New Republic Phoney-Baloney Excuse for Propping Up Liberal Arts Education: A Bunch of Cool Sci-Fi That Has Nothing to Do With Liberal Arts Education


A real head-scratcher over at New Republic from its science editor Judith Shulevitz. 

Thesis: lots of governments are supposedly slashing support for college level liberal arts education. We need to convince them it's valuable. 

So, saith Shulevitz:

If the criterion for funding areas of study must be that they add to American wealth and competitiveness, then I'd like to offer my own only half-unserious case for the liberal arts. I propose that they should survive, and thrive, because they give us science fiction, and science fiction creates jobs and makes us rich.

Yes, there is a decent case to be made that many of the wonders of techno-modernity arose from researchers who were inspired by science fiction, though it's a controversial declaration, likely overstated in cases and not a dead-shot proven one. 

To buttress the point she talks of the work of Jules Verne, H.G Wells, Neal Stephenson, Ursula Le Guin, Orson Scott Card, and William Gibson. In most cases, there is no clear and inarguable connection between literary idea and real-world achievement in the first place, or at least no proof that the technical achievement could not have happened before being vaguely discussed or imagined in different form in science fiction.

More importantly, all these writers did their work as popular entertainers in the free market, not as academics kept going by state funding for liberal arts higher education.

Shulevitz then goes very far afield by noting that the not-useful-to-reality (though perfectly entertaining) Foundation novels of Isaac Asimov relied on the Roman History work of Edward Gibbons (who was himself, although his work is now esconsed within the "liberal arts education," another producer of useful scholarship and entertainment outside the university nexus–Gibbons called his time at Oxford the "most idle and unprofitable of his life") and seems to believe Asimov's interesting but in practice pernicious notion of elite-predictive "psychohistory" is a boon to mankind.

This is not to say that the work studied in liberal arts programs is not a boon to mankind in an overarching way, though her use of science fiction to make this case seems particularly strange.

It is highly unlikely that any scientist or inventor inspired by science fiction was exposed to that science fiction in a university class (although the likes of LeGuin are making it into an academic canon these days), so why is that supposed to say anything about why government needs to fund liberal arts education?

Especially in a world where everyone everywhere has access to a vast quantity and growing of written and pictorial works–state funded higher education is by no means the only way, or even the best way, to guarantee that anyone has access to these works, to be inspired by in their own literary or scientific work. 

To sum up Shulevitz's best case: works written by people outside liberal arts academia, read by people outside liberal arts academia, works which may have been shaped by previous work also produced by people outside liberal arts academia, might have helped make the world a better place, so government needs to fund liberal arts academia. 

It's an intriguing argument, to be sure.

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  1. Let me translate her article for you:

    “Please don’t take away our free money! We need it because we don’t do anything useful that someone would want to buy!”

    1. money without accountability for how its spent, who do they think they are NPR?

    2. Epi was definitely inspired by 20th Century sci-fi, but whether it constitutes an improvement in our standards of living is debatable.

      1. It breathes, Hugh. I know you don’t understand true comfort, but try.

  2. “It’s an intriguing argument, to be sure.”

    I agree, if by “intriguing” you mean foolish, vapid, and ineffective.

    1. It’s a retarded argument, to be sure.

    2. And by “argument” you mean a jumble of words on the screen.

  3. I had more than one English teacher discourage my science fiction reading. My brother was made to rewrite a report on another novel simply for choosing Heinlein’s Starship Trooper. I doubt if anyone in his class even read one tenth of the novels in and outside of the field. Where did these teachers get their hostility to science fiction in the first place? From their liberal arts peers, perhaps?

    1. Science fiction had long, long been looked down on by “real” reading aficionados. It was exactly the same as cinephiles looking down on horror or anything even remotely mainstream; it was all proto-hipster but basically the same thing. It’s gotten better, but that completely arbitrary and undeserved snobbery dies hard.

      1. Most arguments I’ve seen against science fiction were against the author, not the work itself. Though that’s not surprising since progressive types believe the ad hominem fallacy to be a sound and truthful argument.

        1. A minor edit, if I may:

          progressive types believe the ad hominem any fallacy to be a sound and truthful argument.

          1. Fair enough. But the ad-hom seems to be their favorite, followed closely by the man of straw.

            1. They love a good tu quoque, as well.

        2. I found it mostly to be just flat-out ignorant condescension. “True” readers didn’t read science fiction. They read Milton and Melville and maybe Hemmingway and Joyce and so on. But the instant you even mentioned scifi, even classics like Jules Verne, and they just went full hate. Even my parents were pissed that I read so much and that much of it was scifi.

          1. No one really reads Joyce or Faulkner — even the people who have.

            Joyce is the kind of guy that you tell people you read and love because you’re That Guy.

            Same goes for Milton, who people would deride as a fundie fanatic (which he was) if it weren’t from his place in the Western canon and the (wholly mistaken) notion that he was writing anything subversive in Paradise Lost.

