I will be speaking next Saturday as part of a first-rate conference at St. Vincent’s in Latrobe, PA (no longer the home of Rolling Rock) on the idea of the university in our country today. The conference begins Thursday and it’s one great presenter after another.
I will also be speaking at the meeting of the Pennsylvania Association of Scholars at Duquesne tomorrow at 4 p.m. on something like Berry College and academic freedom.
Here’s my take on that Kronman book mentioned below: I actually see a lot good in the idea of liberal education as the display of the best arguments for and poetic presentations of a variety of forms of human excellence--such as the saint, the poet, the philosopher, the inventor, the artist, the statesman, and even the agrarian gentleman. But the way Kronman tells the story, this sort of education is "secular humanism" because it depends on the obvious untruth of religious dogma (which is usually all about the tyannical, "supernatural" God). One limitation of that view is that it’s obviously contrary to the self-understandings of many great men and women, past and even present. Kronman presents the choice for religion or a personal God as obviously a choice against the truth about the responsibilities given to self-conscious mortals; all "real religion" is fundamentalism to him, and one goal of college, for him, is to get over that sort of thing. All "humanism" and so the humanities are secular. That view can hardly make the study of the humanities attractive to our evangelical and orthodox believers. But before we’re too critical of Kronman, we have to think about how many defenders of liberal education today more or less agree with him. One Christian criticism of his approach would be its inability to even search for dignity or even holiness in ordinary life; not all virtue is about greatness.