Online Writing Courses at Stanford (Spring)

Quick fyi: Starting Monday, you can sign up for online writing courses at Stanford. (See list below.) Offered by Stanford Continuing Studies and the Stanford Creative Writing Program (one of the most distinguished writing programs in the country), these online courses give beginning and advanced writers, no matter where they live, the chance to refine their craft with gifted writing instructors and smart peers. Just to be clear, the courses are not free, and they will start the first week of April. For more information, click here, or separately check out the FAQ.

(Full disclosure: I helped set up these courses and think they’re a great educational opportunity. But nonetheless take my opinion with a grain of salt.)

Spring Courses:

By the way, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and want to keep the mind engaged, give some thought to Stanford Continuing Studies. Our full spring catalogue is here.

Free Books from HarperCollins

As discussed in this NY Times article, HarperCollins has made a few of its books available online for free. You can read them from start to finish in digital format. But you can’t download them, and they’ll only be available for a few more weeks. (Presumably new books will be made available in the future.) Here’s what you’ll currently find.

Related Content: 

For more free books, see our Audiobook Podcast Collection and 45 Free Cutting-Edge Books … Courtesy of Creative Commons

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An Animated History of Evil

This animated mockumentary traces the history of evil from Ancient Greece until today. It’s been getting some play on the internet this week. And, if anything, you have to give it points for creativity. We’ve added it to our YouTube Playlist.

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Paul McCartney Goes Classical

Sir Paul talks about his classical album “Ecce Cor Meum” (Behold My Heart). It was performed live at Royal Albert Hall, and it’s now being released on DVD.

via The New Yorker’s Goings On blog

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Lawrence Lessig’s Last Speech on Free Culture (Watch it)

Below we have posted the last lecture that Lawrence Lessig will ever present on Free Culture. It’s an area where he has spent the past decade working, and this talk offers an excellent introduction to Lessig’s thought and work on this issue. Given at Stanford on January 31, the presentation is one that Steve Jobs could appreciate. Very well done. So give it a watch below (or here). Also, if you’d like to get free digital copies of Lessig’s major writings on Free Culture, look here.

As for what Lessig plans to do next. He has talked about combating corruption in Washington (something he talks about here). That’s part of the plan, but he may do it by running for Congress. Read this article in the Wall Street Journal and check out the new site:

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A Nation of Dunces Revisted: Video + Podcast

Here’s a quick follow up to our post on Susan Jacoby’s new book, The Age of American Unreason.  Since the original post, we have pulled together some media featuring Jacoby and her views on America’s drift toward anti-intellectualism.

First, you can watch her recent interview with Bill Moyers: VideoMp3iTunesFeed.

Next, listen to this radio program — “Anti-Intellectualism in the US” — that features Jacoby and a panel of thinkers: Mp3iTunesFeedWeb site.

The Dearth of Conservative Professors Explained

Liberals outnumber conservatives in the academy. That’s a known fact. What explains this divergence? Some have attributed it to liberals creating a hostile environment for conservatives. But new research calls that view into question and offers an intriguing alternative explanation.

As described in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Matthew Woessner (a conservative academic) and April Kelly-Woessner (a liberal academic) looked at surveys completed by 15,569 college seniors, and what an analysis of the data suggests is that “the personal priorities of those on the left are more compatible with pursuing a Ph.D.” “Liberalism is more closely associated with a desire for excitement, an interest in creative outlets, and an aversion to a structured work environment. Conservatives express greater interest in financial success and stronger desires to raise families. From this perspective, the ideological imbalance that permeates much of academia may be somewhat intractable.” Or, put differently, this imbalance may not be going away any time soon.

To delve further into their research, you can read their report online here.

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A Nation of Dunces?

There is a lot of publicity this week around Susan Jacoby’s new book, The Age of American Unreason. The new work fits into the tradition of Richard Hofstadter’s 1963 classic, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. And it seemingly moves in the same orbit as Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason (2007). The upshot of Jacoby’s argument is that “Americans are in serious intellectual trouble — in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.” As she goes on to say in this op-ed appearing in The Washington Post, we’re now living in a moment when Americans are reading fewer books than ever, and they know staggeringly little about the world: Only 23 percent of Americans with some college education can identify Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel on a map, even though the US has a tremendous amount at stake there. (Source: NY Times book review.) And one fifth of American adults think that the sun revolves around the Earth. This is all pretty bad. But what makes matters worse is the “alarming number of Americans who have smugly concluded that they do not need to know such things in the first place.” Ignorance has somehow strangely gone from vice to virtue.

What are the solutions? I guess you’ll have to get the book, or get millions of your friends to read Open Culture (wink).

UPDATE: You can catch Bill Moyers’ interview with Susan Jacoby here: videomp3iTunesfeed. This will let you take a closer look at Jacoby’s argument. Thanks Muriel for the tip!

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America’s Philosopher President

Ideas & Culture Podcast Collection

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.