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01 June 2019

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Glorious Bach

" They both had open minds that relentlessly sought the truth and then applied what they learned in all the situations they encountered."

Beautifully put.

Jose

Respectfully, a liberal arts education today is nothing more than indoctrination. STEM is actually one of the few educations where you have to figure out what is right and wrong. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS. Liberal arts are where you arrive that the conclusion favored by your professor. OR YOU WILL PAY THE CONSEQUENCES.

Liberals have ruined education, they call it PROGRESS.

walrus

From my own university experience the “soft” disciplines are not liberal in the sense of empowering people by developing their critical thinking abilities in a way that allows them to apply these acquired tools to general issues. Rather, the Professors offer only a very limited set of tools strictly focussed on applying them to the politically correct “narrative “ they wish to push.

The result: “graduates” who are intellectual cripples. One can usually trip them up in the first two minutes by casually asking them to apply the golden rule.

akaPatience

This is a very thought-provoking essay. I also wonder about the state of education and its effects on students these days. Like your Churchill example, in my youth and of course much longer ago, we were taught liberal arts curricula in primary K-12 education that seems to be as good if not better than that obtained by many undergraduate college students today. And while the usefulness of writing skills along with good reading comprehension is beyond question, I have anecdotes to offer that make me wonder about liberal arts education offered today: some good friends have spent a lot of money for their children's college educations. One boy received a degree in English. A girl received a degree in psychology. Both now have low-paying service jobs in the food/restaurant sector. And both have declared themselves to be either socialist or communist. Now, it may very well be the case that these two are spoiled, lazy kids who lack motivation to pursue better employment. But it also seems to me they haven't learned HOW to capitalize on skills they've learned over the years.

Could this be a downside of obtaining a liberal arts degree in non-natural science subjects? Or is the problem more cultural than educational -- maybe a failure of parents to nurture a sufficient work ethic and personal discipline? With both parents often working outside of the home these days children are freer to engage in worthless distractions like spending too much time and attention on video games and social media.

On the other hand, the English major has a sister who obtained a STEM degree and is now a well-paid oral surgeon. A question therefore comes to mind of whether or not enough employers value those with non-natural science liberal arts degrees?

One final thought: the men in your examples rose to the occasion of what is one of THE most consequential events in history. Maybe it takes motivation of that extreme sort to bring out the best in leaders.

turcopolier

All - "a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a stronger sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement ... characterised by challenging encounters with important issues, and more a way of studying than a specific course or field of study" by the Association of American Colleges and Universities." Unfortunately today's "Liberal Arts" curriculum seem to have abandoned the goals described above in favor of identity politics driven propaganda and indoctrination. When I was "educated" at a place that many of you must think was incapable of liberal thought the educational process had nothing or at least little to do with political liberalism. No, it had to do with a curriculum of; literature in the form of the thought of great minds, history, philosophy, economics, a foreign language, required core courses in chemistry or the like, basic math like college algebra or spherical trigonometry on top of a rigorous physical training regimen designed to produce a sound mind in a sound body. STEM education is necessary to the functioning of the world but a STEM education devoid of humanity's experience may make you rich but what kind of a person will you be? I taught at an institution (USMA) then rigidly devoted to inculcating problem solving as the essence of education. The ability to think broadly and openly was seen as a weakness in life, evidence of a lack of "focus.". Well, pilgrims, I have watched many graduates of USMA strive mightily to understand open ended questions like the nature of Iraqi society and the resistance of that people to occupation and fail in the process that I have come to see people indoctrinated with anything like the Thayer Method of learning as essentially handicapped.

Harlan Easley

The modern day abolitionist has no concept of Liberalism. All I see is hate against anybody who disagrees with them. They are at the forefront of censorship and would love everybody to disarm themselves into a Utopia. It's impossible for me to understand them. It seems that cognitive dissonance takes over their mind and they can't deal with reality which is the world is a dangerous place and not all flowers and rainbows. So they create a world of "if only" which makes them feel safe though it's a delusion.

adrian pols

I attended St. Johns's College in Annapolis, class of 1970. The curriculum which was totally standardized with all courses required and no electives, was designed as an historical overview of western culture and technology. My life's trajectory hasn't involved the direct application of what I studied there, but the training in critical thinking was a priceless bequest for which I am forever grateful, even though, at the time, I didn't appreciate fully what I was experiencing. Your post is resonant with me.

John Merryman

Maybe the problems are just that much larger. For one thing, after 'going forth and multiplying' for the last hundred thousand years, we are reaching the edge of the global petri dish and it really is time to take stock.
We have a culture that is ideals based, but nature tends to be cyclical and reciprocal, so in our singular march towards a better future, at least for those running the show, there seems to be quite a bit of blowback building. Maybe more isn't always better.
Galaxies are energy radiating out, as mass coalesces in. Thermodynamics rules.
We are not collectively getting off this planet, so we will have to be more reciprocal in our relationships.
The Golden Rule.

