Tuesday, September 15, 2015

God Bless The Internet

Last night I sat and watched an hour-long lecture about the Potsdam Conference of 1945 by American historian Michael Neiman.  I really don't know why people make all this fuss about going to "uni". You could have a perfectly adequate higher education from the Internet.


  1. I agree with you, and the idea has been around for some time.

    As well as the wealth of resources on YouTube, there are loads of online archives to mine.

    Then there are the people putting some flesh on the idea. Check out the TED Talk from Anya Kamenetz on (where else) YouTube (, her book DIY U (, and any number of education websites running free courses, or what are now called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), for example, Peer 2 Peer University (

  2. I always give out a little shiver at the name of Potsdam. I read David McCullogh's 'Truman' twenty odd years ago and the part about the Potsdam conference has stayed with me. In addition to the vilest rapacity of the Soviet Army they also chose to empty the libraries and book collections of private institutions and used them to fill bomb craters.*

    Bringing order to the chaos of mainland Europe at the war's 'end' was a mind-boggling task.

    *Hands up if 'ISIS' didn't flash in your mind.

  3. If I ever get asked to do "Great Lives" on Radio 4, I shall pick Truman. He's an extraordinary story.

  4. I've read a fair few biographies and memoirs of significant Americans born pre-WW2, some late 19th century and the trajectory of their early lives often have much in common: Krock, Mencken, Mitchell and others.

    Pure ambition and an eye for an opportunity usually gets them out of their small town or working full time to get an education.Truman was the epitomy of the pragmatic mid-westerner who, given the travails of life, might have to turn his hand at anything to make a living: even politics. It is to the credit of the USA, I suggest, that pragmatism is the nearest thing to a philosophy it has produced unlike Europeans who trip over themselves - or kill each other - over ideology.

    These lives were very unlike those of the British in which people leave one of two universities, know someone, or knows someone who knows someone and before you can say 'sense of entitlement' they have a job at the BBC, Guardian or Telegraph.

    As for US presidents I have a soft spot for Gerald Ford but the 'daddy' of all log-cabin-to-Whitehouse stories is that of LBJ. I cannot recommend highly enough Robert Caro's - as yet unfinished - biography which is best described as monumental.

  5. Christ - that horrible truncation: 'Uni'.

    I get a little bit of sick in my throat everytime I hear it. What is its origin? I blame its popularisation from continual use on the daytime soap, Neighbours, in the mid-1980s.

    Does the same hold for 'poly'? Or does the use of that predate 'uni'?

    The pretty problems that concern me. Ah well ...

  6. They're not very pragmatic about their gun toting, though, are they?

    Like, I think, David was inferring I too have a strong dislike of the word 'uni'. I can't explain why. It just makes me cringe. It somehow cheapens the idea of going to university - as if people can't even be bothered putting the time into five syllables - which is odd, given that it costs tens of thousands for anybody to do so these days.