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23 June 2012


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Ignorant people are easier to rule.

The falsehoods peddled by almost all of the political classes today go largely unchallenged because so few people have the education to challenge them and those that do are either cowed or complicit.

"Practical" education is code for dumbing down.


Mr. Sale,

The example of Napoleon is something truly stunning, but is it something that most college students, let alone most people, can be realistically expected to emulate? I've seen a few people who are truly Napoleon-like in their thirst for knowledge and understanding, but they are few and far between. We can perhaps encourage wider, more systematic emulation of Napoleon through our education institutions, but only if they are made sufficiently selective, and consequently, exclusive and "undemocratic." (I don't mean that the doors should be closed arbitrarily and artificially, but the requirements should be made so demanding that few could dare follow through realistically.) A "democratic" education of the kind that people (particularly of the so-called "liberal" persuasion, but also of the corporate kind as well) demand is the polar opposite: it should be made simple enough that just about anybody could do it. The demands placed on students should be minimized and the material should be stripped down and simplified--which is how much of higher education (esp public higher education) in this country has become in the past few decades.

I don't think it is possible for real and serious "liberal arts" education to become "democratic." In order to enrich our national intellect, we should perhaps institute a system where even those of lesser means could obtain it provided that they had the necessary talent and willingness--and we did, at one time, as that was how some of the better state universities became first rate institutions --but it cannot be open to the general masses unless the content of educations becomes oversimplified.

Babak Makkinejad

Quite right about N. Bonaparte.

He was from a good family and he was very bright.

Laplace explained to him his theory of solar system stability to him and Napoleon could follow him.

Later, he learnt the solution of a problem in geometry from a foreign scholar during one of his campaigns and once he went back to France, he explained the proof to the members of the French Academy.

Also I agree with you about Liberal Arts education, it is a form of democratic envy. Why is it that no one wants to make legal, dental, or medical education accessible to the masses? Or Pharmcy?

Very many people in US own pets - how about veterniary medicine for the masses?


Bowditch took Laplace's Mechanique Celeste and translated it into English while improving its formulas. But Bowditch had the ability to teach the common man (his fellow seafarers) Celestial Astronomy during his voyages so they could use the stars to reach their destinations in life. Where are those teachers today.

r whitman

It seems to me that most of the Neocons running around screwing up the foreign policy of the USA are Liberal Arts graduates. Certainly, we STEM trade school grads do not claim them.


This should be required reading, but it won't be because those who need to read it and understand it are those who have no use for anything in education which has no immediate utilitarian value.




At a time when places associated with "money predominance, not culture" are trying to explore new ways of reforming their education, it seems counter to the Zeitgeist of "spiritual growth and the promotion of reasonableness" that education of youth in a Superpower should be CHEAPENED to such a state where "only the immediate and the useful.... they can comprehend."

Reductio ad absurdum.


The following video shows how some college courses are no more than brainwashing techniques for instilling white guilt and promoting the cult of victimology, which leads to self pity and cultural paralysis. This is the opposite of what a liberal education was originally designed to do.



Mr. Sale,

My personal thanks for another insightful Essay from your pen.

RE:"Classics are there as a link to the past, a connection that places us in contact with past heroes and their deeds"

Ah yes, perhaps among the reasons for the cultural revolution.

mao just wanted the masses to worship ONLY him.

To the continued moral decadence of the existing masses from the Middle Kingdom....



RE: "The complete want of style, the crude, characterless
or sadly swaggering methods of expression, are the key characteristic of our age. Gone is the ideal to bring to life the disciplined, practical, and well-thought out as a sacred duty....The teaching profession today embodies the spirit of bureaucracy. Only a narrow mind.... solely interested in problem solving or
financial or social advancement."

Aye, off with the Olde in order to beckon the New. How far have we progressed [away] from the progenitors of fascist thought?

"Man has acquired one by one a sense of his home, a sense of the neighborhood where he lives, a sense of his geographical region, and finally of the continent. Today he is aware of the whole world. He doesn't need to know what his ancestors did, he needs to know what his contemporaries all over the world are doing....
He must feel himself to be at once axis, judge and motor of the explored and unexplored infinite."




L'empereur des Français was a Genius rare endowed with Unnatural Talents Godgiven & REFINED thru HARD WORK.

How many of us are there who fit the bill?



Prof. Kao,

Who knows, perhaps you are the Scharnhorst of our Time?



Yale, Harvard, and Princeton (and the like) will always offer solid liberal arts education. The question is whether the taxpayers of various states find it fit to offer liberal arts education.

I actually have somewhat of a mixed feelings on this count: FWIW, the Ivies have gotten a lot more democratic in their admission and financial aid packages last few decades--they are much less elite-oriented than before (although to say that they are not would be a blatant lie.) Many students for whom a good state university would have been the only practical option in the past can wind up at Ivy League schools. That lessens the "need" of state universities to offer real liberal arts education, as there are fewer students who demand such coursework--although it makes it even less desirable for students interested in real intellectual endeavor to choose state universities, thus driving the cycle further. This begs the question, whether they should continue to do so. I'm tempted to say that they should, so that liberal arts should not be the exclusive domain of the socioeconomic elites...but Ivies themselves are much less for socioeconomic elites than they were before.


Dr. Brenner,

You said:

"You may find it instructive to look at the status of the Liberal arts such unlikely places as China, Singapore and the Gulf states. Of course, it is possible that the Chinese Mandarins, Singaporean technocrats and Gulf sheiks are also dupes who need a Jamie Dimon to straigthen them out - a Jamie Dimon who was hired out of Harvard Business School by Sandy Weill on the recommendation of Dimon's father and Weill's partner at American Express. The two teamed up to take over a loan sharking business on Long Island. The rest is history."


Well sir, there's a sucker born every minute.


NY Times has a good article from which I quote:

"Dr. Sullivan said that online education was no panacea — and indeed, was “surprisingly expensive, has limited revenue potential and unless carefully managed can undermine the quality of instruction.”

And while she agreed that she is, indeed, an incrementalist, she stressed that that did not mean she lacked a strategic plan.

“Corporate-style, top-down leadership does not work in a great university,” she said. “Sustained change with buy-in does work.”

Many public university presidents, past and present, said that those on the boards of the leading universities — typically business executives without much experience in academia — do not always understand the complexities of leading a large research university, and the degree to which a president can succeed only by persuading.

“Everybody thinks university presidents are hierarchical and top-down,” said Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami, and a former president of the University of Wisconsin and secretary of health and human services. “But we are not corporate chieftains, and we cannot rule from the sky. We are more like tugboat captains, trying to get our ships aligned and pulling them in the right direction.”

The great research universities, she said, have achieved their dominant position in the world through shared faculty governance, and leaving faculty both academic and research freedom.

“It was a lot easier to run a cabinet department than the University of Wisconsin,” Ms. Shalala said. “There are a lot of different constituencies at a university, and the president cannot be successful without buy-in from all of them.” "


Babak Makkinejad

It is mostly because they all have Ph.D.s and thus Know-it-alls.

It is like herding cats.


Prof. Kao,

RE: "The question is whether the taxpayers of various states find it fit to offer liberal arts education."

Sad truth but thanks.

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