'A few more Words on University Reform'

Posted by September Blue Monday, 18 June 2007 1 comments

(Blackwood's, Dec. 1853)

It is of little avail now to question the legality of the expediency of the Royal Commission; whether we like it or not, it is now a great fact – like the repeal of the Corn Laws, or the cholera.
University reform was a hot subject in the middle of the century, after the Prime Minister (at that time John Russell) set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Oxford in 1850. Oxford and Cambridge operated quite differently to the newer British universities, and prospective reformers were drawing contrasts in particular with the Scottish universities, which tended to be more accessible, more secular, and have a much better record in more 'modern' subjects like medicine. The fuel for reform had been building up for a long time before the 1850s, though. The Edinburgh Review was criticizing Oxford and Cambridge in the early 18th century, and with reason. See this review (it's a JSTOR link) of a book on the history of university reform by one A. I. Tillyard for a good example of why:
[B]etween 1650 and 1800, as a result of public indifference and of an evil constitution, Oxford and Cambridge lost all their older prestige and became almost useless as organs of national education. To quote Mr. Tillyard:
A period of lethargy set in, during which Oxford fell to almost incredible depths. The old examination system had become obsolete, and nothing had been put in its place. Wenedorn, who traveled through England before 1788, gives an amusing account of what he saw. The Presiding Examiner, the Respondent or candidate for a degree, and the three Opponents came into the schools, and amid profound silence passed the statutory time in the study of a novel or other entertaining work. Oxford in fact gave its degrees without any examination to all who had paid their fees and kept the required number of terms. Cambridge was saved from falling quite so low by the influence of Sir Isaac Newton and his successors. It required a certain amount of mathematics before granting a degree.
Things had changed a little by the 1850s (Oxford introduced exams in 1800, for example), although not enough to avoid the eventual reforms. But back to the Blackwood's article, where the Royal Commission's report is meeting with some disfavour for not going far enough.
There are abuses on which the most careless undergraduate could have borne important testimony, and which every honest tutor will confess with pai, on which this Report evinces either the strangest insensibility, or the most perverse conservatism.

