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Education Transformation
The Vanishing Liberal Arts Degree
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  • Eurydice

    Well. it used to be that one got a liberal arts education in high school – history, literature, languages (ancient and modern). along with math and science, civics and some art, a practical class or two, and it would produce (one hoped) a well-rounded individual. And this wasn’t as long ago as 1900, either.

    • vb

      Even in college, I took courses that opened my eyes to other worlds. But more important, I somehow learned how to learn, which enabled me to moved into areas I hadn’t studied.

      • Eurydice

        Sure, that’s what education is supposed to do. My point wasn’t to belittle a liberal arts education, but to say that it was considered important enough that everyone should have a grounding in it before going on to university. I found this to be true in my career in international finance – language, literature and history tell more about how people think than do economic models.

  • Beauceron

    “Beyond that, the general knowledge of history, literature and the arts that the tiny fraction of American students lucky enough to enroll in colleges that really teach them—and smart enough to identify what is usually a handful of professors who teach them well—are an extraordinary method of training people who will be called on to fill responsible posts in their country and communities.”

    I agree with all of that. But the operative phrase here is “colleges that really teach them.” The “liberal arts” these days in most universities really means “social justice studies.” It’s fine to wax philosophical on how the study of dead languages and classical literature can improve the mind, but few if any universities actually teach those under the liberal arts umbrella . The liberal arts is mostly gender-related and race-related studies now. You won’t learn about classical thought, you’ll learn about white privilege, the evils of cisgender sexual norms, and the oppressive patriarchy.

    How did that change? It wasn’t the students who demanded it– at least not at first. It wasn’t the government who pays or subsidizes much of our education system. It wasn’t alumni. It was the liberal arts professors themselves who effected the change in focus and tone. Liberal arts professors raped the liberal arts. This has gone on for decades– and now the liberal arts are a smoking ruin on campuses, an intellectual wasteland of hollow theories, sloppy thinking, faux anger, and outright bigotry against whites and men.

    The best thing a student who wants to learn and grow intellectually can do is avoid liberal arts courses like the plague. And that, to me, is a very sad thing.

    • FriendlyGoat

      1) This appears to be another case of “wanting” to believe in something WHILE knifing it at the same time.

      2) WHY would those truly schooled in the old liberal arts (that is, the professors who were once-upon-a-time judged competent to BE the professors before the change “over decades”) set about to switch the foci to gender-related, race-related, patriarchy-related, environment-related matters? Could it be that their philosophical journeys led them to a CONCLUSION over time about what in history should be repeated and what should NOT be?

      • QET

        No FG. You are unlikely to find a classically trained professor of humanities having “switched.” Rather, he retired and was not replaced with a younger version of himself, because over the decades (1960s-90s) when these professors were in the process of going extinct, young people were induced, as young people are wont, to find more “transgressive” and “modern” things exciting and to demand them, and the universities, having turned into fabulous profit centers staffed with MBAs, began operating like any for-profit industry and marketed their institutions toward that demand. And forget the trivium and quadrivium; I doubt today’s “progressive” students and the “__Studies” faculty that proselytize them have even read the works of Marx, Engels or Lenin, Bernstein or Kautsky, Luxemburg, Plekhanov, or Proudhon, nor Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse or the still living Habermas, and so are as ignorant of classical leftism and classical “critical theory” as they are of everything else.

        The death of the proper humanities is merely the tip of the iceberg of ignorance that is our present college and university system.

        • FriendlyGoat

          “Proper” is a very odd word to use with respect to “humanities”, isn’t it? Eurydice made a thoughtful comment about what researchable history typically includes and what got short shrift. Winners write history and losers suffer it, as they say. When scholars or teachers arise to remind us that there is no reason to continue dwelling on the male, the white, the rich and the militarily powerful to the exclusion of everything else, why do we resist them so?

