Since the American University of Beirut opened its doors in 1866, the campus has stood at the intersection of a rapidly changing American educational project for the Middle East and an ongoing student quest for Arab national identity and empowerment. Betty S. Anderson provides a unique and comprehensive analysis of how the school shifted from a missionary institution providing a curriculum in Arabic to one offering an English-language American liberal education extolling freedom of speech and analytical discovery.
Anderson discusses how generations of students demanded that they be considered legitimate voices of authority over their own education; increasingly, these students sought to introduce into their classrooms the real-life political issues raging in the Arab world. The Darwin Affair of 1882, the introduction of coeducation in the 1920s, the Arab nationalist protests of the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the even larger protests of the 1970s all challenged the Americans and Arabs to fashion an educational program relevant to a student body constantly bombarded with political and social change. Anderson reveals that the two groups chose to develop a program that combined American goals for liberal education with an Arab student demand that the educational experience remain relevant to their lives outside the school's walls. As a result, in eras of both cooperation and conflict, the American leaders and the students at the school have made this American institution of the Arab world and of Beirut.
The debate over the central issue confronted in The Closing of the American Mind—the role of the university and the liberal arts in the United States—has become increasingly urgent and contentious. The goal of this collection of essays is to see what we can learn about the dilemmas confronting American culture through consideration of both The Closing of the American Mind and the debate it aroused.
Blow Up the Humanities
Toby Miller Temple University Press, 2012 Library of Congress LC1023.M56 2012 | Dewey Decimal 370.112
A short, sharp, and provocative book, Blow Up the Humanities has esteemed scholar Toby Miller declaring that there are two humanities in the United States. One is the venerable, powerful humanities of private universities; the other is the humanities of state schools, which focus mainly on job prospects. There is a class division between the two—both in terms of faculty research and student background—and it must end.
Miller critically lays waste to the system. He examines scholarly publishing as well as media and cultural studies to show how to restructure the humanities by studying popular cultural phenomena, like video games. Miller ultimately insists that these two humanities must merge in order to survive and succeed in producing an aware and concerned citizenry.
In Class Not Dismissed, award-winning professor Anthony Aveni tells the personal story of his six decades in college classrooms and some of the 10,000 students who have filled them. Through anecdotes of his own triumphs and tribulations—some amusing, others heartrending—Aveni reveals his teaching story and thoughts on the future of higher education.
Although in recent years the lecture has come under fire as a pedagogical method, Aveni ardently defends lecturing to students. He shares his secrets on crafting an engaging lecture and creating productive dialogue in class discussions. He lays out his rules on classroom discipline and tells how he promotes the lost art of listening. He is a passionate proponent of the liberal arts and core course requirements as well as a believer in sound teaching promoted by active scholarship.
Aveni is known to his students as a consummate storyteller. In Class Not Dismissed he shares real stories about everyday college life that shed light on serious educational issues. The result is a humorous, reflective, inviting, and powerful inquiry into higher education that will be of interest to anyone invested in the current and future state of college and university education.
Beginning with a short intellectual history of the academic culture wars, Eric Adler’s book examines popular polemics including those by Allan Bloom and Dinesh D’Souza, and considers the oddly marginal role of classical studies in these conflicts. In presenting a brief history of classics in American education, the volume sheds light on the position of the humanities in general.
Adler dissects three significant controversies from the era: the so-called AJP affair, which supposedly pitted a conservative journal editor against his feminist detractors; the brouhaha surrounding Martin Bernal’s contentious Black Athena project; and the dustup associated with Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath’s fire-breathing jeremiad, Who Killed Homer? He concludes by considering these controversies as a means to end the crisis for classical studies in American education. How can the study of antiquity—and the humanities—thrive in the contemporary academy? This book provides workable solutions to end the crisis for classics and for the humanities as well.
This major work also includes findings from a Web survey of American classical scholars, offering the first broadly representative impression of what they think about their discipline and its prospects for the future. Adler also conducted numerous in-depth interviews with participants in the controversies discussed, allowing readers to gain the most reliable information possible about these controversies.
Those concerned about the liberal arts and the best way to educate young Americans should read this book. Accessible and jargon-free, this narrative of scholarly scandals and their context makes for both enjoyable and thought-provoking reading.