First, and most prominent, as regards the studies of the place, stands the crying evil, which might almost have claimed a Commission to itself – that the real work of the University is done by private tutors. How tenderly and delicately the Commissioners deal with this – which we are surely not singular in considering a gigantic anomaly – may be seen by those who have the patience to read page 89 of their production. Fondly placing in the foreground, in the ardent works of Mr Lowe – himself an able and successful private tutor – the "manifold advantages" of the system, they touch lightly on its defects, and faintly hint at partial remedies. Admitting that "the amount paid for private tuition by many individuals far exceeds that which is paid for college tuition" [...] they congratulate themselves upon the fact, that the practice is less general at Oxford than at Cambridge.
But still pretty pervasive, according to the author, who speaks of it as so widespread at Oxford that 'the veriest freshman [...] must laugh in the face of her Majesty's Commissioners." (And did anyone else think 'freshman' was a uniquely American term, by the way?)
But let us examine matters more closely, and we may discover some of the causes of this remarkable state of things. Our friend [the hypothetical student], whom we have matriculated, is, we will assume, of modest acquirements, and proposes (under the old system) to take up for his degree, Herodotus, Virgil, portions of Cicero, and four plays of Euripides. But the lectures which he has to attend (for he seldom has much choice of his own in the matter) are one in Livy, one in Horace, and one in Plato's Republic; in which latter college tutor No. 1 is supposed to be great, having edited some new readings. All very desirable subjects, no doubt, but not exactly what he requires at present. [...] Or, granted that he is fortunate enough to be in a Herodotus lecture; he gets through five chapters in an hour, thrice a week, in a class of seventeen, including one freshman who cannot construe a line together decently, and stutters into the bargain, and another from the sixth form at Eton, who rattles it all off in a tone perfectly inaudible to any one except himself, and, it is supposed, the tutor. Why, at this rate, it will take him about two academical years to get through the five books of the old historian in which he is to be examined! If he be a candidate for high honours, the case is just the same, or even worse; either there are no college lectures on the subject in which he needs special assistance, or they are attended by such an ill-assorted class, containing men of all grades of scholarship and no scholarship, that he either cuts them altogether or goes to them with disgust, and brings away from them little of more value than a leading-string abstracted with much patience and vigilance from his next neighbour's gown, or a series of bad pencil-caricatures of the tutor.
Class sizes of seventeen at Oxford are huge compared to the current system, where tutorials are made up of only a couple of students at a time. For those of us with bigger classes, though, the image of nineteenth-century students bored out of their minds and doodling cartoons of the tutor is close enough to home that my first reaction to this was "well, maybe if they hadn't been skipping lectures, they'd have more to say." Kids these days, etc.
It is hard to judge, from what college lectures are, of what they might be, if they were attended in a different spirit. [...] Once let the pupil think that his teacher cannot teach, and let the teacher know that he thinks so, and it is true – he cannot. On this point Mr Foulkes, himself a college tutor, speaks with equal sense and honesty. "Pupils," says he, "make light of their college lectures in comparison with those of their private tutor; and college tutors, finding their lectures ill got up or remembered, are apt to grow apathetic, and relax in their diligence." They were more than mortal if they did not. A dull audience, the Commissioners confess, may make even a professor dull; – to borrow an illustration from the Report (which has throughout a tendency to the poetical), a tutor with an inanimate class is "Pyrrhus" without "his Epirots" – an eagle with clipped wings.
Among other criticisms, academics don't work hard enough:
At all events, there will always be an abundance of ripe scholars and sensible men, to whom the social position, and the congenial work, even with the present modest emoluments of a college tutor, will be an object quite sufficient, even if, in this active age, we add a little to their work. An extra early hour in the morning – say from eight to nine – would be a wonderful incentive to the energies of many a freshman, who is now hugging himself every morning in bed with the comfortable reflection, that in his new sphere he is emancipated from the odious "first lessons" of Harrow or Eton. Another hour in the evenings devoted to Horace or Aristophanies – say three times a week – would hardly interfere with those pleasant dinner-parties, or social cup of coffee, to which the tutor naturally looks as the reward of his labours, and with which we are sure it would be rank ingratitude for any stranger to intermeddle, who has been welcomed, as all strangers are welcomed, to those classic hospitalities.
Teaching needs to be reorganised:
Let this plan only be tried; let some college, now considered inferior, select and pay a couple of first-rate tutors, and let them form their classes according to their own judgment, selecting those departments for which each feels himself best qualified, and really working them. We will not ask of them twelve, ten, or even six hours a-day: much less will give an among of genuine instruction sufficient for the limited numbers which any one of the smaller colleges can expect to supply as candidates for honours. [...] They will be fully competent to do all which private tutors now do, if it is distinctly understood both by undergraduates and their friends that they, and they alone, are to do it.
And finances could be better arranged:
From forty men [i.e., students] paying, as we have suggested, £20 per annum each, we have £800 to apply in this manner [of paying tutors]; to which the college may well add another £200, sinking, if it may be necessary, as it seldom would be, a fellowship for this purpose. In the larger colleges, where more tutors are required, the funds will increase in proportion. This will allow, even in small colleges, at least £300 per annum to a first-rate tutor, in addition to the fellowship which we may naturally suppose he will hold on his own or some other foundation. And this, we repeat, will be enough to secure good men, and men whose energies are young and fresh; for we cannot agree with the Commissioners in thinking that the succession, by which a college tutor quits his work for the "expected living," and thus makes way for his juniors, is in itself an evil; or that it is not far preferable to the system of married professors, who will stick to their chairs, if not to their work, long after the "solve senescentum" might be fairly applied.
The reference to marriage here is because celibacy was usually a prerequisite for a fellowship (although not for professors). Smile, TAs and junior staff everywhere: we could have it worse. As for the money, according to this spiffy currency converter, that's the equivalent of about £1400 for tuition per annum, leading to a total pot of about £55,000, to which the college would add another £13,500, and end up paying tutors around £20,500 per year on top of the fellowships they'd continue to hold.

Library in summer

Posted by September Blue Monday, 11 June 2007 3 comments

This is just to say:

I have reshelved
the psychology textbooks
that were behind
the sheet music

and which
you were probably
for next semester's exams.

Forgive me
their own shelves missed them
and it's eight thirty in the morning
and since I can't blame you
for the weather
or my headache
or the dust in the Government Publications section
(which is now all over my jeans)
or the pizza
lying next to the microfilms
this will just have to do.

'Examiners and Candidates'

Posted by September Blue Saturday, 9 June 2007 0 comments

(Cornhill, November 1884.)

