”Practicing openness and making oneself radically vulnerable is not only scary, it is the opposite of what we are taught to do within the logic of the contemporary university (and society more generally). Our marginalization, meager pay and lack of job security, along with the attacks on professors by students and the administration’s refusal to back up even tenured professors, all contribute to a culture of paranoia and enmity (among administration and faculty, among tenure-track faculty and adjuncts, among professors and students). Even when we manage to maintain our commitment to our students (and we do), the university seeks to capture this affective relationship and use it to further exploit us when we ask for fair wages or better conditions with the reprimand that ‘we are doing this for the students and not the money.’ Just as the practitioners of modernity gutted the erotic and sold us the pornographic, administrators attempt to gut the material and affective conditions of teaching and sell us ‘passion.’” Dr Priya J. Shah: "My Last Day as a Professor."
"Young Minds in Critical Condition" (SLNYT) "Having strong critical skills shows that you will not be easily fooled. It is a sign of sophistication, especially when coupled with an acknowledgment of one’s own “privilege” … We should be wary of creating a class of self-satisfied debunkers—or, to use a currently fashionable word on campus, people who like to “trouble” ideas," opines Michael Roth, on the status quo of liberal education. Also "The case for a liberal education", 2014/05/09, The Boston Globe; and, "There's Nothing Liberal About Specializing in Philosophy" The Atlantic, 2014/05/09. Roth, the president of Wesleyan University, recently authored “Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters”, and teaches "The Modern and The Postmodern", offered on Coursera.
Academics are farmers and intellectuals are hunters - and the hunters may be the future of the liberal arts, writes Jack Miles.
Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here? So why make trouble? Why not just go along? Let the profs roam free in the realms of pure thought, let yourselves party in the realms of impure pleasure, and let the student-services gang assert fewer prohibitions and newer delights for you. You’ll get a good job, you’ll have plenty of friends, you’ll have a driveway of your own. You’ll also, if my father and I are right, be truly and righteously screwed.
Parlez-vous war criminal? Leopold Munyakazi and Goucher college Sanford H. Ungar, journalist and current President of Goucher, a small liberal-arts college near Baltimore writes about his experience hiring - unbeknownst to him - a Rwandan war criminal (Leopold Munyakazi) to teach French as a visiting scholar, and the aftermath for him personally. He examines the sometimes problematic desire from liberal arts colleges, or at least Goucher in this instance, to hire somebody controversial, and delves in to the blurry world of apportioning blame in the Rwandan genocide. [more inside]
Humanities and the Liberal Arts is the personal website of former Middlebury classics professor William Harris who passed away in 2009. In his retirement he crafted a wonderful site full of essays, music, sculpture, poetry and his thoughts on anything from education to technology. But the heart of the website for me is, unsurprisingly, his essays on ancient Latin and Greek literature some of whom are book-length works. Here are a few examples: Purple color in Homer, complete fragments of Heraclitus, how to read Homer and Vergil, a discussion of a recently unearthed poem by Sappho, Plato and mathematics, Propertius' war poems, and finally, especially close to my heart, his commentaries on the poetry of Catullus, for example on Ipsithilla, Odi et amo, Attis poem as dramatic dance performance and a couple of very dirty poems (even by Catullus' standard). That's just a taste of the riches found on Harris' site, which has been around nearly as long as the world wide web has existed.
The New Liberal Arts book is out. 47 pages of free pdf about things the various authors think will help prepare you for modern life. Earlier discussion about the planning phase of the book.
"What are the new liberal arts?", asks SnarkMarket, inspired by Jason Kottke's tagline and Edge. The blog post has turned into a pitch for a new collaborative book, with spirited discussions and over 100 suggestions including photography, design, relationships, mythology, intuitive thinking, synthesis, knowledge mastery, search, archiving, play, and home economics.
College Rankings! Seems like everyone's talking about 'em. There's the good ole controversial US News & World Report rankings, but thanks to the the librarians at UIUC, this wonderful site has links to many, many, many different rankings, including ones that let you make your own rankings. There's also rankings of some of the more important non-academic features of colleges, too. Does college rank really matter?