How are we to understand the nature and value of higher education's public purposes, mission, and work in a democratic society? How do-and how should-academic professionals contribute to and participate in civic life in their practices as scholars, scientists, and educators? Democracy and Higher Education addresses these questions by combining an examination of several normative traditions of civic engagement in American higher education with the presentation and interpretation of a dozen oral history profiles of contemporary practitioners. In his analysis of these profiles, Scott Peters reveals and interprets a democratic-minded civic professionalism that includes and interweaves expert, social critic, responsive service, and proactive leadership roles. Democracy and Higher Education contributes to a new line of research on the critically important task of strengthening and defending higher education's positive roles in and for a democratic society.
Developing Faculty Members in Liberal Arts Colleges analyzes the career stage challenges these faculty members must overcome, such as a lack of preparation for teaching, limited access to resources and mentors, and changing expectations for excellence in teaching, research, and service to become academic leaders in their discipline and at these distinctive institutions.
Drawing on research conducted at the thirteen institutions of the Great Lakes Colleges Association, Vicki L. Baker, Laura Gail Lunsford, and Meghan J. Pifer propose a compelling Alignment Framework for Faculty Development in Liberal Arts Colleges to show how these colleges succeed—or sometimes fail—in providing their faculties with the right support to be successful.
School reform and accountability tests have been hotly debated for decades, but the goal of reform and accountability has not. Most agree that the main problem with contemporary education is that it fails to adequately prepare students with the “21st century skills” needed to find jobs and promote national competitiveness in the global economy. Tony Armstrong challenges both the morality and the consequences of pushing this purpose of education. He says it is immoral because it neglects our children’s deepest aspiration—happiness—and treats them as mere cogs in the economic machine. Dr. Armstrong shows how methods of well-being based on happiness research—mindfulness, gratitude, perspective—can greatly improve kids’ chances to feel better in the present and to live happier lives in the future. And the kindergarten-through-college “happiness pedagogy” he presents would also be a superior way to teach those “21st century skills.”
Contemporary higher education is in the midst of undeniable challenge and transformation. The cost of a college degree continues to increase by leaps and bounds as many students and their parents assume enormous student loan debt. Sweeping technological change, especially online instruction, is now forcing colleges and universities to re-envision how course content can be offered. Moreover, it is not clear what people expect colleges and universities to do in the first place. Should they be primarily devoted to preparing their graduates to enter the workforce? Should they at the same time advance innovative research across the disciplines in ways that expand the frontiers of knowledge? Should they seek to form their students intellectually, morally, and even spiritually, while preparing them for responsible citizenship and civic engagement? Should they also be the places where enthusiastic sports fans gather in grand arenas and stadiums to watch athletes pursue victory? A generation ago it was generally believed that the essential purpose of a university education was educating for wisdom — shaping the moral and intellectual character of students in ways that led them to live and do well over their entire lives. Although the mission statements and curricula of many small, private liberal arts colleges and even large state-supported universities still echo this commitment, it is by no means the defining mark of present day higher education. The contributors to this volume — which include some of the most thoughtful critics of the modern academy —contend that seeking, teaching, and cultivating wisdom remains the fundamental aim of university education. Neither lamenting the current state of affairs nor waxing nostalgic for bygone days, the authors in this volume reflect upon the nature of wisdom, its sources, and how it again might animate teaching and learning in 21st century. With essays from Anthony Kronman, Andrew Delbanco, Darin Davis, Celia Deane-Drummond, John Haldane, and Walter Brueggemann, this volume brings together a distinguished and diverse group of voices to consider this timely and important topic.
This definitive biography of the charismatic Alexander Meiklejohn tracks his turbulent career as an educational innovator at Brown University, Amherst College, and Wisconsin’s “Experimental College” in the early twentieth century and his later work as a civil libertarian in the Joe McCarthy era. The central question Meiklejohn asked throughout his life’s work remains essential today: How can education teach citizens to be free?
Greening the College Curriculum provides the tools college and university faculty need to meet personal and institutional goals for integrating environmental issues into the curriculum. Leading educators from a wide range of fields, including anthropology, biology, economics, geography, history, literature, journalism, philosophy, political science, and religion, describe their experience introducing environmental issues into their teaching.
The book provides:
a rationale for including material on the environment in the teaching of the basic concepts of each discipline
guidelines for constructing a unit or a full course at the introductory level that makes use of environmental subjects
sample plans for upper-level courses
a compendium of annotated resources, both print and nonprint
Contributors to the volume include David Orr, David G. Campbell, Lisa Naughton, Emily Young, John Opie, Holmes Rolston III, Michael E. Kraft, Steven Rockefeller, and others.
