Harvard University, that great American bastion of the high-intensity, ultra-focused education, is apparently ready to lighten up a bit. A 15-month internal study has concluded that the university would benefit from allowing students more time to choose majors, and limiting the set-in-stone class requirements for those majors, so as to encourage a balanced, wide-ranging educational experience. The study also suggests that Harvard students be encouraged to study abroad, and emphasizes the importance of science for all students.
Are there ideas or art that are dangerous to society? That’s the case made by some. “For every kid who watches The Matrix and shoots up his high school, we can cite millions more who saw the same movie and did nothing. Does this demonstrate that art is harmless? And if it is harmless, what’s the point of it? Sadly, I suspect that it is harmless, and that there is no point to it…”
A high school student who drew pictures of George Bush including one that “portrayed Bush as a devil launching a missile, with a caption reading ‘End the war — on terrorism'” was turned in to authorities by his teacher. “The 15-year-old boy’s art teacher at Prosser High School in Washington State turned the drawings over to school administrators, who notified police, who called the Secret Service.” The boy wasn’t arrested but was disciplined by the school.
Richard Florida’s Rise of the Creative Class has been taking a lot of hits in the past few months. Now he rebuts his critics: “The Rise of the Creative Class has little to do with making cities yuppie-friendly, though leftist critics have tried to frame it (and belittle its message) in that way. Rather, my core message is that human creativity is the ultimate source of economic growth. Every single person is creative in some way. And to fully tap and harness that creativity we must be tolerant, diverse, and inclusive.”
New Jersey philanthropist Herbert Axelrod, who fled the US to Cuba last week to avoid tax fraud charges, still owned some important string instruments that are on loan to prominent musicians. “Among the instruments given to Curtis is one on loan from the school to violinist Pamela Frank, who is both a graduate of and teacher at Curtis. Axelrod donated the 1736 Guarnerius del Gesù (Wienawski), now insured for $2 million, in 1993. Violinist Leila Josefowicz played on an Axelrod instrument, the 1739 “Ebersolt” Guarnerius del Gesù, and Maxim Vengerov played on an Axelrod-owned bow. Whether any musicians are still playing Axelrod-owned instruments is not clear. In some cases involving the IRS, such property is seized by the government.”
New e-book readers are hitting the market. But “if the e-book is going to be a hit, a few things have to happen. First there has to be a good selection of material to read, and, for publishers, that means taking the risk that their best titles may wind up being distributed for free on the Internet. The recording industry has struggled with this problem in ways both overt and subtle: It has sued batches of pirate downloaders but also circulated its own falsely labeled music files intended to frustrate and dissuade would-be pirates.”
Paducah, Kentucky wants artists. And they’ll help you move there if you are one. Paducah’s “Artist Relocation Program has exerted the same magnetic pull on others who’ve dreamed of living, working and, most importantly, owning in a neighborhood of like-minded residents. In 2 1/2 years, nearly 40 people have moved here to transform a beat-up area of homes known as Lower Town into a blossoming art colony.”
Some six million copies of The Da Vinci Code have been sold in the past year. Now there is a wave of books coming to refute the idea that “Christianity was founded on a cover-up — that the church has conspired for centuries to hide evidence that Jesus was a mere mortal, married Mary Magdalene and had children whose descendants live in France. More than 10 books are being released, most in April and May, with titles that promise to break, crack, unlock or decode “The Da Vinci Code.” Churches are offering pamphlets and study guides for readers who may have been prompted by the novel to question their faith. Large audiences are showing up for Da Vinci Code lectures and sermons.”
The new University of the Arts London is about to launch. “But the launch of the new institution as an “Imperial College for the arts” comes at a time when there is more confusion than ever about what arts students should be taught. A survey this week shows colleges and university arts departments in Britain agree on very little when it comes to the curriculum for future artists, except, bizarrely, black and white photography and silkscreen printing.”
There seems to be new interest in the rules of grammar. So how come, and why now? “This new passion for grammatical rigour indicates a cultural sea change – in this country, any road. I’m not sure what kind of sea change it indicates in Hong Kong.” Maybe it’s a simple as wanting to impose a little more order on the world, rejecting the idea that perhaps there are no right answers…