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Plotting to save the humanities

Suppose I had scads of money (I don't) and wanted to found a new college (I don't). What would I do about the humanities departments? I'll set aside Philosophy, where I do happen to know that there are lots of excellent candidates out there looking for jobs and that one could easily fill a department. In fact, even if one were founding a Christian school, so long as it wasn't denominationally restricted, I'm pretty sure that one could fill a good analytically-oriented philosophy department.

But what about English? Indulge me for a moment and imagine that I want to have an English department entirely staffed by people who are completely opposed to postmodernism. No "critical theorists," no "Well, Foucault had some good points" folks, nobody wishy washy on this subject. Everybody should take a traditional approach to the humanities, should believe that texts have meaning outside our heads, and should be seeking to teach them. Also, nobody should require students to read The Color Purple. Traditional canon scholars, as well. I'll take old-fashioned New Critics, though probably if I had happened to live when they really were "new," I would have been one of the Old Historicists opposing them. But as it is now, they are the Old Guard, and at least they usually hate and are hated by the postmodernists; and they are by and large real scholars and know their stuff. If there are any of them left, that is.

Now, the trouble here is that we need to staff our hypothetical English department in our hypothetical new college with people who are alive, healthy, active, and willing to teach for a good while, not people who are retired or on the point of retiring.

Is it possible?

I have been saying for some time (though not on-line) that people do not seem to realize that a formal, institutional discipline can indeed die. Literature itself cannot die. Shakespeare is already dead, and you can't do him any harm. And as long as his works are available, it will be possible for people to read them and understand them in a normal way. But I'm speaking of the formal discipline of English literature as taught in the academy, in places where people can actually get a degree for studying it. There is an odd idea out there that it is literally impossible that things should come to such a pass that no one should try to take a degree in a particular field of the humanities. Yet it might not be possible to get a real education in a field and get a credential at the same time. I myself would never send a young person who actually loved literature through many of the literature classes I have seen and known of. The last thing such a young person needs is to be taught how to (shudder) "do readings."

If one wishes to man a college department, though, one has to get people with a credential in the field. You can't just hire sensible people to teach English whose degrees are all in other fields and who know their stuff from normal reading without having had their heads stuffed with baloney. That is, unless one is going to start a Great Books school. But then you usually don't have named departments.

Lawrence Auster at VFR asked a couple of months back what practical steps conservatives can take to reclaim Western culture. I have puzzled for some time over whether there is any way to reclaim the humanities at the college and university level, as opposed to reclaiming our knowledge of them on an individual level. Here I've focused on English, but a similar question might be asked about History, a field where I know little about just how bad things have gotten but have an inkling that it might be pretty bad.

It's because of the sorry state of higher education that some conservatives are questioning the idea that everyone has to get a college degree. I think that's a healthy thing to question for many reasons. But if you wanted to save the humanities, where would you start?

Here's one idea: Traditionalist professional associations within given disciplines. Are there such? I'm thinking of something that might be called the "Traditional Literature Association" with a membership list that could be made available to departments wishing to hire sensible and well-qualified scholars. Would it have many members among the younger generation of graduate school students and young professors?

What say you, readers: Is it still possible to do anything practical to save the formal humanities disciplines from postmodernism? And if so, how?

Comments (82)

but a similar question might be asked about History, a field where I know little about just how bad things have gotten but have an inkling that it might be pretty bad.

I don't think History is as bad off as English. It's the English people that are still reading Marxist narratives into everything under the sun.

Indeed it not only is possible to put together such a department, it already exists. Without any exaggeration, we have at least 8 such professors in our English dept. at Hillsdale College, and another 8 in History. We employ the great books curriculum in English and we emphasize western tradition in History, which we see culminating in the American experiment of limited government under law.

Here's one idea: Traditionalist professional associations within given disciplines

This is a good idea. I remember Max Goss mentioning that he would like to start a conservative philosophers society of something akin and I thought that would be marvelous. These sorts of groups seem as if they can add to the intellectual respectability of a perspective (having peers, a journal etc.) and encourage other traditionalists to enter the field or come out of hiding.

Attempting to find Humanities faculty who are affiliated with ISI would be a decent place to start looking for draftees to stock your fictional university.

Is it any surprise?

The Trivium is dead all except in some private Anglican schools who have the good sense to still teach classical education.

A number of my former students now attend Hillsdale, and I can attest to the truth of Michael Bauman's statement. But I have another idea.

By my estimates there are several thousand neoclassical schools and even more home schools in this country that are trying to resurrect the liberal arts on the elementary and secondary level. If there is a dearth of teachers already in the system, why not focus on developing the next generation of them?

The first wave of home school graduates went to college and majored in political science. A recruiter from Brown University asked a friend of mine a couple of years ago, "Why do all the home school students who end up in Ivy League schools major in political science?" I think this trend was also noticeable among students from regular day schools. Fortunately, however, I sense this obsession with gaining control of the levers of power is giving way to more sober interests. More and more of my former students are interested in English. Granted, they are influenced by the postmodernist professors they encounter, but they are also well-enough equipped by the time they get there to resist a good bit of it and actually learn from the literature they study.

Just thought I'd mention it.

Lydia,

I also meant to say how thankful I am that you wrote this post. I have been thinking similar thoughts for some time now and I am thrilled that you articulated this. Many cultural conservatives are not focused on this problem and they need to be.

Thanks.

It looks like Hillsdale has all the good English profs. no wonder you can't find any elsewhere.

Michael, that's extremely heartening to hear. I haven't heard anyone say that about any school yet!!

Does anybody know anything about the people they have teaching literature at Patrick Henry College?

http://www.phc.edu/academics/liberalarts/default.asp

Perhaps that is a tactless question. If you know that one of these people is postmodern or badly qualified, it might be best not to say so publically on-line. But you could write e-mail to me. And if you know something good about one of them, that's fine to say out loud. :-) I'm considering some distance learning humanities courses from PHC's distance learning program, with later transfer of those credits to a local state university.

I had thought of ISI, but I have two hesitations: First, ISI does have that rather (very) strong paleo leaning that sometimes makes my eyebrows go up. (No offense intended to any present company.) Second, they haven't yet AFAIK focused directly on acting as a liason between employable conservative academics and employers. It's actually a role they are probably well-suited to play. Perhaps they should start an ISI employment databank. This is not a facetious suggestion.

Lydia,

Is it an accident that the paleos at ISI are more attuned to these concerns? I find the literary impulse far strong among the paleocons than the neocons. The neocons seem to be all policy and no poetry. That's a little hyperbolic, I admit. But I have noticed that tendency.

When a surgeon removes a tumor, the typical approach is to go for what are called "wide margins." Ie, the surgeon intentionally removes not just the visible growth itself, but large chunks of healthy tissue around it. This makes it as likely as possible that any microscopic projections get caught.

The whole American university system is a tumor. It should be scraped down to the soil just for starters, and it might not be such a bad idea to remove some of the soil as well. One possible objection is that there are some elegant older buildings on some of the campuses, but I think there's really no point in drawing these kinds of fine distinctions. In most cases, the real estate will probably bring more as bare ground.

And as for the departments: literature? Literature? After the experience of the second half of the 20th century, why in the world should anyone be paid to teach and study literature? When the Allies conquered Germany, did they keep the Organization Todt around to work on the autobahns? No, the autobahns could fend for themselves for a few years.

And so can literature. Homer is not going away. Nor is William Empson. My wife has an MFA in playwriting, and reached basically the same conclusion in this field - she thinks the only way to rescue live drama from the East German bureaucrats who presently hold it hostage is for it to fail so completely that no one produces plays anymore, maybe for about ten years but possibly as many as thirty, at which point it can be revived as "retro."

There may be some organizational components of the university system that are worth saving - medicine, perhaps - but I don't think I'd want the scalpel going anywhere near literature. If that bit doesn't need to go straight to the biohazard bag in one piece, what does? That you're even asking the question suggests that you know the answer.

Mencius,

I'll never stop teaching Milton or Chaucer just because others do it badly and with sinister motivations. I'll never consent to destroying what's left of higher ed. just because much of what passes for higher ed. is perverse


Rather than slash and burn our way back to zero, why not re-win the colleges and the universities the way the left won them form us? If they can do a bad ting to higher ed., we can do a good thing to win it back. And we have this advantage : We are right. But reproducing Sherman's march to the sea on college campuses all over the western world, even metaphorically, is not the answer.

Literature is not what's wrong.

