December 30, 2007

Mortimer Adler discusses the Constitution with Bill Moyers and some seniors at St. John's College, Annapolis in 1987.  In Search of the Constitution

December 13, 2007

The Association of Literary Scholars and Critics'
Thirteenth Annual Conference
The Hotel Allegro, Chicago, IL, October 12-14, 2007
"This free academic resource focuses on the writings and authors found in Encyclopaedia Britannica's Great Books of the Western World. The web site has been developed with funding from the United States Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
"The materials you will find as you explore this site have been written, adapted, and used by faculty and staff in a national consortium of urban colleges - mainly public community colleges - that employ the Great Books as the primary source texts in a wide variety of undergraduate courses in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences."
MIT Open Courseware

"MIT is committed to advancing education and discovery through knowledge open to everyone. OCW shares free lecture notes, exams, and other resources from more than 1800 courses spanning MIT's entire curriculum."

December 12, 2007

Yale University on Tuesday launched its free, online archive of popular undergraduate courses — including not only syllabi, problem sets and course materials, but videos and audio files of the lectures themselves.
Arab world opens door to Western classics
Globe and Mail Update
December 10, 2007 at 4:02 AM EST

"It's been 375 years since Galileo published his earth-shaking Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, 336 since John Milton wrote Paradise Regained and nearly 40 since James D. Watson had an apparent international bestseller with The Double Helix, about the discovery of the structure of DNA. Amazingly, however, none of these books, and thousands of classics like them, has ever been translated into Arabic, the first tongue of more than 300 hundred million persons worldwide. Indeed, according to a 2003 United Nations report into human development in the Arab world, more books are translated into Spanish each year – 10,000 – than have been translated into Arabic in the previous 10 centuries.

"Now this situation is being rectified by the sheikhdom of Abu Dhabi, one of the seven Muslim United Arab Emirates, which last month officially revealed its plans to translate 100 epochal foreign-language texts into Arabic by the end of next year."

December 07, 2007

A collection of reviews and news pieces regarding former Dean of Harvard College Harry R. Lewis's 2006 book Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education (subtitle in paperback: Does Liberal Education Have a Future?)

December 06, 2007

Jacques Barzun turned 100 on November 30th.

Happy Birthday Jacques Barzun
ACTA online
December 05, 2007

December 05, 2007

A Georgetown senior reflects on their current core curriculum.

GU Liberal Education Needs a Liberal Dose of Change
Stephen Kenny
The Hoya - Georgetown University Newspaper
Dec. 05, 2007

November 26, 2007

"Jonathan Sacks is right that we need a common culture, but wrong to think it should be based on a canon. Forcing young people to read the Bible won't foster a sense of belonging. Shared references must evolve more organically"
-Richard Jenkyns, Prospect Magazine, December 2007

November 14, 2007

The Daily Orange, an independent student newspaper published in Syracuse, New York, takes a look at Shimer College .

November 06, 2007

For the next month, New York Times' Reading Room bloggers will discuss the new translation of Tolstoy's War and Peace by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Knopf). Mr. Pevear has a recent  essay int the NYT Book Review about the new translation.

November 02, 2007

Earl Shorris, Harper's Magazine, Sept. 1997
(Apparent companion piece to Mark Edmundson's.)

October 17, 2007

"Forget Plato, Aristotle and Descartes, we've got Nadine Gordimer's The Pickup, the single work of required reading for the entire [Cornell] freshman class this year."

For a Core
Rob Fishman, senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, Cornell University

October 02, 2007

James Kugel, former professor of Hebrew Studies at Harvard and an Orthodox Jew has a new book out, How to Read the Bible, which is getting positive press. From a NY Times piece on the book:

"Most unsettling to religious Jews and Christians may be Kugel's chapters about the origins of God and his chosen people. Kugel says that there is essentially no evidence -- archaeological, historical, cultural -- for the events in the Torah. No sign of an exodus from Egypt; no proof that Israelites ever invaded, much less conquered, Canaan; no indication that Jericho was ever sacked. In fact, quite the contrary: current evidence suggests that the Israelites were probably Canaanites themselves, semi-nomadic highlanders or fleeing city dwellers who gradually separated from their mother culture, established a distinct identity and invented a mythical past."

