Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Simplicio: Have you heard? The Powers wish to reduce the amount we teach, so that we will have more time for research, and thus will produce more and better research.

Sagredo: I think the second part of your syllogism does not follow from the first.

Simplicio: Why, how is that?

Sagredo: One of us cannot have more than twenty-four hours in a day. But if one has a single intelligent and dedicated postgraduate student, then one has forty-eight. If one has two, one has seventy-two, and so forth. It is the many hours that come from having many students that enable us to produce more and better research.

Simplicio: True, but I cannot see how having a few more hours for research can hurt us.

Sagredo: Where do you suppose postgraduate students come from?

Simplicio: Most of them are from places like Tartary and Hind, are they not?

Sagredo: Yes, many of them are. They are attracted from diverse foreign lands by the splendour of the learning in our land. But many other places of learning seek also to attract them, and day by day the scholars of their own lands grow wealthier and more astute, so that one day no more will come to us.

Simplicio: That would be a calamity! So where else do they come from?

Sagredo: We raise them here, by teaching undergraduates.

Simplicio: Aha! There is no problem, then. Under the new system we will surely continue to teach undergraduates.

Sagredo: Simplicio, do you suppose all undergraduates are suitable to become postgraduates?

Simplicio: I guess not. Some are damnably simple.

Sagredo: Yes, it is only the few who hunger and thirst for knowledge that are suitable to become postgraduates. If we give our undergraduates half as much as we did before, and other places of learning continue to offer a full cup of learning, where will undergraduates like that go?

Simplicio: You think they will not come here?

Sagredo: Many of them will not.

Simplicio: But surely there are many who would not leave our lovely place of learning for the City of Dreadful Night or other distant places?

Sagredo: Yes, we must pin our hopes on such as those. But consider: if we teach them half as much, what will we need to do when they commence as postgraduate students?

Simplicio: I am not sure. I recall there are forms to fill out?

Sagredo: Besides that. We must perforce teach them the other half, if they are to work as well as postgraduates in the City of Dreadful Night work. And when we have done that, what must we do?

Simplicio: I suppose we must fill in some more forms.

Sagredo: Yes, for by then the first year of their candidature will be over.

Simplicio: It would seem, then, that you think this change will diminish our chances of doing more and better research, rather than increase them?

Sagredo: Most certainly. Why would a student who would make a good postgraduate in Physics or Chemistry do an undergraduate degree at a place of learning that does not take that discipline seriously?

Simplicio: Then I suppose the Powers wish to reduce our teaching hours for some other reason?

Sagredo; That is what I had thought.

Simplicio: Perhaps it is that they must be reduced because of this thing that has come from Bologna?

Sagredo; Ah, but the places of learning that have already gone down that path teach many more hours than we do.

Simplicio: Hmm. Perhaps it is, Sagredo, that those studies they wish to cut are only those where the numbers of undergraduates have been falling, so that we may conserve our resources, as our wealth wanes?

Sagredo: That would be a sensible course of action- but you see, Simplicio, it is the studies where numbers of undergraduates are holding steady that the Powers wish to cut back.

Simplicio: Ah.I see. Perhaps- no, that makes no sense. (sighs)
I wish Salviati was here to explain what was going on.

Sagredo: So do I, Simplicio.

Simplicio: It is a pity the Powers never replaced him, when he took his renowned research group to Brescia...

1 comment:

winstoninabox said...

Some are damnably simple.

It was here that I burst out laughing.