Thursday, May 14, 2009

Throwing Bones to the dogs

Canal Boat have published a letter criticising one of their contributors - my attention was drawn to it by Granny Buttons this morning. My copy hasn't arrived yet, so this is based entirely on the section Andrew quotes, but it does raise wider issues.

For some reason (envy, it must be, mustn't it?), academics are seen to be fair game by anyone who can't string a sentence together but who comfort themselves with the thought that being able to wield a power tool somehow makes them superior. Actually, the reason might well be that in many cases a reputation for absentmindedness and utter, unbelievable, impracticality is, in some cases - I speak from personal experience - very well deserved. (Exhibit one: the historian who called in an electrician to change a plug. Exhibit two: the philosopher who came to work in odd shoes. Not socks; shoes. Exhibit three: the sociologist whose kitchen table was balanced precariously on its base for twenty years.)

Which is what makes the attack on Bones unfair. She is - and her column clearly shows this - actually very competent. Sure, she writes about what goes wrong along the way, but she always gets there in the end - and the things she attempts are more ambitious than many of her critics would dare try.

The column is primarily intended to be amusing - and there's nothing more amusing than things going wrong, so obviously this is the aspect that gets played up. But it fulfils a second function too - giving encouragement to people who might lack the confidence to try something new, by telling them that if things go wrong it's not the end of the world. It happens to everyone, and can be recovered from and learnt from.

So long live Bones I say. Academics of the world unite - you have nothing to lose but your glasses/coats/pens/bicycle ...

6 comments:

Starman said...

The letter displays a serious case of sense of humour by-pass about Dr Bones.
But don't go all defensive about being an academic -- they're a long way down the 'fair game' list after MPs, police, parking wardens ... or journalists.

Anonymous said...

That is not forgetting the example of the historian (yes the same one!) who on seeing he had a built in dishwasher in his new house, promptly placed the family washing up in it switched it on and wondered why it didn't clean properly, except that he didn't! and it wasn't until his mother came to visit over 2 years later that she discovered that he/they(his wife is a sociologist) were not using any form of detergent because it had not occurred to them to.

M

Sarah said...

Tongue was in cheek Starman... a lot of them do deserve it! Wouldn't have happened in your day though would it?

Anonymous said...

I am always losing my coat,phone,socks and especially my glasses - does that make me an academic?

M

Martin Ward said...

Splendid commentary, Wonderful headline. You continue to entertain!

Rugby Boats said...

I couldn't agree more. At first I wondered why CB had published it (by the way, the writer is plainly highly literate but I suspect the name is a pseudonym), hen I realised that CB will probably receive a lot of letters in support of Bones some of which will appear in the next issue, no doubt.