Letters: Don’t Scrap the Liberal Arts Majors

The New York Times

To the Editor:

In defending traditional majors, Frank Bruni made a compelling case, though he still misses the core value of a major. While majors emphasize depth of knowledge, taking a dozen courses in a single field doesn’t always create an expert. An economics major isn’t an economist, and majoring in history doesn’t make a historian. If vocational expertise isn’t the purpose of a major, what is?

Majoring in a field isn’t so much about specialization. It’s about learning to learn and think deeply, to appreciate the quality of ideas and the importance of context, to learn tools and methods of analysis, and to imagine alternatives and apply knowledge acquired through practice and hard work.

Colleges may not always equip students with the soft and hard skills needed for professional success, but that alone isn’t a reason to dismantle nonprofessional — really, liberal arts — majors.

Sonia Cardenas, Hartford

The writer is dean of academic affairs and strategic initiatives and a professor of political science at Trinity College.


Bonding with Loctite

The Manufacturer [“The premier UK industry publication providing manufacturing news, articles and insights while promoting best practice in the manufacturing industry”]

Loctite adhesives have been used in manufacturing for decades, but the rapid change in the way materials are used mean the German firm that owns Loctite is on a never-ending quest to ensure manufacturers have a range of adhesive products that are effective and environmentally safe…

…The journey to this ‘Loctite moment’, as it has been dubbed, started in 1953 in a research laboratory at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Dr. Vernon Krieble, an entrepreneurial professor there, discovered how to make an anaerobic sealant using methacrylate.

‘Anaerobic’ means the substance will harden in the absence of air. This sparked a massive demand from engineers across the globe, who had since the dawn of the age of nuts and bolts endured endless issues with nuts that worked loose under pressure or vibration, or even just time.

Apply a few drops of Krieble’s Loctite threadlocker to the bolt, then, when the nut hits the liquid, air is driven out and the liquid hardens, forming a seal strong enough to keep the join tight. The savings in maintenance time were huge, thanks to a few drops of Krieble’s wondrous invention.

To this day, engineers from car mechanics through to advanced manufacturing engineers are likely to have a tube or bottle of Loctite threadlocker to hand.

It was in the 60s that Krieble made the next major leap forward that was to change the world of adhesives forever. He licenced a product that had been developed in 1942 by the Eastman corporation – cyanoacrylate – and began to market it as Superglue…


Breaking up families? America looks like a Dickens novel – By Sarah Bilston, Associate Professor of English, Trinity College

The Conversation

The news has been full these past few weeks of disturbing stories from the nation’s borders. The Trump administration has separated immigrant children from their parents precisely to discourage others from trying to enter the country.

Trump has signed an order to end the practice. But thousands of children have been traumatized as part of an explicit effort to, in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s words, send a powerful “message” to other potential immigrants. Sessions used the Bible to defend the practice: “I would cite to you the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”

What has struck me, as a professor of English literature, are the startling parallels between the Trump administration’s policy on immigrant families and the “New” Poor Laws of England in the 1830s, whose cruelty was illuminated by Charles Dickens in novels and other writings.

England tried much the same kind of tactics that Trump’s administration has used. Americans may remember the suffering face of Oliver Twist, begging for just a little more food. It may surprise some to realize that Dickens wrote the novel specifically to shine a light on new and brutal laws. Dickens was particularly concerned by the state’s assault on the integrity of the family…


2018 Working-Class Studies Association Awards Dinner

…This year’s Working-Class Studies Association Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Paul Lauter.  He served as president of the American Studies Association and is the founding editor of the journal Radical Teacher and the author or editor of several books, including Literature, Class, and Culture and, most recently, A History of American Working-Class Literature.  As Michelle Tokarczyk writes, “As a working-class scholar and educator, there are so many ways I’m indebted to Paul Lauter. He was instrumental in founding The Feminist Press, which publishes books I teach every year. His anthology Literature, Class, and Culture includes a wide representation of texts that help students to understand what class is and how it works.”…