Liberal Education & Silly Education

Some fragments on education …

“At its best, liberal education opens a conversation between ourselves and the immortal dead, gives us voices at our shoulders asking us to think again and try harder–sometimes by asking us not to think but just to look and listen, to try less hard, and to wait for the light to dawn,” (Alan Ryan, Liberal Anxieties and Liberal Education, 47).

And, as further proof that we should not try to go back to the 50s, here’s some classes you could take in that “golden era”:

  • “Developing School Spirit”
  • “My Duties as a Baby-Sitter”
  • “Clicking with the Crowd”
  • “What Can Be Done about Acne?”
  • “Learning to Care for My Bedroom”
  • “Making My Room More Attractive” (quoted by Ryan, but taken from Anti-Intellectualism in American Life)

Perhaps this sort of mindless drivel produced the hippies? Who wouldn’t rebel???

Lastly, it’s always good to hear someone super-famous supporting your own team. Jacques Barzun seems to agree with the educational philosophy of my own alma mater, New St. Andrews College:

“For it is the oldest fallacy about schooling to suppose that it can train a man for ‘practical’ life. Inevitably, while the plan of study is being taught, ‘practical life’ has moved on … The corporations employing the largest numbers of engineers and scientific research men are on this matter way ahead of the colleges. One such firm conducted a survey last year to find out where and how its first-rate executives had been prepared. They came from the most unexpected places–including small liberal arts colleges, the teaching profession, the stage, and the Baptist ministry. It was found that the engineering schools–particularly those sensible ones that make no pretense at intellectual cachet–turned out a good average product, but few leaders. The company’s own intsitutes and night courses raised the chance of foremen and district managers–but only up to a point. The survey concluded that what it wanted as material to shape future executives was graduates of liberal arts colleges, trained in history and economics, in philosophy and in good English, and likewise possessed of an intelligent interest in science and technology,” (Teacher in America, 134-35).


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