Mencius, I'm under no illusions about saving most of the universities or literature departments generally. But there are departments here or there where someone good could become chairman or be hired and want to hire other good people. And there may be whole or nearly-whole good departments. They need to know where to find the new scholars. And there are new schools that have started out with at least the intent of being a genuine alternative, yet in order to give accredited degrees they have to have people credentialed in specific fields. They need to know where to find them. Personally, I don't know what hiring policy a school like PHC or Hillsdale pursues or where it finds people to hire, but there's nothing wrong with trying. And it certainly would _not_ be a good idea to scrape down to the ground the few schools out there where genuinely good things are being done. You wanna surgically remove Michael's English department that he mentions at Hillsdale? Why? What would be the point of that?

Martin, I think you may have a point to some extent, but I think your perception probably arises from the fact that you are dividing things too much into "self-consciously paleocon" and "self-consciously neocon" categories. Let's face it: Many of the salt-of-the-earth, evangelical Christian, home schooling families and young adults that you and I both know are mainstream conservatives, "fusionists," if you will, with a hawkish streak when it comes to foreign policy. They have a genuine love for literature but do not buy into, for example, the standard paleo critiques of capitalism, the sympathy for agrarianism, or the very strong anti-interventionism. That whole set of mindsets would be alien to them. The paleos would call them "neos," but they've never heard that word, either. But many of them would be as capable as anyone of learning and teaching literature well. I speak as having been one such once upon a time. Well, not the home-schooled part, but raised in a mainstream conservative Christian home, etc. I learned about the whole ISI and paleo approach, learned for the first time that there even were different types of conservatives, from the dear friends I made in graduate school, paleos all, who helped me not to feel like I was alone as a conservative at a university. But I never fully agreed with them, either, and still don't to this day. I also did not feel that their specific political views on which we disagreed were particularly helpful to them in understanding literature more than my side of those issues. Indeed, sometimes they had too much of a tendency to read ancient authors through their own lens--Spenser becoming variously proto-Catholic or proto-Orthodox depending on where the sincere but rather heavy-handed interpreter was coming from himself.

"I find the literary impulse far strong among the paleocons than the neocons."

Much of the mainstream conservative movement has made faith, the well-spring for artistic achievement, subordinate to political activity and electoral success. Conservatism, has it is now understood, is a closed ideological system, incapable of eliciting the Spirit. Don't expect much creativity from secular dogmatics, or in the case of many neocons, revolutionary heretics.

The paleo temperament, at it's best, is a deeply religious one, striving to "keep the world awake to God", while reminding us of man's intrinsic imperfectibility. This calling is more likely to express itself or seek consolation in the arts and everyday life, than in the modern hothouse utopian daydreams and shallow sloganeering. Paleoconservatism, at it's worst, is guilty of a snobbish quietism that impassively shelters cranks and outcasts.

Given their inherent resistance to secularization, paleos can read literature and find timeless, hidden truths buried within a vast array of often unexpected sources. The neo or establishment con is searching only for political messages that confirm his cramped world-view.


"I find the literary impulse far strong among the paleocons than the neocons."

On the flip side I bet its more likely that a paleo (rather than a neo) say something like:

"Well, Foucault had some good points"

As many have noticed paleo-conservatism does seem to have some overlap with post-modernism.

Kevin,
I'd rather say it the other way round: I don't think the Spirit has been subsumed by the political and cultural right. I think the Spirit gives rise to the cultural and political conservatism of the Right (flawed though the Right might be in the way it implements the Spirit's leading), and especially in our era.

No, it's not possible to protect the formal humanities from the plague of postmodernism - which is why I retired early.

Diseases desperate grown,
By desperate appliances are reliev'd,
Or not at all
.

I cannot think of a "desperate appliance" that would cure the disease of postmodernism in academia short of closing down departments of humanities and hiring new staff on the basis that they repudiated the Spirit of the Age.

Michael,
"I think the Spirit gives rise to the cultural and political conservatism of the Right..."

Certainly in some manifestations that is true, but I have reservations. Agree with your implication though, trying to discern God's will is the first step towards a healthy interior life.

Michael; I think what is occurring within your Humanities Dept a more likely a work of the Spirit than anything emanating from Carthage on the Potomac.

mike d;
"As many have noticed paleo-conservatism does seem to have some overlap with post-modernism."

One can understand the genesis of post-modernism through our routine abuse of language. We've become prisoners in the Tower of Babel. The common euphemisms include; "surgical procedure" for abortion, "collateral damage" for innocent civilian lives, "creative accounting" for fraud and "liturgical expert" for the criminally insane.

No wonder some lost souls are drawn to the perverse parlor game of Critical Theory. It seems more honest.

Though I would tweak the premises of the question slightly, the answer is a slam-dunk. Just try it: use your theoretical riches to found your theoretical institution, offer a reasonable (though not competitive) salary and a reasonable (though not competitive) teaching load, conduct a true national search for scholars, advertising your position on the MLA job list and the Chronicle of Higher Education, and make it clear that a commitment not only to the conclusions but to the premises of Christian doctrinal and moral orthodoxy was a non-negotiable requirement. You would have no problem staffing a first-rate English department with first-rate scholars in reasonably short order. I have a tenured position in a very prestigious English department, and I would move to such a job in a heartbeat. It is silly to say that Hillsdale or any other institution "has all the good English profs"; I can assure you that there are a lot of academic literary critics and scholars committed to principles of right reason who are beavering away honestly at their pedagogical and scholarly commitments, working out how best to remain true to the demands of faith and reason while staying enough under the radar to remain capable of supporting their families.

There are problems that would need to be addressed in founding that institution. Though the principle of academic freedom has been used to defend some of the stupidest and most destructive abuses, not to mention a thousand forms of self-indulgence, it is in response to a real problem. The requirement of commitment to the real principles of orthodoxy and right reason would need to coexist with a firm understanding of where the boundaries are drawn. This leads to the tweak I mentioned at the beginning of this response. Well, Foucault did have some good points--if, by that, you mean that Foucault made some particular claims that are rationally defensible and potentially illuminating. If you mean that you would require your profs to deny the existence of those defensible and potentially illuminating observations, then, no, you won't find any honest intellectuals who will do that. Nor should a Christian be expected to: "Egyptian gold," as St. Augustine said. But I don't think that's what you mean. If you mean to rule out wishi-washiness about the destructive character of the Foucauldian (or the Deleuzian, or the Geertzian, or the Lacanian) project, then absolutely; because those destroy the very possibility of rational argument. Many of us either never fell for that stuff or discovered early on what a dead end it is.

An outstanding younger (mid-40s?) English prof/writer is Providence College's Anthony Esolen -- we need more like him.

An outstanding younger (mid-40s?) English prof/writer is Providence College's Anthony Esolen -- we need more like him.

I was just killing some time and Barnes and Noble looking at his book Ironies of Faith. Looked like a winner; I'll have to pick it up.

Coincidentally, we featured an extended excerpt from Ironies of Faith just this past October: link.

Well worth picking up.

It would probably be good if there were some way that professors such as Augustinianus could connect with one another. Whether they should be recruited from their present positions in departments most of whose members are captivated by postmodernism, political correctness, etc. is questionable. There is something to be said for many of such professors staying where they are so that students at those institutions have the chance to encounter such thinking.

The Association of Literary Scholars and Critics has brought together some high-profile academics who are willing to dissent publicly from PC, but people responding to this column are probably wishing for something orthodox in religion, while I suppose many of the ALSC people are firmly in the "Enlightenment" line but not happy with the extremes we have been seeing since the Seventies or so.

In the 1980s many campuses saw the emergence of conservative student papers that were alternatives to the official student paper. These conservative papers had funding from some private source(s). It might be that more traditionally minded faculty members could serve as advisors for more traditionally minded students who could form groups that would invite traditional scholars to give lectures, etc., and funding could be provided by similar organizations. Even a "preaching to the converted" scenario could be of some value. Mr. Grano's Dr. Esolen, for example, might be someone who could make such appearances from time to time.

As a homeschooling father as well as professor, I have long believed in reaching people while they are young. Are there ways to encourage bright young high school or even junior high school students to get together for reading groups focused on experiencing classic works without the interposition of trendy theories? I have to say that my own attempts to draw high school students to the small campus-community reading group that I host have not been successful.

Roger Kimball considers tanks.

Otherwise mora et labora (sine pecunia et auctoritate).