A first chapter of the book
is also available:

"In going through the Bible, however, this book will focus not only on what the text says but on the larger question of what a modern reader is to make of it, how it is to be read. This will mean examining two quite different ways of understanding the Bible, those of modern biblical scholars and of ancient interpreters."

(via kottke)

September 27, 2007

Elevating the Great Books Anew (Inside Higher Ed)
"In his new book, Anthony T. Kronman argues that the American college curriculum is seriously flawed for not giving students a true grounding in the classics that explore the human condition. Education's End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life (Yale University Press) mixes Kronman's assessment of the problems in academe with a set of proposed solutions. Kronman, the Sterling Professor of Law at Yale University, responded to questions about the book."

Edit 10/19/07
Another review:
Jacob Laksin (City Journal)
Dissenter Inside the Tower
Yale professor Anthony Kronman laments the politicization of the humanities.
12 October 2007

September 24, 2007

Some musing on higher education in which Meiklejohn, Barr, Buchanan, McKeon, Hutchins, and Adler are all briefly discussed.

September 19, 2007

Thought for the day:

"If you haven't read the book you should shut the hell up," said Daniel Born, vice president at Chicago-based the Great Books Foundation and editor of the Common Review. "That should maybe be the central rule of etiquette for any book club or book discussion."

Read 'em the riot act
MEETING | Discussion hogs, bullies and non-reading slackers must be shelved for group to reach potential

September 18, 2007 | Chicago Sun-Times

September 18, 2007

More from Jim Sleeper (via tmpcafe)
"[Allan] Bloom was eccentric, and not, shall we say, my cup of tea. But some of his arguments deserve rescuing from conservative ideologues and from journalists addicted to "left vs. right" scenarios or confused and embittered by what they think liberals did to their own educations. Such journalists thought I must be trying to rescue Bloom from the right in order to claim him for the left. They didn't notice that liberal education is endangered far more now by conservative capitalist surges than by tenured radicals – an important distinction.

"As it turns out, some of these confused journalists were working at The Times Book Review itself. "

Allan Bloom, 20 years later

"His famous critique of the academic left had merit, but the problem today - as Bloom himself recognised - is his neoconservative champions."

Jim Sleeper
Guardian, September 17, 2007

September 17, 2007

Chasing down the John Searle quote from Rachel Donadio's aforelinked Revisiting the Canon Wars piece.
"There is a certain irony in this in that earlier student generations, my own for example, found the critical tradition that runs from Socrates through the Federalist Papers, through the writings of Mill and Marx, down to the twentieth century, to be liberating from the stuffy conventions of traditional American politics and pieties. Precisely by inculcating a critical attitude, the "canon" served to demythologize the conventional pieties of the American bourgeoisie and provided the student with a perspective from which to critically analyze American culture and institutions. Ironically, the same tradition is now regarded as oppressive. The texts once served an unmasking function; now we are told that it is the texts which must be unmasked."

John Searle
The Storm Over the University
The New York Review of Books, December 6, 1990

Reading List
Books on the Canon Wars
New York Times, September 16, 2007

"Shelves of books on the state of American higher education have appeared over the years, ranging from the historical to the analytical to the downright polemical. The following list presents some highlights from the last half-century of debate over what an educated person should know."
Revisiting the Canon Wars
New York Times, September 16, 2007

"Today it's generally agreed that the multiculturalists won the canon wars. Reading lists were broadened to include more works by women and minority writers, and most scholars consider that a positive development. Yet 20 years later, there's a more complicated sense of the costs and benefits of those transformations."

September 14, 2007

Michael Silverblatt chats with David Foster Wallace on the occasion of the publication of Infinite Jest. (KCRW's "Bookworm" 4/11/96)

MS: Well, what thrilled me about the book is that around two hundred pages in what I felt about it was that it just began to get better and better and better. I started to like it more and more, and look forward to going back to reading it and felt a kind of, I don't know, tenderness toward it, toward both its characters and its narrator, because of the extraordinary effort that was going into writing it. It didn't seem like difficulty for difficulty's sake; it seemed like immense difficulty being expended because something important about how difficult it has become to be human needed to be said, and that there weren't other ways to say that.

