Continuing some coverage of Columbia football, even the Wall Street Journal is weighing in now.
The Washington Post now has a short article on Columbia’s losing streak, which is now up to 20 games. It goes over the general context of both Ivy and Columbia football. Note that this isn’t Columbia’s worst losing streak. That happened in the mid-1980s and reached 44 games, which has only been surpassed by Prairie View A&M. Some people who were around then claim that the team actually looks worse than it did during the 80s. Right now, it looks like they’ll go 0-10 for the second year in a row unless they manage a huge upset against Brown next week. Brown isn’t even that good but any win is a huge upset at this point. The best chance of breaking this streak might be to start scheduling only the worst teams for the 3 non-conference games. At least when I was there, the team would be competitive in most games even if it rarely won in the end.
The FiveThirtyEight blog, which has now moved to ESPN from the New York Times, has a post where people actually write about Ivy football. Unfortunately, it’s not positive.
Today is the day where last place in the Ivy League will be decided, with Cornell coming to Inwood to play Columbia at Baker Field. Columbia, as usual, is having a terrible season and might just be the worst team in all of Division I (although the Ivies operate using something more like Division III rules they are actually D-I). Cornell is doing similarly badly this season and both are 0-8 right now. The game has already started, but since Columbia never sells out, there’s plenty of time to take the 1 train up to 215th Street to see some of this years’ worst college football.
Update: It was a hard-fought battle, but Columbia has seized sole control over last place.
Earlier today, Columbia football lost its 17th game in a row and yet another consecutive homecoming game. I couldn’t go so instead I went hiking in Chautauqua Park in Boulder. Today was unusually warm (reportedly actually record-setting), so it was probably the last really nice weekend day to go hiking this fall. It’s also the last weekend before daylight savings time ends and probably one of the last before the trees all lose their leaves, so it’s a good time to go hiking. There were quite a few people out today since the weather was so nice.
I ended up going up the Chautauqua trail and then down the Bluebell-Baird trail to the Mesa trail. I followed the Mesa trail almost to where it meets the Skunk Canyon trail before I turned around. Instead of following the same path back, I took the Flatirons Loop instead of the Bluebell-Baird trail. That was much rockier than I expected but overall the hike wasn’t too difficult. I ended up doing around 9 km of actual hiking.
PBS channel WLIW aired a nice documentary on Columbia University earlier this week. It’s about an hour long and can be found here.
While the New Republic is still getting some mileage out of it’s articles on the Ivy League, it has also just republished an interesting article from 1991 on studying the classics in college. Debates on the “classics,” or what might also be described as the “western canon,” are often portrayed as a dispute between stuffy traditionalists and free-thinking modernists or between conservative reactionaries and liberal revolutionaries. The article attempts to make the point that this framing is false. People from around the world and from many different political and social backgrounds have found inspiration in the classics. An education in classic works of literature need not be limited to inculcating beliefs in traditional values. There are many different ways to analyze literature and one might be surprised at how non-traditional the traditional western canon might seem. Subversive and even potentially radical viewpoints can be found in works such as Boccaccio’s Decameron (challenging religion through satire and bawdy jokes that might seem offensive even today), Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy (viciously attacking his political opponents in the Inferno), and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (perhaps challenging the traditional gender roles in an incredibly patriarchal Athenian society).
The article also points out that the “classics” or the “canon” is an idea rather than a strict list. What constitutes the “classics” is constantly changing, but at the same time we can’t pretend that history never happened and that every class of people is equally represented in the canon at all times. Prior to the last few centuries the western canon is almost exclusively written by men of European descent because western culture – to the extent it even exists as a coherent concept – is largely just western European culture and because wealthy European men were more or less the only people given the opportunity to produce great works of art and literature. Things aren’t like that any more, so we might expect the canon to continue drawing from an ever more diverse cast of authors in the future.
It’s important to acknowledge that the canon is Eurocentric, but the author suggests that this is not a bad thing. I tend to agree. Drawing from a single tradition is helpful from a pedagogical standpoint because the works share common artistic values and cultural context. Trying to draw a bit from every tradition leads to a confusing, incoherent syllabus where everything seems like tokenism. Even then, it will be impossible to include everything so choices have to be made at some point anyway.
The article mentions the decline in liberal arts requirements, which seems to have only increased in the 20+ years since it was written. A few schools still maintain strong humanities cores. The most notable examples are Columbia and Chicago, both of which have extensive Core Curricula and a liberal arts focus at the undergraduate level. St. John’s College has an all-Great Books curriculum, which is an interesting idea for those interested in the humanities, but not particularly useful for many fields of study. Having attended Columbia, I find that I agree with most of what is said in the article. One of the most important things that I got out of my core classes was to look critically at everything – even the concepts of the canon and western culture.