Assorted Links

Some articles that caught my eye in the last few days, including one about higher education that touched a nerve.

1. Why the Scientist Stereotype is Bad For Everyone, Especially Kids – An article that addresses the white, male, bearded, bespectacled, and awkward/deranged stereotype for scientists, as well as the misconception that science is boring. As usual, he argues for a paradigm shift that makes science fun and interesting and results in a better educated workforce.

2. Why Would We Want a Less Educated Nation/ Defending the PhD – A blog post by Claire Potter, Tenured Radical, that discusses some of the many issues of Humanities and Social Sciences PhD programs. Among them include the attrition rates, job markets, and resistance to change while also maintaining the insistence that those who do not achieve a tenure-track job are failures. In many ways, she is trying to appeal to education and intellectualism for its own sake as a way to create and perpetuate an educated society. Commenters universally critique her for being naive here, and the post does come across that way. Perhaps more insidiously, despite the (I believe) well intentioned nature of the post, it also comes across as somewhat condescending and as a self-help session for those people who already seek post-graduate degrees in the humanities. It does call for an expansion of the fields that hire PhDs, but not really encouraging more people to attain those degrees (at least right now). I am sympathetic to the plight–I am, after all, in it–but other than removing stigma of non-academic jobs and, to an extent, changing what is taught by PhD programs, most of the changes are on sectors not in academia.1

The case can be made that there would be a trickle-down effect that would eventually result in more people going to graduate school and yes, a better educated nation is an admirable goal. Yet, I suspect that there are a wide range of environmental and societal issues that must be addressed in order to lay the foundation for the changes that she calls for. So, yes, removing the stigma of non-academic work is necessary, but focusing on the highest level of education, without even looking at whether or not people actually want to go (particularly since we have been conditioned to consider school a drag) is naive.

1 She does manage to write the post without directly attacking Republican legislators, Fox News, or any of the other usual suspects for a case like this, but the attempt to stay high-minded actually feeds into the charges of naivete and condescension.

3. ‘Me too, Me too!’ – A look at some of the dedicated educational centers abroad that are trying to forge professional connections with the top universities in the world.

4. Spoiled Rotten – An article from the New Yorker that looks at the spoiled manner of “American” kids. There are some thought-provoking points here, but there are also some underlying assumptions that are not laid out.

5. A Few Words About Breasts – A piece written for Esquire in 1972 by the late Nora Ephron, republished online.

6. Men Can’t Have it All Either – A Response in the Atlantic to the story by Anne-Marie Slaughter that questions some of proposed changes that Slaughter proposes and points out that what Slaughter identifies as a woman’s issue is really an issue that affects both men and woman in the modern world.

7. Europe is on Big ATM, and Only the Few Know the Code – A post by Charlie Pierce that compares the formation of a central European Treasury to a system with no nations, but only banks.

8. EU Unveils its vision for the future of monetary union – A story about the future of the Monetary Union that sparked Pierce’s comment.


The world we live in is very much the product of the world our parents grew up in. Sure, fashion, music, media, technology and the like have advanced or regressed, dependent upon your taste, but the groupings that the nation-states of the world are in are a product of the Cold War. NATO, the UN, and the EU are perhaps the most obvious examples of this, especially without the Warsaw Pact, but there is also SEATO, the African Union and the OAS, to name a few.

There is some argument that NATO, ostensibly a mutual defense pact against the Soviets has outlived its usefulness, but there are others that disagree. NATO was the driving force behind the interventions in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. Another indicator that perhaps this is untrue is that France, a country that had pulled out of full membership in 1966 under President De Gaulle, returned two weeks ago to reintegrate its military function with the organization.

The move was immediately criticized as it would “bring France further under the American thumb,” so to speak, and there is some truth to this since the overall commander of NATO forces (SACEUR – Supreme Allied Commander, Europe) is always an American, although his deputy is always a European. From a participatory sense this makes sense as the United States provides far and away the most manpower and equipment, yet it also breeds resentment (though NATO actions must be approved unanimously and any “no” prevents action from being taken).

President Sarkozy offered his position up for a confidence vote as a result, which is took place today. My personal take is that this is an overreaction, but one that is typical of the French who want to preserve their position in the world. Of course this is best done by them holding the United States at arm’s length while fostering the strength of the European Union, of which they are a driving member. As unhelpful as this is, France and the United States are operating and have been operating in very similar ways; both want to be leaders, and both want their military to operate solely under their guidance.

I don’t know how to resolve this issue and there will always be jostling for predominance, but the world has also been becoming more closely knit over the past 50 years. Countries from around the world are less and less isolationist and certain parity is required in interactions. No country wants to give up their sovereignty and yet all must do so at some level if organizations such as the UN are to work.

The conclusion of the story is that Sarkozy survived the vote, winning approximately 60% of the vote. This fact suggests both that a slim majority believe that NATO is still the predominant western military alliance in the world and that France should have more input into the operations of it, and that a large minority believe that if France did not need NATO for the past 40 years and should never surrender military command into this outdated system. Both groups likely support the EU as the most important vehicle for French foreign policy, one simply believes that the wider military alliance has a place in the world for the foreseeable future–to the extent that France should rejoin fully.

Edit: I lied. This very well could be that most French do not want the reintegration, but that this one policy issue is not enough to drive the President from office.