My first Golden Oldie was a jeu d’esprit. My second one was, as it were, a cri de coeur. My third and last, which I shall post tomorrow, is something else again. It is perhaps, despite its appearance, the most serious thing I have ever written on higher education in America. Let me prepare for it by giving you the background. The distinguished philosophy department of UNC Chapel Hill has for many years put on an annual conference. A good long time ago, I was invited to give the keynote address, and I accepted. I sent them the following rather stodgy title: Some Thoughts on the Distribution Of Educational Resources in the United States Today.
When I showed up and it was my turn to deliver the keynote address, I got up and said something like the following:
“When I received this invitation, I was very honored and immediately thought of putting together some ideas I have had about higher education into a formal address. But alas I am getting old and I longer have the abilities that I seemed to possess when I was young, and I simply could not do it. But I was committed and did not want to be a no-show so it occurred to me that perhaps I could amuse you with an account of a trip I recently took. I hope you will forgive me for my incapacity and perhaps take some enjoyment from this story.”
I then launched into my talk, which I called “The Pimple on Adonis’s Nose.” As you will imagine, there was some nervous whispering and shifting about in chairs but they were there and they were stuck so they sat and listened. Somewhere in the middle of the talk it began to dawn on them what I was doing and one young man was so offended that he got up and stalked out – quite the best reaction I have ever had to a talk.
After I have posted the talk and you have had a chance to read it, I will write a fairly lengthy post about the discussion that followed and some of the things I said by way of elaboration and defense of my quite radical position.