- Aug 21, 2010
I've just retired after 31 years as a full-time college English teacher + four years as a graduate teaching assistant + two years as a high school English teacher. It seems to me that, in the liberal arts at least, there has been a loss of the sense of the learned life. This has come about in several ways, one of which is relevant to the present discussion.Even this easy access to knowledge can be detrimental. It's certainly "better" in the sense that kids without access to a local library, or a decent/sufficient access to the school library, or books at home, are now more equal than they used to be in my day, but many teachers (my wife and colleagues included)believe that this ease of access reduces kid's attention span. They expect immediate results and don't have to work too hard to get them.
The loss is partly due to the "long march through the institutions" of cultural Marxism. There's more than one aspect to this, one of which is the aversion felt towards orthodox Christianity, which is so closely interwoven with most of the Western cultural heritage. The subtle message is that this heritage isn't really worth knowing deeply because it is so badly corrupted by religion (=anti-science), patriarchy, racism, etc. If some young person arrives in college on fire to learn about Milton, Raphael, and Bach, her or his teachers will, in effect, conspire to stomp out those flames, overtly or subtly. The student will be compelled to read such classic works as he or she does read, through "critical lenses" each and all of which are politicized -- e.g. queer, colonial, etc. Thus even if the student reads, say, Twelfth Night,
A second factor is the academy's embrace in the past forty years or so of "popular culture." If a student finds watching the complete Buffy the Vampire, he or she will probably easily find some professor who will encourage that. In fact, the student will likely enough be led to Buffy by the prof. Time spent on Buffy won't be spent on Chaucer.
And universities often fail to make the distinction between access to information and being a learned person. I suppose the distinction is obvious, but how often it's overlooked! And how little the universities now seem to uphold the ideal of the learned life and the learned person (which, of course, is at odds with the fetish for "equality," since people are not equally learned, and many, including many in the universities, are not learned, never will be learned, and probably are incapable of becoming learned).