I'm commenting on the run here, but I have one point to raise in response to Major Wootton, which connects up with something Martin Cothran (I think it was) said above: If we succeed in teaching high schoolers to appreciate literature properly, they will probably want to study it more at the college level. It's important that we be willing to tell them when we think that's not a good idea and when their fresh love of and understanding of literature will be better aided by not taking formal college-level classes, where we suspect those classes will just teach them to read ironically, to do feminist readings, to read in stuff that isn't there, to deconstruct, and so forth. Or we could just send them all to major in English at Hillsdale. :-)

I have a feeling that the burgeoning distance learning industry may help here. It may soon be possible to pick and choose classes with people of Dr. Esolen's quality from somewhere that one does not live and to transfer such a course in to a local college where one finishes one's degree. I would like very much to see even more offerings in this line from good schools.

I have to say that my own attempts to draw high school students to the small campus-community reading group that I host have not been successful.

If you build it, they will come. I saw a language learning center with a store front for the first time this year.

It is silly to say that Hillsdale or any other institution "has all the good English profs";

Sure it is, and that's the way I mean it. But the stereotype generally says something true about the state of things, even if it is an exaggeration.

The thing is, certainly you can find good English people, and you can probably find good people in most any English faculty. But can you consistently find good faculties?

The Trivium is dead all except in some private Anglican schools who have the good sense to still teach classical education.

aristocles,

Can you send along some examples of (or links to) these schools?

"I want to have an English department entirely staffed by people who are completely opposed to postmodernism."

Well, that rules me out, though I do agree that texts have meaning outside our heads.

Major Wootton (do you also comment occasionally as "Giles Farmer"?), I feel silly for having lost touch with the ALSC, but was that the literary association started by the National Association of Scholars?

I haven't kept track of them at all, but I was at their blog for just a few minutes and also looked at the "about" pages, and any strongly anti-pomo stance didn't spring out at me. This is perhaps because there's a hesitation to seem "unprofessional" by saying in short, Anglo-Saxon words what one stands for or against, but still...I had hoped for something more rampaging. If they were, I wouldn't care tuppence if they were "Enlightenment" and non-religious. After all, it's always possible to find religious people within a generally sensible but non-religious organization. And speaking just for myself, I'm often tempted to write something called "In Praise of Enlightenment Rationalism," so that by itself isn't going to throw me. But it needs to be something other than just another literary association with no particularly traditionalist bent, where "traditionalist" refers to literary traditionalism.

Augustinianus, if you have a doppelganger who is willing to make a still _more_ wholesale condemnation of Foucault but is otherwise exactly like yourself, he's more likely to get a job at my fictitious university. :-) Seriously, I realize that it may not be possible absolutely to hold the line on "no positive comments about Foucault whatsoever," but it sure would be nice to find some people whose most positive comment was, "A broken clock is right twice a day," or "I suppose everybody, however pernicious and wrong-headed his ideas, happens to utter or indirectly imply a true proposition occasionally." Speaking for myself, I think the world of academe would be a far, far, better place if Foucault, Derrida, and all their ilk had never written a word or at least had been entirely ignored by the academic world.

The Trivium model is used by the Association of Classical Christian Schools.

For a recap on the classical school movement, see ISI's Spring 2008 Intercollegiate Review article by Peter J. Leithart, "The New Classical Schooling."

Michael and Lydia,

I'm not sure Hillsdale and similar institutions are best considered part of the "American university system." Obviously they have chosen to remain independent. Obviously there is no need for tanks, bulldozers, etc, in their case. Ideally there would be a term meaning "free college or university," but there isn't. I have heard nothing but good things about them, but the scale of these dissident institutions is a rounding error next to the official system.

As for: rather than slash and burn our way back to zero, why not re-win the colleges and the universities the way the left won them from us? If they can do a bad ting to higher ed., we can do a good thing to win it back. And we have this advantage: We are right.

By "the way the left won them from us," do you mean this? The context seems to imply that you don't, but I can't imagine that you're unaware of the history. The left captured the university system with brutal, Machiavellian tactics: mob violence and clique funding capture. Ten thousand years of moral victories will not get it back. I'm afraid a very different kind of victory may be needed.

Conservatives and reactionaries make a major tactical mistake in believing, with all evidence to the contrary, that the Fabian tactics which 20th-century progressives used to seize the institutions of the state can be made to work in reverse. Reaction and revolution are not symmetrical: the former is constructive and the latter is destructive. Fabian or Gramscian tactics rely on the ecstacy of evil which bond the unscrupulous together in any party line that works. As Yeats observed, being right is a disadvantage in this contest.

I am not suggesting that Pat Buchanan's peasants with pitchforks should mob-rush the Ivy League, Mark Rudd style, rip the student unions down with their agricultural tools and pop a few professors' heads on pikes. I am suggesting that the first step of a responsible interim government, probably military in nature, should be to confiscate the old regime's official information services (universities, press, schools and NGOs), liquidate the organizations, terminate the brands and auction their physical assets.

Are you suggesting that this would be a bad thing? Or do you just think it's unlikely to happen? I agree, but I find the suggestion that truth will conquer from its own pure righteousness at least as implausible. If this is really how it works, how did we end up where we find ourselves now?

If you really believe the American university system can be reformed from inside, the way you and Lydia are thinking makes sense. But if Roger Kimball is right and its only alternatives are senescence or collapse, any confusion between genuine scholarship and the old regime is a tactical mistake. Teach and read great literature if you please, but don't call your teachers "professors," your school a "university" or a "college," or your certificates "degrees." Build something new that no one will confuse with the old. Otherwise, if you fail you fail, and if you succeed you only bring new life to a monster that needs just the opposite.

Mencius,
Hillsdale is a reclamation job. It wasn't always what it is. Perhaps the story might prove interesting or instructive:

As recently as the 1970s, Hillsdale was a college with embarrassingly low academic standards, an over-emphasis on party life and sports, a far-reaching academic secularization (It has not been formally a Christian college for nearly 100 years.), and it was on the brink of financial collapse. When George Roche became president at that time, the board said that they were perhaps within two months of shutting the doors. He decided two important things: that even if the college were doomed to die (as then it seemed to be), it would be better to die doing the right thing (pun intended) than the wrong one, and that personnel is policy. So he began the long and arduous process of putting the right sort of persons in place, on the assumption that when good persons are in place good things will happen even when times are hard, and that if bad persons are in place bad things will happen even when times are good. The right persons and the right principles can change everything. So, he set about putting the right persons in place, which was both difficult and contentious. He pressed on, sometimes wisely and delicately, sometimes not.

With good persons in place, good things did happen. When good things began to happen, donors began to notice. Getting donors to notice was a matter of publicity. So we began touting the college's cultural and political positions in Imprimis, a publication that has grown steadily and now goes out free to nearly 2.5 million readers per month. For the record, we are within a couple percentage points of completing our current 410 million dollar fund-raising project, which isn't too shabby for a college with only 1200 students. In the previous decade we completed a 205 million dollar fund-raiser. Most of our donors and most of our students say specifically that they came to us because of Imprimis.

There are a thousand possible variations on the theme of college reclamation. I don't suppose that any of them require tanks (wink).

Mencius, I want to make it clear that I have never said that the universities can be "retaken." I rather think they can't. I'm a pessimist by nature. Part of the point of this post was to use the Internet to get some idea of who and what is out there and what resources there might be for retaining some flame or other alive. Augustinianus says, "Lots." That's great, though I'm still rather uneasy. But he could be right. Even if he is, though, the existence of lots of individual professors who do an honest and good job of teaching great literature without the various forms of nonsense doesn't amount to the resources for retaking the institutions. That's why _I'm_ the one who has twice (by my count) brought up the idea of discouraging young people from taking literature classes if they don't have good, specific reasons to think they really are going to learn literature in those classes as opposed to something else--Theory, "doing readings" of classics--feminist readings, gay and lesbian readings, etc., rap music or jumped-up agenda-driven additions to the canon, or even outright pornography.

I'm no optimist. But we have to do what we can. There are, as Martin Cothran and others have mentioned, young people around the country who would like to study literature at the college level. Is that such a bad thing? It ought to be possible. Because if they aren't given good suggestions, you can't stop them--they're going to go to Whatever University and take literature classes or history classes and often (esp. in the former) learn junk and get their minds messed up. I know one home schooling mother who got her son ready to take the History AP. He was frustrated because he didn't know enough of the answers about "women and minorities," because her education of him had been "too conservative." I said to her, "Yes, but that artificial emphasis shouldn't be there. It's perverting the discipline." Her answer? "'Shouldn't' is nowhere." In other words, she was being ruthlessly practical. If her son, who wants to major in History, has to be given an artificial and distortive emphasis upon race and gender in order to get his AP credit, she wishes she had given that to him. She's a physicist. I don't think she really understands what it means to pervert the discipline of history. But my point is that even among home schoolers, there are plenty of parents who are either naive or practically minded and will simply take what the academy offers them. It would be nice to have a few other suggestions to make to them.

