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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Politicizing humanities leaves grads still seeking deep, impractical learning

Some college graduates complain they weren't prepared for the real world, writes William Deresiewicz in Persuasion. Others say they "didn't learn anything" about literature, philosophy, history, art, religion, about wisdom. They feel "cheated."


"Academic humanities departments have long been inimical to humanistic inquiry . . . as opposed to political tub-thumping, he writes.


Communities for lifelong learners to explore books and ideas are springing up" to prove opportunities for deep reading and discussion. Deresiewicz is involved with the Matthew Strother Center for the Examined Life. The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, which has a left-wing slant, is another example, he writes. Zena Hitz, a teacher at St. John’s great books college, a Catholic convert, and, for three years, a resident of a monastic community, founded The Catherine Project for people “who actually want to learn.”


"Reading groups and salons that have been proliferating both in-person and online," writes Deresiewicz. There are lots of would-be learners out there.


Beneath their talk of education, of unplugging from technology, of having time for creativity and solitude, I detected a desire to be free of forces and agendas: the university’s agenda of “relevance,” the professoriate’s agenda of political mobilization, the market’s agenda of productivity, the internet’s agenda of surveillance and addiction.

Colleges and universities do not seem inclined to reclaim the liberal arts, writes Deresiewicz. "Between bureaucratic inertia, faculty resistance, and the conflicting agendas of a heterogenous array of stakeholders, concerted change appears to be impossible." The Harvards and Yales aren't worried about losing students, he writes. "As long as elite institutions remain the principal pipeline to elite employers (and they will), the havers and strivers will crowd toward their gates."


Luke Burgis envisions "a massive renaissance in the humanities, inside and outside of universities — but especially outside of them."


Due to AI, "technical education is still training people for jobs that may no longer exist by the time they graduate," he writes. Students will need an "education in the humanities — especially in the arts — because artistic training is training in how to see, how to perceive, and how to communicate."

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4 Comments


m_t_anderson
Jun 22

In my (required) freshman composition class, our instructor took us to the University's art gallery, with the simple assignment "find a piece that tells you a story, then write it down." Great fun, but that turned out to be Peak Writing in that department.

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JK Brown
JK Brown
Jun 22

Viewed from this idea of 'The Priestly Cycle of Universities' we see colleges are in the collapse phase and should be abandoned until the hit bottom.


Oxford/Cambridge, Harvard/Yale were finishing schools for the 'elite' and technophobic until the late 19th century. They were not where the industrial revolution came from until the industrialists showed up with money to fund the practical research into the science underlying their inventions.


This time around, it is questionable whether the Liberal Arts/Social Science can revive under the pressure that AI can reproduce the sayings of the professors better than students. A good projection of the pressures on intellectual services:


But, I want to go to the other end of the spectrum, which is intellectual…

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Heresolong
Heresolong
Jun 22

"Due to AI, "technical education is still training people for jobs that may no longer exist by the time they graduate," he writes. Students will need an "education in the humanities — especially in the arts — because artistic training is training in how to see, how to perceive, and how to communicate.""


Of course the educational progressives have been saying this for about 100 years. We have to teach people how to think critically, so that they can adjust to whatever happens, not outdated facts. Never mind that we aren't teaching them anything worth thinking critically about.

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JK Brown
JK Brown
Jun 22
Replying to

Worse. More and more Liberal Arts programs are censoring speech, even if by acquiesce to "the most offended". And without the ability to speak freely, to even argue for the abhorrent (if only to delve into the reasoning), it is near impossible to develop good thinking skills.


Jordan Peterson lays out the importance of free speech to learning to discipline the intellect and regulate the emotions


“The instant we admit that a book is too sacred to be doubted , or even reasoned about , we are mental serfs.” ― Robert G. Ingersoll

This applies to the catechisms of social science as it does religious scriptures.

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