          • QET

            The issue is whether to augment the old or to replace it, and also the standard for augmentation. Apropos Eurydice, most historical figures’ accomplishments were not made known to the present until someone like Eurydice did the work to excavate his or her contributions and hold them up for the world to focus its attention on. Women and others interested in the histories of particular women could pursue their work just as readily in the history department as in the women’s studies department. George Eliot and Jane Austen were assigned reading in my English literature class even back in the dark ages in which I went to school. It was white men with classical educations who introduced me to Simone Weil, Iris Murdoch and Hannah Arendt. But we know that the women’s studies faculty are (usually) not mere scholars dedicated to the painstaking lifelong work of researching archives and writing monographs; that is not the point of women’s studies at all.

            I just cannot understand the logic which holds that instead of adding previously “marginalized” historical figures, artists, writers to the canon, we must assemble them instead into a new canon and forcibly suppress the old. Do you know how many dead white men are unknown to history, awaiting their own Eurydices, and this in the context of the supremacy of the dead white male canon???!!!! Can you think of a reason why, in a world of white male supremacy, so many white men should languish unknown and unheard of? Affirmative action in the humanities, whether in the history department or the ___-Studies department, canon tends to admit unqualified persons just as it does in college admissions. But since critical judgment of worth according to the traditional standards filters too many out, the solution has been to declare the standards themselves as “unjust,” and as a result, anything written, said or done by any member of a “marginalized” identity is just for that reason and that reason only to be accepted as more worthy than what it replaces. This is no way to advance knowledge.

          • FriendlyGoat

            1) I’m not a fan of the term “women’s studies”. It is as dumb a description as the supposed compartmentalization of “women’s issues” in politics. With both, we imply that whatever might be important to women is a secondary sideshow to the entire universe of other studies or issues. I mean, who every heard of “men’s studies” as though anyone would have thought to create such a major or degree?

            2) There are perhaps several reasons why so many dead white men are unheard of. The first would be that so many of them (us) are (were) not notable enough to be noted. A second would be that we can only remember the stories of some limited number of them without the blur of overload. A third (today) would be that culture has caused some us to react with “who cares?” to the names of those who appear in our minds to be distant or obscure nobodies. “If you ain’t John Wayne or Tom Brady or Justin Bieber or Donald Trump (before his presidential run), we don’t need to hear about you anyway.” (Meaning that the celebrity and communication noise of the modern day may be increasingly capturing our attention and drowning out more important people of the past.)

            3) I think the best way to “advance knowledge” is to not assume, as many do, that there is “nothing new under the sun” and that we must parse the meaning of our microwave ovens through the filters of Shakespeare and the ancient philosophers. Most people just AREN’T going to do it——sooo, maybe we had better dwell on “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice” (before everyone on the planet forgets how to do that latter thing.) Why isn’t “All I Really Need To Know I learned in Kindergarten” a good start for “required reading”?
            https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2399046-all-i-really-need-to-know-i-learned-in-kindergarten

          • Eurydice

            As my name has been mentioned a number of times, I thought I’d add something. The woman I am researching is not a literary person with a body of work collected in one place, yet overlooked – she was a person who worked in the fields of education and health. What I found in doing this research is that a woman’s very existence was not often acknowledged in our traditional systems of record-keeping. She might be in the birth, marriage and death records – but, in between, she might be anonymously recorded in a census as part of a “houseful of women.” She would not be in poll tax records because she couldn’t vote. Records listed women’s occupations as either “single” or “married’ and ignored the fact that they had jobs.

            And what I found really surprising is that even if a woman was famous and well-regarded in her lifetime, her papers, records, diaries, library were not archived in the same way as was done for men. Her work wouldn’t be housed in one place under her own identity, but scattered throughout a general collection. The history department that you note would not have considered women’s efforts to be worth the time of its students. So, I think it’s a terrific thing that academia decided to focus some time and energy in studying the other 50% of the planet, however they decided to organize it.