Does Hillsdale offer humanities classes by distance learning? I haven't had a chance to look that up yet. What other good schools do?

My wife recently took an online course at the local university, the course was taught with online videos and a discussion board where one makes and reads posts similar to a blog except its private and no one is anonymous. It was of course horribly overpriced, but it got me to thinking. While still primarily a junior college thing several universities are offering online degrees, replete with the hefty price tag.

An online university should be able to operate with minimal infrastructure at a reasonable cost while still paying its professors and tutors, who would work primarily from home, a good salary. All that is really needed for a virtual school is a few servers and some toll free numbers; perhaps a warehouse for equipment to lease. I’m thinking a total tuition of 8K-12K

I think that person-to-person contact with the professor is indispensable because education is not primarily the acquisition of knowledge (much less is it acquisition of information), but that education is an apprenticeship. You're not given an education; you have to get it. In order to get it well, you have to spend time with someone who has actually gotten it before you.

I'm trying to imagine Jesus and Socrates teaching online.

More on Jesus and Socrates, whom I consider the two greatest teachers:

Neither consented to teach in absentia. Neither wrote a book.

That's another way of saying I'm not convinced of the pedagogical validity of an online university. To me, at least, an online chat room is not really a room, and an online presence in the form of canned lectures is not an authentic presence. Teaching of the sort practiced by Jesus and Socrates requires authentic presence.

I should agree at the outset that I regard distance learning as having qualities that are less desirable, all else being equal, than in-person learning. I'm not saying it's just absolutely cool and wonderful, and I would respect departments that refused to offer on-line courses for reasons of the nature and integrity of their discipline and of the professor-student relationship. It's more a case of "desperate times require desperate measures." Things have come to such a pass in some academic fields that it would be much better for a young person to take what is in essence an electronic correspondence course with lots of electronic contact from a good professor who would teach him the traditional canon in a normal fashion than to have an in-person course with a rotten professor (or graduate student) who regards rap music as literature and/or teaches lesbian readings of Shakespeare. Although I fully acknowledge that purely on-line contact has its ineliminable disadvantages, how good it is depends (I would think) to some extent on how much material the professor prepares and how much time he is prepared to put in on personal electronic discussion with individual students. I certainly can think of situations where people have received _informal_ electronic education from people I know via long e-mail exchanges that I have no doubt is far better than much of the in-person education they have received elsewhere, and it would be nice if some of this could be given sufficient formal structure and recognition that one could receive credit for it.

Having taken both online and "live" courses, I prefer the depth of "live" courses. Mind you, I think some disciplines are better for online than not. From my experience, the best online course I took was a 20th century history course that involved considerable amount of reading, with the marking scheme geared towards weekly (or so) reading questions that were typically 10 or so pages of hand-written notes. I didn't do so well in the course, because I was working 6 nights (Midnights) a week during it, but I still learned quite a bit.

Having said that, one of the main purposes of online learning seems to in allowing lower class/working/poorer people access to the benefits of obtaining a degree. Large, online universities (like the University of Phoenix) have a much higher percentage of poor and working people than a typical university.

Well, as for the original question, I've witnessed that it can be done. I recently graduated with a B.A. in English Literature at a college set up by a person with scads of money who insisted on a conservative (in this case, Catholic) direction. The professors were excellent, very objective and even inspiring; they didn't push post-modern literary criticism at all. In fact, we generally didn't get around to discussing it - when one focuses on the work itself, and add what the author said about it, the traditional interpretations, some background history, some study of the form and style - it takes quite a while to exhaust a work and we never had time to move on to speculation and subjective reflections.

I don't know where the founder came up with such professors, but they exist.

Maybe it's telling, though, that I'm going on to graduate studies in the field of philosophy...

Neither consented to teach in absentia. Neither wrote a book.

Or charged tuition. Something doesn't jive here ;)


Michael,

I'm familiar with Hillsdale mainly as one of the few faculties where Austrian School economics retains (I believe, although Richard Ebeling seems to have left for some reason) a toehold. If this were the only service to the truth that Hillsdale performed, it would be a fine one. I get the impression it is not.

When I think of Hillsdale I also think mainly of this policy, which it's interesting that you don't mention in your narrative of the "reclamation job." It strikes me as crucial. Hillsdale, by its own principled choice, is not competing on anything like a level playing field. This decision has allowed it to evade Robert Conquest's rule that all institutions which are not explicitly right-wing become left-wing, which I think explains the essentially synoptic quality of the official university system.

But the strategy is self-limiting in several respects. First, of course, it is working uphill from a financial perspective. Kudos to the donors and fund-raisers who have allowed you to prosper: may their millions become billions. There may be another way to finish, but there is no other way to start.

A more serious problem is that its present strategy requires Hillsdale to maintain an evangelical or "fundamentalist" Christian identity. If your vision of a restored world of scholarship is a world in which all those scholars are born-again Christians, while it is a vision I can respect, it is not one I find particularly attractive or promising. From a historical if not a theological perspective, the official university system is Christian and sectarian as well: if you look at where liberalism came from, it's just an extreme form of Unitarianism. Even if it were practical, which I don't think it is, replacing one Christian orthodoxy (mainline Protestant) with another (evangelical Protestant) does not strike this non-Christian as a particularly desirable result.

But the fatal flaw, I think, is that your strategy requires your enemies to tolerate you. Note that there is nothing like a Hillsdale in Europe. Europe once had great universities. Then it was conquered and reconstructed by the American ruling class, whose ideals now reign unchallenged there.

Could Hillsdale continue to exist in anything like its present form, for example, if it lost its accreditation? I suspect it could not. Who are the people who make this decision? Are they your friends? Or are you depending on the kindness of strangers? If so, don't you find this a plausible explanation for why your attitude toward your enemies is so much milder than their attitude toward you?

I cannot fault Hillsdale for being what it is. It is a wonderful alternative, especially if you are an evangelical Christian. However, what I think the world needs is an institution of scholarship operating under the principle that the present university system has failed, and needs to be destroyed rather than reformed. Accreditation would not be an option for such a faculty. Indeed, the political consequences of this conclusion are so incendiary that any such "anti-university" would have no friends in any responsible position. Its independence, however, would be unquestionable.

Does the name "Martin Luther" ring a bell for you? For centuries, reformers before Luther had addressed themselves to the flaws of the Church. Some of them succeeded - a little bit. Most failed. Many were burned. It is ironic that Luther's movement is called the "Reformation," because his thrust was exactly the opposite: Rome was not reformable. If the American university system is not the new Rome, or if it is reformable, I am Philipp Melanchthon.

I'm no optimist. But we have to do what we can. There are, as Martin Cothran and others have mentioned, young people around the country who would like to study literature at the college level. Is that such a bad thing? It ought to be possible. Because if they aren't given good suggestions, you can't stop them--they're going to go to Whatever University and take literature classes or history classes and often (esp. in the former) learn junk and get their minds messed up.

So tell them not to.

Often in life we want to do things we can't. If it had been up to me, I probably would have gone to Whatever University and majored in literature or history. It was not up to me. It was up to my father, who had the misfortune of a Ph.D in philosophy. He told me I needed to learn a trade, and I did. (One of the few admirable qualities of my alma mater is that, since it has no core curriculum, one can get an engineering degree without taking any humanities classes.)

As you'll see if you click on my URL, I remain interested in literature and history. But I am not dependent on the healthy state of these fields for continued employment. My advice to young people who are interested in literature, history, or any other field of scholarship whose only economic value lies in self-cultivation, is to forget about them for fifteen or twenty years while you build a fulfilling career in some productive industry.

This is especially true for literature, because literature means more to you the more you have lived. To a modern nineteen-year-old, whose intelligence is fully developed but whose character is largely unformed, literary criticism is a kind of parlor game. Small wonder it has developed into the liberal equivalent of Jesuitical or Talmudic casuistry. Especially in an era of prolonged adolescence, young people are simply not ready to read great writing, let alone to analyze it.

I'm not sure I'd recommend my own field (computer science). But why not geology? Commodity prices are at all-time highs and likely to go higher. Anyone who is smart enough to be a literary critic, a poet or a novelist is probably smart enough to be a petroleum or hard-rock mining geologist. These are not sedentary professions. Indeed, they will expose you to a far wider slice of humanity than any university, no matter how "diverse." And they will pay you six figures, or close to it, straight out of college.

