Sep 3·edited Sep 4

wiki: Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize in Physics :

Feynman attended Far Rockaway High School, which was also attended by fellow Nobel laureates Burton Richter and Baruch Samuel Blumberg.

Feynman applied to Columbia University but was not accepted because of their quota for the number of Jews admitted. Instead, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he joined the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity. ref: J. J. O'Connor. "Richard Feynman (1918–1988) History of Mathematics"

In 1939, Feynman received a bachelor's degree and was named a Putnam Fellow.He attained a perfect score on the graduate school entrance exams to Princeton University in physics.

The head of the physics department there, Henry D. Smyth, had another concern, writing to Philip M. Morse to ask: "Is Feynman Jewish? We have no definite rule against Jews but have to keep their proportion in our department reasonably small because of the difficulty of placing them." Morse conceded that Feynman was indeed Jewish, but reassured Smyth that Feynman's "physiognomy and manner, however, show no trace of this characteristic". ref: Gleick, James, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman.

In 1977, Feynman supported his colleague Jenijoy La Belle, who had been hired as Caltech's first female professor in 1969, and filed suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after she was refused tenure in 1974. The EEOC ruled against Caltech in 1977, adding that La Belle had been paid less than male colleagues. La Belle finally received tenure in 1979. Many of Feynman's colleagues were surprised that he took her side, but he had gotten to know La Belle and liked and admired her. Wiki

Feynman quotes:

- Here I stand, atoms with consciousness, matter with curiosity. A universe of atoms, an atom in the universe.

- Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn't matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.

- Never regret a day in your life; good days give happiness, bad days give experiences, worst days give lessons, and best days give memories.

- You cannot get educated by this self-propagating system in which people study to pass exams, and teach others to pass exams, but nobody knows anything.

- You learn something by doing it yourself, by asking questions, by thinking, and by experimenting.

- Be careful when you follow the masses. Sometimes the M is silent.


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Sep 3·edited Sep 3

I got off the beach long enough to write a thank you note for the brilliant essay!

if you moved to Maine, you would not have to "go back to work"

welcome to adult summer camp for those fleeing the rat race

the people you meet who are living there are just regular folks who came to visit, and forgot to go home :)

no need for the "obligations of getting 'serious again" if you are at the ski area for the winter

About your article, Harvard. This is from me, Tufts. We remember what we saw in the 1960's and early 1970's in Boston. The organized, non-violent student movement drove the incredibly corrupt GOP from power, through people power. Students occupied the President's House at the colleges, could that have happened today.

Now, we have another similar, organized crime-related GOP disaster courtesy of the GOP. Mostly the southern GOP to be exact, who fondly remember racist bygone days. Thanks GOP, for foisting another constitution-busting, criminal regime on us. What is their point? Money and power rules all. (for those just joining us, see "Bebe Rebozo")

What happened on the college campuses of the late 1960's and 1970's informs us of all the social/cultural changes that happened post-1950's. Students in colleges like Harvard didn't want to get drafted. We were anti-war.

Could that happen now, or is it all about the money, even more than in 1972?

Why are young people in college so accepting that their future is being stolen by the huge international arms market driving all the wars, by the oil industry that snuffed out environmental protest when it could have mattered back in the 1970's, by the narrow-minded on rupert murdoch's station. What does murdoch want?

Another factor in colleges at that time: Harvard has done research and historical exhibits about discrimination starting in in the 1950's, against Jews and those of Chinese extraction. That plays a role in the college administration culture we see now.

There are so many layers in addressing how our college educational system may be biased because of money, and other things.

How do European schools handle this issue, like in the UK? Is it better there?

for all: happy beachcombing and enjoy the last of summer 2023

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Sep 2Liked by James Fallows

Brilliantly put! I loved the historical context and the guiding principles for colleges. Thanks, James!

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Sep 1Liked by James Fallows

Excellent overview. I'd like to add two points. One, some on the left also contribute to the college perception problem, by downplaying the value of a four-year degree, in their advocacy for two-year degrees and/or other vocational training. Two-year and four-year degrees are both good things; it's misleading and counterproductive to bolster the argument for one by denigrating the value of the other. Two, high college costs relative to incomes may help make prospective students and their families more receptive to the noisy arguments against college. Affordability is such a big hurdle for many students and their families--why make sacrifices for something that you keep hearing isn't really worth it? Meanwhile, we hear almost nothing about the real reason for the affordability crisis--the policy shift from education as public good to private good that began in the Reagan administration, and the state cuts that went with it. There are many public universities with state funding at only half or even a third of what it was a few decades ago. The regional public universities--the schools that drive the most mobility of any college category--are the most vulnerable to funding cuts , because they don't attract out-of-state and international students who pay higher tuition, and don't get the research funding that state flagships do.

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Sep 1Liked by James Fallows

As a dean at a university that takes pride in its contribution both to social mobility and high-end research, and a believer in the triumph of the "long game" of sticking to core values, I thank you for your historically-informed analysis and eminently practical advice. I often use the aviation briefing mantra "no fast hands in the cockpit" with my colleagues to caution against overreaction to transient stimuli, with which the HE discourse is overcrowded.

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Sep 1Liked by James Fallows

As a community college history/economics professor from 1992 to 2013,I firmly believe that critical thinking is essential to the higher education process. For those focused on STEM, lacking critical thinking skills I consider a serious shortcoming.

I believe that many high school students may benefit from community college and/or technical training. [Skilled plumbers, electricians, computer technicians, and other professionals are robustly middle class with admirable job security.]

For those who seek a four year college, I believe that there are hundreds of colleges that provide excellent focus on the process of critical thinking. The focus on Ivy-League-type colleges I consider highly overrated.

As someone with degrees in the humanities and from MIT, I appreciate the benefit of these dual skills.

However, without a solid foundation in the humanities, I would not have had the breadth to accomplish what I have achieved professionally.

I am appalled at the ‘anti-wokism’ in Florida under Governor DeSantis and elsewhere. I have taught the good, the bad, and the ugly of American history for 23 years without any student backlash. My students appreciated such courses as SOCIETAL DISCRIMINATION: THE WHAT VS. THE WHO FROM PATRIARCHY UPON TO THE PRESENT.

This ‘Republican’ effort to emphasize the ‘white supremacy’ of America’s evolution is both false and destructive. We are living in a country of increasing diversity. Projections are that by about 2040 the ‘white’ American population will be in a minority. Also, ‘white’ colonialism has faded and ‘nonwhites’ are by far the global population majority.

In high schools and colleges, American students must be exposed to the realities of American (and global) history. Racism, patriarchy, and opposition to wave after wave of immigrants are integral to America’s evolution since 1976.

Unless we Americans understand our past, we will have great difficulty in accepting the immutable changes of the 21st century.

I consider ‘wokism’ a misguided political shibboleth. I am proud to be ‘woke,’ since, in my view, this means appreciating the profound changes that have and are affecting America and the world.

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Sep 1Liked by James Fallows

Big picture, I certainly hope you're right! Short term, why so dramatic a change 2020-2022, it is impossible to overstate the power of the Fox/Murdoch media. Fox creates the "crisis," amplifies it endlessly, "mainstream" media spreads the narrative, people buy it. Then, when the nonsense runs out of steam or backfires, Fox, etc., drops it like it never happened. (Haven't seen that many reports from those "migrant caravans" lately, but they'll be back.)

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