I'm going to let most of this go without comment, because it really doesn't need any. While the examinations in the title are Civil Service, some things transcend that kind of context, and the piece itself begins with a wonderful portrait of an age of academia that's long gone now. Well... maybe.

It happened on this wise. I had just taken my degree at Oxford, and, elated by the full sleeves of my bachelor gown, I naturally felt that a career of triumph was in store for me. Still, at the moment, I had not settled the plan for my life-campaign. In fact, my degree had come a little earlier than I had expected. The betting in the best-informed circles had been three to one against my passing my Second School when I did. However, I had passed it, had discomfited the bookmakers, and was now at one and the same time enjoying my triumph and casting about in my mind what I should do next.

At this juncture I received a message from the president of my college, requesting my attendance. There was nothing unusual or alarming in this. At an earlier stage in my academical career it would have been disquieting in the extreme, the president being a Deus ex machina whose intervention always meant some unlucky tangle in undergraduate affairs. Now, however, though still nominally in the pupil stage, I had practically got beyond all such dangers. And I knew that the president was in the habit of sending such a message as I had received to every fresh-fledged graduate.

So I accepted the invitation without any special fear, and with only that general, undefined uneasiness which one cannot at once cast of with one's undergraduate's gown. And yet, as I had often noticed before, anything less awe-imspiring than our good president it would be difficult to imagine. It must have been the divinity of his office that made him formidable, for the man himself was exceptionally meek and mild. It is true he was constructed on a somewhat large scale, but he was physically flabby, whilst he had but little power of moral self-assertion. His health was indifferent, his voice was always tremulous, and he spoke sometime with a positive stammer. His learning was popularly supposed to be of the profoundest order. Certain it is, he devoted almost all his time to reading, getting up at six o'clock summer and winter to pursue his studies the more effectually; but as far as I know, nothing came of it all. He had never published a line, and for many years past had not delivered a lecture, and I never noticed that he threw the slightest new light on anything in conversation.

He was engaged in poring over a dingy folio as I entered his study. He had started a little when I was announced, but the start had not been strong enough to tear him from his book. At last I ventured to cough.

'Oh! – ah! – yes; I beg your pardon,' he said, looking round and forcing a smile. 'I was thinking of something else at the moment.'

He seemed to still be thinking of the something else, for his eye had a very vacant expression. However, by degrees it gathered a little more meaning, as he advanced towards me, holding out his hand.

'I have to congratulate you, Mr. Melrose, on being how a graduate. Let me see; you took honours, I think?'

The question did not strike me as a happy one, as I had to answer it in the negative.

'Just so,' said the president, a little confused. 'I must have been thinking of some one else. No doubt it is a good thing to take honours; but, after all, there are various positions in life for which they are not essential.'

'I hope so, sir,' I said. The president's remark struck me as being deficient in breadth.

'By the way,' he resumed, 'I remember now what I wanted to see you about. You will, I suppose, be looking about for something to do. Or have you some plan already in view?'

'No, sir,' I said, 'I have nothing at all in view.'

I might have added –'except enjoying myself a little,' but I was mercifully preserved from saying this.

'I wonder,' resumed the president, dreamily, 'whether this would suit you. I don't profess to understand it, but you seem to be just what they require.'

It was clear to me that the president was pursuing his own line of thought, and in fact had got pretty well to the end of it before I had reached the beginning. So I pulled him up gently.

'I am afraid I do not quite understand, sir.'

'Quite right – quite right, Mr. Melrose. I had almost forgotten the letter. Where can I have put it? Never mind, however, I think I can, perhaps, explain it sufficiently for you to – to – do what you think best in the matter.'

I bowed expectantly, and the president went on:–

'It seems that for some of these Civil Service Examinations they want sometimes additional examiners. I presume the ordinary staff is not sufficiently large – there is so much economy nowadays, especially in everything connected with the Government. Perhaps it is hardly worthy of a nation such as ours. However, it is in this way that the opportunity arises.'

The president stopped, as if he had fully delivered himself of his message. But it was still a little obscure to me.

'Do I understand, sir, that the Civil Service Commissioners require my help?'

It was unintentionally a conceited way of asking the question, and I could see that even the president noticed it, for he half smiled as he answered:–

'They do not ask for you by name, Mr. Melrose; but one of the officials, Mr. Guy Sinjin, an old member of this college, has just written to me to ask if I know of any young men who have just taken their degree and would like to help in this way.'