            However, I don’t think it’s a terrific thing to turn this study into some kind of special philosophy or political mission to redress the grievances of the past.

      • ——————————

        Yes FG, ‘their’ journeys led them to ‘their’ CONCLUSIONS. However, there are many of us who have come to different conclusions, and don’t want academia forcing ONLY their conclusions on our young and malleable citizens….

        • FriendlyGoat

          That’s why you have Liberty University, Bob Jones University and Oral Roberts University—–among others, which paint their over-riding world views over the top of all subjects and fields. Ditto all of the Islamic universities. Ditto Jewish colleges. Ditto Catholic colleges. Ditto various protestant denominational colleges. Lots of students go to these. “Academia” has been and continues to be all over the map.

          • ——————————

            I understand that. But the percentage of left-wing academia vs the percentage of right-wing academia is not even close.
            And “Their over-riding world views” as you refer to them, don’t have students rioting, burning cars, and throwing rocks at police.

            http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/oct/6/liberal-professors-outnumber-conservatives-12-1/

            I am sure the 12 to 1 ratio that was used in the article is likely lower, but even if it is 2 to 1, it is too high….

          • FriendlyGoat

            You do know that apart from religion or a perpetual quest to claw one’s way to the top of some heap that “right wing” does not make any sense, right?

          • ——————————

            Everything in life has a lot of input from both sides of the isle.
            The problem in recent history is that the pendulum has swung way to far to the left…and that is just as bad as if the pendulum had swung way to far to the right….

          • FriendlyGoat

            Rightism says we are entitled to have guns. Leftism says there are very limited circumstances under which we can point them at anyone or even discharge them in public at objects other than people. Rightism says banks, utilities, casinos, pharmacies, hospitals, securities trading firms, restaurants, electricians, plumbers, carmakers, insurance companies and airlines can all be in free enterprise. Leftism makes the rules for what is acceptable or not in how all of those treat us as individuals. Rightism says churches can have and celebrate any doctrine they want. Leftism says none of them can impose it on commerce or public affairs. Rightism insists that employers can make their own house rules. Leftism draws the boundary lines which prevents abuses of workers and makes workplaces livable.

            It’s a long list when one really tries to look at the norms we have come to trust and depend upon in modern life. This is why I hang onto calling myself a leftist. Because the real list of what lefties have done to improve our lives is a long one.
            We are about to see a bunch of it torn down and—— when people finally wake up—–they are going to notice they are losing, not winning, from that trend.

          • Adrian Johnson

            Catholic Colleges with a minority of notable exceptions are no longer “Catholic” especially if they are run by Jesuits. They mostly teach heresy (largely neo-pelagianism and modernism) and teach the young to view the world through marxist-hued “social justice” lenses. They distort and warp Catholic dogma and morality to fit amoral political trendiness. In our lifetimes, we will see the Roman Catholic Church split into a majority of “feel-good” humanitarians who under the encouragement of Jesuit Pope Francis (a master of feel-good ambiguity) want to join the coming “United Religions” project of the United Nations; and a minority of traditional, “Dogmatic Catholics” who are excreted, ridiculed and marginalised by the others and society in general.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Do you wish to be with the pomp, the hierarchy, the incense, the vestments and the endless massage of “The Doctrine”? Or do you with to be with the Jesus who is said to be the root reason for all this stuff? I know where Francis is. Tell me where you are.

          • Adrian Johnson

            Jesus speaks through the Doctrine of his Church, which is his mystical body.
            I am with Jesus even when Pope Francis is “ambiguous” about doctrine.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I am of the opinion that Francis is with Jesus and that “the church” (Catholic or Protestant) serves us best with less reliance on the mystical and more reliance on telling relevant truth on every subject.

          • Adrian Johnson

            A distinction without a difference.

          • FriendlyGoat

            No. Truth is not mysterious. We ask, seek, knock, and we get it. Then we tell it to each other. Simple. Straightforward. No games. No gimmicks. This is what any church is supposed to do.

