Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Latin Caroling - December 6

You are invited to hear and even join in the singing of some Christmas Carols in Latin.  (In case you missed it last year, see the photos and video on the December 5, 2012 blog entry).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Focusing Too Narrowly in College Could Backfire

So argues Peter Capelli in the Wall Street Journal (11/15/13).  "Students are told to learn the subjects that will best land them a job when they graduate.  But that could be the worst thing they could do."  Read the argument here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thinking for Oneself

Over the last year there has been a steady stream of articles about the “crisis in the humanities,” fostering a sense that students are stampeding from liberal education toward more vocationally oriented studies. In fact, the decline in humanities enrollments, as some have pointed out, is wildly overstated, and much of that decline occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. Still, the press is filled with tales about parents riding herd on their offspring lest they be attracted to literature or history rather than to courses that teach them to develop new apps for the next, smarter phone.
So goes the first paragraph of this useful column on the humanities and liberal arts education by Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan University (November 12, 2013, InsideHigherEd.com).  Roth gives a brief history of the ups and downs of the humanities in relation to the sciences in the last century of American higher education and argues that we should not let the hopes we place in the STEM subjects undermine our "well-founded faith in the capacity of the humanities to help us resist 'the straitjackets of conventional formulas.'"   "Totalitarian regimes," he point out, "embraced technological development (in the 1930s), but they could not tolerate the free discussion that led to a critical appraisal of civic values."  He concludes that "our independence, our freedom, has depended on not letting anyone else do our thinking for us. And that has demanded learning for its own sake; it has demanded a liberal education. It still does."

You can read the whole article below the break:

Friday, November 8, 2013

At Karlštejn Castle

September Long (History and Political Science, 2015) looks out from Karlštejn Castle near Prague in the Czech Republic, where she is studying this semester. She loves the city, the cultural experience, and the chance to travel to other countries.  She says her political science classes are not so great ("primary works and literature are not used in the political science or history classes here at all"), but "Prague Art and Architecture", where they study the development of art from the founding of Prague Castle through the fall of communism and its impact on Czech culture as a whole has been "a really intriguing class." Students at the Anglo-American University come from many different countries and September says that while most are really nice, "it is both interesting and disheartening to realize how most people (students and professors alike) misinterpret America and her role in the world."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lyons and Werneke on Winston Churchill

Justin Lyons and former student Dantan Wernecke (Political Science, 2012) both have essays forthcoming in "Finest Hour", No. 160.  Professor Lyons writes on "Winston Churchill's Critique of Woodrow Wilson," while Dantan writes on "Herbert Hoover's Critique of Winston Churchill."

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What is Liberal Education?

In the previous post, we mention a symposium on the future of liberal education.  There is a lot of good information and argument in the papers delivered in that symposium, but one particularly nice description of what a liberal education is can be found in "Why Do We Wear These Robes and These Hoods?", which was originally delivered at a Phi Beta Kappa induction ceremony. Author Timothy Burns points out that the Greek letters, Phi Beta Kappa, "stand for Philosophia Biou Kubernetes: philosophy, or love of wisdom, as the guide of life." Burns begins his explanation of what what liberal education is like this:

[P]erhaps the best starting point for getting a hold of its purpose is the adjective in the term liberal education. “Liberal tells us that the education was originally held to be education that becomes a free human being, a liber, rather than a slave (i.e., a human being with the potential for sufficient virtues of mind and heart to rule himself or herself within a society of like-minded human beings). It is an education aimed at developing the human potential to be free—to be not in need, as slaves were thought to be, of being commanded and watched over and reminded of the fearful consequence of doing what a master forbids. It is an education becoming, then, a full human being, and therefore choice-worthy as an end in itself. It is a high or noble common enterprise that can fulfill ones distinctively human potential, regardless of how useful it might be for other things. Liberal education so understood is emphatically not career, or job, or professional training, in which you learn things useful for something else—information or theories” that you will apply later. For this reason, classes in preprofessional programs to this day do not count toward Phi Beta Kappa credits. In fact, to think of liberal education as a means and not an end in itself is like encouraging someone to study violin so that she can have limber fingers. It is to mistake a very real effect of liberal education for its purpose.
Liberal education is likewise emphatically not a political indoctrination, an education in how to be a liberal or a conservative.