• Lepore on Innovation & Disruption

    Jill Lepore, in an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, skewers the cult of innovation & disruption:

    Innovation as an idea in America is historically a negative thing. Innovation in politics is what is to be condemned: To experiment recklessly with a political arrangement is fatal to our domestic tranquillity. So there’s a lot of anti-innovation language around the founding, especially because Republicanism — Jeffersonianism — is considered excessively innovative. Innovation doesn’t assume its modern sense until the 1930s, and then only in a specialized literature.

    Disruption has a totally different history. It’s a way to avoid the word “progress,” which, even when it’s secularized, still implies some kind of moral progress. Disruption emerges in the 1990s as progress without any obligation to notions of goodness. And so “disruptive innovation,” which became the buzzword of change in every realm in the first years of the 21st century, including higher education, is basically destroying things because we can and because there can be money made doing so. Before the 1990s, something that was disruptive was like the kid in the class throwing chalk. And that’s what disruptive innovation turned out to really mean. A little less disruptive innovation is called for.

    The entire interview is thoughtful & provocative, in the best sense. Lepore has made a career of thorough, well-considered scholarship that is accessible to a broad range of readers. Mull over what she is attempting in These Truths: A History of the United States in contrast with the output of popular “thought-leaders” like Malcolm Gladwell & Doris Kearns Goodwin, or the flocks of elitist academics (of all stripes) who deliberately prattle in their insular, turgid jargon. Her interview is worth reading in its entirety; there’s simply too much to quote.

  • If we have a public culture that suffers for lack of ability to comprehend other human beings, we shouldn’t be surprised. The resources of institutions of higher learning have gone to teaching students how to engineer problems rather than speak to people.

    Jill Lepore

  • Overhead.

  • Tonight I’m going to see the man whose work has been central to the development of my sense of humor. I’ve been looking forward to this for months.

  • I signed up to support the launch of The Correspondent last night. (Disclosure: personal referral link.) Ad-free/member-supported, inclusive journalism geared not to the outrage cycle, but to the deeper issues at stake & what we can do about them, is worthy of support.

  • Always interesting to see this explicit messaging out in the world.

  • For all the typewriter enthusiasts: Kurt Vonnegut’s Smith-Corona 2200.

  • A few recent web searches:

    • Camp Korean Village Iraq
    • slag pile
    • Buick LeSabre window regulator
    • Toro two-stage snowblower
    • No Neck Williams
    • AVR 661 Chicago
    • Shlomo Sawilowski
    • zserbo cake
    • NPR turns out
    • most vapid TED talks
    • Oracle PeopleSoft higher ed alternative
  • Some say “five-by-five,” but it’s always “lickin’ chicken” to me.

  • NPR’s 1A begins airing in just over an hour. I’m the last guest for today. You can listen to the livestream here, or catch the podcast version of the show here later in the day.

  • I’m listening to WNWI on my way through Chicago. The station is airing Radio Belgrade reports from the WWI armistice commemoration ceremony. It’s giving me chills.

  • Best brunch view ever; possibly the best fried frog legs & catfish I’ll ever eat.

  • A century ago, on the last day of the Great War, 11,000 soon-to-be-former combatants were killed & wounded in one final burst of brutality. They were the last of over 31 million uniformed casualties. Unknowable millions of civilians died. Yet, “the war to end all wars” did not.

  • Road tripping like a pro means putting 16 gallons of gas in your 14 gallon tank at a fuel stop.

  • Listened to some fine pieces at the launch party for issue VII of So It Goes, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum & Library’s annual literary journal. Many thanks to the KVML for an invitation; reading in their space was a treat.

  • On Monday I get to check off “guest on a national radio program” from my list. I wonder how many people have both the “NPR guest” & “The Price is Right contestant” squares marked off on their life’s Bingo card.

  • Always glad for the arrival of our beautiful seasonal ground cover.

  • Higher education’s alumni databases and the third party vendors that service them are the next Facebook-size privacy fiasco waiting to burst into public view.

  • Today, this week, all of it.

  • Voter #21 at my polling station at 7am. With a two-term disaster up for re-election as governor & one incumbent Senator in jeopardy, this is effectively a public referendum on whether I stay in the state I’ve called home for over a decade.

  • Is there a Smoldering Dad™ model flashlight? Because after being nearly run over by a driver whipping around a corner, then stranded in the median of a busy street while crossing to the bus stop in a downpour in the daylight savings evening darkness, that’s the model I want.

  • Thankful for this glorious oak this morning.

  • 1000 words: our cats’ spirits.

  • We like our brandy here.

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