Barbara Ann

Colonel

There is surely a causal link between the two: our increased ignorance is a direct result of our increased skill (technology). The powers of reductive reasoning that have provided us will so many useful means of prolonging and making our lives more comfortable have led to the direct opposite of our enlightenment, many of us have become more ignorant of ourselves, of our essential nature.

The brain's capacity for self-awareness seems to be accompanied by an innate need to transcend the imperfect state which it perceives. The Enlightenment simply led to this incessant drive for self-improvement largely moving from spiritual means towards secular, educational means. But as our technology increases in complexity, so our education system gears itself towards churning out ever more specialized widget-makers, focus, as you say. The curriculum is finite, so contemplation of the eternal paradoxes of what it is to be homo sapiens - the humanities - is relegated and no longer fashionable.

Leadership, has little to do with widgets and everything to do with conviction, certainty in one's own mind. This requires a mastery of the tricks the mind plays when dealing with life - recognizing triumph and disaster as equivalent impostors, as Kipling said. Great leaders like Churchill are so often rebellious, independent thinkers who plough their own furrow (in his case greatly assisted by his mother) and ruthlessly pursue their education in the school of life, not (just) the classroom.

blue peacock

Col. Lang

I don't believe the kind of education you received is available any longer. For example "...more a way of studying than a specific course or field of study" is no longer the focus. Professors spend their time on publishing more & more "peer-reviewed" papers than educating because that's how they move up the ranks. I believe most colleges have been transformed from the education focus of the 19th & early 20th century to now training SJWs and technocrats. Professors and departments of course also have to spend much time writing grant proposals and of course there is far more money for engineering & computer science.

My young nephew just graduated with a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering from Cal Berkeley. He has been hired by Apple with a starting salary of $350,000. The competition to hire these kids is insane.

Lars

Higher education today is largely vocational, largely driven by the cost of it.

rho

The best recent illustration of how far the intellectual degeneration of "liberal education" has progressed is the "Sokal squared" hoax. The NYT was quite salty when it had to report about it:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/arts/academic-journals-hoax.html

It turns out that you can have complete nonsense published in progressive academic journals as long as you include the right buzzwords and the proper ideology.

My favourite hoax paper from the batch is clearly "Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon", which discusses absolutely amazing questions like: "Do dogs suffer oppression based upon (perceived) gender?"

Cortes

One of my favourite books by US authors is the delicious “The Pooh Perplex” which parodies the schools of literary criticism dominant in the early 1960s. It’s author

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Crews

had a background with almost classic testament to the importance of a liberal education and it seems to me that his definition of “general rationality” quoted under the “Career” heading in said article coheres well with your post. I’m not sure that that spirit has been extinguished completely. Of late I’ve seen not a few young people on public transport immersed in books. Real, paper books.

The Twisted Genius

aka patience, I concur with your observation that our well rounded liberal education was in K-12 in the past. I recited Kipling's "If" in front of my 5th grade classmates. We then discussed the meaning of that poem for an afternoon. We did this with each poem recited by my classmates that year. Although I was envious of my friends in 7th and 8th grades who were able to take shop classes, those friends also had to take the same English courses I did. We started with Cotton Mather in 6th grade and proceeded from there. We all learned American history from 6th through 8th grades. Most of all, we learned citizenship.

I went to a Jesuit high school so there was no shop, but I did take a month long course in piloting and seamanship with Brother Queegan. We carried our charts of Long Island Sound as we sailed and rowed our old wooden skiffs. They weren't rowing shells, but it was kind of preppy in a rough, wharf rat kind of way. Our curriculum included four years each of English, theology, math, a modern language and an ancient language (Latin or Greek) along with a year each of biology, chemistry, Western civilization and American history. I checked the current curriculum at Fairfield Prep. It hasn't changed that much, but the requirement for both a modern AND an ancient language has relaxed. The students still wear ties every day, but it doesn't appear jackets are now mandatory attire.

The public high schools were not that rigorous, but my father's public high school curriculum included Latin. Even though he joined the Marines before graduating, he could still quote Caesar. He thought it was quite a hoot when Pratt & Whitney sent him to Yale for engineering courses years later. He became a tool & die maker through an apprenticeship just like one of my brothers.

I believe one way, perhaps the best way, to save this country is to bring our K-12 system back to its former glory. That's going to take a massive investment. We should pay teachers the kind of salary that would attract the best and the brightest. And educational administrators should grow out of the best and brightest of those teachers. Unfortunately, the education of our children is not a priority. Somewhere along the line, that glorious education system of old has failed us.

Jose Lopez

Thanks for the post, my nephew is debating the merits of getting a PhD in Electrical Engineering form a good engineering school in Georgia.

Shit, maybe he should go west to avoid the current debate on states rights versus the progressive collective. lol

If anybody likes Star Trek, watch the current Discovery on CBS Streaming no plots, great CGI just SJWs and Technocrats.

