Monday, March 2, 2009

A Brief Reflection on the Academy

While spending time at the academy, I was struck the great weakness that is our failure to educate our young. They are not challenged and, ultimately, their passion for learning is lost. A second observation was that most professors have no idea what they are talking about. George Bernanos once notes that one should never trust anyone with a doctorate until they first proved they were not an imbecile. As an alternative, students need to learn to evaluate theories/ideas with their experience. Only when they have ceased trusting experts will they be truly educated.

In the end, the value of any one study is often worthless. In the world outside of the humanities, one is required to pose the required question, “okay, but does your study hold if…” Academics know the true value of their work and can easily be skeptical over worthless work, but the young today are not given an education that allows them to question their teachers. Usually, the dialogue in class is limited to the banal question where a professor is forced to identify with the political left or right. But students today do not know how to ask questions.

The humanities are a discipline that is suffering tremendously today. After the reforms in the 1960s, it was thought that anyone could teach literature, art, philosophy, or history. Our civilization valued scientific thought above all. While this thought is important, it is not sufficient and, ultimately, once the humanities were destroyed our civilization started to decay. Although the term is usually applied to postmodern thought, our entire civilization seems to be suffering from “pensiero debole” or “weak thought.” We have separated thought from experience and created a cultural dualism that has prevented us from adequately understanding even ourselves.

The reduced focus on the humanities ultimately reduces our self-knowledge and creates a culture where people freely reject their experience to follow 'experts.' Our loss is in the ability to live a life that corresponds to our heart.

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