I think it would be only fair (though Michael can do a better job of this than I can) to correct the impression that Hillsdale is a Christian college. Actually, as far as I can tell, it isn't. It may have a generally Christian "feel" as a result of constituency, but it certainly isn't fundamentalist. Consider a couple of facts about on-campus life that I (who am not a fundamentalist) would suggest could better be arranged otherwise: Men are allowed in the women's dorms up to some extremely late hour like 1 a.m. on weekends and during many other times. I gather this is anywhere in the dorms, not just into a lounge area. And it is not a dry campus. This is not to say that I'm a teetotaller. I'm not. But I tend to think that a dry campus is a good idea for academic reasons and reasons of atmosphere, if I can put it that way. Any fundamentalist school would have these two practical matters done differently.

Geology? Not environmentalist PC at the undergraduate level? I'm a bit surprised. But anyone should be interested in a field that pays 6 figures out of an undergrad degree. Most colleges, though, _do_ have core curriculum requirements for a bachelor's degree credential, and it can be most difficult to satisfy them while avoiding nonsense and much worse than nonsense. I have nothing against a core curriculum in principle. In theory, it's a good idea. It's a crying shame that some parts of a desirable core have been hijacked.

Katherine--Ave Maria, right?

Mencius

You've made several mistaken assumptions about Hillsdale.

First, Hillsdale is not a Christian school. It is a culturally conservative school, which means it intends to hold on to the best of Western tradition. It is wise enough to know that Christianity is part of that "best," so it makes room for Christianity, though it does not require it either of its students or its professors. Indeed a significant percentage of both reject it, some quite stridently. My job there, as Director of Christian Studies, is to put a Christian perspective in across the curriculum, so that students who wish to do so can see what interesting and important things happen when you bring theology within shouting distance of other disciplines, and the way in which the Lordship of Christ works itself out in all avenues of human endeavor. But we do not have, or maintain, an evangelical, much less fundamentalist, identity. Indeed, I strongly suspect that most of the professors at Hillsdale are not born-again types, though I myself am. For example, my friend Richard Ebeling, the fine scholar whom you mention (and who now heads FEE), does not call himself a born-again Christian. But he is the strong and ardent opponent of many of the things you and I, as Christians ourselves, might oppose.

No, we don't need accreditation. In fact, we have toyed with the idea of offering our own accreditation program for other schools. When the accreditation folks come by every ten years, we do as much as principle permits to meet their requirements, but no more. Their requirements are, for the most part, that we live up to who we say we are. If we cannot meet their standards without sacrificing principle, then we simply do not meet their requirements. For example, As I understand it, our teacher education program does not and has not met the state's accreditation guidelines. We reject those guidelines because we think they are quite wrong. Nevertheless, our ed. students get hired. In order to show where the national public schooling system has gone wrong, we have started our own quite successful academy and sold our curriculum to hundreds of schools across the country. We don't need the accreditors. But if we can get their imprimatur without loss of principle, we get it. If not, we simply move forward.

And I honestly cannot see on what basis you think that Hillsdale's attitude toward others is more mild than the attitude of others toward Hillsdale.

The fact that there is nothing like Hillsdale in Europe means that the field there is ready to start one.

As being myself an evangelical Protestant with a doctorate in historical theology (and an ex-Catholic), you need not remind me about Luther or Melanchthon. Their lesson for us is this: If you want to change the world for the better by moving back into the light, you don't need the consent of your enemies in order to succeed.

You are quite right about the importance of financial independence. If you take money, you often take more than money. Money, especially government money, comes with strings. If you feed at that trough, they will tell you whom to hire, whom to enroll and what to teach. We reject that control utterly because when things outside the college control the college, that is the death of learning. We pay our own way by producing a principled education that others are willing to purchase with their tuition dollars.

Building a university from scratch is a difficult, perilous business.

I wonder if setting up an institute within an existing university department is a more achievable goal.

Robert Louis Wilken wrote how Catholics are trying to do this in his article "Catholic scholars, secular schools." http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6104

Such expressly religious institutes have several advantages over those simply dedicated to one field of study: a stable cultus and support from both intellectual and non-intellectual donors and students, to name but two.

I wonder how the various "Institutes for Conservative Thinker X Studes" influence the campus climate. At minimum, they provide "benefices" for sympathetic scholars. What if you spent your hypothetical scads of money endowing major schools with institutes for specific fields, carefully designing the endowment to preserve as best as possible those institutional missions?

Yes, Kevin, the MacLaurin Institute at the University of Minnesota is another example.

Lydia -

Um, maybe... All this 'new Rome' business is scaring me, though.

I mean, your school was Ave Maria University, right? Isn't that what you were describing?

(I'm a low Protestant. I don't do actual Aves. :-))

Well, actually, it was Ave Maria College, which doesn't exist, per se, anymore. Nice deductions, though!

I just wasn't sure after reading some comments if a Catholic institution would be considered 'saved' or simply 'perverted in another direction.' From a purely academic and non-religious standpoint, though, I would still say it was an excellent institution.

Oh, we're an eclectic bunch around here. You can find people arguing both sides of the Catholic-Protestant question at any given moment, and not only the commentators but also the contributors include Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestant. And all I mentioned in the main post was a) anti-postmodern and b) Christian, with the question being, "How difficult would it be to staff an English and/or History department with good faculty, with credential in their field, that met these criteria?"

I'm glad I didn't just make a faux pas guessing the school. I didn't think there were _too_ many Christian schools fairly recently founded with one man's large amounts of private money.

First, Hillsdale is not a Christian school. It is a culturally conservative school, which means it intends to hold on to the best of Western tradition. It is wise enough to know that Christianity is part of that "best," so it makes room for Christianity, though it does not require it either of its students or its professors. Indeed a significant percentage of both reject it, some quite stridently.

I understand the distinction you're trying to draw between Hillsdale and the likes of Patrick Henry, but it is one I suspect is quite lost on the vast majority of, say, New York Times readers. Hillsdale is devoted, as you point out, to a value system which includes "fundamentalist" Christianity. (I don't mean this pejoratively, I just mean the converse of "progressive" Christianity.) The resulting categorization is not a function of detailed examination of your policies, which I'm sure are principled and sensible, but a political sniff-test of the basic ant-hill type.

The result is that a young person from a progressive background is very unlikely to consider the possibility that they could learn something about literature or economics or history at Hillsdale. So this same teenager will go to Yale, and complain up the wazoo about the PC nonsense that gets pumped up his nose, without the slightest idea that there might exist some actual institution of learning that does not exhibit this problem. There is a tremendous population of unorganized, spontaneous, private dissidence that no one is cultivating.

What's unfortunate is that you and the teenager, while you certainly disagree on many points of theology and morals, have the same enemy: the post-Puritan American establishment. The conventional university system, which more or less rules the US through the ruse of its "scientific" study of "public policy," is vast, moribund, sclerotic, and in every way ripe for a torpedo up the behind. But it has no plans to abolish itself.

And I honestly cannot see on what basis you think that Hillsdale's attitude toward others is more mild than the attitude of others toward Hillsdale.

The progressives would wipe you out in a millisecond, using any tool at their disposal, if they got the opportunity. You seem to find the idea of wiping them out, even as a long-term goal, distasteful.

No, we don't need accreditation.

Perhaps you are right, and you are certainly taking the right line on the subject. I also really like the idea of starting your own accreditation program as a plan B - this is good clean hardball.

At the same time, however, I can't avoid noting that Hillsdale's website is constantly reassuring visitors that it is indeed a genuine, accredited school. And I also suspect that some of your graduates go on to law school or other graduate programs, an option they would lose if Hillsdale lost its accreditation.

As being myself an evangelical Protestant with a doctorate in historical theology (and an ex-Catholic), you need not remind me about Luther or Melanchthon. Their lesson for us is this: If you want to change the world for the better by moving back into the light, you don't need the consent of your enemies in order to succeed.

Luther did not demand the consent of his enemies. He did, however, realize that his battle was both spiritual and temporal. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, he had no tanks. But if he and the princes who backed him had, I doubt they would have left much of Rome.

What Luther understood was that his battle with the Church was mortal. He did not ask Rome to tolerate him. He announced that he was working for its destruction. This gained him no more enemies than he already had, and as allies it brought him all the enemies of Rome - who had previously lacked any organizational focus, and many of whom I'm sure had no interest at all in his theology.