          • Adrian Johnson

            Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, the life.” It’s true, but it’s mysterious. He’s the eternal son of the Father, incarnated as man in time. That’s the most mysterious thing that ever was.
            If you call that a gimmick or a game, you don’t understand what church is. The Church is the mystical body of Christ. It has sinners in it; yet the Church itself is holy. That’s straightforward, but it’s still a mystery beyond mere human understanding.
            The church tells a truth which is larger than our ability to grasp until we get to heaven.

            The Catholic church is not one church among many. It is THE church. If the description I give here does not suit you, then you will be happier in one of the protestant churches.

          • FriendlyGoat

            It’s not my mission to knock Catholicism. It shouldn’t be your mission to get a pope who is actually spiritual——as you have—–and then knock him from pillar to post.

      • Beauceron

        “This appears to be another case of “wanting” to believe in something WHILE knifing it at the same time.”

        Sometimes I truly believe you’re actually semi-retarded.

        “Could it be that their philosophical journeys led them to a CONCLUSION over time about what in history should be repeated and what should NOT be?”
        Oh, please. Do you even know many humanities professors?
        They aren’t — or most aren’t– on any type of “philosophical journey.” Or at least not any more than any other person, including the campus janitors.

        • FriendlyGoat

          1) Responding with “retard” means you are uncomfortable with the fact that a lesser light like me is noticing that you are double-talking.

          2) OF COURSE humanities professors are on a philosophical journey. You just DO NOT get to be one of those without having read tons and tons and tons of high-brow stuff. They are exposed in ways the janitors are not—–and yet, show me a black female custodian anywhere and I’ll show you someone who knows what “humanities” SHOULD be about.

          • Beauceron

            “Responding with “retard” means you are uncomfortable with the fact that a lesser light like me is noticing that you are double-talking.”

            No.

            It means that, as much as I try to stay away from you, I have witnessed your behavior on this board and am simply not interested in following you down the rabbit hole of what passes for discussion in your head. Go away. Don’t poop all over my post with your usual blather. Try, just for once, to think before you type and say something constructive.

            Exhibit A:

            “OF COURSE humanities professors are on a philosophical journey. You just DO NOT get to be one of those without having read tons and tons and tons of high-brow stuff.”

            You don’t know any professors. I do. Half my family are humanities professors. Honestly. They are not that well read at all– maybe on their particular narrow subject area, but really, professors don’t read any more than your average well-read person. Indeed– and I know this will be blasphemy to you– many humanities professors are sort of morons. You have to be really smart to be a physics professor. You do not have to be particularly bright when your areas of study are “the impact of social media in fans’ relationship with Lady Gaga, masculinity and male fans, messages about class and food in reality television programming, and messages about work in children’s television programs.”

            But then too many American professors really are entranced by the likes of Derrida and Lyotard.

            There is no difference between the “philosophical journey” of your average humanities professor and your average garbage man.

            “They are exposed in ways the janitors are not—–and yet, show me a black female custodian anywhere and I’ll show you someone who knows what “humanities” SHOULD be about.”

            I mean, just read that back to yourself a few times.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Evidently you never knew enough black female cleaning ladies. I had occasion to have extended conversations with a lot of both black and white ones—-men too, of course. You really shouldn’t be using them and the garbage men as examples of something low. They’re not.
            They work hard, have a life perspective that isn’t stupid and an understanding of humans (closely related to those esoteric “humanities”) which would surprise you.

          • Beauceron

            ” I had occasion to have extended conversations with a lot of both black and white ones—-men too, of course.”

            Well aren’t you just magnanimous? Deigning to talk to the staff, m’lord?

            “You really shouldn’t be using them and the garbage men as examples of something low. They’re not.”

            But I’m not. If anything, it’s quite the opposite. I give to them the same agency and sense of intellectual discovery I give to humanities professors.