            1. I actually like some Faulkner. Milton needs an update. But some of his scenes are okay. The book is a painful, shitty slog as a whole. Hemingway is similarly okay in small doses. But frankly, Stephen Kings cocaine-era short stories are as fine examples of the American short-story genre as anything by Faulkner, O’Connor, or Hemingway.

              1. I like Faulkner alright — but let’s be honest, people only read him because he’s in the canon of great American literature, and if he were read as he ought he would basically be considered a somewhat more refined Southern bitter clinger the likes of whom the left loves to disparage.

                I appreciated Milton better after reading CS Lewis’ interpretation of Paradise Lost… but I can’t disagree with your assessment.

                1. I think Faulkner’s Nobel Acceptance speech is excellent in both thought and expression. Also, I appreciate his ability to drink himself into a corner he had to write himself out of.

                2. I think Faulkner sucks. And I read and like almost everything.

            2. I had a friend like that, just the biggest fucking status oriented with all the fucked up anxieties that go with it phoney that you would ever meet.

              1. That Guy.

                1. That Guy is fun to mess with, though. If you have any knowledge at all about the topic that he’s trying to bullshit on in a casual conversation, it’s pretty amusing to get him to trip all over himself when he realizes he’s way out of his depth.

                  Not quite as fun as tripping up Tony, but almost on that level.

                  1. Meh. I find That Guy to be so tedious (because of his many clones) that I usually just walk away rather than engage.

          2. Nobody enjoys Joyce. Although I think someone on here mentioned reading Moby Dick mulitple times for fun. Which is just masochistic.

            1. I had to read moby dick multiple times, not because of school but because my idiot first wife agreed to a job indexing a book about Moby Dick and ensuring the page references were correct, then she never actually touched the job until 2 days before it was due. So I got stuck spending an entire weekend pouring over both Melville (who I already hated for having had to read Old Man and the Sea in school) and this critical analysis of Moby Dick over and over again to ensure we had the right index points and page references.

              1. Old Man and the Sea

                TOMATS is a Hemingway book. You might be thinking of Billy Budd.

              2. Old Man and the Sea

                TOMATS is a Hemingway book. You might be thinking of Billy Budd.

                1. Damn, squirrels.

            2. I. Fucking. Hate. Joyce. I absolutely hate his shit with a passion. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the worst self-indulgent garbage I’ve ever read. By the time I was halfway through it I was hatereading at that point.

              I really, really hate Joyce.

              1. Are you the one who wrote that Amazon review which included some hilarious line about the book pooping on your bed?

            3. Nicole likes that kind of stuff.

              I thought Portrait of the Artist as a Youn Man was pleasant to read. I haven’t been able to get into anything else by Joyce, though.

              1. And that is why nicole is the worst.

                1. Fuck all y’all. Moby-Dick: the shit. Billy Budd: the shit. Joyce: Dubliners is excellent (though we know Epi just hates Micks).

                  (And yes I have read M-D at least half a dozen times, only ever “for fun.”)

        3. I once had a discussion with an instructor in a liberal arts class I took (German) in college about Robert Heinlein. Never having read any of his work, she had been convinced by others in the LA community that he was a dirty sexist and racist. I did my best to describe what I see as the reality–that Heinlein may have put female characters up on a pedestal, but only because all of his protagonists were generally hyper-competent. She relented and agreed that she should read some of his work. Not sure of she ever did. I also cured her of her fear of guns. She enjoyed shooting but said she’d probably never own a gun of her own.

      2. The irony of it, the book I was reading when one teacher espoused her ignorant opinion was Nova. If she had had any idea what a respected academic Samuel Delaney is, her own snobbery would have been self mortifying.

        I wished he wrote more tightly put together novels like that one. Nearly as perfect a novel as I’ve ever read. Reread again recently, and it didn’t loose anything.

        1. I think the only novel of his I’ve read is Dhalgren. The funny thing was, I tried to read it when I was young (about 20) and it totally kicked my ass. I didn’t like it, almost felt a visceral hate for it, and worse, just could not wrap my head around it and felt entirely lost. It’s one of the few times I just quit on a novel I wanted to read before finishing it.

          Then I picked it up again on a whim about 15 years later, breezed right through it, and really enjoyed it. Weird, huh? Maybe I should read it again in a few years just to see what happens.

          1. It’s not a difficult read, but then I get to the gay sex scenes and find my self stuck on a few pages, over and over and over, before moving on. Funny how that happens even though I’m totally straight!

          2. More seriously, the use of allusion in that work is beautifully done especially compared to Joyce with his all too obvious mix of Greek mythology and Catholic symbolism.

            Instead, Delaney gives us The House of the Ax. That’s just boss.

    2. Starship Troopers is a great book with some powerful themes. I can see why an English teacher would hate it.

      1. It always ends up being misinterpreted, too. It’s fairly absurd to draw from Starship Troopers any sort of defense for fascism… yet that’s the conclusion that many have come to (including the guy who adapted the book to movie form).

        1. The willfull misinterpretation of the themes discussed in ST is very much like willfull misinterpretations of Ayn Rand’s work (and usually come from people who haven’t even read the works). Though I’ve never understood why Heinlein became someone who had to be demonized by the left. He was a fucking science fiction author for fuck’s sake.