Happiness and Wisdom contributes to ongoing debates about the nature of Augustine's early development, and argues that Augustine's vision of the soul's ascent through the liberal arts is an attractive and basically coherent view of learning, which, while not wholly novel, surpasses both classical and earlier patristic renderings of the aims of education.
From Harvard University comes essays sampling topics at the forefront of academia in the twenty-first century. Eminent faculty members invite readers to explore subjects as diverse as religious literacy, cyberspace security, epidemiology, questions in evolution, the dark side of the American Revolution, and the biology of the human mind.
Hope, Heart, and the Humanities tells the story of how Venture, a free, interdisciplinary college humanities course inspired by the national Clemente Course, has helped open doors to improve the lives of people with low incomes who face barriers to attending college. For over a decade, this course has given hundreds of adults, some of them immigrants or refugees, the knowledge, confidence, and power to rechart their lives.
Readers will go inside Venture classrooms to see what occurs when adults enter serious discussions about literature, critical writing, art history, American history, and philosophy. Apparent also are the difficulties nontraditional students, who range in age from 18 to 60, often encounter in a college classroom and the hard choices they and their teachers make. What readers may remember most are the stories and words from people whose views of the world broaden and whose directions in life changed.
With refreshing eloquence, James O. Freedman sets down the American ideals that have informed his life as an intellectual, a law professor, and a college and university president. He examines the content and character of liberal education, discusses the importance of letters and learning in forming his own life and values, and explores how the lessons and the habits of mind instilled by a liberal education can give direction and meaning to one's life. He offers a stirring defense of affirmative action in higher education. And he describes how, in the midst of undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, liberal education helped him in that most human of desires--the yearning to make order and sense out of his experience.
Part intellectual biography and part examination of the world of higher education, Idealism and Liberal Education is a quintessentially American book, animated by a confidence that reason, knowledge, idealism, and the better angels of our natures will further human progress.
Freedman offers, as models for shaping one's life, profiles of some of his heroes--Thurgood Marshall, Alexander M. Bickel, Václav Havel, Louis D. Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, Hugo L. Black, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, George Orwell, Edmund Wilson, Martin Luther King, Jr., George F. Kennan, Ralph J. Bunche, and Harry S Truman.
This volume speaks to all Americans who are drawn to the power of liberal education and democratic citizenship and who yearn for the inspiration to lead thoughtful, committed lives.
"This thought-provoking book should be required reading for young people entering college and for the people who advise them. Freedman explores the purpose and importance of a liberal education in shaping values, character, and imagination and convincingly argues for the need for the wisdom and perspective it provides, whatever one's chosen field."--Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund
"In this wide-ranging series of essays, Freedman reveals himself again as one of America's most erudite, articulate, and reflective university presidents. Students, parents, fellow presidents, and all who love learning will find something in these pages to ponder with profit."--Derek Bok, Former President, Harvard University Idealism and Liberal Education is an inspiring intellectual diary of James O. Freedman. . . . It is a forceful affirmation of liberal education as a social and cultural force in shaping the minds and characters of our youth as future citizens and leaders of our democracy. It is a tribute to the joy of learning."--Vartan Gregorian, President, Brown University
"Beautifully written and a pleasure to read. At a time when the idea of the liberal university is under attack from all sides, Freedman has given a wondrous personal reaffirmation of its place in our lives."--David Halberstam
James O. Freedman is President of Dartmouth College.
"I began this book to articulate my sense of disappointment and alienation from the status I had fought so hard to achieve." A remarkable admission from an alumnus of Harvard Law School who has held tenured professorships in the law schools of Yale and Stanford and has taught in the law schools of Harvard and Chicago.
In this personal reflection on the status of higher education, Julius Getman probes the tensions between status and meaning, elitism and egalitarianism, that challenge the academy and academics today. He shows how higher education creates a shared intellectual community among people of varied races and classes—while simultaneously dividing people on the basis of education and status.
In the course of his explorations, Getman touches on many of the most current issues in higher education today, including the conflict between teaching and research, challenges to academic freedom, the struggle over multiculturalism, and the impact of minority and feminist activism. Getman presents these issues through relevant, often humorous anecdotes, using his own and others' experiences in coping with the constantly changing academic landscape.
Written from a liberal perspective, the book offers another side of the story told in such works as Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind and Roger Kimball's Tenured Radicals.
