Showing posts from October, 2012

The Lufthansa Heist

There's a scene from the movie Good Fellas that always resonates with me about this time in the semester.  Ray Liotta plays a low-level mafioso who, along with his mates, has just pulled off a major heist in Queens, robbing the cargo of a Lufthansa flight and making off with five million dollars.  In addition he's a married suburban dad whose dealing cocaine on the side. 

The day he's arrested he's splitting his time between drug dealing, picking up pay offs, cooking for his Sunday backyard barbecue and dropping off  the dry cleaning for his wife. It's a marvelous bit of film making that knots together the banal day-to-day triviality he has to do with the larger than life criminal activities he's wrapped up in.  And then the FBI shows up.

I always think of this scene around mid semester when I'm running about trying to keep every ball in the air.  Yesterday, for example, was non-stop: last minute grading, pulling a lesson plan out of thin air, dealing wit…

Something Important

Best damned moment of my week was a one in the morning email from a student in my first-year seminar:

Sent: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 1:30 AM
Subject: FA2012-FA-LIBA110I: Nothing important


Have you heard of the song The Cave by Mumford and Sons? I just heard it today and as I was listening, I was shocked-- they were definitely referencing to Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Just thought I'd share!



I love it when stuff in class connects to stuff out of class! Mostly I love it when my students are doing the connecting. I've no doubt that song is referencing Plato's Allegory. Indeed, the Allegory is one of the hallmarks of Western philosophy and its themes pop up everywhere, including "The Matrix" movies:
"You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."
The next four years shoul…

Fast Eddie and the Self-Directed Learner

I tried something in class yesterday and may have ticked off my students.  We've been reflecting on the value of vertical critical thinkers to society.  These are people who ask Should do we do X?  and not just How do we do X?   They demand evidence and sound reasoning before they accept something as true and don't automatically defer to apparent authorities.  They also have the irritating habit of thinking for themselves. 

In addition, we've been exploring the idea that such people inevitably get into trouble.  We read the Apology and Crito in which Socrates runs afoul of his fellow Athenians.  We also studied a bit of Machiavelli, who argued leaders that follow this model of probity are likely to meet with what destroys them.  And we just finished watching Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, which wonderfully illustrates what happens to those who speak truth to power. In the end, society may need its critics and truth-tellers, but it doesn't often like them.

Now we…