          1. He questioned authority and power. For the left that’s a no-no. What matters to them is who, not what. It’s OK to question authority and power, but only if the wrong person has it. That very same power and authority is not to be questioned if one of them has it. That’s why they despise Heinlein and Rand.

            The left hates principles. They love principals.

            1. The left hates principles. They love principals.

              I’m going to steal that. WITHOUT ATTRIBUTION.

              1. Be my guest. I want that meme spread far and wide.

            2. He did write some open letters and columns that were blunt attacks on statism so I think that was one reason he was vilified. Plus ST was hardly a veiled assault on the “Can’t we all be friends” approach to communism in the 1950s.

            3. Yeah but in this case the principal in question was a quasi communist in the 30’s and wrote one of the books that launched the Hippy movement of the 60’s.

              1. And more or less lionized competence and individual responsibility in everything he wrote.

        2. So you never actually saw the movie then?

          1. Paul Verhoeven thought the book celebrated militarism and fascism (which he basically equates) so he made the movie a parody instead.

    3. When I came upon this:

      works written by people outside liberal arts academia, read by people outside liberal arts academia

      my first reaction was “…which people in liberal-arts academia, by and large, make a point of looking down on.”

    4. I wrote a book report on Starship Troopers too! I analyzed the decision to cast Denise Richards in spite of her refusal to do a naked shower scene.

      1. Did you expand your analysis to ponder why Dina Meyer did do a naked shower scene yet still Richards didn’t?

        1. I just established it as axiomatic that naked shower scenes are integral conventions that are part of any Hollywood movie, and deviations from that norm need to be justified.

          1. However, this was a Paul Verhoeven movie. There should have been some sort of femme fatale present, yet neither Richards or Meyer fit that bill. Maybe the queen bugs represented that?

            1. You idiot, Neil Patrick Harris was the femme fatale, he was the one leading everyone into danger. Or maybe it was Michael Ironside.

              1. No,no. Johnny Rico was the Femme Fatale, Zimm was the hero.

          2. This is true. It’s also what made Beverly D’Angelo such a great actress.

        2. That scene almost made up for the hatchet job Veerhoved did to the book

          1. People who don’t appreciate that movie are truly a puzzle to me. Like Johnny Rico trying to guess which card Doogie is hiding.

          2. People need to realize that the movie is not supposed to be like the book in any way. Just forget the title and watch it as its own work. It’s great Verhoeven camp, which he does so well. And it has Doogie Howser in a Nazi uniform!

      2. Ha! So, the pussy slip pictures of her lounging on the beach are a form of cosmic justice!

      3. She made up for it in Wild Things.

    5. You’re talking about people who, for all their scholarship of historical art, are not themselves creative. It’s hardly exclusive to literature.

    6. When I was in sixth grade, I did a book report on Doctor No (the book, of course, not the movie). I can only wonder what my teacher thought.

  4. For that matter, many (most?) science fiction writers didn’t get degrees in the liberal arts.

    1. Yeah, case in point–Asimov held a PhD in biochemistry, I believe.


        Yes, from Columbia University.

      2. There’s a really great discussion in The Diamond Age between the self-made equity lord and the up-and-coming hotshot engineer about the difference between education gained for education’s sake and the wisdom and education that come from “living an interesting life” which resonated with my own experience. I still read widely and voraciously outside of my chosen profession for its own sake. Not because it makes me a better worker or person.

        1. “But there are only none of you!”

      3. Larry Niven, Frank Herbert, and Robert Heinlein come to mind, as well.

        1. How much formal education did Heinlein have?

          1. He went to the Naval Academy.

          2. Graduated from the USNA, although IIRC from his biography, they didn’t grant Bachelor’s Degrees at the time. Still, basically got an Engineering degree.

            1. Wikipedia says he attended a few graduate-level math and physics classes at UCLA but never completed any degree program.

        2. Orson Scott Card, on the other hand, was a theater major… and now he’s a gay-hating conservative or some such. What a weirdo.

          1. But still, Ender’s Game…

          2. He’s a hardcore Mormon. I liked Enders game ok, but the sequels killed a lot of it for me. Much of the only good thoughts I have for Card now are from A Planet Called Treason and his shorts collections Flux, Cruel Miracles, and The Changed Man.

            1. Wyrms, I liked. I read it so long ago I can’t say whether it was good or I was in a strange place.

            2. I read the first two sequels. I thought Speaker for the Dead was OK but was so disappointed with Xenocide that I have no plans to read more.

              EG movie is supposed to be released in November:


              1. Crap: can NOT get the link to work. Go here:


                and see the link at the end of the intro para

      4. And Arthur Clarke, probably the best example of a science fiction writer proposing some technology that then became reality, got his degree in math/physics.

        And even then, he didn’t promote the idea in his scifi, but in a technical paper.


          He submitted the paper to Wireless World, a magazine for radio and electronics enthusiasts.

          1. The first thing i picked up from Clarke was Childhoods End and I was blown away. Quickly went out and bought The Deep Range and was sorely, sorely disappointed. How do I know what to avoid from him?

