Reviving campus newspapers and radio stations and student-led clubs, and putting resources behind them, could create more space for speech, help foster campus community, and model a level of comfort with differing views. The classroom may still need adjustment, but antagonistic wrangling with, or under the gaze of, professors is not the path to enlightenment.
Montás deserves great credit for illuminating the perverse priorities of American higher education throughout Rescuing Socrates. It must be admitted, however, that the book suffers from occasional missteps. A fuller engagement with the history of the liberal arts than Montás musters would have enriched the book.
Fran Liebowitz suggests that “a book isn’t supposed to be a mirror, it’s supposed to be a door.” Universities are the same. They are not meant to simply reflect the times and trends. They are intended to open doors to existing knowledge and doors to a reimagined future.
Life is ambiguous, murky, rife with situations that elude dogma’s capture. When the seas get rough, however, our tolerance of this is one of the first things hucked overboard. For example: have we felt into what it’s like to be a five-year-old walking into school in the morning?
The imagined student’s intentions are honorable: to promote racial justice. But when the conversation begins, she has already set herself against the teacher and the course. The task of the teacher is to encourage her pursuit of justice while showing that the Great Books are not enemies, but allies. If this can be done, the student and teacher may even realize the same about each other.
Alex Sosler compares online and in-person education. Paradoxically, when we embrace the limits of our embodied existence and learn with and from particular classmates in a particular place from a particular teacher, affections develop. Imagination stirs.
Education in the age of COVID is an opportunity for teachers and students to investigate the role of language in an intense real-world situation. Rachel Griffis considers the prevalence of analogies and the deeply troubling ways that irresponsible and unethical language is destroying civic life and communal bonds.
As a new school year begins, Jon Schaff takes stock of the effects of Covid on education. Learning is relationship, and, if the point of college, as the very term “college” implies, is to come together for the enterprise of learning, that coming together has to be more than a name or face on a screen.