In contrast, the conservative plan for restoring America seems to include as its central element the idea that the truth is bound to prevail, and our present ruling institutions will reform themselves and de-liberalize spontaneously as it does. Your mileage may vary, but I simply don't see this as a realistic possibility. If you think in terms of scenarios in which these institutions, which have obtained their power through their intimate links to the American political system, are severed from that system and liquidated, you are looking at a solution which is far more difficult to achieve, but will actually stay solved if it can get solved.

I'm not at all sure that a good school can entirely separate morals from its overall atmosphere, nor should it make that a goal, and for that reason I doubt the possibility or desirability of bringing together schools that have anything like a decent moral atmosphere with the overall approach to life of "teenagers from a progressive background," except _perhaps_ in the case of distance learning. There, the college-age young adult might be able to sleep with whomever he wants, whenever and wherever he wants, so long as whoever owns the place where he's living doesn't mind, while taking advantage of academically good classes from a school that wouldn't tolerate such behavior on campus. To tell you the honest truth, I'm not at all sure that the dissenting students I'm most concerned about are the ones who follow the New York Times's line on morals and who would disdain a school like Hillsdale because it fails a liberal sniff-test. If they end up unhappy about PC nonsense at the schools they choose instead that cater to their (im)moral and political tastes, perhaps they should reconsider their world-view a little more globally. Are these really the young people that we should be looking to to rebuild America?

As a matter of fact the National Association of Scholars did start a new accrediting body, the AALE, some years back, when there was concern about the politicization of accrediting bodies. And they (the people at the AALE) probably weren't going to accredit Patrick Henry because of its 6-day creationism, so they aren't just an anything-goes accrediting body for conservative schools of all sorts. (Patrick Henry fought with them for a while then dropped it and got accredited instead by an accrediting organization explicitly set up for Christian colleges.)

You can't just hire sensible people to teach English whose degrees are all in other fields and who know their stuff from normal reading without having had their heads stuffed with baloney.

Why not? If someone can prove he's sensible and well-read in the relevant literature, what's to stop a college from hiring him and letting him try for a tenure spot? Also, why not hire professors from other countries?

Here I've focused on English, but a similar question might be asked about History, a field where I know little about just how bad things have gotten but have an inkling that it might be pretty bad.

So you have an "inkling" about the state of history teaching, but haven't yet done ANY actual research to see how bad history teaching really is? That doesn't exactly speak well for your reliability as a source, does it?

Like most of the people who try to make a career out of wailing about how horrible our higher education really is, you're overgeneralizing about a whole country full of colleges. Do you really believe things are equally bad in the Ivy League, the Deep South's state schools, the military academies, AND religious colleges like Catholic U., BYU, Bob Jones U., etc. etc.? You certainly haven't provided any actual data to back up her unquestioned conventional wisdom. Hell, you don't even provide anecdotes!

Ohhhh. It's my old friend, Raging Bee. For those of you who don't know him, Raging Bee eventually behaved sufficiently badly that he got himself banned at Right Reason, a site with significantly _higher_ tolerance for trolls than we have here at What's Wrong with the World.

RB, please do watch it. A polite question as to what my evidence is for my "inkling" about the state of affairs in history, and an acknowledgement that I am being quite modest and careful in my statements about that field and, indeed, asking my readers for data, would have been not only sufficient but much better received. As it is, since you chose to be rude right up front upon first appearing here, and since I know you from of old, I haven't the slightest interest in telling you.

As for the question regarding hiring people from other fields to teach English (since you chose to ask it in a more normal fashion), some of that can indeed be done, is sometimes done, and probably should be done. Established institutions of higher education have a significant amount of leeway in such academic decisions. However, it's my very strong impression from hanging about the academic world for more than twenty years and hearing plenty of talk about the accreditation process that there are limits to this. An entire English department made up of people with degrees in Engineering, Geology, Physics, and Philosophy, and not a single English MA or PhD would probably not go down well with most accrediting bodies, especially for a school just getting started that needed to prove itself. As I suggested in the main post, if you wanted to go that route, your best bet would be to run a Great Books school, where the self-conscious point (evidently accepted by accrediting bodies) is that the teacher is more a "facilitator" than an expert in the field and that the school's curriculum is not taught by way of separate departments which each specialize in a separate field.

The last time I commented on Right Reason, my longer and more thoughtful post (on creationism, IIRC) got deleted, while a shorter, somewhat more insulting post was left on; which pretty clearly proves I wasn't kicked off for "bad behavior."

As it is, since you chose to be rude right up front upon first appearing here, and since I know you from of old, I haven't the slightest interest in telling you.

So why haven't you told anyone else either?

However, it's my very strong impression from hanging about the academic world for more than twenty years and hearing plenty of talk about the accreditation process that there are limits to this.

You "hung around" unspecified places in "the academic world" and "heard talk" from unspecified people? That doesn't sound like a "representative sample" of our huge and diverse number of colleges and universities.

Scientists have a saying: "The plural of 'anecdote' is 'anecdotes,' not 'data.'"

RB, so you're saying that there would be no problem with accreditation boards with setting up a school that has separate academic departments but staffs them entirely with people with no credential in the field for which the department is labeled.

Good luck trying it. I say you know even less than I do and even less than you imply that I do about accreditation.

Actually, the editor of RR told me that he was finally fed up with your behavior and was banning you. And we do that _much_ faster around here, so do take a word to the wise to heart. If you're wise.

RB,
Lydia's views on this thread are reasonably articulated and reasonably argued. It is not unscholarly to observe carefully, to make deductions on the basis of those observations, and to relate those deductions to others, as she has done. If Lydia had somehow footnoted all her relevant conversations, all her relevant affiliations, and all her relevant connections and experiences, the argument would not be more sound, just unreadable and ill-suited for a blog site.

I notice that to date you have not supplied any documented evidence to prove her views on these issues are mistaken.

Lydia,

You bring out the issue well with the phrase "rebuild America."

Imagine if you were writing these words in the former Soviet Union - a different case, true, but comparisons can be useful. Would your goal be to "rebuild Russia?" Perhaps, but I suspect that your conclusion would be that in order to rebuild Russia, your first task is not constructive but destructive. There is something in the way - the Party. It cannot be worked around. It must be gotten rid of.

Indeed, the new Russia, with all its faults, is probably the closest thing to a traditionalist Christian state today. Did this come about by a Gramscian spread of neo-Orthodoxy in the Komsomol, Pravda and the Academy of Sciences? It did not.

Our hypothetical young nihilist is not, I agree, up for rebuilding anything. Destruction, on the other hand, comes quite naturally to him. The Soviet Union was not brought down by an alliance of people who held a shared vision of the new Russia - no such alliance could have been constructed. It was brought down by people who saw the present and knew that it was wrong. Their thinking was purely negative. It was also successful.

There is an astounding level of inchoate discontent among the "Stuff White People Like" class. A few months ago I was at a dinner party at the house of a gay playwright in San Francisco. I was sitting across from a German man in his '40s who seemed to be somewhere to the left of Noam Chomsky, and had previously expressed 9/11 Truther sentiments. Suddenly he started talking about Mexican immigration, and he sounded exactly like Larry Auster. I couldn't believe it. I would never have dared.

Have you read Albert Jay Nock's Theory of Education? What I regret is that there is no educational institution I know of that could be described as Nockian, although a school like Hillsdale is probably the closest. As a result, when someone on his own little ownsome grasps some tiny corner of the vast disaster that is the American polity in the 20th century, there is nowhere for him to go and find more fuel for his spark of dissidence. Unless of course he is a traditionalist Christian, in which case he is probably dissident enough.

mike d:

aristocles,

Can you send along some examples of (or links to) these schools?

Posted by mike d | April 11, 2008 8:27 PM


Apologies for the delayed response -- I just saw this right now.

Here's an example of such an Anglican school:

Good Shepherd School

Preserving The Past, Securing The Future
Good Shepherd School is a classical and Christian school established in 1979, offering classes from K4 through 12th grade.

As a Classical school we employ the time-honored medieval “trivium” of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric, as our educational philosophy and teaching methodology to equip pupils for the future with proven tools from the past.

Our Anglican heritage provides the Christian framework in which we enrich our students with the prayers, great hymns, and sung psalms of historic, orthodox Christianity. Explore our website and discover how a “medieval” classical education at Good Shepherd can help your child discover the treasures of wisdom and knowledge which are the foundation of western civilization.

Our Mission


Good Shepherd School’s mission is to provide an academically excellent education that is distinctively Classical and Christian in the Anglican Tradition, in order to equip students to be the moral and intellectual leaders in their callings.


http://gsstyler.org/

KW:

The Trivium model is used by the Association of Classical Christian Schools.

