BIG THOUGHTS HERE
[...] Go to the Source: Postmodern Conservative [...]
English, literature, history, and philosophy and other liberal arts can be self-taught by anyone interested and relevant books are available at prices far cheaper then the usurious college tuitions and textbooks. Many of the best can even be gotten free. Why make people who have no bent that way waste large amounts of money and time on a project that will probably doom them to poverty in a world that is more concerned with economic potential? Do you think most young people are patronized by aristocrats?
Liberal arts college is an obsolete institution for the simple reason that you can download fine collections of Great Books onto an E-reader which are all public domain. If we must have colleges let them concentrate on teaching people to survive and contribute. Why make more unemployment?
Jason, I’m more sympathetic to your view than I let on. That’s why I’m glad I’m near retirement.
It would be most beneficial for both society and the university system if “we” stopped telling young people that they’re doomed to be miserable failures if they don’t obtain a college degree, and the more expensive, the better.
Also, Ike’s farewell address is must reading for this topic.
PAL, I would be heart sickened if you should ever choose to quite teaching!
Jason, can you link me to a site where I can download the classics? My wife’s going to give me her Kindle and since the Lord has restored my sight, I’m going to need them!
I have a controversial and potentially completely wrongheaded thesis that has rattled around in my head for awhile, but I’ll go ahead and say it because Jason made me think of it with his comment. Here it is:
The current average American has vastly more money and time than the average person did in any period prior to the 1950s, thanks to technological and economic advances. We are so much richer, that the average American IS and aristocrat for all intents and purposes. College could not have become available “for everyone” otherwise. So on this way of thinking, the real question is: Why are liberal arts good for aristocrats? And what happens to that aristocratic society when the liberal arts universities no longer educate men to be gentlemen
perhaps, Jason, the liberal arts education just needs to shift its focus. maybe colleges should be run by the technocrats, and should mostly be about making citizens more productive and so forth. but there’s a lot to say for sprucing up our public schools with a classical liberal arts education, esp. now that the supreme court has ensured us that voucherized public education isn’t unconstitutional. here’s one such effort of which i just became aware — http://www.greatheartsaz.org/ –but i’m sure there are others out there to which pomocon readers could point us.
CJ’s comment is right on. The average American who is capable of attending college is an aristocrat for all intents and purposes. Our failure to address this reality is one significant factor behind the astonishing moral complacency of our “cognitive elite” that Lawler so often laments. It’s also a big reason for the atavistic politics of neo-marxism and neo-liberalism presently resurgent in our national discourse. Whether liberal or libertarian-branded, this complacency is something both right- and left-leaning defenders of “Liberal Education” seek to remedy. And there is no remedy for it in the techno-fields, from business to engineering…. which brings me to Jason’s comment.
Jason: If one can get acquainted with the liberal arts at home (and I agree, one can) then so much more easily can one achieve competence through self-education in most technical fields. Computer programming is one obvious example of a field that was dominated by the self-taught–until the universities set up IT majors and big firms adopted the Bachelor’s degree as a barrier to entry (as in so many other fields requiring skilled-labor).
But the more important point is that by your logic, the cheap printed book should have annihilated liberal arts education two hundred years ago. Quite the opposite occurred, of course. As CJ points out, college became “available for everyone.”
If education is job training by definition, then there is no point in having this argument. But then if that is the case, its not clear that there is any warrant for _public_ education to subsidize private gain. One could defend such a subsidy, but this defense would seem to call for an appeal to values that fall outside the ken of libertarianism. This returns us to the liberal arts.
I doubt my MIT-educated friend who works for SpaceEx could have self-taught for that position, but perhaps that’s the exception more than the rule!
I agree wholeheartedly that your friend at SpaceX could not have self-taught! But I do think that is closer to the exception than the rule. I’m no labor economist, but my guess is that even in most techno-fields the average job is not so intellectually demanding.
During a campus tour of my alma mater, one that has been in the national news for negligence and hubris in its football program, we had a discussion of class size. The doltish-future-cubical-dweller (WSJ rates my alma mater as the best major U for scouting potential employees…er..cubical dwellers?) said that the large classes were mostly just general classes that didn’t really matter. I couldn’t help but wonder if the focus was character education, would my alma mater have been so careless and arrogant? In an era in which I have to inspect my cellphone bill monthly to ensure there are no overcharges, in which my manage care company and healthcare providers are always trying to pull a fast one, and my bank earns its living off of hidden fees, do we really need more technocrats? Sure, you can get lots of free books, but I don’t think that just reading books builds character. Sometimes, a person has to be pushed. And that should be the purpose of a liberal education.
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