Academic environments are (theoretically) places where students come to be educated – they arrive on campuses after (typically) being cocooned for 16+ years – universities are where students emerge from their cocoons fundamentally transformed.
Plato and Shame
I’ve had the distinct privilege of working with students for more than two years now; the past year and a half as a teaching assistant and the time before that as a tutor. When you work with students, you realize that most of them have incredible potential, potential that you can see pent-up inside of them, but potential that they’re either unable to, or afraid to, release and realize. To address the latter concern in the first day of my tutorials this session I talked briefly about Plato and the straight-from-the-text reading of how absurd men appeared when laughing at the women who trained to become philosopher kings alongside men. The point was this: laughter in the classroom threatens to injure your comrades and, more importantly, marks that the person laughing can’t comprehend the purpose/form of laughter – their mirth demonstrates just how little they themselves understand.
I haven’t had a single person (that I’m aware of) be shamed by having other students laugh at them.
As an initial aside: Linux betas really are betas, nothing like the relatively polished (in comparison) betas that Redmond released.
Piracy or ‘Avast Me Mateys!’
I don’t spend a lot of time talking about software or music piracy, largely because I think that there are alternate sources that more effectively aggregate and deliver news about it. That said, I couldn’t resist commenting on Jennifer Pariser’s (head of litigation for Sony BMG) statements surrounding digital technologies. When under oath, Pariser responded to Richard Gabriel’s (the lead counsel for record labels) question of whether it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music they have purchased, stating,
When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’ (source).
Her comments directly point to why fair use is under such duress. More importantly, however, even when we apply the principle of charity to her general position, her comments seem to defy the public’s position on the matter. I don’t want to suggest that because people generally believe something that the law should reflect their beliefs – if that was the case then racial segregation would be more prominent than it is – but that when extensive public discourse has been undertaken and a common position is held by the deliberative participants, that their shared consensus should operate as the basis for developing legitimated law. I think that this discourse has, and continues to, occur in North America.