DFW: I feel like I want to ask you to adopt me.
Our Compassless Colleges
Wall Street Journal September 5, 2007

"At universities and colleges throughout the land, undergraduates and their parents pay large sums of money for -- and federal and state governments contribute sizeable tax exemptions to support -- "liberal" education. This despite administrators and faculty lacking, or failing to honor, a coherent concept of what constitutes an educated human being."

September 10, 2007

The Champions of Our Literary Imagination
By Bruce Meyer
HarperCollins, 273 pages, $34.95

Toronto Globe and Mail, September 8, 2007

"From Gilgamesh to Jesus, from Beowulf to King Arthur, from Hercules to Superman, from Hamlet to King Lear, the most extraordinary heroes live through the pages of literature, tempting us to accompany them on their special quests through life's labyrinths, where they battle foes and obstacles and show how we, ordinary mortals, are joined to them collectively as they attempt to solve the puzzles of their own being."
Canon fodder
For forging higher ideas in young minds, Waller Newell says, there's nothing like the classics of Western civilization.  (Toronto Globe and Mail Sept. 8, 2007)

August 24, 2007

The Great Books Newsletter, Summer 2007 (pdf) announces the commencement of the eighth academic year The Great Books Academy has offered homeschooling curricula, books, enrollment services, and online classes.

August 16, 2007

Beyond the Basics: Achieving a Liberal Education for All Children (pdf)
by Chester E. Finn, Jr., Diane Ravitch
Thomas B. Fordham Institute

"America's true competitive edge over the long haul is not its technical prowess but its creativity, its imagination, its inventiveness. And those attributes are best inculcated not by skill-drill or "STEM" [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education] but through liberal arts and sciences, liberally defined. Thus argues this new Fordham volume, edited by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Diane Ravitch, which also explores what policymakers and educators at all levels can to do sustain liberal learning and sketches an unlovely future if we fail."

August 14, 2007

"Elizabeth Kantor has undertaken the monumental task of reviving the Western literary canon."

July 12, 2007

"The [College of the University of] Chicago faculty wondered how students, many just freshmen, could possibly read a classic a week. The eminent classicist Paul Shorey put this question to [President Robert M.] Hutchins, recalling that 'when I was a senior at Harvard, it took us a whole year to study Dante's Divine Comedy.' 'The difference," Hutchins shot back, 'is that our students are bright.'"

American Heritage Magazine, 1989
by Benjamin McArthur
Speaking of Chomsky, I'm not sure I was aware of this unitl now: here is a transcript, Realaudio soundtrack, and hyperlinked supplementary material to Part I of the film Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media.
Hoover Institution partial digital archive of William F. Buckley's Firing Line. Noam Chomsky? Priceless.

At the end of an annual meeting of the Annapolis Group, a loose association of liberal arts colleges, it was announced that the presidents of dozens of liberal arts colleges had decided to stop participating in the annual college rankings by U.S. News and World Report.

Are Liberal Arts Dead?  Far from it. In fact, liberal arts grads are in high demand in the corporate world.
-By Jamienne Studley

May 03, 2007

"  is designed to help Christian educators use the classical model to help each high school student own his or her faith as a total worldview."

April 24, 2007

A new report contends that fewer and fewer college English majors are being required to study Shakespeare. In a 60-page report titled " The Vanishing Shakespeare," the non-profit American Council of Trustees and Alumni reports that only 15 of the 70 colleges and universities it examined require their English majors to take a Shakespeare course.

April 12, 2007

10 Great Books about Education. A short reading list of works that have inspired the vision of Habele , a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of educational opportunities in the remote islands and atolls of Micronesia, an impoverished former American trust territory in the Central Pacific.

April 09, 2007

April 06, 2007


Also, a video clip and transcript of his appearance on Booknotes in support of his book Why Read?

March 27, 2007

February 21, 2007

Best-selling atheist Sam Harris and pro-religion blogger Andrew Sullivan debate God, faith, and fundamentalism.
A blog chronicling one family's experience educating their boys through what they call classical Christian homeschooling .

February 08, 2007

First Harvard College 'Core' curriculum overhaul in 30 years.