            You’re the one who insists that humanities professors are some sort of demigod.

            You need to work on you implicit biases, amigo. It’s not pretty.

            “Some of them might even ask why you are in a comment section trashing “half of your family” who are humanities professors.”
            Meh. Not trashing them. Saying that they are certainly no better read, and often worse read, than your average well-read person. Two of my cousins just got their PhDs — and neither one of them read much at all. And one of them just got a coveted tenure track position right out of college, which is not easy these days. She’s 32 and never held a job in her entire life. I’m sorry, but you do not have to be smart to be an English professor or Philosophy or history professor. You have to be persistent and willing to jump through a lot of hoops.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I wasn’t “talking to the staff”. I was working alongside them doing overnight contract work while they were doing overnight cleaning. Had my own little business for a few years and one of the side benefits was getting to travel around and meet a few hundred floor cleaners up close on sort of a peer basis. More of an education than you think.

            As for your 32-year-old cousin, my guess is that she is looking forward to pouring a lot of caring and energy into her students. And, my guess is that she would be giving you a much harder time than I am if she was reading this thread.

          • Fred

            I agree with you about a lot of things, but here you’re not just wrong but absurdly so. I don’t know your family members, so obviously I can’t say how accurate your description of them is (although I suspect it’s not entirely fair). What I can say as someone who spent decades in English departments as a student and teacher is that English majors and professors are, for the most part, the most widely read people you’ll ever meet. To truly understand a great work of literature requires not only reading that work but also reading the history of the period in which it was written; the philosophy, religion, and/or science that influenced the work; the biography of the author; and other works of literature that influenced the author and/or to which s/he alludes. At the PhD level, it involves reading historical and contemporary theories of communication, philosophy and science of language, and historical and contemporary theories of interpretation. I agree with you that it is unfortunate that the “theory” that dominates the field now is what Raymond Tallis calls “the vast pyramid of bullshit that [is] postmodernism” and that far too many English professors are drawn to a somewhat anti-intellectual politicization. That said, the claim that English professors are no more well read than the average person is nonsense on stilts.

      • Angel Martin

        “Could it be that their philosophical journeys led them to a CONCLUSION over time about what in history should be repeated …?”

        I guess that’s right.

        Our esteemed radical professors seem to have decided that the decline and fall of ancient Rome is a history worth repeating: paganism, decadence, urban mob rule, sodomy, infanticide, barbarian invasion… the lot

    • Eurydice

      I used to sneer at the idea of women’s studies, until I tried to do some actual research on a notable woman who accomplished a great deal during her life and was influential afterwards. The political, economic and cultural status of women in the past made it difficult to find documentary evidence – it was like a treasure hunt and it made me think of how much history has been lost because a large percentage of the population wasn’t recorded. That doesn’t mean I’m angry about it – history is what happened in the past, but I can see how there was a reaction against the prevailing educational curricula that featured only men’s accomplishments.

      • Beauceron

        That’s not what I am talking about, and I suspect you know that.
        This complaint is not about the past, and how scholarship on female historical figures is difficult. Nor is it about equality. It is about a systemic culture of what has frankly devolved into misandry on most campuses.
        It’s alienating, it’s divisive— and, in the end, it’s worthless as a field of academic study. It’s not about scholarship– it’s about power. Look for example, at the gender gap on college campuses these days. If that were reversed, women would be screaming their heads off. Since it goes their way, barely a peep.

        I am not opposed to the study of women’s accomplishments. Some of my favorite writers, from Flannery O’Connor to Marianne Moore, and artists, from Georgia O’Keefe to Berthe Morisot, are women. I am, however, opposed to the weaponizing of these studies.
        In the end, it’s not scholarship, it’s activism. And I am not even opposed to that activism in and of itself– just don’t pretend it’s education.

