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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

An Anglo-American comparison

This article in the NRO by Mark Oppenheimer is about American college education, but it begins (and is laced through) with a comparison of two passages. The first is from a review of a biography of P G Wodehouse by Stephen Fry:

They say it would take a lifetime simply to copy out the works of Bach or Telemann. Much the same is true of Wodehouse. I know: at school I hammered out all of his novel "Fringe Assets" on an electric Remington in an effort to teach myself to touch-type, an effort that took me a term and a half.

The second is by Anthony Grafton reviewing a book called "The Rule of Four":

Undergraduates do all sorts of things at universities. They play computer games, they eat pizza, they go to parties, they have sex, they work out, and they amuse each other by their pretensions. What most fiction has ignored is that a lot of them also spend vast amounts of time alone, attacking the kinds of intellectual problems that can easily swallow lifetimes. In the perilous months of their last years at good colleges and universities, seniors parachute into mathematical puzzles, sociological aporiae, and historical mysteries that have baffled professionals. With the help — and sometimes the hindrance — of their teachers, but chiefly relying on their own wits and those of their close friends, they attack Big Questions, Big Books, and Big Problems.

From these two passages he looks at the subject. It is a long, but very interesting read. I think the implicit comparison between Stephen Fry learning to touch-type and the more modern picture is really one of time rather than place however. Read the whole thing, as they say.

I spotted this over at Fraters Libertas. Clearly I am going to have to get around to adding them to my blogroll at some point.

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