Liberal Arts at the Brink
Victor E. Ferrall Harvard University Press, 2011 Library of Congress LC1011.F47 2011 | Dewey Decimal 370.112
Liberal arts colleges represent a tiny portion of the higher education market—no more than 2 percent of enrollees. Yet they produce a stunningly large percentage of America’s leaders in virtually every field of endeavor. The educational experience they offer—small classes led by professors devoted to teaching and mentoring, in a community dedicated to learning—has been a uniquely American higher education ideal.
Liberal Arts at the Brink is a wake-up call for everyone who values liberal arts education. A former college president trained in law and economics, Ferrall shows how a spiraling demand for career-related education has pressured liberal arts colleges to become vocational, distorting their mission and core values. The relentless competition among them to attract the “best” students has driven down tuition revenues while driving up operating expenses to levels the colleges cannot cover. The weakest are being forced to sell out to vocational for-profit universities or close their doors. The handful of wealthy elite colleges risk becoming mere dispensers of employment and professional school credentials. The rest face the prospect of moving away from liberal arts and toward vocational education in order to survive.
Writing in a personable, witty style, Ferrall tackles the host of threats and challenges liberal arts colleges now confront. Despite these daunting realities, he makes a spirited case for the unique benefits of the education they offer—to students and the nation. He urges liberal arts colleges to stop going it alone and instead band together to promote their mission and ensure their future.
In 1996 James Freedman published Idealism and Liberal Education, which discussed the ideals that shaped his life as an intellectual, a law professor, and a college and university president. In this new collection of essays, he convincingly explores his firm belief that a liberal education is the “surest instrument yet devised for developing those civilizing qualities of mind and character that enable men and women to lead satisfying lives and to make significant contributions to a democratic society.”
Freedman concentrates directly upon the problems facing university presidents and all university administrators. A passionate and beautifully written argument for the benefits of a liberal education, this book
The classics of Western culture are out, not being taught, replaced by second-rate and Third World texts. White males are a victimized minority on campuses across the country, thanks to affirmative action. Speech codes have silenced anyone who won’t toe the liberal line. Feminists, wielding their brand of sexual correctness, have taken over. These are among the prevalent myths about higher education that John K. Wilson explodes. The phrase "political correctness" is on everyone’s lips, on radio and television, and in newspapers and magazines. The phenomenon itself, however, has been deceptively described. Wilson steps into the nation’s favorite cultural fray to reveal that many of the most widely publicized anecdotes about PC are in fact more myth than reality. Based on his own experience as a student and in-depth research, he shows what’s really going on beneath the hysteria and alarmism about political correctness and finds that the most disturbing examples of thought policing on campus have come from the right. The image of the college campus as a gulag of left-wing totalitarianism is false, argues Wilson, created largely through the exaggeration of deceptive stories by conservatives who hypocritically seek to silence their political opponents. Many of today’s most controversial topics are here: multiculturalism, reverse discrimination, speech codes, date rape, and sexual harassment. So are the well-recognized protagonists in the debate: Dinesh D’Souza, William Bennett, and Lynne Cheney, among others. In lively fashion and in meticulous detail, Wilson compares fact to fiction and lays one myth after another to rest, revealing the double standard that allows "conservative correctness" on college campuses to go unchallenged.
Many in higher education fear that the humanities are facing a crisis. But even if the rhetoric about “crisis” is overblown, humanities departments do face increasing pressure from administrators, politicians, parents, and students. In A New Deal for the Humanities, Gordon Hutner and Feisal G. Mohamed bring together twelve prominent scholars who address the history, the present state, and the future direction of the humanities. These scholars keep the focus on public higher education, for it is in our state schools that the liberal arts are taught to the greatest numbers and where their neglect would be most damaging for the nation.
The contributors offer spirited and thought-provoking debates on a diverse range of topics. For instance, they deplore the push by administrations to narrow learning into quantifiable outcomes as well as the demands of state governments for more practical, usable training. Indeed, for those who suggest that a college education should be “practical”—that it should lean toward the sciences and engineering, where the high-paying jobs are—this book points out that while a few nations produce as many technicians as the United States does, America is still renowned worldwide for its innovation and creativity, skills taught most effectively in the humanities. Most importantly, the essays in this collection examine ways to make the humanities even more effective, such as offering a broader array of options than the traditional major/minor scheme, options that combine a student’s professional and intellectual interests, like the new medical humanities programs.
A democracy can only be as energetic as the minds of its citizens, and the questions fundamental to the humanities are also fundamental to a thoughtful life. A New Deal for the Humanities takes an intrepid step in making the humanities—and our citizens—even stronger in the future.