    2. Frank Herbert’s story is different from most, and actually rather amusing:…..#Biography

      1. Herbert did not graduate from the university; according to his son Brian, he wanted to study only what interested him and so did not complete the required curriculum

  5. ” all these writers did their work as popular entertainers in the free market”

    One wonders if they would have been as aggressive in making properties for that market if they had not been able to create [profitable] artificial scarcity off their work via copyright.

    1. In many of those cases they were paid so little for their work, yes they would have.

  6. You know, I’m pretty sure Asimov wasn’t advocating psychohistory or an oppressive galactic empire. It’s surprising how many people seem to think he was. He was playing with some ideas, like most good science fiction authors.

    1. Isn’t the fact that the Foundation Series inspired Pauli Krugnuts to pursue a career in the social sciences a pretty big black mark on Asimov? I mean a black mark like Hitler is a black mark on Wagner.

      1. I think you are being overly critical of Asimov. Yes kruggy is a moron but Asimov’s approach to the complexities of a galactic civilization are novel and not least in the sense he identified the problems of bureaucratic disassociation, resources disparity, and centralized power. But the most interesting part for me was how he ultimately pointed out that a single person can bring the most authoritarian regimes to their knees. There are tons of ways to interpret the Foundation series.

        1. I was being sarcastic and harassing Pro Liberate who loves the series.

          1. Well, that kind of scifi is almost as old as he is.

            1. You know, get off my lawn. All of you Asimov haters.

              1. I don’t hate him, I just get tired of reading it all in olde English.

            1. He tended to be on the side of Top Men running things.

              1. You know, I’m not sure that I read Foundation or The Caves of Steel (used most commonly to support that proposition) that way. In the former, he builds the case that individuals don’t matter then shows that individuals do seem to matter.

                In the latter, it’s pretty hard not to see Asimov favoring the Spacer society quite as bit, which was clearly a cult of the individual. Not that he didn’t have statist impulses–he did–but I don’t think it’s quite that simple.

                1. I’m not saying it was simple, or that he was a communist, or that he didn’t think individuals mattered, just that he was definitely in that mid-century “progressive”/technocratic/statist set. He was a Futurian, and they were quite left-wing. He was not at all a conservative, seemed to dislike Republicans, and I doubt he had many good things to say about Ayn Rand.

                  1. IIRC, also into population control.

      2. Activia!

    2. No, what Asimov was doing was sucking. The Foundation series is terrible. I found most of his work outside of the robot stuff to be terrible.

      He has a much higher reputation than he deserves. And frankly, psychohistory is one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever seen in science fiction, hands down.

      1. Yes. I dislike Asimov upon re-reading as an adult as much as people who hate Ender’s Game hate OSC.

        1. The biggest problem with Ender’s Game is all the idiot’s I’ve encountered online who think that they are capable of what Ender did.

      2. yes BUT if you look more at how the polities interacted and how the characters actions were motivated it is a pretty cool series…at least up to Second Foundation.

      3. I read through the entire Foundation series when I was a kid, and the only thing I remember is that it ends with a psychic robot manipulating the heroes into kidnapping a hermaphrodite so that the robot can use it to save the world. What a fucking piece of shit. Fuck Asimov.

        1. I read the first two when I was stuck in hospital waiting rooms when my mother was terminal. They were interesting enough to take your mind off of a hospital waiting room. But I never bothered to read the third.

        2. I got about halfway through the first book as a teenager, and put it down out of boredom. Never went back to it, even though I own a boxed set, which was a gift.

          1. Same here.

            On the other hand, I only heard of and read The End of Eternity recently and it’s fantastic.

        3. Sounds like the plot of Fellini’s Satyricon.

          1. Now that’s a film that ought to be required viewing in college.

        4. “a psychic robot manipulating the heroes into kidnapping a hermaphrodite so that the robot can use it”

          When you put it that way, it sounds sort of Sugarfree-ish.

        5. I reread the Foundation series a few years ago. Some cool ideas, and a nice historical sweep, but on the whole I was disappointed. It was very talky, for one thing, and I can’t imagine what the people who want to make a movie from it are thinking.

      4. Whoa, I’m not saying that psychohistory isn’t dumb, but that’s a tall hurdle. For instance, is it even close to as dumb as the reproductive cycle of the Ocampa (Kes’ race where the females can only give birth once a lifetime and to normally 1 baby)?

        1. Star Trek (and Star Wars) are their own universes of stupid. They’re not even in play here. But if course, you’d be stupid enough to bring them up.

          1. Yeah, I don’t think it’s just S/F snobbery to dismiss both of those in many respects. The former is serious in some social ideas, but not so much as science fiction.

            1. If we were talking about fantasy, Star Wars would fit in fine for most themes involved with the genre, but science fiction, it wasn’t.

              1. Star Wars is that most awful mix: scifi-fantasy. Lucas made it work in the first three, but…

                1. You forgot to throw in action. They got away with the meh plot and lack of interesting dissections of issues because they did a good job making shit blow up.

                2. Sci Fi fantasy is fine if the author knows what he’s doing with it — see Dune.

                  Problem is that most authors just mix the worst tropes from both genres and call it a day.

