Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Shameless Self-Promotion

Liberal Education and Republican Self-Government

I enjoyed my little shindig yesterday. It started off with a lively panel featuring my AALE colleague Mark Bauerlein, my old Toronto buddy Herb Hartmann, Judd Owen (another Toronto guy from a little after my time), and my Oglethorpe colleague Brad Smith. Many shades were invoked, ranging from Bernard of Clairveaux to Oakeshott, Strauss, and Bloom. Our allegedly short attention span students stuck it out for almost 90 minutes of give and take among the panelists and the audience.

Our own Dr. Pat delivered the keynote and wove together a number of themes centering on our multiple crises, among which (and perhaps near the center of which) is a crisis in higher education. In a nutshell (and he can clarify and correct me on this), he argued that many of our crises can be traced to a failure to appreciate and respect our limits, a failure of which "the new science" (that is, Baconian science) is the cause. The contemporary university is in some sense the central institution housing the new science and celebrating the self-fashioning which is its most common expression. (Readers of C.S. Lewis might regard it as a N.I.C.E. place.)

We also had an interesting discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of Anthony Kronman's recent pretty good book on Education's End, which covers some of this terrain, albeit not nearly as well, in large part because he can't bring himself to admit that to counterpose (or indeed oppose) the humanities to religion (or to the possibility of religious truth) is to deprive them of a principal source of their vitality. He treats religion as essentially "fundamentalist" and anti-intellectual and thinks that one can contemplate life's big questions without taking seriously religious alternatives. I suspect that it's closer to the truth to argue that Kronman's "secular humanism" (which isn't too far from the kind of conversation across the ages that someone like Allan Bloom would have suggested) must collapse into Baconian self-fashioning if it rejects out of hand (as Kronman seems to) the possibility of religious truth.

Many thanks to all the conference attendees (among them three of Lawler's students who made the trek down from Berry and an assiduous reader of Dr. Pat's blog) and to its various sponsors, including ISI.

Discussions - 3 Comments

Joe,
Thanks for the invitation and serving as gracious host. It was a pleasure visiting all the good folks at Oglethorpe (with some Berryans and visitors from greater Atlanta along for the ride).


I've posted some selections from the talk here. It's not a story that presumes a happy ending - and right now we're in the midst of a dark and scary forest. I hope we get out alright.

My last shindig. I win?

I'm going to check out this book- I write all the time on my blog about the liberals in public education- today I wrote about my battle with the liberal thugs who tried to make me worship Earth Hour.

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