End Our ‘Multiuniversities’

Before leaving the topic of, "Education, Need to get government out of," in my naive Sunday series on "What is to be done," let me touch specifically on the topic of our universities.

I wrote, recently, a rather facetious piece on this topic for a Catholic website in the United States, in which I asked whether universities were ever a good idea, in the face of the modern assumption that such questions need never be asked. I alluded to evidence that, back in the 13th century, when Europe’s oldest universities were new, the same sort of nonsense prevailed on campus as today: kids suddenly "empowered" by freedom without adequate discipline; professors with a little too much tenure for anyone’s well-being.

The "behaviour issues" that followed from that were noted in ancient Alexandria, too. Young people can easily be persuaded that they know everything. Yet wisdom requires us to realize that we know very little. This should be easiest to grasp when we focus on a subject. It is then that we are most likely to appreciate what perhaps Eratosthenes first observed: that as the radius of our knowledge advances, the circumference of our ignorance spreads.

Forms of "post-secondary" teaching within tightly disciplined monastic institutions, before the Western invention of universities, may well have been a better idea. The Renaissance of the 12th century was, after all, achieved without campus life. (Alas, chronological prejudices inculcated in our modern universities leave students unable to comprehend the significance of that intellectual and spiritual revolution.) Now, do I propose that we go back to the Middle Ages? I would if we could, but since we can’t, I propose something more subtle: that we create the conditions in which significant intellectual and spiritual growth (as opposed to mere technological accumulation) would become possible again. Everything I have written in this newspaper, over the last 14 years, may be read as an indictment of the smug and plausible "liberal" attitudes inculcated in our public schools and universities; of attitudes that are, in fact, inimical to a genuine humanism.



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Posted: October 19th, 2010
at 7:41am by Koookiecrumbles

Categories: mnp is for the children,education

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