January 27, 2011
The World Economic Forum meets regularly in Davos, Switzerland to do whatever it is the Forum does. Whatever that is, there will be more women doing it this year than in years previous: the Forum’s Women Leaders & Gender Parity program has made a priority of increasing the participation of women in the event, this year mandating (under the auspices of unknown authority) that 50% of representatives from any particular organization be female.
(Despite its collective brain power, the program may not have realized that the only thing quotas ensure is that organizations will produce token representation when necessary for the sake of compliance, while avoiding any appreciable, system-wide change… or that quota systems encourage the promotion of those conforming to criteria over those worth promoting.)
The same thing is underway at Dartmouth College, where a lady named Evelynn Ellis has been named vice president of institutional diversity & equity. The fact that such a position exists and is salaried handsomely is worrisome enough; what is more so, especially considered in conjunction with affairs in Davos, is that such intelligent people have missed the obvious solution to problems of gender parity:
Hire people, promote them, and reward them based on their ability and achievement. Just as hiring men over women for the sake of anachronistic chauvinism is wrong and leads to gross inequity, so too does hiring women over men for the sake of politically-correct tokenism. Hire the people who deserve hiring, promote those who deserve promotion, and reward those deserving of reward… and ignore their race, gender, ethnicity, orientation, and the rest of it. The result will be an organization full of able, deserving people held back by neither prejudice nor politics.
January 23, 2011
After more than a century, a French country gentleman’s last wishes are being honored in that nation. Louis Mantin toiled for years as an unremarkable civil servant on behalf of the town of Moulins until, when he was 46 years old, he inherited a fortune through his father’s will. Mr. Mantin immediately thereafter set about the work of aesthete and patron of culture, and the first serious step was his house.
Mr. Mantin’s patrimony financed the construction of a country mansion in the very center of Moulins, a site formerly occupied by the ducal palace of the Bourbons, French aristocracy with claims to both that country’s and Spain’s royal thrones. He filled the house with imported tapestries, paintings, and porcelain; commissioned sculptors and woodworkers; and had installed his burgeoning – and fittingly eccentric – collection of Egyptian artifacts and oddities, prehistoric flints, oil-lamps, and medieval lock-and-keys sets.
Desirous of renown in his own life and the next, Mr. Mantin’s own will provided for the curating of his home and for its preservation as a museum for the people of Moulins. The only stipulation: the house must remain shuttered for one century. Mr. Mantin died and the house remained as he requested for 100 years, sliding from memory to local legend until authorities found the inclination – and the money – to renovate and re-open the manse this year. Mr. Mantin’s great-niece Isabelle de Chavagnac recently told the BBC: “The house was gradually forgotten by the world. But not by the people of Moulins.”
The result is a picture of the French country squire at leisure, circa 1900. Skulls and other Masonic curios, stuffed game birds, the latest in fin-de-seicle domestic gadgetry (electricity, flushing toilets), and a sense of antiquarian grandeur imbue the place. Explains Ms. de Chavagnac: “Here, everybody was waiting for the day when 100 years would have passed and the house would have opened once again. It is odd how the collective memory of a place never dies.”
La maison de Mantin.
January 18, 2011
The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club ended its 2010-2011 Fall season with a 31-0 trouncing of Harvard of a brisk New Hampshire Saturday afternoon. That win marked the end of regular-season Ivy League play, and the fourth time in as many years Dartmouth has captured the Ivy League title. Said co-captain Tommy Brothers: “Four Ivy League championships in four years is something very, very special, and I think it’s a great testament to the work that we’ve put in and the winning culture we’ve been able to establish since 2007.”
The match was also the end to another undefeated season for the DRFC, and the 11th time the team has taken Ivy gold in the past 14 years. While it will continue participation in Ivy contests next season, Dartmouth will also join the competitive D-1 National Premier League group of rugby-playing colleges and universities. Its first match in that league will be against Delaware on March 5th.
January 8, 2011
The New York Times ran this editorial in its issue of January 5, 2011; the piece is reprinted here in its entirety:
Next month, you will be able to buy the single-volume New South Edition of Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” edited by Professor Alan Gribben of Auburn University at Montgomery. It differs from other editions of those books because Mr. Gribben has turned the word “nigger” — as used by Tom and Huck — into “slave.” Mr. Gribben has also changed “Injun” to Indian.
Mr. Gribben says he wants to make these American classics readable again — for young readers and for anyone who is hurt by the use of an epithet that would have been ubiquitous in Missouri in the 1830s and 1840s, which is when both books are set. He says he discovered how much Twain’s language offended readers when he began giving talks about “Tom Sawyer” all across Alabama in 2009. He has also acknowledged that what he calls “textual purists” will be horrified by his sanitized versions of the two classics.
We are horrified, and we think most readers, textual purists or not, will be horrified too. The trouble isn’t merely adulterating Twain’s text. It’s also adulterating social, economic and linguistic history. Substituting the word “slave” makes it sound as though all the offense lies in the “n-word” and has nothing to do with the institution of slavery. Worse, it suggests that understanding the truth of the past corrupts modern readers, when, in fact, this new edition is busy corrupting the past.
When “Huckleberry Finn” was published, Mark Twain appended a note on his effort to reproduce “painstakingly” the dialects in the book, including several backwoods dialects and “the Missouri negro dialect.” What makes “Huckleberry Finn” so important in American literature isn’t just the story, it’s the richness, the detail, the unprecedented accuracy of its spoken language. There is no way to “clean up” Twain without doing irreparable harm to the truth of his work.
Editor’s Note: It is with a concerned eye that we surveil Professor Gribben lest he, fearful the Holocaust prove too offensive to ethnic groups of which he is not a member, begin denying that also. Those who ignore history…