Academic Groupthink and the Power of Randomness– A discussion by Neville Morley about invitation-only academic workshops. His basic point is that invitation-only events tend to support a limited group of students and scholars, while marginalizing everyone else.
The Historicity of the Hall of Fame Debate– A discussion of historiography and the baseball hall of fame by way of responding to the group of people determined to maintain “the integrity” of the institution by excluding those who cheated…also known as everyone who played in the 1990s and most of the 2000s. His point is much as mine has been (and why I would put Pete Rose in the hall, though I can understand the lifetime ban so long as he is put in posthumously), which is that the hall of fame is both a record of the game and a memorial to the greatest players of each generation. The game of baseball is what it was at the time and no amount of omission will change that. Put them in and then you can have a debate about what narrative is presented with the plaque–are we going to remember Mark McGwire for chasing and then breaking the single season home run record or for steroids (or both)? That should be the debate, not whether or not he should be in the hall of fame, any more than the height of the mound, size of ballparks or a game without an emphasis on home runs at all should be held against players of other eras.
The end of Homework?-Discussion in the New Yorker about the potential of eliminating homework in schools on the grounds that it does not provide a significant benefit for test scores and is universally despised. The author suggests that providing extra-curricular activities–music lessons, sports programs, museum trips, etc– for students through the schools (so that the financial burden does not fall on the parents) in place of homework would allow for the elimination of homework for everyone (since the opponents are affluent parents). For some types of classes this idea works well. For others, there is a need for homework (paper writing once students reach a certain age, and certainly reading books) because there is simply not enough time in class for students to read entire novels or even news/history articles that should expand their awareness beyond what the teacher says–one of the dangers of a lecture based education that dominates history at all levels. Moreover, while the idea of more extra-curricular activities is a good one, there needs to be more imagination to meet the needs of rural schools for whom museum trips is not feasible, as well as more education funding to pay people to lead these activities.