February 15, 2004
Tiny Generations

Virginia Postrel catches Andrew Sullivan calling someone only four years older than himself "the most honest thinker of his generation", as if they belonged to different generations.

A university that shall remain nameless (not one I have ever attended or taught at) once advertised a job for a tenure-track classics position. One of the faculty told me afterwards that no fewer than 18 of the 200 or so applicants had letters of recommendation in which they were described as "the finest scholar of his/her generation". I suppose that might almost be possible, if we define as generation as all those born within the same half of the same year. To make things worse, more than half of the 18 came from the same recommender. I'm still trying to find out who that could have been: such promiscuous generosity in bestowing praise can't possibly be helpful. Finally, my source was cynical enough to observe that he (or possibly she) had never read a recommendation that said or in any way implied "this candidate is a better scholar than I am".

Posted by Dr. Weevil at February 15, 2004 08:17 AM