The Politics of Liberal Education
Darryl Gless and Barbara Herrnstein Smith, eds. Duke University Press, 1992 Library of Congress LC1023.P65 1992 | Dewey Decimal 370.112
Controversy over what role “the great books” should play in college curricula and questions about who defines “the literary canon” are at the forefront of debates in higher education. The Politics of Liberal Education enters this discussion with a sophisticated defense of educational reform in response to attacks by academic traditionalists. The authors here—themselves distinguished scholars and educators—share the belief that American schools, colleges, and universities can do a far better job of educating the nation’s increasingly diverse population and that the liberal arts must play a central role in providing students with the resources they need to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. Within this area of consensus, however, the contributors display a wide range of approaches, illuminating the issues from the perspectives of their particular disciplines—classics, education, English, history, and philosophy, among others—and their individual experiences as teachers. Among the topics they discuss are canon-formation in the ancient world, the idea of a “common culture,” and the educational implications of such social movements as feminism, technological changes including computers and television, and intellectual developments such as “theory.” Readers interested in the controversies over American education will find this volume an informed alternative to sensationalized treatments of these issues.
Contributors. Stanley Fish, Phyllis Franklin, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Henry A. Giroux, Darryl J. Gless, Gerald Graff, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, George A. Kennedy, Bruce Kuklick, Richard A. Lanham, Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, Alexander Nehamas, Mary Louise Pratt, Richard Rorty, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
A distinguished political philosopher with years of experience teaching in undergraduate liberal arts programs, Anderson shows how the ideal of practical reason can reconcile academia’s research aims with public expectations for universities: the preparation of citizens, the training of professionals, the communication of a cultural inheritance. It is not good enough, he contends, to simply say that the university should stick to the great books of the classic tradition, or to denounce this tradition and declare that all important questions are a matter of personal or cultural choice. By applying the methods of practical reason, instead, teachers and students will think critically about the essential purposes of any human activity and the underlying arguments of any text.
Sometimes playful, always provocative, Professions is a collection of searching and candid conversations--ranging from dialogues to tongue-in-cheek diatribes--on the issues that face literary and cultural critics today.
This volume bares professional concerns, relationships, ambitions, and insecurities about working in academe. Professions provides hard-to-get insider information for students contemplating an academic career. It also challenges professional scholars to retrieve the intellectual curiosity that drew them to scholarship in the first place while demonstrating how disagreement on controversial issues can be conducted with respect, good humor, and an open mind.
Jane Tompkins and Gerald Graff
John McGowan and Regenia Gagnier
James Phelan and James Kincaid
Marjorie Perloff and Robert von Hallberg
Judith Jackson Fossett and Kevin Gaines
Dennis W. Allen and Judith Roof
Niko Pfund, Gordon Hutner, and Martha Banta
Geoffrey Galt Harpham
Donald E. Hall and Susan S. Lanser
J. Hillis Miller, Herbert Lindenberger, Sandra Gilbert, Bonnie Zimmerman, Nellie Y. McKay, and Elaine Marks
Never before have so many scholars produced so much work--and never before have they seemed to have so little to say to one another, or to the public at large. This is the dilemma of the modern university, which today sets the pattern for virtually all scholarship. In his eloquent book, David Damrosch offers a lucid, often troubling assessment of the state of scholarship in our academic institutions, a look at how these institutions acquired their present complexion, and a proposal for reforms that can promote scholarly communication and so, perhaps, broader, more relevant scholarship.
We Scholars explores an academic culture in which disciplines are vigorously isolated and then further divided into specialized fields, making for a heady mix of scholarly alienation and disciplinary territorialism, a wealth of specialized inquiry and a poverty of general discussion. This pattern, however, is not necessary and immutable; rather, it stems from decisions made a century ago, when the American university assumed its modern form. Damrosch traces the political and economic assumptions behind these decisions and reveals their persisting effects on academic structures despite dramatic changes in the larger society. We Scholars makes a compelling case for a scholarly community more reflective of and attuned to today's needs. The author's call for cooperation as the basis for intellectual endeavor, both within and outside the academy, will resonate for anyone concerned with the present complexities and future possibilities of academic work.
Reviews of this book: "In We Scholars, David Damrosch provides a thoughtful and penetrating look at what he calls the 'isolation of the disciplines' in today's universities. He describes a 'mix of scholarly alienation and disciplinary territorialism...a poverty of general discussion.' The beauty of this book is how well and how carefully he does this and then how cogently he presents his solution. First of all, this no excercise in faculty bashing, nor is it in the mode of the sweeping generalization we have seen from others who would help higher education identify its shortcomings. It is, instead, a thoughtful, carefully constructed position."