        • Eurydice

          Well, I won’t get into contemporary feminism with you because I don’t think it’s coherent enough to come up with any defining characteristic at all, let alone the one you’ve decided on. And yes, I get that “it’s about power” – academia is rife with turf wars, for money, for students, for curricula, for tenure, etc., etc. My only point was that the studies people sneer at as unacademic arose from a real deficiency of knowledge. And because this deficiency was caused in great part through the workings of our political past, it’s very hard to divorce politics from their study today. My thinking is that these various special studies will eventually be subsumed into larger categories as they reach the outer limits of what they can achieve, but not without kicking and screaming. But then, I think the Iliad is the most perfect novel, so what do I know.

  • QET

    Let’s not overlook the effect of science and scientism on the whole idea of knowledge, its role and its production. The ascent of science to the peak of Western epistemology resulting from the stunning advances in the natural sciences (and of engineering) in the 18th – 20th centuries, the ensuing necessity to transmogrify every field of intellectual endeavor into a “science,” or at least to clothe it in the trappings of science, and–what ensued from this impulse–the transmogrification of US colleges and universities into “research” institutions, where every faculty member, even those in humanities subjects, is expected to conduct research (even better if conducted on a scientistic model featuring “data” and “analysis”), to regularly publish his “findings” in academic specialty journals, to pursue new sub-specialties into the ever-shrinking interstices formed by all of the prior sub-specialties; all of this, I say, has created an environment where it is impossible to sustain the classical humanities. Scientism is an ideology of its own, separate from the progressivism that co-opts it.

    • solstice

      The term “scientism” has been used by some religious imbeciles as a pejorative against atheists who refuse to accept unfounded claims about reality. In any case, linking “scientism” to”progressivism” is nonsense. Many rationalists (including myself) and scientists reject the notion of “progress,” and many progressives make assertions that contradict logic and science, including their claims that gender is a social construct, that global warning will lead to the apocalypse, that all cultures are equal, that white male capitalists are the root of all evil, that there are no qualitative genetic differences between human beings etc…

      • QET

        That progressives abuse science (which they do; it is part of what makes them progressives) does not entail that all who embrace science are progressive lunatics.

    • Beauceron

      That’s an interesting post.

    • Jim__L

      Right. How many editions of the works of Cicero, or Shakespeare, can academia usefully produce? At some point, the thirst for novelty overcame the thirst for knowledge.

      Humanities professors should be judged on their classroom performance, not on their publications.

  • solstice

    The real scandal is the many students who are incurring massive debt to attend university and who don’t belong anywhere near a university campus (i.e., they can barely read or write, they can’t think critically, they’re largely buried in their smart phones, they have useless majors, they don’t believe in free speech etc). Furthermore, the students who do belong in university are often forced by administrators to take courses that they hate, that are taught by eccentric leftists, and that will do nothing to further their career prospects. It is a scandal that most universities require students to take 120 academic credits just to earn a Bachelor’s degree. So many university courses do nothing more than waste the time and money of students, but university administrators don’t care because forcing students to take them boosts their bottom lines and keeps their own worthless jobs in existence.

    We certainly want some bright students to be well-versed in the classics, but for the majority of today’s youth, such courses are of little to no value. What is needed is not just fewer college students majoring in the liberal arts but fewer young people in universities–that is, away from the classroom and professors and in the real world. Instead of in college, we need more youths in vocational programs, apprenticeships, and internships that provide them with practical skills. Even youths who take minimum wage jobs straight out of high school often end up more wise and more skilled than university graduates with liberal arts degrees.

    • FriendlyGoat

      If we hadn’t been so busy destroying the old “social contract” between incorporated employers and citizens over the past 40 years, perhaps we would have more students going the on-the-job-training route. Working for cheap right out of high school in order to acquire skills is a dandy idea—–but it HAS TO lead somewhere upward in order to be viable. If that “somewhere” is going to be maybe $12.50/hr by age 30 and no job security on that HS education, well, you can probably see the problems brewing for midlife and older ages. Meanwhile, If one literally can’t afford the medical care to have an in-marriage baby in one’s 18-25 post-HS working years without still being on Mom/Dad’s group health plan, something is screwy.