                3. Actually, only two. Return sucked.

                  1. Half sucked. I liked the Luke-Dad part, but the rest wasn’t so great. Especially the part with the dwarf bunnies that slaughtered armored troops with high-tech weaponry. I dunno, couldn’t they have stuck with Wookies or given the furballs the Force or something?

                    1. I am really not clear what the point of Stormtrooper armor is. It doesn’t stop blasters, it doesn’t stop rocks. Why is it even there?

                    2. Style. They’re very stylish.

                    3. The space battle was cool.

                4. Star Wars is that most awful mix: scifi-fantasy. Lucas made it work in the first three 2.5, but…

                  Fucking Ewoks… Carrie Fisher’s metal slave girl bikini made the first half of Jedi watchable, but then they get to Endor and… *shudders*

            2. Hey, it’s not my fault he didn’t say “written” or “hard” or anything-other-qualifier sci-fi. I just went with the dumbest sci-fi thing I could think of off the top of my head. Maybe the aliens in Signs are dumber, though that might be more horror than sci-fi.

              1. If we were talking about Knights of the Old Republic, that’s a different story. Drew Karpyshyn put some interesting ideas in there. Bored shitless with the Dark and Light sides of the force, he created a Randian oriented middle with perhaps the only interesting characters outside of Han and Darth that universe ever had.

                1. I loved those games. Still pisses me off that III got morphed into an MMO. WTF?

                  1. EA is evil and pollutes all it touches.

                    1. Ah, I see. Fuck them. While we’re at it, I want Wing Commander back.

                    2. EA is completely evil.

      5. I wish I had an army of robots to kill you with. No, it’s okay, it’s not a Third Law violation, because killing Episiarch is good for humanity. It’s a moral imperative.

        Naturally, I disagree completely. I think Asimov was a fine science fiction writer and had some interesting notions, including psychohistory. It’s not dumb, though I think the odds of something like that being possible with anything less than amazing amounts of information are quite low.

        Of course, predicting your behavior is easy. In fact, I predicted your comment [Opens sealed envelope and nods knowingly].

        1. So killing me is ok under the Zeroeth Law? I suppose that’s true…

          1. That, or you don’t meet their criteria for human. Either way, humanity wins.

            1. Maybe you could just modify them so that they don’t have to save him…

              1. Oops! Sorry about not stopping that car that fell on you. From the cliff, where other, totally unrelated robots were pushing the car off for some reason.

        2. Asimov didn’t take himself as seriously as others seem to, judging from his comments in “Buy Jupiter and Other Stories.”

          1. Not at all. I don’t get the Asimov hate.

            1. Not a fan of his fiction, doesn’t ring my bells, but I enjoyed his monthly editorials.

              1. I have a book of short story Hugo winners from 1936-1955 or something like that where Asimov writes the introduction to every story. It is funny as hell, especially when he gets to Harlan Ellison.

    3. I took the trilogy as a kind of sci-fi version of “Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire.” However, I recently read a paper by an academic (literary guy?) who argued it was an interpretation of Turner’s Frontier Thesis.

      Having said that, he did seem to be arguing that some kind of well-educated class needed to at least direct society.

  7. She’s also overlooking the fact that a great many of the early Sci Fi writers came from hard science and not liberal arts backgrounds

    1. Gee, you don’t think they honed their writing skills in their free time, do you?

      1. There were like half-a-dozen guys from NYC who basically founded the Eastern half of American sci-fi both as authors and fans. Heinlein and Sprague DeCamp and a few others were outside, but I think Fred Pohl has been blogging his memoirs of growing up and going to school with Asimov and other names SFF fans would recognize, as well as how they formed a writing group and got themselves published. Short answer, they weren’t being paid to do it.

        1. I like Fred Pohl, too. He’s the last one standing.

          1. He wrote Wolfbane which was a total head trip. But I haven’t picked up anything else by him. Recommendations?

            1. The Gateway series is where I’d start.

  8. Too much time admiring Asimov and not enough time admiring Heinlein: “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!”

    1. Heinlein’s juveniles are probably some of the most amazing books ever written.

      1. Indeed, I just managed to score a bundle of them from a local used book store for my 13 year olds “summer reading program” (that is the one I’m making him do, not the dumbass one the school is making him do)

        1. Loathing all things extrjurisdictional, I ignored those.

    2. There is if you’re an Obama voter.

  9. OT. Finally, the forensic evidence that I have been expecting to hear if Zimmerman was telling the truth:……html?_r=0

    SANFORD, Fla. ? A widely known expert in forensic pathology, Vincent Di Maio, testified on Tuesday that Trayvon Martin was leaning over George Zimmerman when Mr. Zimmerman fired his gun last year.

    A witness for the defense, Dr. Di Maio said the gun barrel rested against Mr. Martin’s sweatshirt, which hung two to four inches away from Mr. Martin’s chest. The bullet, he said, entered his heart from the front, in a left to right direction, and plunged into one of his lungs.

