Skip to comments.Cathedrals and Faith
Posted on 03/07/2006 1:11:14 AM PST by XHogPilot
In the grand scheme of things, the recent resignation of Harvard's president, Lawrence Summers, was a small episode. But its implications are large and reach beyond Harvard -- and well beyond the academic world.
David Riesman said that we are living in the cathedrals of learning, without the faith that built those cathedrals. We are also living in a free society without the faith that built that society -- and without the conviction and dedication needed to sustain it.
The faith came first. Centuries ago, farmers and others scattered throughout New England made whatever small contributions they could, whether in money or in produce, to help build a little college in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Today Harvard University is renowned but it has lost the sense of dedication that built it back in 1636. The faculty run the university, as Lawrence Summers has painfully discovered, and they run it in their own narrow self-interest.
A full professor at Harvard gets no personal pay-off for teaching undergraduates. That can be left to the junior faculty and graduate students. Research is where the money and the prestige are.
Summers wanted professors not only to teach undergraduates but to teach introductory courses in a structured curriculum and to stop giving out so many A's that 90 percent of the students graduate with honors.
Giving out A's wholesale saves the faculty's time that would otherwise be taken up by students wanting to know why they received B's, C's, or D's. That time is now available for research, writing and other things with a bigger personal pay-off for the faculty.
Teaching introductory courses in a structured curriculum can provide undergraduates with a far better education than the current cafeteria style of student choices among a hodgepodge of whatever courses happen to be available. But teaching introductory courses in a structured curriculum is also very time-consuming, which is why so few colleges really have a curriculum any more.
It is far easier to teach whatever narrow subject in which a professor is already doing research. Thus in some colleges there may be a course on the history of motion pictures but no course on the history of Britain or Germany.
Students can graduate from some of the most prestigious colleges in the land without a clue as to what the Second World War or the Cold War was about. At Harvard, chances are nine out of ten that such uninformed students can graduate with honors.
No college and no society can survive solely on the narrow self-interest of each individual. Somebody has to sacrifice some of his own interests for the greater good of the institution or society serving others.
In crisis, some have to put their lives on the line, as fireman, policemen and people in the military still do. But, for that, you have to believe that the institution and the society are worthy of your sacrifices.
We have now been through at least two generations of constant denigration of American society, two generations in which cheap glory could be gained by flouting rules and mocking values.
Is it surprising that we seem to have dwindling numbers of people willing to take responsibility and make sacrifices to preserve the social framework that makes our survival and advancement possible? Harvard is just one small example.
There was a time when being at war meant accepting a great weight of responsibility, even among politicians. After Wendell Willkie waged a tough presidential election campaign against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, winning more votes than any Republican ever had before, nevertheless after it was all over, he became FDR's personal envoy to Winston Churchill.
In the midst of war today, we see former presidents and defeated presidential candidates telling the world how wrong we are -- sometimes collecting big bucks in foreign countries for doing so -- and members of Congress playing demagogic party politics with national security.
We still have the cathedral of freedom but how long will it last without the faith?
"Educators" have decided, it's the tuition paying student that will have to pay the sacrifice of quality education to enable the professors to pursue research interests...and, of course, society pays as well when it must integrate poorly educated university graduates.
Thomas Sowell bump!
'Better than nice'. . .
Hope the 'educated ear' at Harvard and elsewhere, can hear it. . .
There is a far-reaching wisdom - and warning here which speaks to America's future. . .it is not just the Mother's hand anymore, that rocks the cradle. . .
There are arguments on both sides. High points in human inquiry featured independant teachers supportd by students as in Socrates and 14th century Paris. Institutionalization and formal curricula can be big mames for make-work efforts by otherwise mediocre faculties.
Sowell at his best.
When an alien vision prevails we have not only lost the faith we have been overthrown from within.
Can we run Thomas for President? Huh? Huh? Can we?
For sure. . .and well and good for those 'in time' or 'high times'. . .but a tradition certainly not carried by a majority representing Education today.
Instead we find an intellectual climate that favors a political elitism that not only borders. . .but more often, crosses the border to an intellectual and political tyranny that stands in total opposition to honest - fair and reasoned - inquiries into 'truth'. . .and a tyranny, of course, that excludes any educational framework for exploring values/virtue or other 'notions' of personal/social or community ideals.
No Socratic 'humble pride' for these individuals.
Rather we see what appears as an arrogant and intellecutaul false pride exhibited those who live in the higher eschelons of Education. . .as they determinedly move their profession further away from any and all, traditions of excellence.
I am reading Horowitz's The Professors, and it is shocking. However, I also sat in faculty meetings in the eighties where we strategized about just needing arm bodies in classes to keep our jobs
Hah-hah-hah. Your'e so funny.
This site, all of us, and even Thomas Sowell is so far from their horizon of consideration that it is not even realistic to think they would read it, or even understand it if they did.
Whew! You have certainly got your work cut out for you! Good luck on that!
1. Would he consent?
2.How many supporters can you round up?
3.He can run, but he will not be elected without approval from the people in charge, so no.
Too bad, though. He'd be good at it.
That's why, when National Review came out with it's list of top colleges, it also listed those colleges which are now in the "Academic Gulag", and Harvard was one of them for precisely the reason mentioned by Dr. Sowell.
This will only last as long as students vie heavily to get into these so called "top schools". If students went for other colleges, places like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton might slowly start to get their acts together.
FRmail me if you want on or off the Thomas Sowell Ping List.
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