Skip to comments.A Model College, and Man
Posted on 05/28/2004 5:27:55 PM PDT by Palai
Because we can frequently find answers to present problems in the past, most established colleges and universities actively discourage the genuine study of history, especially since they themselves have created a crisis that cries for a solution.
We have succeeded in sending a great many people to college and university, legendary scholar Russell Kirk noted more than a quarter century ago. We have not succeeded in educating most of them.
Dr. W. Wesley McDonald, himself a political science professor at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, shows us how much we can still learn from the sage of Mecosta, Michigan in Russell Kirk and the Age of Ideology (University of Missouri Press). Dr. McDonald had worked as a research assistant to Dr. Kirk in the 1970s.
From 1953, when his seminal book, The Conservative Mind, was published, until his untimely death in 1994, Dr. Kirk proved an inspiration to generations of students and scholars in search of relief from an increasingly oppressive academic orthodoxy.
Eerily, the key problems in education that Dr. Kirk enumerated in his book A Program for Conservatives, published 42 years ago, are hauntingly familiar today. To wit:
His writing, or scribbling, as he referred to it, resulted in 30 books, 500 National Review articles, 2,500 newspaper columns, and 400 essays, Dr. Kirks widow, Annette, recounted in a talk after her husbands death. Three of those books were on education, Dr. McDonald points out, while at least four of his other books contain chapters on the same subject.
Dr. Kirk was quite visionary in detecting the trends that would afflict higher education, particularly the government-subsidized variety, and experienced them firsthand while still a student at what is now Michigan State University. Conformity to present state policy, he discovered, lay at the heart of what was wrong with that form of education then.
The state universities, Dr. Kirk concluded, were trying to impose a uniform character upon the rising generation, rendering young people obedient to the state from habit and prejudice, even when the state has dissolved the ancient loyalties that bound man to man.
His solution, which he laid out in 1978: a three-year college in which instructors would teach moral philosophy, humane letters, rhetoric, history, political economy, physics and higher mathematics, biological science, classical and modern languages and literature. In Dr. Kirks model college, he thought that the administrative offices should be as small and uncomfortable as possible, to discourage educational bureaucracy.
While he, unfortunately, never built his model college, he did teach many students, not only in countless lecture tours but in his home on Piety Hill. Fortunately, they, along with his fine family, provide a living legacy that will ensure that the great mans words and works get passed on from generation to generation. I myself had the pleasure of knowing and working with quite a few of them, including three of his four daughters.
Of the disciples who at one time or another had beaten a pathway to Piety Hill, Dr. Kirk wrote towards the end of his life, some had become lawyers, and some teachers, some journalists, some professors; some were in the book trade, others had been ordained, yet others obtained posts in government.
They might leaven the lump of American society.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.
Who will step forward to found Kirk College?
I'm not sure, but I hope someone does it.
When I was at Vanderbilt in the '70s, most freshmen were required to take Western Civ. No more. Now, we are not allowed to state or imply that Doric architecture is more worthy of study than mud huts; that German symphonies should be played in recitals more often than bongo improvisations; that Dutch landscapes might have more to offer than "pre-Columbian" scribblings; or that a Shakespeare comedy might have more to teach us than aboriginal legends.
In the cane in the field?
Actually, disgruntled though I am by the present state of affairs in academia, I am not without optimism.
Home schooling, some private secondary schools and colleges, and an ever-widening array of information sources (the net, and cable and satellite TV and radio, for example) may serve to diminish the power of the ivory tower.
Q: "Could we even be successful in reviving it?"
A: As long as the primary knowledge exists and acolytes tend the altar - yes. They haven't burned the equivalent of the Alexandrian library...yet. Unfortunately for the modern leftist barbarians, the net is dispersing information far beyond any ability to control.
I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree here. Certainly much of the academic elite is afraid to state that some civilizations and cultures were more advanced, and made more lasting contributions, than others. One reason, I suppose, I'm in no danger of becoming part of the academic elite.
I taught at Berkeley, Stanford and NYU for a time in the late 70's to the mid 80's and was shocked then by the low level I saw at these schools. Today when I talk to college age people I find it hopeless(I am no longer an academic.)
I feel as distant from them as if I were born 200 years ago. It is hard for me to be as sanguine as you are about the future of education in or nation even among elites.
I can only hope that the Leftist ascendancy of the 1960's is but a passing thing and as that generation goes some sort of sanity and equilibrium shall be restored. It shall take a strong and determined new generation to set things right, or so it seems to me. They will have to almost reinvent the wheel; it will seem a sort of "intellectual archeology.
Where there is a will there is a way, I guess. It is hard for me, however, to shake my pessimism.
Absolute rubbish. Pure cultural relativist bunk. To have no standards is to have no thoughts. To imagine that Zulu chants are on a par with Beethoven is to lose all sense of civilization altogether. It is also moral and intellectual cowardice.
Sadly, they appear to have regressed in certain areas, from reading the news articles about PC and social insanity...
They are as important to those cultures, which in turn (especially in the case of Asian nations) have a profound effect on Western civilization. I am not saying that the chants are on par with Beethoven in a sense of musical theory and such, but in cultural importance to their respective cultures/nations
Some of them were more advanced, absolutely, but in studying these nations and cultures, the bongos and huts are important if we examine their source, namely the cultural source. If this group of people play a major role in World affairs today, it would be well-advised to look at these as reflections of society, just as Beethoven and Doric architecture are.
I should also clarify what I mean by equally as important, because I have been misrepresenting my own opinion here: So-called western nations have made more lasting, more important contributions (such as the whole Industrial Revolution), but in examining groups of people, the non-Western contributions perform similar functions (mud huts:Doric arcitecture::Tribalism:Federalism).