    “It indicates this is consistent with Mr. Zimmerman’s account,” he said. “That Mr. Martin was over him, leaning forward, at the time that he was shot.”

    1. The jury of six mothers will still find him guilty. He killed a little boy.

      1. Naw. He is going to walk. At worst there is a hung jury because there are a couple of morons like you describe. But all of them won’t be. You watch.

        1. If he’s put in prison he’ll be shanked, and if he’s set free he’ll be shot. Either way he’s a dead man.

          1. They won’t kill him. Talking shit on twitter is not the same as actually doing it. Look at this way, the crazy Muslims rarely have the nerve to kill anyone. Do you really think a bunch of idiots on Twitter will? Doubtful.

          2. If he’s set free he’ll disappear. Notice how he gained 100 pounds for this show trial? He’s going to vanish, lose that weight in 6 months and we’ll never see him again (god willing).

          3. Worse life insurance risk: Snowden or Zimmerman?

            1. Tough call. I’d say Snowden, because it’s easier for Zimmerman to disappear.

            2. Snowden, the guys after him are all professionals.

      2. It’s worse than that, he shot Barack Obama’s son!

        1. I’m just glad George Washington is dead so he would have had to have witness that moment in presidency. I know that I am the worse for it.

    2. Di Maio’s a racist Republican, and so is the judge in the case, and so is anybody and everybody who supports Zimmerman’s acquittal.


      1. The judge in this case has been very deferential to the prosecutor. So, so far, she does not seem like a racist.


          /MillionHoodie March

    3. Again, how the hell did this make it to trial? The prosecutor is an idiot with delusions of grandeur and the judge is a moronic enabler.

  10. What is sad about these morons is that they are so wedded to authority that they think the liberal arts depend on going to college and learning from some tenured high priest. If anything college is the worst thing that ever happened to the liberal arts. It took a great field of study and made it into a dogmatic mess.

    I love the liberal arts. And I read such all of the time. I don’t need some professor explaining the transgendered and queer Indian themes of The Republic. I can just read the damned thing for myself.

    1. Same here; big history buff.

      That said, almost everything bandied about under the Aggrieved Studies banner is complete and total crap — they pollute everything they touch, because they refuse to acknowledge the traditional scientific or humanities approaches to history and empirical studies, and substitute politicized horseshit theses for such, instead. I’ve had the misfortune of reading a featherheaded feminist “history” of the Eastern front in WWII, and the overreliance on “oral histories”, “reconstructions”, and feminist theory as opposed to facts was jaw dropping.

      1. hey pollute everything they touch, because they refuse to acknowledge the traditional scientific or humanities approaches to history and empirical studies, and substitute politicized horseshit theses for such, instead.

        But TIT, those rules were created by the racist, cisgender, plutocrats to keep the proles down!

        God, if I wasn’t opposed to the idea of burning books on principle I would have burnt my copy of ‘A People’s History of the United States’. What a load of Marxist bullshit that was required reading in two of my community college poli sci classes.

        1. Give it to the dog. He’ll find a better use for it than the thousands who’ve read the damn thing.

        2. Holy fuck, dude, don’t even bring that shit up. I slogged through A People’s History a few years ago purely to see just how bad it was, and it was worse. I literally cringed, growled in frustration, and slammed my first on my desk every minute. Unreal, utter horseshit.

          Fuck Howard Zinn.

          1. By far the worst was being forced to read Democracy for the Few by Michael Parenti. The man is an unapologetic Soviet apologist!

            1. I read an absolutely hysterically funny piece by Parenti after shortly after the fall of the USSR. He wrote about going to a book fair in Moscow and sitting at his table with all his communist books. He was shocked and dismayed that attendees would see the the books and scowl, ignore him, laugh, or stop to yell at him. He just didn’t understand why they didn’t want to learn more about the glories of Marxism.

              1. Ever Read Bruce Cummings? He is at University of Chicago I think. His thing is how great North Korea is and how it was a victim of Western aggression. It was the US that started the Korean War in Cummings’ view.

                It is amazing what sick fucks there are in academia.

                1. “There are some ideas so stupid that only intellectuals will believe them.”

            2. I had to read that too. I had to contrast that with Johnston’s The Limits of Government in a term paper. I was working for the Chairman of a Fortune 50 company at the time. Parenti cited something evil the company had done in his book. I researched it internally and it turned out to be patently false, so I called Parenti up and asked for an explanation. Had to leave a message. He never called back.

        3. Same goes for Milton, who people would deride as a fundie fanatic (which he was) if it weren’t from his place in the Western canon and the (wholly mistaken) notion that he was writing anything subversive in Paradise Lost.

          THANK. YOU.

          1. But Paradise lost is fantastic. Sure Milton was a fanatic. But who cares. The poem is great.

            1. Fanatic maybe, but not a “fundie.” He was into divorce (initiated by husbands), free will, and was some sort of Arian – in modern terms, a theological liberal.

              But he made up for it be being a great poet (albeit one who overindulged in classical allusions).

        4. I had that idea as a psychological experiment. Start a youtube channel, buy a few used books that popular among certain groups (Bible, Quran, Torah, Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital, the Constitution, The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, People’s History of the United States, Silent Spring, etc.), make video recordings of the books being burned individually, then study the comments posted to the videos.