For a recap on the classical school movement, see ISI's Spring 2008 Intercollegiate Review article by Peter J. Leithart, "The New Classical Schooling."

Posted by KW | April 11, 2008 9:19 PM

I just saw your post just now too -- thanks for the info!

I was merely aware of the Anglican schools that centered their curriculum on the Trivium based on a classical education newsletter I get every once and awhile.

Well, I think I understand the situation you're describing, Mencius, but honestly, I'm more picky than that about the people I make common cause with. If you're willing to make common cause with your acquaintance, the Chomsky-like Truther who doesn't like immigration, in order to destroy the present diseased order, that's entirely up to you. I wouldn't touch him with a barge pole.

Lydia, I don't think that Moldbug was advising that we "make common cause* with "Chomsky-like Truthers." I think he was pointing out just how pervasive "inchoate discontent" about the ongoing ethnic/racial transformation of America really is.

And I think that's an important point.

Well, I dunno. My impression--which Mencius can certainly refute--is that the Chomsky-type example was meant to show that we should be trying to appeal to a wider audience than a school like Hillsdale appeals to and to make use of the destructive energy of a wider spectrum of the population, including the people at the dinner he was describing. I think I have a different goal. I'm trying to keep a candle burning through the night. As I've stated repeatedly, I have no illusions about retaking the university system. But kids still go to college. If you want to talk about alternatives to college, that's a different subject, and a very interesting one. I think it has to start with some alternative way of credentialing, of confirming for prospective employers the properties (which may sometimes be very nebulous) that employers think they are more likely to get with a college degree--undergrad or grad. But _since_ many young people will not go that route, I want to find out what prospects there are for keeping them from losing even their academic soul (never mind their immortal soul!) in humanities classes, which many of them will *have to take* for the credential they believe, perhaps rightly, they *have to have* in order to eat and live, go to the doctor when they are sick, and so forth, without expecting their parents to support them all their lives. In order to have a career and make a living, in other words. I'm interested in the prospects for enabling them to fulfill things like humanities requirements without having to drag themselves and/or great literature through the dirt. This is meant to be a positive goal of helping to feed young minds with what they need instead of what, emphatically, they don't need, at the college age. My goal isn't tearing everything down so the new can grow from the ashes or something. And for that reason I'm not really all that interested--at least, for purposes of keeping the torch burning--in the inchoate rage of an amorphous "Stuff White People Like" class with whom I have little of positive merit in common.

What you want now is a student survival guide rather than a plot to save the humanities.

Obviously if a student must have the liberal arts in any serious way, they can be had from a number of schools that still honor them. Liberal arts education is not extinct.

But when awful education in the name of liberal arts is foisted on unsuspecting students who are seeking to earn a living, there are a few candles that can light the way: educate ahead of time (attention to high school, as mentioned above), test out (AP), or transfer courses through extension or other programs. What else?

It seems that ages 18-22 are perfect for a liberal arts education. Venues like university programs for gifted youth and summer camps should be able to provide some real meat for students. After all, it's education that we want here.

What's missing? An answer to that shifts the focus from students back the other side: those in charge. Here some of the responsibility rests with those decent, honorable professors who are doing such a great job. Some of them are gifted well enough that they might, like Samuel in the night, hear a call to teach in humbler venues (smarting down?).

Lydia: of all the left-wing-asshat blogs I've visited since 2002, only one, "How to Save the World," has ever deleted any of my comments -- and that guy's a bit loony as well as rigidly left. Even "Stand Down," a ridiculous wrong-even-when-they're-right antiwar blog that tanked in 2005, allowed me to post with impunity; and believe me, it's not because I was polite, or because I agreed with them -- I was neither.

Only "conservative" blogs seem to have a problem with my manners: IIRC, four right-wing blogs have banned me, or threatened to ban me, so far -- LaShawn Barber, Uncommon Descent, Right Reason, and now you, who have threatened to ban me TWICE in a mere forty-eight hours, merely for pointing out that I don't find your claims credible.

It's your blog, of course, and you can do whatever you want here, but if you do ban me, I'll feel pretty safe in concluding it wasn't because of "bad behavior."

Oh, and you still haven't provided any evidence -- or even a link to documented evidence -- that the problems you speak of are shared, more or less equally, by such a wide variety of colleges and universities as we have in the USA. I find your hints to this effect quite implausible: by what evil magic do the postmodernist left -- who couldn't keep George W. Bush from getting elected -- manage to maintain a death-grip on such colleges as BYU and all of the state schools of the Deep Red South?

You mention the accreditation agencies, but you still haven't shown that a country with a population of over 260,000,000 can't produce even a few tens of thousands of credentialed academics who aren't postmodernists.

All you have are a few vague anecdotes, and they don't match my anecdotes (I went to the decidedly non-pomo UVa). You wanna ban me for saying that? Go right ahead. All you'll do is prove your own cowardice.

Lydia,

Well, I was digressing a little. My dinner-party acquaintance is too old for college, and not much good for anything else.

My point is that "keeping a candle burning through the night" is a metaphor that implies that day is sure to follow night. I'm not sure it is, and I am sure that the people who bring us the night have no intention of letting it happen. They see your candle as arson in the making, which is of course exactly what it is.

If we agree that the university system is unsavable, it has to be destroyed. Since it will not destroy itself, it has to be destroyed by some other force. Of course it could be demolished by barbarians, but we are not barbarians. Ideally, therefore, it would be replaced by something better. Ie, your candle, or Michael's.

Since the university system more or less is the government at this point - since all the latter's "public policies" are products of the former - your burning candle is revolutionary (or, more precisely, reactionary) by definition. Whether you intend it or not, it is a seed of a potential new regime, one in which tomorrow's youth might be taught to see the present regime much as today's are taught to see, say, Vichy France.

And young people love this kind of stuff. They are built to. They love change - "struggle, iron, volcanoes." The likes of Barack Obama, or even of Noam Chomsky, provide precious little of any of this. The left is in power, it is an institutional revolution of the classic 20th-century form, and there is nowhere for it to go. All its struggle is ersatz.

Whereas you, with your candle, are peddling real struggle, real iron, real volcanoes. But within your quietist and traditionalist intellectual framework, its light is under a very hefty bushel. The project of replacing the American university system is an exciting, aggressive and dangerous one, and one which can be made to appeal to both traditionalist ("red-state") and progressive ("blue-state") young people. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Which means breaking with the system, and yes, creating an "alternative."

As for the core humanities classes, perhaps you've read Czeslaw Milosz's The Captive Mind. A little ketman goes a long way. And the Internet offers many possibilities for destructive dissidence: every college worth its salt should have an anonymous message board in which enterprising students can post brutal, humiliating, and perhaps even racist critiques of any mindless propaganda they may be subjected to. (Racism, or any other form of thoughtcrime, is a wonderful Schelling point for disaffected youth.) The mind will keep itself alive.

RB, I never said that the U.S. cannot produce non-pomo intellectuals. I hope it can, and obviously it has produced _some_. The question is how many and how easy or hard it is to find them for purposes of a) hiring people in a department with a credential in English who nonetheless are anti-pomo and b) taking classes with them. The whole point of the post was to ask my readers to give me their anecdotal data on this subject, as I certainly do know by my own anecdotal data that there are English departments that offer only or mostly junk--either pomo readings of the classics, trashy contemporary culture as if it were literature, pornography, etc. And it's trickling down to the high school level.

I read an article a few weeks ago about an AP English course for gifted high schoolers in Illinois (Dearborn, I think it was) that was forcing them to read homosexual pornography for their AP English class. Unfortunately the article writer saw fit to include actual excerpts of the "works" in question. Not literature at all. These kids could have been reading actual literature--anything good from Beowulf to Bellow. This trend is coming from somewhere.

I'm not trying to document some claim that there are no good academics in the U.S. I'm trying to find out where they are and how they can be connected with one another and with students who want to study good stuff with them.

Mencius, I think I see your point, but I suppose you would consider that I'm prissy about the people to whom I'd like to appeal. I'd like to appeal to young people with some positive good sense and good taste, not merely with a natural young person's love of rebellion. I'm afraid that will make my approach rather quietistic in your opinion. But practically speaking, I do see it as difficult to create something positive that appeals to the wide spectrum (political spectrum?) you seem to envisage while at the same time a) paying its way and b) having a function in society. By your own statement it can't be a college, so what would it be?