We are doomed.

turcopolier

TTG

The disappearance of this kind of education whether in K-12 or college is part of the general disintegration of US society. Try asking young people general education questions.

catherine


I had a Liberal Arts education ...back in the day when it had nothing to do with "politically liberal' and wasn't ruined by extreme leftism.
Wouldn't trade it...it taught me critical reading,to think, to question, to compare and to be curious.
Without curiosity you only know what someone else tells you.

Curtis Fromke

Our education system may be described as triage.

Curtis Fromke

For some brain exercises, try DieOff.com. There are some articles to encourage thinking.

Factotum

Teachers unions and unfunded pension promises drive the costs of college today. In the "good old days" professors were thread bare and genteel and living in spartan campus flats. Now they are rapacious collective bargainers, living high and well, ready to strike if demands are not met. A lot has changed in the ivory towers since the 1960s besides the curriculum.

Factotum

In every decade of my life, I praised the disciplined liberal arts education I got at Berkeley in the early 1960s. Every course I was required to take to meet breadth requirements had later relevance later, even though I did not see its value at the time. How did I know those mandated courses would serve my future, as well as the requirements for graduation. These disciplined breadth requirements were eliminated after the social revolution at Berkeley in the mid 1960's. This means the Berkeley degree is now worth a lot less as a future investment. .

AK

Unfortunately, TTG, your hope for the future of public K-12 education in this country is ill founded, I'm afraid. The same ideological cancer that is wreaking havoc in the universities is now filtering down into the K-12 curricula. Schools of education are the most academically and intellectually corrupt departments in most institutions these days (I don't include the "grievance studies" departments, because they never served a valid purpose in the first place). The postmodern identity politics approach to education is now the norm. The linked article from a student at one of the most reputable graduate-level education programs in the country (U of W-Seattle) speaks volumes.

https://quillette.com/2019/04/05/what-they-dont-teach-you-at-the-university-of-washingtons-ed-school/

You have to hand it to these people. They knew it would take two generations or more to destroy the fabric of the culture, but they also knew exactly where to focus their efforts. Destroy Enlightenment-based education, destroy the culture. They're well on their way. As I see it, the only way to fix this problem is either a full-on purge of these departments (which will never happen) or the cessation of allocation of all public funds to university Education departments (which is only slightly more likely a possibility than the former option). As it stands, our tax dollars are funding our own cultural demise through these programs. In short, we are screwed for at least two more generations, and God only knows if we'll make it through.

I for one went to public school K-8 then to an all-boys Catholic high school run by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. It was easily the best, most rigorous education of my life, more useful than my Bachelor's and Master's degrees by a long shot.

confusedponderer

I did normal gymnasium in germany, with the languages latin, english and french and a focus on chemistry and history.

I studied law. In university I was tasked in a seminar on international and european law to write a some 20+ pages analysis and report on a river Rhine shipping treaty between the neighbour countries and germany.

I read and read and wrote and wrote - and two days before the finishing date I noticed in the afternoon that had gotten the whole thing wrong. I needed a glass of scotch then. And I completely rewrote it, deleted a lot and had a very long night with a lot of coffee. That was as hard physically as emotionally.

I passed with 13 points (an A) - one of the best notes I had in my studies, and in law a rare note generally. In normal tests the number of such notes in a 2200+ student semester was and likely still is a single digit.

My point is that the willingness to change your mind when ou see you're on the wrong track is what education should generate. I daresay that in a democracy it is a banal but essential neccessity, probably also in business and military. It is also a hard thing to learn.

I contrast that to the performance of the former EPA clown Scott Pruitt. He said when at the EPA that CO2 is not a problem since American coal is different from the coal of the rest of the world since buring it doesn't cause CO2. That was not an educator but a whore at work. Fortunately that person is no longer in office and for that "education" we'd likely have laughed him politely out of the 6th class.

That written, if late, happy birthday Mr. Lang.

Linda

I think many of you are confusing liberalism with liberal arts study in universities. The term covers history, languages, political science, sociology and psychology. If you don’t see the need for most of these disciplines universities today agree with you. They are slowly dropping most of them from their curriculum. As a product of the liberal arts (history major thru my PhD) I like to think that I am capable of creative thinking, rigor in my analysis. The fact that the military valued me for these qualities seems to confirm this opinion. Perhaps Col Lang can confirm this. As for money, studies confirm that over the course of their careers history majors make more then STEM graduates. As an alumna of the history dept I often talk with current history majors at my alma mater and I ask them what they are going to do when they graduate. They show a great understanding of the possibilities available to them. They are bright, ambitious young people who offer all sorts of skills to future employers. They can read and write for example which is not a small thing. I challenge any STEM students to pass the historiography course which revolved around critical thinking as its base. I urge you all to investigate my analysis.

ISL

Factotum,
Not compared to how high the deans are. Meanwhile adjunct faculty are modern serfs paid sub-minimum wage with no benefits and are an increasingly profitable part of the University business model. My wife was one for many years - she lovved teaching and hated the bureaucracy. Today's universities are all about the $$ of which there are lots. It just doesn't flow into the purpose of education. I cant blame the profs for wanting a cut, I can blame them for not demanding that more $$ flow into the actual education process.

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