          Might have been interesting.

          1. I fear the result would be standard YouTube-level comments.

            1. I would skip the Koran-burning. Some of those guys would want to deliver their comments to your neck.

              (DISCLAIMER: Not all Muslims, etc.)

        5. I read a Marxist history of the Civil War. Apparently, the damn capitalist North only fought the feudal South to free the slaves so they could become wage-slaves in the North’s factories.

          1. Marxist history is best history.

            There’s a whole raft of that bullshit that came into the vogue European colleges in the 60s, and it never really left until the early 80s. Whole bunch of stupidity about how Hitler was really a tool of monopolistic forces in Germany (usually eliding right past the Holocaust), and how the war in the East had nothing to do with race and was really a class struggle between proletariat and bourgeois… good times.

          2. So did the Marxist bring up Marx’s actual views on the Civil War?

        6. Couldn’t make it past the introduction. IIRC, that’s where he covered his personal story of growing up poor in NYC and watching one of his uncles work hard and die rather young having still failed to find success. Zinn then explains how that taught him that the American Dream was The Big Lie.

          Imagine, a guy works himself out of poverty, attains a Phd. then writes a shitty book (that makes him a millionaire) which argues that the iconic American Dream is a falsehood; a view his own life story contradicts.

      2. All of the best history written now days is done by amateurs. With the exception of a few old guys running around who are left over from the World War II generation, all of the professional historians write PC hate studies based crap.

        If you want to read about governments and wars and diplomacy and all of the interesting stuff rather than “the life and struggles of women in relation to the Church in 16th Century Portugal”, you are going to be reading an amateur. I read history all of the time. And rarely are the authors tenured profs and when they are they are usually European.

        1. The Euros are great about preserving their own early history, but piss-poor when it comes to contemporary history.

          I can’t think of many outside the Anglo-American circuit who I would recommend as authorities on WWI, WWII, the interwar period, or the USSR.

          1. There are a lot of great Brit historians. Alistair Horne was as good as any American on both World Wars. Martin Middlebrook pretty much invented the history by witness interview technique that Stephen Ambrose got famous for.

            1. Sure, which is why I qualified with Anglo-American. I’m not sure that even the English consider themselves truly European.

              None of the occupied nations have produced any scholarship worthy of the name. (Has France even acknowledged the research done by Anglo-American historians on the continuity of government in Vichy France?)

              1. I didn’t realize you were including the Brits with the Americans. Yeah, I can’t think of a continental historian I have read in a long time. I mostly read British ones really.

        2. Well, not all, in my opinion.

      3. I had the misfortune of going to law school during the golden age of pomo/decon bullshit. I dated a sociology professor for a while who admitted that the closest thing to empirical verification/falsification in liberal-arts academia at the time was how much applause you got at a conference. Also, don’t get me started on the “indisputable facts” that were bald-faced lies.

        1. Two words Dr. Whom; Black Athena. People made entire careers based around outright fabrications and lies.

          1. Excellent point. I sometimes teach a methods class pointing out that Black Athena is hotly debated in academic circles with some critics being verbally assaulted. But Gavin McKenzie’s account of the Chinese discovery of America is ridiculed. The only difference I can see is that one author is an academic and the other isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, McKenzie is way wrong and his book is riddled with errors of logic. But it’s no worse than BA.

            And you should see the mostly respectful reviews written about books on the JFK conspiracy if they’re written by academics.

            1. And the author of BA was black and his book told guilty self hating white academics what they wanted to hear.

    2. My English Lit professor in college (I actually think she was a grad student) told us on the first day that “ever since she could remember”, she had “always read through a Marxist lens”.

    3. My father has an English degree as well as a non-technical PhD. Works in community college admin. I posited to him last weekend that the liberal arts degree was returning to its historical marker as a thing for rich people to do while they mature and meet other young rich people. He agreed. He suggested nursing, dental hygenics, HVAC or electrical as careers for poor people who don’t want to stay poor. He thinks IT is the best, but there’s no real pipeline for that. You just have to fall into it and get 2-3 years experience.

      1. Accounting is a good one for poor folk who don’t want to stay poor, as well.

        If you can hack it, math is a great major — especially if you want to apply to a graduate school.

        1. Yeah, we were leaving out actual 4 year degrees like engineering, accounting or math.

      2. I agree with your father. It used to be that things like ancient Greek and classic literature were studied by idiot sons who didn’t have an aptitude for the family business. The idea that a middle class kid would ever even consider such a career other than becoming a primary or secondary school teacher, didn’t happen until after World War II.

        1. Classics are definitely not studied by idiot sons now (check the GRE scores).

      3. There is definitely a pipeline for IT. Microsoft, Google, Amazon; they hire tons of people right out of college. Of course, the pipeline is a CS degree or possibly a physics/math degree with a lot of computer work.