--Charles E. Glassick, Educational Record
"The interest of We Scholars, essentially concerned with the American university, and with professors in humanities and social sciences, is that it reveals with painful clarity how an ethos in which a sense of 'community', whether within departments or across whole universities, is very largely absent, can arise without government pressure."
--Fergus Millar, Times Higher Education Supplement
"[Damrosch] writes beautifully about the sociology of academic life, and about key debates in the humanities...His book is one of the most insightful and helpful accounts of the academic experience written in recent years. At a time when everyone writing on these subjects is ideologically loud, his voice of quiet authority is especially welcome. Damrosch establishes as one of his goals 'to convert people away from the wish to convert people.' I hope he succeeds."
--Alan Wolfe, Washington Post Education Review
"The argument of [Damrosch's] book is effective in drawing the reader's attention to what goes on around us and in stimulating thoughts about what might be done about it. It is gracefully written, informative and concerned in the best sense...[It is] strongly recommended to academics--teachers and scholars--who, more than most engaged in work that can make a difference for our common future, need to think what they are doing."
--Frederick J. Crosson, The Review of Politics
"Professor Damrosch is both a wise and considerate man. This is a book that ought to be bedside reading for academics and for those who like to follow academic arguments from the boardroom and the Wall Street Journal."
--Roger D. Abrahams, University of Pennsylvania
"This graceful and thoughtful book makes an important contribution to current debates about scholarship and universities."
The essays in Web Writing respond to contemporary debates over the proper role of the Internet in higher education, steering a middle course between polarized attitudes that often dominate the conversation. The authors argue for the wise integration of web tools into what the liberal arts does best: writing across the curriculum. All academic disciplines value clear and compelling prose, whether that prose comes in the shape of a persuasive essay, scientific report, or creative expression. The act of writing visually demonstrates how we think in original and critical ways and in ways that are deeper than those that can be taught or assessed by a computer. Furthermore, learning to write well requires engaged readers who encourage and challenge us to revise our muddled first drafts and craft more distinctive and informed points of view. Indeed, a new generation of web-based tools for authoring, annotating, editing, and publishing can dramatically enrich the writing process, but doing so requires liberal arts educators to rethink why and how we teach this skill, and to question those who blindly call for embracing or rejecting technology.
Geoffrey Galt Harpham’s book takes its title from a telling anecdote. A few years ago Harpham met a Cuban immigrant on a college campus, who told of arriving, penniless and undocumented, in the 1960s and eventually earning a GED and making his way to a community college. In a literature course one day, the professor asked him, “Mr. Ramirez, what do you think?” The question, said Ramirez, changed his life because “it was the first time anyone had asked me that.” Realizing that his opinion had value set him on a course that led to his becoming a distinguished professor.
That, says Harpham, was the midcentury promise of American education, the deep current of commitment and aspiration that undergirded the educational system that was built in the postwar years, and is under extended assault today. The United States was founded, he argues, on the idea that interpreting its foundational documents was the highest calling of opinion, and for a brief moment at midcentury, the country turned to English teachers as the people best positioned to train students to thrive as interpreters—which is to say as citizens of a democracy. Tracing the roots of that belief in the humanities through American history, Harpham builds a strong case that, even in very different contemporary circumstances, the emphasis on social and cultural knowledge that animated the midcentury university is a resource that we can, and should, draw on today.
Writing at the End of the World
Richard E. Miller University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005 Library of Congress PE1405.U6M535 2005 | Dewey Decimal 808.402071073
What do the humanities have to offer in the twenty-first century? Are there compelling reasons to go on teaching the literate arts when the schools themselves have become battlefields? Does it make sense to go on writing when the world itself is overrun with books that no one reads? In these simultaneously personal and erudite reflections on the future of higher education, Richard E. Miller moves from the headlines to the classroom, focusing in on how teachers and students alike confront the existential challenge of making life meaningful. In meditating on the violent events that now dominate our daily lives—school shootings, suicide bombings, terrorist attacks, contemporary warfare—Miller prompts a reconsideration of the role that institutions of higher education play in shaping our daily experiences, and asks us to reimagine the humanities as centrally important to the maintenance of a compassionate, secular society. By concentrating on those moments when individuals and institutions meet and violence results, Writing at the End of the World provides the framework that students and teachers require to engage in the work of building a better future.