'I wonder if it's hard work,' I said.

The president did not like the remark. All his life he had been an example of hard work and of its occasional inutility. Something like a frown gathered upon his placid features. I hastened to divert his thoughts.

'I suppose,' I said, 'there is some remuneration?'

'The remuneration,' answered the president, with unusual emphasis, 'is paltry – quite unworthy of a Government like ours. I was struck by it, I remember, when I read Mr. Sinjin's letter. Fifteen shillings a day! Shillings always seem to remind one of artisans. Nothing under a guinea should be offered to a gentleman.'

'Or accepted by him?' I asked, for I was not captivated by the prospect set before me.

Then something of the innate paternal goodness of the president came to light. He actually laid a hand – very timidly, it is true – on my shoulder.

'Believe me,' he said, 'anything is better for a young man than idleness. If you have nothing else in view, it can do you no harm to help these people.'

There was just a tinge of contempt in the tone in which he spoke of Her Majesty's Commissioners. The fifteen shillings a day had left an uncomfortable feeling in his mind. But I was touched by his kindly interest in myself, and I made up my mind on the spot to place my valuable services at the disposal of the Commissioners. The country should not suffer though the lack of my assistance.
Anecdotes about the exams and candidates themselves below the fold.

Obeying the instructions I had received, I began prowling about among the candidates, quite resolved, however, not to catch any prey if I could possibly help it. My own examinations were still too fresh in my recollection for me to feel anything but sympathy for these unhappy victims of the great education craze. But I soon discovered that the prowling was not without its dangers to myself, ignorant as I was of official etiquette. It is a well-known fact that examination-papers, which are set with the well-known purpose of testing the accuracy of students, are themselves, as a rule, models of inaccuracy. There is some excuse for thise. Such papers are always printed as short a time as possible before the examination. There is some excuse for this. Such papers are always printed as short a time as possible before the examination. In fact, at some of our examinations the candidates arrived before the papers. Thus there is always a hurry in connection with them, and in consequence they furnish almost as rich a harvest of grotesque mistakes as the papers of the unsuccessful competitors. The German paper bristled with appalling absurdities, which might well have made the most sanguine candidate despair of ever getting through it with unimpaired sanity. I noticed how the poor fellows were racking their brains, but, as they had been brought here for the torture, of course I could not interfere. That was a matter they must settle for themselves with their enlightened country.
After the German and French papers had been done, or left undone, as the case might be, we had a most amusing scene, enacted under the name of English Dictation. No one then present in the room being considered competent to deliver himself of this dictation effectually, a hunt was made, apparently in some remote corner of the building, for a specially dictatorial examiner, who, after a while, appeared with an air of much importance. It almost seemed as if he were kept in a separate room for his voice to accumulate. This gentlemen either was at that time, or had been at some previous time, a clergyman, and was supposed to have acquired in the pulpit a strength and purity of intonation impossible to the thin-voiced haunters of pews. I must do him the justice to say that, as he was a man of high culture and gifted with a splendid voice, I can quite believe that he was a very effective preacher. But a conscientious desire to discharge his duty to the Civil Service Commissioners had developed in him a style of reading seldom heard in any pulpit. The fact was, he was over-anxious to give exactly the right sound and emphasis to each individual syllable. Take care of the syllables and the words will take care of themselves, was apparently his maxim. Moreover, the official custom of reading the sentence over twice, and pausing at different points in the two readings, gave to it something of the nature of a dreary, monotonous catch. Add to these drawbacks a decided echo in the room, and you have some idea of the difficulty of the task now set before the enfeebled survivors of the German and French papers. Sitting at the farther end of the room, I was aware that a gentleman on the platform was engaged in the most painstaking manner in shouting out some resemblance of an articulate language, but the sentences themselves were incomprehensible to me. I remember catching something about 'Fred,' followed, as it seemed, by a sneeze in sections, and then the word 'mate,' and I could not help wondering at the selection of such a colloquial piece of English composition. Upon referring afterwards to the printed paper, I found that the opening sentence ran somewhat as follows:–

