I have always loved animals. When I was at primary school I was unable to reach the front entrance without stopping to remove imperilled earthworms from the pavement and safely return them to soil. Even as a teenager, on summer holidays in France I was more concerned with patrolling the swimming pool for drowning insects than tanning myself on a lounger.
We would get to Mars quicker by doing so. We would understand the consequences of fracking and geoengineering on our planet better by doing so. It would entirely adjust the way modern academic science operates. So where does this start? Who goes first discussing how they fail in their life tasks? Who damages their career and reputation first? Will you?
I work with a lot of bright children. Children destined to get A and A * grades and what I have noticed is that most people look at them in envy, wishing they could be them, wishing they could be as intelligent and find exams as easy as they do. Some even question all the work and extra help that goes into helping bright kids because let's face it, they are going to do well anyway!
An education system that actively choses to value the voices, practices and methodologies of privilege is damaging to everyone involved, but particularly to students from marginalised groups. The need for a free education comes directly out of this: education should be a source of liberation, not oppression.
Crisis may seem a little alarmist. Maybe it is, but probably not. The Enlightment taught us that there exists no better way for us to accrue knowledge about the world than the dispassionate, evidence-driven approach of the scientific method and, conversely, no bigger obstacle to progress than ideology and dogma.
This book is not perfect, certainly, and I would advise anyone short on time to leave out the final fifty pages entirely - nothing of any great value would be missed. But, regardless of these criticisms, any work of historical theory which is written as well as this one is certainly worth looking at and - maybe with caution, in this particular case - taking to heart.
The reality is that Cambridge is hard, and for many people it is too hard. I don't mean 'hard' here in an academic sense. Of course it is hard in this way, and rightly so. I mean hard in the sense that the overly and unnecessarily stressful way in which Cambridge is set up means that it is hard simply to exist here.
From time to time, my career in the academia reminds me of my grandmother's cooking. She has the ability to make strange mixture of random ingredients come together and make for a delicious dish. On several occasions when I asked my grandmother how this phenomenon occurs, she lowered her voice and said, "There is a secret ingredient."
It's officially the start of a new academic year, which means it's time for a fresh batch of PhD candidates to enter the weird and wonderful world of doctoral research (I mean it; it really is wonderful). These are some of the techniques I've used over the last two years, and will rely on to pull me through the final twelve months of researching, writing, and revising.