      We used to like to say “the world does not owe anyone a living” until we found out (or are finding out) that under-employed hoards are not a sustainable model for any country. Generational cycles of poverty, bad parenting, alcohol, crime, drugs, STD’s, single-parent babies, and radicalism “ain’t cheap” for everyone else, it turns out.

  • Two of the happiest years in my life were freshman and sophomore years at Reed College, which required of all incoming students (math majors included) a double Humanities course (six hours of class time per week). There were two or three hundred pages of reading a week with students expected not so much to master the material as to learn how to talk and write about it intelligently as we went along. That was my introduction to the classics of Western history, literature, art, and philosophy and the beginning of a lifelong love of good books. I consider myself rich in that regard.

    • Makaden

      Actually, much of it does. But it won’t survive deliberate deconstruction.

    • Fat_Man

      Another generation? Nope it is too late now. The only profs who know enough about the liberal arts to be able to teach them are in their 60’s. After that it is a trackless wasteland.

  • Angel Martin

    These University of PC jokers are just making themselves more vulnerable to cutbacks in the next severe economic downturn.

    The German economy is doing a lot better with a lot fewer university grads.

  • Peter Henderson

    Democracy requires a public that is reasonably well-informed and has the intellectual tools to learn new things and communicate with others. The most basic skills are literacy and ‘numeracy’ or the ability to understand a simple mathematical argument. While math is a universal language, English is not. By refusing to insist that citizens speak English, the US is throwing away the most basic tool of communication in order to be ‘multicultural’ and help corporations make money from legal and illegal immigrants. That needs to change.

  • Peter Henderson

    Sending a kid to Groton may have been “conspicuous consumption” for some, just as displaying ridiculous modern art or gag-me-with-a-spoon Mapplethorpe photos is for some today. But so what? Does Mead suppose that none of the Groton lads actually appreciated the works they were reading, or that none of the Groton dads cared whether Junior was reading Virgil or James T. Farrell so long as there was prestige attached to reading it? The rich people of a hundred years ago were less motivated by the wish to display status than the high-tech and hedge fund millionaires of today. They viewed themselves as custodians of an admirable culture, at once liberal and Christian, and sending the kid to appropriate elite schools had that as part of the motivation.

  • Anthony

    “From this perspective, the decision to turn toward ‘practical subjects’ makes a lot of sense. If you aren’t going to get a real education no matter what you do in college, you might as well learn something that will get you paid later. (Walter Russell Mead) Well, ought that have to be the case (college level or no).

    I had a professor years ago (classical Humanities Class) who said that a Liberal (Humanities) Education is designed to form a free person – who can lead himself, herself, and others. He went on to say that a Humanities Education is the opposite of the merely training for a job (practical though that may be) which can be given to both servant and slave. He said Humanities provided more than a grounding in knowledge as it (when taught well) provides access to both wisdom and virtue – Trivium and Quadrivium encompasses.

    WRM, we lose humanities and its declining successful graduates to our detriment; I am sure you and your Bard colleagues recognize as much. Let’s not distract from purpose: “liberal education is an education that makes us more human. It makes us adults. It seeks to develop all the things in us that make us distinctly human” – it is not male, it is not female, not black, not white, not red, pink, yellow, brown, etc. but human.

    • Angel Martin

      “I had a professor years ago (classical Humanities Class) who said that a Liberal (Humanities) Education is designed to form a free person – who can lead himself, herself, and others. ”

      Let’s test this theory.

      I suggest creating a society entirely of Humanities professors, segregated from the rest of us – and see how they get on.

      • Anthony

        Don’t test the theory live it (better still, go to school or more importantly address WRM’s ideal).

    • J K Brown

      So not only all those who don’t go to college, but those who major in engineering, chemistry, business are less human now? Not adults?