'Alfred's achievement in this respect is difficult to estimate,' &c. &c.
There follows a short interlude in which he hears 'muttered sounds as of rebellion in my immediate neighbourhood', followed by a cry from one of the candidates of 'It's all bosh; it's impossible to make it out!' The actual commissioners themselves ('the Celestials') have arrived at this point, though, and when they grant his request to be allowed to sit closer to the speaker, everyone decides they want the same, and 'a physical competition for seats took the place of the mental competition for appointments'. Once quiet is restored:

As all examinations are conducted on the principle of regarding candidates, like Siberian convicts, as nameless numbers, there is no greater abomination to an examiner than the spectacle of a candidate sitting at a desk which does not correspond to his individual number. Judge, then, of our feelings (for the moment I identify myself with the official staff) when, after the intervention and departure of the Celestials, we found that almost every candidate was in a wrong place. Mr. Smithson, returning at this juncture, was momentarily paralysed, but rapidly recovering himself was about to deliver an oblique oration as to th general wishes of the Commissioners, when he was interrupted by Mr. Everard, who explained, in a manner largely leavened with disgust, that the present imbroglio was the direct work of the Commissioners themselves. He also pointed out the ringleader – that very audacious youth with the loud voice and corresponding attire.

When we had fitted them once more with their numbers – convicted them, as it were, a second time – we turned with some interest to the official key, by the aid of which each number could be converted into a name, in order to inform ourselves as to the identity of the ringleader. Of course I am not going to reveal his name. Suffice it to say that he proved to be a young aristocrat whose father might have asked awkward questions in the House of Lords had the ingenuous youth failed to pass in his dictation.
On one occasion the candidates had the best of it. I think it was when the telegraph clerkships were first thrown open to the fair sex. An incautiously worded notice to that effect had been inserted in the papers, and the result was one never to be forgotten. On the morning fixed for the examination the whole street was packed with competitive young ladies. Far as Mr. Smithson's eye could reach, there was nothing but one serried mass of hats and bonnets and parasols! They stormed the office, or, more literally, flooded it, leaving no nook or cranny unoccupied. And the cry was 'Still they come!' I was not present, but the scene has often been described to me by awestruck officials. I believe the Department, tough as it undoubtedly is, temporarily collapsed under the strain. But no one seems to know exactly what took place after the building had been stormed. This is in itself, perhaps, the best proof of the awful confusion that must have prevailed. To this day Mr. Smithson never refers to it except with bated breath.

As I have mentioned the fair sex, I will add (under shelter of anonymity) that I did not at all like the task of examining them. I deeply regret to say it, but I certainly found them much more troublesome than the competitive males. It is very difficult to maintain discipline amongst them, or to arouse in them any keen sense of the virtue of scrupulousness. I shall never forget being intrusted with the examination of certain eight young ladies. The first thing that struck me was that they had evidently arrayed themselves in their most exaggerated costumes, no doubt with the view of insinuating themselves into the favour of their judges. Though somewhat nervous and jerky in manner, it was clear they fully meant to fascinated. Poor things! they little knew the iron sternness of the Department. It was with difficulty that I got them to sit down, and with still greater difficulty that I induced them not to crowd together.
And finally:
When the paper-work was over, it appeared that no less than five of the eight young ladies wished to speak to me privately. I did not know whether to feel flattered or embarrassed by this desire. However, feeling bound to hear what a candidate had to say, I requested No. 1 to favour me with her communication. It was very lengthy, and was delivered with a great volubility. I will not attempt to reproduce it exactly – that would be quite beyond my powers; but it was to the general effect that she (the speaker) would have done her papers a great deal better – would, in fact, have triumphed over them completely – but for the circumstance that her maiden aunt, Miss Cox, who lived at No. 5, Laburnum Villas, Bermondsey, and who had brought her up since the death of her poor father of typhoid fever in the year 1867, was unfortunately very deaf, though otherwise highly talented and accomplished, and that in consequence Miss Tibbits (she had at the very beginning utterly refused to yield to my entreaty and speak of herself as a number, but had persisted in introducing herself as Miss Tibbits) had not derived all the advantages from her aunt's instruction which she would most certainly have derived under different circumstances. And she desired me, as the examiner, to take this into account, as was only fair and right, in looking over her papers.

