Tuesday, December 30, 2014

For my Russian and Chinese readers. And for those from Ukraine and France.

I note that some of the readers of this blog are from Russia and China. I do not know the academic system in these countries, just how it works. I do know that in the natural sciences and engineering, there are rather more universal standards for performance, and those countries have very strong traditions in these fields over the last 100+ years.  But I also know that in many countries, there is a long history of bias and preferences that have little to do with the work you do, or that demand adherence to particular thoughtways. In the humanities and social sciences, those biases and preferences often play a much larger role. 

The crucial point is to be able to do work that is good and respected widely. 

(I know very little about doing work that is in accord with the biases and preferences. We know that what was called Jewish Mathematics, and was viewed negatively in Nazi Germany, in fact was the future of mathematics--so destroying one of the strongest mathematical cultures. Deutsche Mathematik and Deutsche Physik were dead-ends.) 

As for the Ukraine, I am pleasantly surprised. Especially given the stress the country is experiencing. I was brought up in Brooklyn, New York, at the end of the subway lines, and in my neighborhood there was a very wide range of immigrant ethnic groups intermixed with each other. Ukrainians were part of that mix. 

As for France, again I am pleasantly surprised. I know a bit about the French academic world, its hierarchical nature, the doctorat d'état or the habilitation, the grandes écoles, and some of the issues of mass higher education.  I hope what I write is useful, but I do not claim to have any particular knowledge of that world.

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