Friday, August 26, 2005

The LRC curriculum battle in the blogsphere

In an article entitled "Lenoir-Rhyne College and 'the erosion of liberal arts education,'" Christopher writes (Against the Grain, August 25, 2005):


Dr. Philip Blosser speaks out on "the erosion of the liberal arts core" at Lenoir-Rhyne College, my alma mater, including a proposal to group philosophy with a number of electives alongside courses in "physical wellness."
He goes on to quote from my article, "Bowling for Lenoir-Rhyne," then offers two quotations -- one from G.K. Chesterton, the other from Jacques Maritain -- apropos the institutional drift at Lenoir-Rhyne and other liberal arts institutions around the country. The first is from Chesterton's All is Grist:

Now, the nuisance of all this notion of Business Education, of training for certain trades, whether of plumber or plutocrat, is that they will prevent the intelligence being sufficiently active to criticize trade and business properly. They begin by stuffing the child, not with the sense of justice by which he can judge the world, but with the sense of inevitable doom or dedication by which he must accept that particularly very worldly aspect of the world. Even while he is a baby he is a bank-clerk, an accepts the principles of banking which Mr. Joseph Finsbury so kindly explained to the banker. Even in the nursery he is an actuary or an accountant: he lisps in numbers and the numbers come. But he cannot criticize the principles of banking, or entertain the intellectual fancy that the modern world is made to turn too much on the Pythagorean worship of numbers. But that is because he has never heard of the Pythagorean philosophy; or, indeed, of any other philosophy. He has never been taught to think, but only to count. He lives in a cold temple of abstract calculation, of which the pillars are columns of figures. Bue he has no basic sense of Comparative Religion (in the true sense of that tiresome phrase) by which he may discover whether he is in the right temple, or distinguish one temple from another....
The second is from Maritain's Education at the Crossroads:

If we remember that the animal is the specialist, and a perfect one, all of its knowing-power being fixed upon a single task to be done, we ought to conclude that an educational program that would aim only at forming specialists ever more perfect in ever more specialized fields, and unable to pass judgement on any matter that goes beyond their specialized competence, would lead indeed to a progressive animalization of the human mind and life.
Finally, he offers the following quote from "The Changing Idea of a University: American Higher Education and the Illiberal Use of Knowledge", by Matthew D. Wright [The 2001 Lord Acton Essay Competition - The Acton Institute]:

Liberal education values man as man, unique in an ordered universe and ordered in his uniqueness. Man is not a fungible cog in the gears of social progress. Developing the student's intellect is its own good, admitting of no further justification for the energy expended. Liberal learning educates for the good of man, and in so doing produces a good for mankind. Utilitarian training, on the other hand, abandons the good of the soul for the perceived good of society, and in so doing abandons the possibility of a good society to shallow and incontinent souls. This is increasingly the position of American culture. As Newman observed of his own day, "The Philosophy of Utility, you will say, Gentlemen, has at least done its work; and I grant it,-- [sic] it aimed low, but it has fulfilled its aim." The state's experiment in utilitarianism has been overwhelmingly successful as well. Contemporary technological sophistication is unparalleled, and the university has unquestionably been at the forefront of this progress. Nonetheless, as society begins to experience the upshot of abandoning its heritage, the realization grows that it has had far, far too low an aim.
(A tip of the hat to Christopher)

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