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)