      • Anthony

        The STEM example though used a lot to what purpose here appears non sequitur. But labels are constructed, humans on the other hand are a biological reality (their maturation, well you decide – as to your non college reference it prejudges unnecessarily).

  • Fat_Man

    Let us not neglect the role of Colleges that charge nigh unto a quarter of a million dollars in forcing parents and students to look at the economic value of the four years spent within those ivy covered walls.

  • Is History or English a good Undergraduate Major?

    • J K Brown

      Depends. Do you have family connections that can get you a job after? If not, probably not as they do little to improve your employability beyond the tick mark on the HR spreadsheet under education.

      • So without good connections, you can’t really get ahead? Man…I wasn’t even born in this country, I wish I knew more people.

        • J K Brown

          You need connections if you don’t have useful skills or specialized knowledge to do something useful for others. If you don’t improve those with your degree, you need connections to get in the door and have time to develop innate abilities. It is possible your liberal arts degree will be of use, hopefully it was rigorous enough.

      • Adrian Johnson

        I got a classical BA and my first job out of university was as a professional zookeeper. I loved it. Having a good education made me see the literary possibilities of writing a best-selling comic novel about zookeepers and their worlds. I still have the notes I took 50 years ago. When I finally retire, I’m writing that book and making a pile of money.

  • Joey Junger

    The cognitive dissonance is pretty hard among the leftists in academia. Any day now the African-American Plato, the transgender Nietzsche or the Guatemalan Shakespeare is going to come along, but for some reason it doesn’t happen. The fact that lightweights like Malcolm Gladwell or even Ta Nehisi Coates are trotted out as some kind of titans shows how desperate the clerisy is for models for the New America. I suppose we should be thankful for small mercies, though, since the progs are only quietly removing statues of dead white males rather than using them for target practice.

    I still see some first rate intellects floating around, even among the young, but they mostly come from Jesuit backgrounds or schools that beat the Ivies in STEM areas, like Harvey Mudd or Carnegie Mellon.

  • hjc2

    The “march through the institutions” of the 1960’s New Left has left a path of destruction. If universities drop what has become of Liberal Arts perhaps it’s for the best. The marketplace of ideas may toss post-modern nonsense into the dustbin.

  • J K Brown

    We had an interesting test back in 2015, the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. A prime event for the Liberal Arts departments to sell themselves and generate interest. I looked and didn’t find one American university having any significant celebration or marking of the event.

  • J K Brown

    The modern liberal arts student is no longer put “under glass” to force their blooming, but instead, as exemplified by their opposition to free and open debate, the students are being made weak and fragile.

    The idea is, of course, that men are successful because they have gone to college. No idea was ever more absurd. No man is successful because he has managed to pass a certain number of courses and has received a sheepskin which tells the world in Latin, that neither the world nor the graduate can read, that he has successfully completed the work required. If the man is successful, it is because he has the qualities for success in him; the college “education” has merely, speaking in terms’ of horticulture, forced those qualities and given him certain intellectual tools with which to work-tools which he could have got without going to college, but not nearly so quickly. So far as anything practical is concerned, a college is simply an intellectual hothouse. For four years the mind of the undergraduate is put “under glass,” and a very warm and constant sunshine is poured down upon it. The result is, of course, that his mind blooms earlier than it would in the much cooler intellectual atmosphere of the business world.

    A man learns more about business in the first six months after his graduation than he does in his whole four years of college. But-and here is the “practical” result of his college work-he learns far more in those six months than if he had not gone to college. He has been trained to learn, and that, to all intents and purposes, is all the training he has received. To say that he has been trained to think is to say essentially that he has been trained to learn, but remember that it is impossible to teach a man to think. The power to think must be inherently his. All that the teacher can do is help him learn to order his thoughts-such as they are.

    Marks, Percy, “Under Glass”, Scribner’s Magazine Vol 73, 1923, p 47

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