Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Blissfully Uneducated"

The always superb Victor Davis Hanson in a piece in America.com, "Blissfully Uneducated," explores the state of higher education in this country and he does not like what he sees:

Americans increasingly cannot seem to answer questions like these adequately because they are blissfully uneducated. They have not acquired a broad knowledge of language, literature, philosophy, and history.

...[T]he aim of traditional education was to prepare a student in two very different ways. First, classes offered information drawn from the ages—the significance of Gettysburg, the characters in a Shakespeare play, or the nature of the subjunctive mood. Integral to this acquisition were key dates, facts, names, and terms by which students, in a focused manner in conversation and
speech, could refer to the broad knowledge that they had gathered.

Second, traditional education taught a method of inductive inquiry. Vocabulary, grammar, syntax, logic, and rhetoric were tools to be used by a student, drawing on an accumulated storehouse of information, to present well-reasoned opinions—the ideology of which was largely irrelevant to
professors and the university.

Sometime in the 1960s—perhaps due to frustration over the Vietnam War, perhaps as a manifestation of the cultural transformations of the age—the university jettisoned the classical approach and adopted the therapeutic.

In the end, education is the ability to make sense of the chaotic present through the prism of the absolute and eternal truths of the ages. But if there are no prisms—no absolutes, no eternals, no truths, no ages past—then the present will appear only as nonsense.

As always read all of Hanson's writing.

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