Thursday, February 19, 2004

LRC pick
The opium of the professors
It is said of Woodrow Wilson that when asked what the purpose of a liberal education is, he replied "To make a person as unlike his father as possible." He was, at the time, merely the president of Princeton University, and had not yet become schoolmarm-in-chief of the United States or waged the war that ended all wars and made the world safe for democracy.

But as with his better-known schemes of social uplift and gauzy internationalism, so too with his philosophy of education, Wilson was the very model of the progressive academic.

Quite. Even scarier, Wilson was the head of a real college. For more on America's great college swindle, or colleges vs. 'colleges', read Paul Fussell, Class.

Whatever bland official statement of purpose might appear in the introduction to a modern university's college catalog, its true raison d'etre is in practice nothing other than to destroy utterly whatever allegiance a young person might have to traditional conceptions in morality, religion, politics and culture, to "do dirt" on the faith of his fathers, on his country, and on what most human beings have historically understood to be the imperatives of decency. It is, in short, to propagate Leftism.

Re: the part about one's country, 'my country, right or wrong' is not Catholic, but this is still true, both of real colleges and the jumped-up trade schools that call themselves such. (There's nothing wrong with trade schools mind - I'm talking about the lie of calling them 'colleges' or worse, 'universities', as if they were on the same level as Oxford, the Sorbonne, Yale or Chicago.)

We can note first that the de facto function of the modern university is precisely the opposite of the traditional idea of education, which was to socialize the young by instilling into them, at a higher intellectual level, the culture they have inherited from their forebears. The professor was the guardian of a tradition greater than the student and greater than himself, a tradition which it was his duty to impart -- not uncritically, to be sure, but at the same time with a reverence and humility appropriate to the grandeur of a civilization that has existed for over two and a half millennia, and for the wisdom that its institutions embody and its thinkers have articulated.

The authentic vision of a classical liberal education.

But of course, it is extremely easy to acquire a bachelor's degree from a modern university without having encountered a single one of these figures or texts.

I know. I was one of them, and it wasn't all because of my then-unknown Asperger syndrome either. I went to a 'college'; I know my degree is worthless.

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