Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I've fallen behind my stack of New Yorkers.

Yesterday I caught up with Rebecca Mead's Talk of the Town defense of liberal education in the June 7 issue. She notes that politicians, including the bright ones (like the President), tend to speak of education in strictly economic and vocational terms, i.e., in terms of jobs jobs jobs. They tend not to stump for education's value in enriching the quality of life. Then, she offers this example:
Consider Stephen Law, a professor of philosophy at the University of London, who started his working life delivering mail for the British postal service, began reading works of philosophy in his spare time, decided that he’d like to know more, and went on to study the discipline at City University, in London, and at Oxford University....
Stephen Law is an excellent philosopher, and his War for Children's Minds is an impassioned defense of childhood. 

Mead concludes that we really don't need more accountants and numbers-crunchers and bean-counters and cubicle-dwellers. (That's not exactly what she says, but it's my takeaway.) 

More thinkers, on the other hand, would be good. For "pragmatic" here, read "conventionally employable."
An argument might be made in favor of a student’s pursuing an education that is less, rather than more, pragmatic. (More theology, less accounting.) That way, regardless of each graduate’s ultimate path, all might be qualified to be carriers of arts and letters, of which the nation can never have too many.
Some of our best thinkers-- besides Steve Law, John Prine (That's the way that  the world goes round.. at the LoC) comes straight to mind-- were carriers too. We need both.

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