By this time I had learnt the official formula for answering the questions of candidates. I consider that, as a piece of simple verbal mechanism readily adjustable to occasion, it deserves a patent. It runs this: 'The Commissioners alone decide on the papers, but I am quite sure that they will allow due weight to any circumstances that deserve consideration.' Isn't it beautiful? First you state an incontrovertible fact about the Commissioners, which relieves you personally of all further annoyance. And as the Commissioners are not as a rule accessible to candidates, they are not inconvenienced. Then you proceed to convey a little temporary consolation to the wounded spirit of the candidate, without committing yourself in the least. That keeps him or her quiet and hopeful, which of course is a great advantage in an examination.
The more things change...

Bad conference behaviour

Posted by September Blue Friday, 1 June 2007 2 comments

There's a fine line, but I'd draw it at 'rude'. Impolite. Discourteous. A lot of conference behaviour which isn't exactly praiseworthy falls short of that: palming your wedding ring at the registration desk is sleazy, but not really rude; asking eighteen questions along the lines of "Could you say a little more about how your paper intersects with my research topic?" is annoying, but probably unintentional; losing all copies of your paper half an hour before your panel starts is, well, just academia; getting drunk and falling over, in whatever context, is possibly inconvenient for whoever's on clean-up duty but still not rude unless you do it during a panel. (I'm sure this has happened to somebody, somewhere.)

A lot depends on seniority, too. Planting questions in the audience, or with the chair, wouldn't usually count as rude because it's behaviour typical of people at their first few conferences, after which you realise that people usually won't go for the throat during Q&A. Presenting the same paper at consecutive conferences, especially when you know you'll be presenting to roughly the same audience, counts as rude because the worst offenders are the already-established.

The bad behaviour, then, as personally witnessed by me or immediate friends and colleagues:

+ Going over time. Again, this is mostly restricted to the ranks of People Who Should Know Better ("Congratulations! Here's your professorship, your next eighteen monograph contracts, and your loss of ability to count to twenty!"). Forgiveable when it's a few minutes over; less so when it's not only twice the length it should be, but the immediate cause of getting all snippy with the chair who's asking you nicely to wrap it up. I don't want to pass judgment on individual papers, since I've seen great speakers as well as poor ones go over time, but it's worth bearing in mind that your audience will not care what you're saying once they realise you're making them miss lunch.

+ Stamping on the dreams of the next generation. "You're doing a PhD on what? Huh. I find it difficult to believe nobody's done any work on that before." Or: "I suppose they call that cultural studies," said in the verbal tone equivalent of holding something out at arm's length between finger and thumb. Or: anything about the woefulness of the job market these days. We know. Believe us, we know.

+ Writing your paper during somebody else's. You don't need to write your paper months in advance, and you don't need to write a paper so brilliant that no last-minute thoughts can work their way in there, but even if you got so wrapped up in Garfield 2: Paws of Persia on the plane that you couldn't do what everyone else does and write your paper at an elevation of 30,000 feet, you could at least have the decency to pretend you're paying attention during other people's papers. If nothing else, make it look like you're taking notes. (An addition to this: there is no excuse, ever, for making substantial additions and revisions to your paper during somebody else's when you're on the same panel. May all your field's journals take three years to reject your articles, and may all your students plagiarise.)

+ Pretending to be deaf so that the speaker has to repeat "No, I haven't read that" loudly three times during the Q&A. I don't think this one needs further elaboration.

+ Assuming the entire room needs to hear what you have to say, unless, of course, it's something like "Excuse me, but the whiteboard's on fire." Implicit in a lot of conference activity, but only crossing the line into rude when it comes to, say, talking over the panel chair when they're trying to wrap things up, shut you up, or pick someone else to ask a question. Or, when Big Famous Speaker has decreed that she has time for three questions only, grabbing the microphone runner when questioner #3 is talking to demand that you get your chance next and time limits be damned. (Actual exchange when this happened: "Um, maybe you could try to catch [speaker] afterwards?" "It is important that everybody here hears my question.")

+ Turning up for your session only, and then disappearing. Rivalled only by the people who make the organisers' lives a nightmare by demanding all kinds of scheduling adjustments, and then don't turn up at all. This one is always a mixed blessing, because on one hand it's not like you're going to miss them much, but on the other hand oh for God's sake.

But! To be positive. Academia has its own little mutations of politeness, as well as the Bad Behaviour outlined above. My favourite story, about a certain big-name philosopher, involves a brilliant solution to the problem of how to applaud when you're holding a full wine glass in one hand and there's no nearby surfaces: she clapped just as loudly as everybody else, wine glass balanced perfectly on the top of her head.