says this is a field important enough that we want an endowed professorship in it, it sends a signal to the entire field of higher education that this is an important field of study,” said Kevin Jennings, a Harvard alum who co-chaired the fundraising drive, speaking to a New England newspaper. “Some folks gave $100, and some folks gave $250,000…. This was really a community creation where hundreds of people gave at some level to make it happen.”
While LGBT studies are a relatively new field of study at U.S. universities, Harvard’s move is not the first. City University of New York founded the first program in gay and lesbian studies in 1986, according to Harvard.
A simple way to time the market: follow the money — and do the opposite
If you’d been listening to Ray Soifer for the past several years, your investment portfolio would probably make you the envy of most so-called market experts. Since the early ’80s, Soifer has been using a system for timing long-term stock markets that’s rarely wrong. For several years now, his system has been suggesting to take your money out of the market. Last year it was screaming that a bust was coming.
Soifer’s method is simple, and more than a bit curious: he tracks the number of Harvard MBA graduates who take jobs on Wall Street or with investment banks, hedge funds and venture capital firms. If more than 30 per cent of Harvard’s graduating class takes one of those jobs, it’s a long-term ’sell’ signal (40 per cent of the class of 2007 went to Wall Street). If less than 10 per cent take the plunge into finance, it’s a ‘buy.’ In other words, the more Harvard alums on Wall Street, the worse things are likely to get.
The indicator isn’t really a knock on the quality or character of the Harvard biz school grad. Soifer is one of them (he graduated in the class of ‘65). “It’s not so much that the Harvard MBAs are any greedier than anybody else—certainly no greedier than law school or medical school graduates,” he says. “But it’s really more the behaviour of the Wall Street firms themselves.” When things are good on Wall Street, money starts flowing and competition and recruitment heats up, luring graduates from the prestigious school. Those hiring sprees are a pretty good sign that a boom is peaking and a bust is coming.
Next year’s number should be interesting, notes Soifer. Almost certainly, they will be down. Although, there is a lag between the hiring decisions and the state of the things on Wall Street. Next year’s numbers will include many who made career decisions in the fall of 2008, when the market was declining, but still before the meltdown. The indicator may not be in ‘buy’ territory just yet. “It takes two to three years for a market move to fully reflect itself,” he says.
Soifer acknowledges that while fairly accurate over the long term, his system is a better ‘sell’ warning than a ‘buy’ one. The last time his indicator hit the ‘buy’ level was in the early ’80s (the all-time low was in 1937).
And what does Harvard make of his indicator? “They’ve gotten used to it,” he says. But there was a period when they were not entirely pleased, he adds. “What miffed them was not that I was doing it. What miffed them was the idea that, ‘our graduates are going to that den of iniquity called Wall Street? We think better of them.’ ”