        1. Yeah. If you want to do actual CS. I’m talking about lazy fucks like me who want to do contract programming for ridiculous (to me) money to implement patterns figured out by someone who has a PhD level understanding of what the computer is doing. Also, CS is a crapshoot if you don’t get recruited by a Big. You can get a CS degree from a state school and end up doing call-center support.

          1. Well, you have to be good if you want to get hired by one of the big players. There are a lot of people who get CS degrees who are terrible, terrible fucking programmers. Just awful.

            1. Agreed. I guess that was the point. Most of the other industries named have vocational competence built in to a 2-4 year program, which successful completion puts you on a track to a middle class career by 22-23. CS/IT requires something more than plodding through the program to get there. And the upsides are accordingly that there is a chance of being well more comfortable than middle class.

          2. “You can get a CS degree from a state school and end up doing call-center support.”

            I rather imagine a degree for U of IL (Urbana) would do a bit better than that.

              1. Yeah, but its wildly dependent of whether you go to UI main campus or SIU. Or UF vs. FSU. The FSU CS degree is worthless. Worth. Less. Seriously the IS (Library Science) degree has better programmer training if you take that track. At least, judging by the grads I’ve interviewed and worked with.

    4. “lots of governments are supposedly slashing support for college level liberal arts education”

      And this will be a complete disaster. Look at what’s happened at the University of Chicago, Stanford, & other schools which are mostly funded out of the government budget.

  11. I believe the ion thruster method of propulsion that’s being developed today by JPL was inspired by the Star Trek episode ‘Spock’s Brain’, which featured a ship using that kind of engine.

    1. Ion? Ion? What is ion?

      Worst. Episode. Ever.

  12. “Without the Federal Department of Reading, no one will read!”

  13. Just a sampling of the Golden Age Sci Fi writers…

    Poul Anderson – Physics
    Isaac Asimov – Biochemistry
    Arthur Clark – Mathematics
    Hal Clement – Astronomy
    L Sprague DeCamp – Aeronautical Engineer
    Robert Heinlein – US Naval Academy (presumably a military science or technical education as we worked as a Radio Operator)

    If I felt like going through and looking up the writers from the 60’s and 70’s I bet I’d find much the same.

    1. Mentioned above: But Heinlein attended graduate-level math and physics courses, for a time, at UCLA.

    2. This is a great article making a very good case that Phillip K. Dick is in retrospect the best of all of the golden age sci fi writers.…..ament.html

      1. You have to torture logic to the breaking point to make that argument. PKD didn’t write his first novel (1955) until 9 years after The Golden Age is considered to have ended (1946).

        1. I misrepresented the author. He actually said “mid century SciFi writers” not “golden age”. I thought the terms were interchangeable.

          1. OK, that makes more sense. Although Heinlein has a better claim on that title. I adore PKD, but he’s not a better writer (he was much more an idea generator) nor as influential to the genre. The modern litcrit settles on Dick as a more palatable alternative to “right-wing” Heinlein.

            1. His point was the in retrospect, Dick captured the future better. The future wasn’t space programs to Mars and beyond. He says

              But in Philip Dick’s world technology is twitchy, with endless glitches, often open to abuse and exploitation by unsavory elements both in and out of government. Reality itself cannot be depended on — it can collapse under your feet like a rotten stairwell. Nothing is what it seems — even a beloved pet can turn out to be a product with an expiration date. Government officials can simply be simulations, if they exist at all. Threats can appear out of nowhere, often irrationally or even whimsically. To escape all this, the public retreats into drugs or obsessions with apparent trivia — games, “setups” for dolls, hallucinatory virtual worlds. A functional aristocracy has returned, creating a kind of techno-feudalism — (think of Tyrell, abiding alone within the peak of his vast pyramid in Blade Runner). Dick’s world can kill you in a nanosecond without anybody wondering why or even paying much attention.

              1. (think of Tyrell, abiding alone within the peak of his vast pyramid in Blade Runner)

                Of course, that’s not in the book at all…

                As a vision of the future, PKD is probably more right than the techno-optimism of Heinlein.

            2. One of the problems with PKD scholarship is that much of it has been tainted by the influence of an early Dick scholar with the unlikely name of Darko Suvin. Suvin is an unreconstructed Marxist of the silliest sort.

              1. Darko Suvin. What a cool name.

  14. If we fund liberal-arts programs, will we get alt-text out of the deal?

  15. Fuck Science Fiction.

    I was promised Perky Pat

    And all I got was Perfect Polly

    1. I don’t know anyone who made it through the 2nd half of that book. IIRC, the first half is descriptive and like having someone point out why you thought school was fucked up but couldn’t quite elucidate. The 2nd half was, I think prescriptive and difficult.

  16. My favorite course I ran across while searching for an elective to round out my Fall schedule? BLACK WOMANIST WRITERS. I can’t even imagine what horseshit they’re spouting in that joke of a class.

  17. Funny how all of this focus on the science and inventions, when so much s-f writing really looks/looked at the societal norms and mores and hypothesized the “what if they were different?”

    Where’s the science discoveries in “Stranger in a Strange Land”, for example? And why haven’t all of the anti-military-establishment-and-war progressives fought for a full-length movie version of “Ender’s Game”?????

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