Defending My Thesis

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I may be the only person in America who can say this–but defending my thesis was fun!

Say what? Well, back in college, I was chosen for the Henry Rutgers honors program, which gave me lot of credits but for which I had to produce a thesis–just as if I were going for a master’s degree, or a Ph. D. Spend a whole year researching it, then write it up, present it to the Political Science Dept., and defend it before a panel of professors. And by the way, it was in the age of carbon paper, a technology which many of you have never seen or heard of. But I am not going to get nostalgic for carbon paper.

Now, I had a big advantage over the panel of professors: none of them had any knowledge of the subject! Anytime you can swing that, go for it. My title was “A Systems Analysis of the Viking Age,” featuring the likes of Harald Bluetooth, Eric Bloodaxe, Ragnar Hairy-Pants (I try not to think of Spongebob), and a cast of colorful supporting characters. The professors sat there marveling. Well, we were in New Jersey. People in New Jersey have a certain fascination for men with funny nicknames whose enemies wind up face-down in a landfill.

Once I freely admitted that of course you could study the Viking Age just using plain old history, but that the “systems” part would work very well with history, they’d complement each other–having done that, I was home free. Most of it was me telling Viking stories to the profs. All we needed was beer and pretzels. Everybody had a very pleasant time.

College used to offer experiences like this. It was called scholarship. You didn’t have to worry about pronouns. You didn’t have to be woke.

There is something to be said for scholarship as an end in itself. It can preserve the collectively accumulated knowledge of mankind. Deciding that everybody has to go to college has just about destroyed scholarship, even as it has virtually destroyed the university itself.

Someday we’ll realize what we’ve lost. But I don’t know that we can ever get it back.