Academic Diary: Or Why Higher Education Still Matters

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MIT Press, Mar 25, 2016 - Education - 272 pages

Sharp and witty observations of academic life that range from the local to the global, from PowerPoint to the halls of power.

Is a university education still relevant? What are the forces that threaten it? Should academics ever be allowed near Twitter? In Academic Diary, Les Back has chronicled three decades of his academic career, turning his sharp and often satirical eye to the everyday aspects of life on campus and the larger forces that are reshaping it. Presented as a collection of entries from a single academic year, the diary moves from the local to the global, from PowerPoint to the halls of power. With entries like “Ivory Towers” and “The Library Angel,” these smart, humorous, and sometimes absurd campus tales not only demystify the opaque rituals of scholarship but also offer a personal perspective on the far-reaching issues of university life.

Commenting on topics that range from the impact of commercialization and fee increases to measurement and auditing research, the diary offers a critical analysis of higher education today. At the same time, it is a passionate argument for the life of the mind, the importance of collaborative thinking, and the reasons that scholarship and writing are still vital for making sense of our troubled and divided world.

 

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Contents

Academic Time
1
Autumn Term
5
Graduation
7
Everyone Has a Teacher Story
13
Letter to a New Student
17
Welcome Week
25
Goldsmiths and its District
26
Ratology
29
Writing Routines and the Torture of Starting
132
That Special Pen
134
Viral Warning
139
Ivory Towers
141
Conference Etiquette
144
Academic Rights
149
Casts of Minds
153
The Devil You Know
155

Students Not Suspects
32
Open Day
37
Stuart Hall Lessons
40
Teaching
46
The Uses of Literacy Today
53
Death by PowerPoint
59
The Value in Academic Writing
62
Research Expenses
65
Extra Curricular
68
College Green
70
Meeting John Berger
72
An Education of Sorts
77
Class Mobility
79
Bourdieu Behind Bars
83
New Years Honours
87
Spring Term
93
The Diary Disease
95
Remembering Paul
97
Recognition
100
Holding the Fort
103
Academic Uses and Abuses of Twitter
108
Generosity as a Strategy for Survival
114
Professionals and Amateurs
116
Reading and Remembering
123
Campus Watch
128
Supervision
159
Thinking Together
166
The Doublethink of Open Access
169
Against Intellectual Suicide
173
The Summer
177
Silence Please Exam in Progress
179
The Exam Board
182
On the Occasion of Retirement
185
The Writers Desk
190
The Library Angel
195
The PhD Viva
201
Writing and Scholastic Style
208
And What Do You Do for a Living ?
212
Primo Levis House
216
Lost Notebook
222
How the Diary Came to Be Written in the First Place
229
Tips Leads and FollowUps
235
Universities in changing times
236
Campus fictions
240
Students learning and teaching
243
On writing and writers
246
Intellectual life and its purpose
250
Heroes and heroines
253
Music as a hinterland
257
Copyright

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About the author (2016)

Les Back is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

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