Brilliant lines from mencius: "'keeping a candle burning through the night' is a metaphor that implies that day is sure to follow night. I'm not sure it is, and I am sure that the people who bring us the night have no intention of letting it happen."

Lydia,

Well, here is one of my ideas. I'm not quite sure it's what you mean, though.

What is a "college," anyway? Is it a four-year postsecondary institution in which professors holding the Ph.D confer the degree of B.A. or B.S. on 21-year-olds? If you restrict yourself to variations within this theme, Hillsdale or something like it is probably the best you can do. (And on the engineering side, I am a huge fan of Olin College.)

The traditional university system has two roles: sustaining and advancing learning, and serving as a residential finishing school for young people. I just don't think you can start up anything particularly innovative in the first category, particularly when it comes to criticizing and revising the machine, if you have to lug the second around. Opting out of the traditional credentials track is an awfully risky proposition for youth and parents alike, and both should agree.

As a programmer I have been quite impressed with what unpaid volunteers collaborating over the Internet can put together - even I am surprised that Wikipedia works (sort of), but the success of Linux, Firefox, and other projects going back to the '80s is quite impressive. The difficulty is in building institutions, and especially institutions which are hierarchical and not democratic, but still open. Wikipedia within its scope of endeavor has done a pretty good job of this, but it is only a start, because the status of an Wikipedia editor/admin basically means you're a literate and hard-working person. It's a long, long way from this to a genuine aristocracy of scholarship, especially an alternative one which is not dependent (as Wikipedia is) on the authority of the conventional system.

One inspiration certainly has to be the Polish Flying University tradition. Its circumstances were of course very different, with much higher levels of oppression, building incentive and cohesion. On the other hand, there was no Polish Internet. (I have no joke, I just like saying "Polish Internet.")

An Internet institution of guerrilla scholarship, and perhaps even guerrilla education, is not at all the same thing as "online education." It is not a horseless carriage - an attempt to adapt an existing form to a new technology. I really think that if you want to bootstrap something new, scholarship must precede education. Where scholars gather, students will follow. Once your plane is really off the ground, you may be able to devise a way to get the students to fund the scholars. Once you are cruising at 35,000 feet, perhaps you can have a residential program, maybe in the summers. (I think the Mises Institute has some good summer programs.) Reaching the level that, say, Hillsdale is already at is pretty much achieving orbit.

But I really think the crucial step across the Rubicon lies in rejecting the intellectual legitimacy of the present university system, a step incompatible with collaborating with it even to the extent that Hillsdale does. Rejecting it means treating its credentials as valueless, a move which is obviously reciprocal. It also makes the task of creating something new much, much harder, but it guarantees that the result will be genuinely new.

KW's suggested survival guide already exists: Summit Ministries in Colorado, for whom Dr. Beckwith and I have lectured regularly for many years (along with fine colleagues like JP Moreland, Greg Koukl, Wayne House, Norm Geisler, Charles van Eaton and many others).

Summit's mission is to train high school and college age students in subjects like philosophy, theology, economics, history, etc. and to do so from the various perspectives they will encounter in college (Marxist, secular humanist, postmodern, etc.) so that when they get to college they will know better what to expect and, therefore, not be so likely to become casualties to their professors' world view and ideological machinations.

In addition to its lecture seminars, Summit publishes books and curricula (from K through 12) and they have their own semester long college program in theology, politics, and English lit. Starting in '08, they now have two Oxford programs, one for summers only, the other year round. The year round program allows Summit students to study in an Oxford college for a semester or a year and to transfer the credit back to their American universities, or, if they can stay longer, even to get a degree from Oxford -- both undergraduate and graduate.

Summit does a terrific job of countering the cultural drift in our colleges. Ideas are the weapon of choice.

Summit Ministries is a wonderful model. Thank God for people like David Noebel.

There are 5 of us teaching at Bryan College (TN) right now in the English Department who fit your criteria. One of those is a grad student adjuncting for us, who is a Bryan graduate. We have quite a few graduates, in fact, who could make your English Department exactly what you want it to be. And Dr. Bauman is right that you will find many such candidates among Summit students -- Summit is also run at Bryan in the summers (2 sessions) and is extending into Ohio, one of the Carolinas, and I think KY as well in the next couple of years, besides its original Colorado sessions.

Part of the problem may be finding them with PhDs, as conservative Christians often find better things to do with their lives than argue with the secularists for years to get the advanced degree. Does anyone know of excellent MA, MFA, and PhD programs in English at any excellent conservative colleges?

An AP high-school course "forcing" students to read gay porn? I find that hard to believe. It's certainly possible, but I've heard claims of this sort made by unreliable loony rags like WorldNutDaily, only to get debunked and disproven by more reputable sources. You got a citation for that?

By the way, if Ed Veith is teaching English classes at PHC, he is exactly what you are looking for as well; I don't know if he's teaching, though, or a full-time administrator.

I'll be teaching a 4-hour "literature major" at both Summit East (Bryan College) sessions this summer. It was new last summer, and I had great response from the students. Four hours is a limited time, but at least is time to lay out the essentials and get them thinking. I hope this becomes an option at all the Summit sessions for those who are interested in pursuing literature in college.

"them" being the students, not the "essentials." And I'm on my way to my Advanced Grammar class in a few minutes . . . :(

There are 5 of us teaching at Bryan College (TN) right now in the English Department who fit your criteria. One of those is a grad student adjuncting for us, who is a Bryan graduate. We have quite a few graduates, in fact, who could make your English Department exactly what you want it to be. And Dr. Bauman is right that you will find many such candidates among Summit students -- Summit is also run at Bryan in the summers (2 sessions) and is extending into Ohio, one of the Carolinas, and I think KY as well in the next couple of years, besides its original Colorado sessions.

Part of the problem may be finding them with PhDs, as conservative Christians often find better things to do with their lives than argue with the secularists for years to get the advanced degree. Does anyone know of excellent MA, MFA, and PhD programs in English at any excellent conservative colleges?

Beth, that's excellent information. Again, to be clear, I don't _actually_ have the money or the plan. That was hypothetical. But the point of it was to get descriptions of such schools and academics. I will check out whether Veith teaches at PHC or is only an administrator.

Do I understand that this Summit Ministries is now opening some of its college credit-granting courses at schools in the U.S. as well as Oxford?

RB, I won't link the story. The quotations included in it were so bad that I changed my home page away from the news service that had the story. The story appeared on Cybercast News Service something on the order of several weeks to a couple of months ago, and you are welcome to search for the story in their archives. According to the story, after parental complaints, the "texts" in question were changed to being optional reading for the course. So the students were originally required to read them for the class and would have continued to be required to do so had there not been an outcry.

Aw, come on, Lydia -- I was hoping for a change of scene and a raise of, oh about double?! (It still wouldn't be much, I guarantee you!) :)

Summit East offers one course for credit that I know of, in Worldview Studies (it counts for Bryan's first-semester Bible credit), and I assume the new ones will do the same. We just approved the Oxford semester to count as well, though I don't recall the details of our agreement, as far as how many courses or which ones they can get credit for. If you go to the Bryan website (www.bryan.edu) you can find the Summit links that give that information; it may not be updated for the Oxford semester yet for Bryan.

We love having Summit students in our classes; they tend to be much more attuned to worldview issues and able to articulate them, which is helpful to those students who are coming to it new -- and you'd be surprised, perhaps, at how many home-schooled and Christian-schooled students fall in that category.

I would love to see (but no, I haven't the time or energy to do anything about it) some kind of truly conservative Christian group that we could network with. We've about given up on the Conference on Christianity and Literature (we're in the SouthEast region) because it's increasingly liberal in every way and most of the papers just seem an attempt to impress the secular academy instead of excellent scholarship from a Christian perspective. I don't travel to conferences myself, but my colleagues do, and I'd love an online forum for discussions. Maybe one of your readers would be interested in trying to bring into being something like this!

On a happy note, our grad student adjunct, who attends UTChattanooga, received very high compliments on a paper she wrote for her Chaucer class, bringing to it an excellent discussion of the Christian virtues and journey to living them -- she was told she should try to get it published. And no, the professor has not appeared to be Christian. So that offered us an encouragement.

Thanks for opening this subject -- and apologies for the double-post; I am still getting used to my Macbook and it keeps getting the better of me!

...while you certainly disagree on many points of theology and morals, (you) have the same enemy: the post-Puritan American establishment.

-Mencius

They're still Puritans for their aim remains purification. They also share a misguided ideal of what is pure. The only interesting difference, and it's really a small one, between 17th century puritans and today's sort is what they intend to purify: Christendom and the western idea of the University.

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