Quotations about   academia

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This ideal University of Life … would never take the importance of culture for granted. It would know that culture is kept alive by a constant respectful questioning — not by an excessive and snobbish attitude of respect. Therefore, rather than leaving it hanging why one was reading Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary, an ideal course covering nineteenth-century literature would ask plainly “What is it that adultery ruins in a marriage?” Students in the ideal University of Life would end up knowing much the same material as their colleagues in other institutions, they would simply have learned it under a very different set of headings.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
“Reclaiming the Intellectual Life for Posterity,” Liberal Education (Spring 2009)
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Added on 18-Aug-17 | Last updated 18-Aug-17
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If poetry is like an orgasm, an academic can be likened to someone who studies the passion-stains on the bedsheets.

Irving Layton (1912-2006) Romanian-Canadian poet [b. Israel Pincu Lazarovitch]
“Obs II,” The Whole Bloody Bird (1969)
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Added on 1-Jun-17 | Last updated 1-Jun-17
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The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, ch. 24 (1936)
Added on 14-Mar-17 | Last updated 14-Mar-17
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Hearts full of youth!
Hearts full of truth!
Six parts gin to
One part vermouth!

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
“Bright College Days,” An Evening (Wasted) with Tom Lehrer (1959)
Added on 26-May-16 | Last updated 26-May-16
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Plagiarize,
Let no one else’s work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don’t shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize —
Only be sure always to call it, please, “research.”

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
“Lobachevsky”
Added on 28-Apr-16 | Last updated 28-Apr-16
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Plagiarize,
Let no one else’s work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don’t shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize —
Only be sure always to call it, please, “research”.

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
“Lobachevsky,” Songs by Tom Lehrer (1953)
Added on 11-Feb-16 | Last updated 11-Feb-16
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Studies … give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded by experience.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Studies,” Essays, No. 50 (1625)
Added on 20-Nov-14 | Last updated 16-May-16
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You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do — and they don’t.

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) American writer, futurist, fabulist
Interview with Sam Geller, “The Art of Fiction, No. 203,” The Paris Review (Spring 2010)
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Added on 2-Jun-14 | Last updated 2-Jun-14
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The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low.

Wallace Sayre (1905-1972) U.S. political scientist, academic
Sayre’s Third Law

One of several formulations of the same sentiment, which has also been attributed to Richard Neustadt, Jesse Unruh, Henry Kissinger ("University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small"), Charles Philip Issawi ("In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake. That is why academic politics are so bitter"), Lawrence Peter, C.P. Snow, and others, with antecedents by Samuel Johnson and Woodrow Wilson. Most of the attributions come in the early-mid 1970s, though Herbert Kaufman, a colleague, claimed Sayres had used the phrase for decades.

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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 24-Mar-19
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